In a Vast, Sleepy Valley

In sleep, our world balloons endlessly as our dreams spin fibers of imagination into vast tapestries of otherness. These are shot through with pieces and parts of things drawn from our waking lives and dotted with peculiar structures of meaning, the significance of which flees quickly upon sleep’s end. We grasp at this meaning that so recently seemed so very concrete as it sublimates into a frail wisp of something that was…something. You swear it was. It was something.

In the day, fragments of dreams may come back to us, especially if the dream itself was something onto which we attempted to hold tightly as the morning light left us blinking uncomfortably, the other world lurching and draining out of our eyes. Something funny, something scary, something mysterious hangs there in the haze. Something worth grasping at. A familiar face we only see in dreams. A symbol of something we would like to hold in our hands and examine more carefully.

I remember waking from a nightmare as a small boy. The details of the dream itself escape me now, but in the dream, I held small metal objects in my hands. They were shaped vaguely like inch-long dumbbells. In the dream, if I lost them, my father would die.

My mother woke me from the dream and tried to comfort me. And as I woke, I could still feel these objects in my hands, but I quickly realized that they were shrinking, smaller and smaller, smaller and smaller. I couldn’t explain to my mother what was happening. Nor could I prevent them from slipping away from me, eventually dissolving completely between my fingers at the moment I was fully awake.

These things are like a morning fog that burns off with the sun. Even when they were there, you could never really take hold of them. They are real but intangible. You can’t really transport them cleanly from the dream world to the waking world. Whatever you manage to hold onto becomes distorted, damaged in the process.

But there is also an in-between place that flickers into existence to temporarily bridge the two worlds. It materializes when a door opens to the waking world, and the sleeping world begins to leak out, slow and fast all at once, like a somnolent, ground-hugging cloud.

These clouds create a suction as they flow out the door, the vacuum expanding cavernously into dreamspace and sucking the real world into it. Tendrils of the ether pull strands of the real into the unreal.

I have visited this place many times.

Recently, I have found myself partly awake in the dead of the night. The physical space around me is distorted, stretched into impossible proportions. My girlfriend, while in reality just at my side in our small bed, seems impossibly far away. How did she get all the way over there? A great valley seems to stretch out between us, dark and populated with strange trees. I worry that she is too far away and I don’t understand how we wound up in this situation. But then, with great effort, I manage to extend my arm out toward her. It elongates into the darkness, stretching across the vast, sleepy valley until it finds her.

I pull her to me and the distance closes until she is finally right there once again, next to me and sleeping peacefully, wholly unaware of either our separation or my struggle to get her back.

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