Things that go weird at night


Now I lay me down to dream

Maybe it was something I ate. Maybe it was the onset of a head cold. Or maybe it was the working out of deep-seated, unresolved, Freudian conflicts. All I know is, things got really weird in my dreams last night.

To set the stage: I woke up Friday with a bit of congestion and that unsettling feeling you get from liquids sloshing around in your sinus cavities every time you move your head. I went to my physical therapy appointment anyway. Later that morning I became almost irresistibly sleepy, but I went to have lunch with a friend anyway. By evening, I was completely exhausted by the pitched battles going on between the invading viruses and my body. Finding myself unable to stay awake even to watch my taped Daily Show, I simply went to bed, where I fell instantly asleep.

About 11:30 I was awakened by the roaring of gale-force winds and slight shaking of the very house. My first thought, of course, was that it was "the big one" and that we were about to be swallowed up by the San Andreas fault. I looked outdoors where the scene was simply surreal: the lawn sprinklers were going full blast. The winds were forcing the palm trees to bend and thrash about violently. The patio fans were spinning wildly although it should go without saying they weren't turned on. It was like those TV broadcasts during hurricanes; I half expected to see CNN setting up their cameras.

I reassessed the situation. It was not "the big one" after all. It must be the ghost of Tahquitz trying to drive all the white settlers off his reservation. "Sorry, Tahquitz, I have a 99-year lease," said I, and went back to sleep to be reawakened by the winds off and on for the next three hours.

But that's not the weird part! For the remainder of the night, I had the most vivid and strange dreams. In the first one I was in charge of a large facility that staged turkey races. It was in the middle of a large wooded park where people also camped. But the strange part — as if it isn't already strange — was that whenever I opened the starting gate to let the turkeys out to race, they would all be wrapped in plastic, unable to trot. They were alive, but they had no feathers, and they looked like so many Butterball turkeys lined up in a row. When the plastic was removed, they ran their race as usual. Even so, the unorthodox start was deeply disappointing to the fans.

The second day of racing, I provided a supply of various camping amenities to compensate for the disastrous start of the previous day's race. These consisted of small containers of gourmet foodstuffs, like herbed sea salt and infused vinegars, but ragamuffin urchins ran off with armfuls, foiling my attempt to be nice. And again when the starting gate was opened, the turkeys were wrapped in plastic.

In another dream, I had obtained a job (I have no idea what I was supposed to do) at what seemed to be a large college or university campus. When I went wandering about the hallways of the building, I discovered odd rooms of young children. Some of the rooms were like theme store windows where the children held their pose while wearing period costumes. Other rooms were simply narrow compartments where two rows of children stood facing each other, uniformly spaced by virtue of standing on footprints imprinted into the floor. These children wore vaguely pioneer-style clothing, like so many characters out of Little House on the Prairie or from some hippy commune of the 60s. Yet other rooms were court rooms where children seemed to be on trial for unspecified crimes. In another room, the children sat at many tables with books and papers spread out about them, a sort of super studyhall.

Now, what was odd about this dream was that the children were completely silent and motionless. Further, the existence of these rooms was unknown to the other employees of the building. By chance, two co-workers were people I knew from elsewhere. When I tried to show them what I had discovered, the rooms were all empty, except for one old woman dressed in a Victorian gown sitting in one of the theme rooms. She started to explain the history of the place, but her story was drowned out by another fierce blast of wind.

This morning, the light of day revealed the havoc that had been wrought: Pete and Barbara's rain gutters were ripped off the eaves and their patio furniture upended; Mike's new planters atop his patio wall are now on the ground; one of my cacti was blown over onto the ground; and the valance of my patio curtains, already showing the effects of age, is pretty well shredded. And below the skylight in the guest bathroom, the floor has a dusting of dirt and plant parts that can only have been blown in through the skylight.