There’s a song of the “happy hardcore” variety sung by an artist whose name I can’t recall with lyrics that go something like In my dreams / I can do anything / In my dreams / I can go anywhere. To me, it’s a simple reminder of the power of imagining what might be: there are endless possibilities. In contrast, concrete reality brings all of that crashing down as you deal with the here and now day after day. What could be is transformed into what is and all pretensions are stripped away. The dreams of yesterday are replaced with the mundane, unavoidable realities of today.
And yet I can’t help but think I’m somehow taking a trip through the past when I step into the farmlands of modern-day Transylvania. I’ve been told the order of the day is vampires. Forget all of your superstitions and everything you’ve seen in movies and on TV, says my contact person. They’re entirely different. I don’t know. Egypt wasn’t much different from what I had seen in the internet. Then again, I only really visited the more interesting bits. I think Carmen, a shortsword-wielding wire frame of a woman bearing an industrial strength cross around her neck, just wants me to take a realistic approach to things rather than going in thinking I’m going to spin kick Count Dracula into submission like Wesley Snipes.
I mentioned previously that I’ve had a couple of dreams which have left me confused more than anything. Every time I wrap up a murderous romp through another quarantine zone, I end up slipping off into a coma for a while and am transported into a domain where frost abounds and fragmented memories linger. I stand in awe before the vastness of being in a place where time is irrelevant. The stars and the cosmos unfold before me, backdrops set against a giant moon that hangs in the sky with silent dispassion.
I follow the path of the ice floes; I know to do this because plunging into the abyss of empty space is not really a reasonable alternative. The hushed, gentle tones of an older gentleman from somewhere in the heavens offer to lay bare the magic and mystery surrounding life, the universe, and everything with an Emmy-winning air of self-importance. You are nothing, feeble creature, yet you could become something if you accept our gift. My father had always told me on our coach bus visits through the Chinese countryside not to accept candy from strangers – you might wake up two hours later in a field with no wallet and no cell phone. You can understand, then, why I was highly suspicious of an unspecified offering from a disembodied voice.
So I did the most sensible thing that could be done in the situation and jumped off a cliff.
Oh, I knew I was dreaming. I just wanted to see whether I could really die in a dream. I woke up on a couch in Eleanor Franklin’s mansion to the sound of a bed frame repeatedly and rhythmically striking the wall somewhere in the rooms above me. Must be the ghosts having a bit of fun, I thought.
My second dream came at the end of my travels through the deserts of Egypt. I had been derided by an ancient jinn named Amir for being a weak, scrawny, and pathetic monkey. I’m sure he would have come up with more pejoratives if he could have been bothered to. That was nothing, however, compared to the lambasting I received when I returned to the frigid pathways of Next to Nowhere. They were quite decidedly irritated by the fact that I had been defiant in the face of their benevolence; this time, my chastisement went down to the molecular level. I was an insult to biology, physics, philosophy, and other branches of human inquiry that hadn’t even been invented yet. The only recourse was to redeem my otherwise worthless existence by accepting their gift. My response was to murder the gift-bearer.
And then I woke up. Again. I snapped back to reality and answered Bong Cha’s summons. The Orochi were a dragon with more heads than the Dragon, so I had to go to their headquarters and mess with them. It was rather odd to be in a building full of Orochi agents who weren’t corpses. I stealthed through their numbers with little difficulty and managed to escape the building faster than the half-naked, adultering supervisor after I walked in on him and his companion. I’ll spare you the details.
Twice, now, I’ve rejected a gift offered to me in dream worlds. Nothing has come of it, unsurprisingly. I don’t attach any significance to what happens in my dreams, but my father does. He tends to be somewhat more traditional in that regard, an outlier in our rather more secular extended family. We have our share of mythological and historical figures such as Ne Zha, Nu Wa, Chang’e, Hou Yi, and an endless list of others – they’re usually the protagonists of interesting stories that offer lessons on how one should live. Likewise, to me dreams are a fun escape from reality that sometimes contain hidden truths; their most potent insights are realized when one is fully awake.
It was when I was searching for a missing person in Blue Mountain – Tyler Freeborn was his name – that I encountered another illusory world called the Red Sargassum Dream. That one almost seduced me into permanent habitation. But I’m not exactly being paid to believe in the power of my dreams.