Monday, May 01, 2006

Farting Rhinos, Green Carrots, and Homicidal Clocks

My brother and I were on an island infested with cannibals. The only way I could escape was to kill my brother by running his head through a sewing machine...
I was swimming with my best friend when her father appeared and shot me five times. I asked my friend to help me get out of the swimming pool, which had dirt walls. I climbed out and found myself in a bank. By sheer force of will, I made the bullet holes stop bleeding, but then the robbers came in...
I was sitting in my shopping cart, on the dock. Michael Jackson was there. He was a vampire, and he was trying to bite me...

My wife has a, shall we say, rich and interesting dream life. At least once a week, she'll wake up and start babbling about the little zombie bosses that chased her down the beach until she evaded them by running into the Hummer dealership.

Every marriage has its code words and phrases. I'll let her get two or three sentences in before I shout out one of ours: "Diseased!" As in, please stop these insane ventings of your diseased sleep-brain, because you're making my brain hurt.

"But don't you want to know how the Hummers turned into dancing, farting rhinos and..."

Sigmund Freud was the inventor of the Freudian str...slip, where you say one thing and mean your mother. He also told us more than we really wanted to know about the phallic underworld hiding behind our eyelids. I'm pretty sure the man wasn't getting any; it's been my experience that those who obsess over sex are deprived of it. Like a starving man and food. Sigmund, is that all you ever think of? And I'm pretty sure my wife isn't harboring secret desires to give hummers to farting rhinos.
I'm reasonably certain that dreams are nothing more or less--in most cases--than mental Molly Maids, scrubbing your brain clean of assorted flotsam and jetsam. The fact that some of those Molly Maids are undeniably hot signifies nothing.

But it's wierd, the stuff that happens in dreams. I'll be looking up at a cuckoo clock, waiting for it to strike the hour. It obliges, and I wake up to find it's exactly midnight. Or I'll be planting a garden in the basement of my girlfriend's parents' place--shut up, Sigmund!--a thousand miles away and never seen by my waking self. Later, much later, after our relationship has progressed to the point where I can admit to having a dream like that, Cathy will ask me to describe the room and we'll discover I dreamed a pretty fair representation.

I used to be plagued by recurring dreams. You get the sense your mind is really trying to tell you something, if only you could figure out what it was. For instance, there was the dream where I was teaching female classmates of mine how to swan dive. (I couldn't swan dive in real life if a farting rhino was chasing me off a cliff.) I would engage in a few test bounces on the diving board--sproingy-sproingy-sproingy--and then launch into my dive.
Only I'd keep going up.
Up, up, up I'd go, until first the pool and then the city below me was lost to sight. All the blue would leach out of the sky and I'd find myself in Low Earth Orbit, still, somehow, able to breathe.
Then I'd start to swan.
The first time this happened, the fall was exhilarating. The next thirty or so times, all I could think of would be the coming thud which would scatter my remains over several square miles. At the last possible second before impact, the dream would fade out and be replaced by a newspaper with a picture remains scattered over several square miles. Then I'd wake up, thinking what the hell does that mean?

I used to sleepwalk. The first time I was observed doing this was the night after I had first visited Canada's Wonderland, the theme park a couple of hours from my home. I nonchalantly strolled downstairs, approached my parents, bent over, and grunted loudly. I looked up at them and intoned "The roller coaster fell off!"
"Well, put it back on, then," said my stepdad.
I bent and grunted some more. "I can't. It's too heavy", I announced, turning around and trudging back to bed.
Then there was the time I woke up in the stairway between the 11th and 12th floor of our apartment building, clad in my usual sleep-attire of nothing at all. There's one of Life's Little Moments, let me tell you. I don't think my feet touched the stairs on the way back to my apartment.

Many years later, I was on the verge of sleep when my girlfriend, she of the basement garden, abruptly turned over and said
"Ken, when was the last time you had a salad?"
"Umm, not for a while. Why?"
"Well, you should. They're good for you. And they're green. And they have carrots in them."
Still half asleep and not tracking too well, I said "Carrots aren't green."
"YES THEY ARE!" she fairly screamed at me.

