I've been lucid dreaming -- the kind of dreaming in which you know you're a dream and can impact the storyline -- since I was a little kid. I usually know I'm dreaming. Sometimes I feel more like a non-player-character who is just along for the ride, and sometimes I feel like I have complete control over the narrative. Often, if I wake before my alarm, it will be in the middle of a dream. If the dream is pleasant or interesting, I'll go back to sleep and continue where it left off, or perhaps start a new story. It's like a cross between playing pretend, writing a novel, and showing a movie in your head, and it is quite fun.
I've had two dreams recently that, while different from one another seem connected, like they take place in the same universe -- or dreamverse, perhaps. I know the old joke about how no one ever wants to hear about anyone else's dreams, but these visions keep replaying in my head like a movie, and I want to put them down and share them here. I've included a lot of details that may seem like fictions created and added after I awoke, but they are all things that I distinctly remember as occurring in the dream. You know how dreams are -- a lot of thoughts and images can fly around in just a few milliseconds.
In the first dream, I was exploring some old ruins. I hiked on a dirt trail that led over rocky hills dabbed with scrubby pines and bushes. The path went through stone structures that had been renovated in some places. It looked like an old castle and several smaller buildings encircled by a crumbling wall. The stones matched sandy grey of the dirt path, and the foliage seemed dusty and drab, which contrasted with the cloudless, shining blue sky. Occasionally I ran into gleeful tourists who poked their heads around corners and spoke to me through big smiles and laughter, but I don't remember what they said.
I maneuvered over the terrain with difficulty because I wore a backpack and towed a red wagon from which both of my cats, the plump calico cat named Macaroon and the svelte black-and-white kitten named Moonpie, sat and surveyed the scene with mild interest. I stopped near the top of the hill to look around and find my bearings. Moonpie hopped out of the wagon and trotted off into the bushes. I knew she'd get lonely or hungry or scared and wander back, so I sat and waited for her. After a few moments went by and she didn't return, I began to worry that she wouldn't come home, and I questioned the wisdom of going on a hike with my cats housed in an unenclosed container. This seemed like a dumb idea, even for a dream.
Then I realized that Tim Ferriss* was standing next to me, speaking as though he were picking up where we had left off on a conversation. I felt a bit confused by his sudden appearance and worried that he'd think I was rude for not noticing or remembering that we had been talking. I also felt slightly annoyed at being interrupted during my alone-time. He asked me something about the meaning of my life and the purpose of my existence, and I answered with a rambling monologue. I don't remember everything specific that I said, but I told him about how my granny had died a few years ago, and I missed her more than anything, and I felt terrified of losing my parents and anyone else that I loved. I didn't know where I was going, but I didn't think that mattered much, as long as I was on the right path. In the middle of answering him, I woke up.
Throughout that dream, I had known that I was asleep. But a few nights later I had a dream that was not lucid. In fact, it felt more real than most experiences in my daily life.
It started with me driving north on I-75 in Atlanta. I wasn't paying close attention to traffic and started glancing down at my phone, texting and checking my calendar. Then I went into what felt like a state of highway hypnosis and daydreamed about what I had to do that day. I suddenly realized that I didn't remember where I was going or what I had to do, and I didn't much care. Then I realized that the scene outside my windshield was changing in an unusual way. Instead of driving straight down a road, I was coasting over them at odd angles, at a height more suitable for an airplane than a car. At the same time, I discovered that I wasn't driving anymore. Instead of the floor of the car beneath my feet, I could see bright red and white and green and yellow highway lights flashing against the purple-black of oncoming night. I thought that maybe I should feel perturbed, but I felt peaceful and couldn't bring myself to worry too much. I wondered if I was dreaming.
Next thing I knew, I had touched down feet first at the bottom of a grassy hill. Large, rough boulders jutted out of it, creating seats for a few people, more than five but less than ten, to sit. Beyond the valley I could see large purple mountains against a golden sky tinged with enough pink and orange to make it hard for me to tell if it was sunset or sunset. The grass was so green that it almost glowed, and even the brown of the stones looked deep and rich. The few folks whose appearance I managed to notice looked normal. There was a tall, muscular man with a beard and hipster glasses, a short, slightly pudgy balding guy, and a middle-aged woman with curly brown hair and a nice smile who occasionally cared for a one-year-old child who somehow gave off the impression of belonging to no one. The woman would chase after the baby and bring it closer if it crawled too far from the group, but other than that she didn't seem to bother much with it. Everyone, even the baby, seemed unfazed by my appearance, slightly annoyed with my questions, and simultaneously bored and purposeful, like they were waiting for something important to happen and didn't want to bother with me.
Having had enough time to consider what it could have meant for me to be texting while driving one minute and flying through the sky the next, I asked the two men nearest to me if I were dead. The hipster with the beard just ignored me and walked off like he hadn't heard me, and the chubby bald guy snorted and said, "Yeah, sure."
"Really?" I asked, feeling more dubious than upset, because I couldn't shake the zen-like calm that I'd felt since I realized that I wasn't driving. I started thinking about what it would mean if I were dead, though. Andy is going to miss me, I thought. Mom and dad are going to be so devastated. And what's going to happen to my Facebook account? This is so inconvenient.
"Am I really dead?" I asked, turning to the next closest person. The curly-haired lady smiled wearily at me, like I was a silly little child.
"No," she replied. "You're not dead. But you were in a car accident. You've been a coma for three days."
"Three days? Am I going to wake up?" The woman shrugged and walked away, bringing the crawling baby once more back to the group.
Maybe I can call someone and tell them I'm here, I wondered, stupidly. I looked down at my hand where my phone had been, and saw that instead of my iPhone, I had an old dumb phone that looked exactly like one I had used on a trip to Europe in 2007. I couldn't make any outgoing calls, but then the screen flashed these words: INCOMING CALL FROM PETER.
Peter? Who's Peter? I haven't really talked to Peter from college in years, and my buddy Pete, well, he goes by the name Pete...
Then I looked up to see that the people around me were slowly, casually walking away from the valley, towards the mountains and the sea beyond. The woman scooped the baby up from the grass one more time, and I ran to catch up with them.
When I woke up, it took me a few moments to get my bearings. I was in my own bed, not in a hospital, and I did not appear to have been in a coma. But the vividness of that dream left me wondering about the nature of reality, where all those thoughts came from, and what they all meant. Later, in the middle of recounting the dream to a friend, I remembered that Saint Peter is the mythological gatekeeper of heaven. Maybe my subconscious brain conjured up that phone call from him just to mess with me.
Since these dreams, I can't get their scenes and faces out of my head. And I haven't sent a text while driving, not even an emoji.
* To an outsider, Tim Ferriss' appearance in my dreams may take the cake for Total Weirdness Quotient (TWQ), but here's my explanation: I listen to his podcast all the time and have been listening to it for years. I think about the things I learn in his interviews a lot, therefore I wind up thinking about Tim Ferriss a lot. GET OUT OF MY HEAD, TIM!