They say the average dream lasts between five and forty-five minutes. I'm not average. Many of my dreams certainly seem to last all night. I can wake up more tired than I was went I went to bed, as if I'd been running or working all night. That said, most of the dreams I have I can't recall in the morning. I'll awaken with an image fixed in my brain, only to have it shred like tissue paper within seconds.

Except the nightmares. Those I remember.

The oldest 'mare I can play back foaled herself when I was but three. I went to sleep in my blue bedroom, only to wake up sometime much later hearing an ominous ticking noise. I looked around. Everything was where it was supposed to be. My teddy bears, E and Shepherd, were standing guard. Shepherd's glass eye looked different. I looked a little closer and saw there was a clock inside his eyeball. I looked at the room again and discovered my blue walls had somehow been replaced with clock wallpaper. Clocks everywhere...and the hands on them were moving.
This was scary. I didn't want to look at this.
So thinking, I got out of bed and crept to the door of my bedroom. Looking back wistfully at the bed, I saw that the clock wallpaper had spread to my sheets and pillows. That really bothered me, so I went off to find Mommy and Daddy.
Out in the hall, the ticking was much louder. The clock wallpaper didn't follow me out here, though. That was a relief.
I could hear Daddy snoring across the hall, but just barely. The ticking noise was getting louder and louder. I wanted to run into Mommy-Daddy's room and throw myself between them. Instead I found myself turning left and walking towards the stairs.
There were five steps to downstairs. I counted them as I descended like always. Getting from one to five made me feel better, somehow. If I could count to five, I could go around the corner.
So I did.
The ticking stopped.
The kitchen was very dark. Moonlight streamed in from the window and illuminated...clock wallpaper. It rippled, like a wave, and commenced to swallow the walls and cupboards and floor and ceiling and...
I turned around.
The clock burst itself out of the floor with a hideous noise of ripping wood. It rose as if on an elevator until it towered over my three-year-old body. It glared down at me and I could hear it thinking "boy, boy, yummy boy, gonna eat you up eatyouupeatyouupeatyouup..."
Surely I screamed then. I pretty much shot out of the kitchen and up the stairs, onetwothreefourfive! into the upstairs hallway. Steeling myself, I glanced back over my shoulder. The clock was right behind me, still ticking to itself. Into my room I went, slamming the door as hard as I could behind me.
Blue. My walls were blue. No clocks.
Feeling vaguely triumphant--like I'd won something, but I wasn't sure what--I climbed into bed, clutched E, and went back to sleep.
Mommy came and got me in the morning. She never knew what horrors I had battled in the dark. I tried to tell her, but I don't think she understood.

It's been more than thirty years, and I can still remember the drowsy sense of utter terror that stole over me that night. You can laugh all you want--ha, ha, kid's afraid of a CLOCK!--but I'll bet you run like stink the next time a clock shoves itself out of the floor until it all but touches the ceiling...and then starts to chase you.
Until you wake up and say to yourself...



flameskb said...

Wow! I don't know what's more astonishing, that you had a dream like that when you were THREE, or that you still remember. It's like a freakin' horror story....
Clocks CAN be scary. A relative of mine (my sister's husband's dad) was an excentric old man who lived in Vienna. He collected clocks and watches. He had tons of them. He liked them better than people, he became hostile and grumpy in his old age (probably early stage Alzheimers). And he told his sons that some of the clocks and watches stopped. Then some more of them. And he said, when all of them stop, that's when I'll die. And when they finally found him dead, there wasn't a clock ticking in the place. wooooooo. spooooky.

Ken Breadner said...

I believe that implicitly. I've heard similar stories of people being able to predict the day of their death.
You get enough clocks together in one place, the ticking can sound like the scrabbling of monstrous insects.
Whew...freaking myself out here.