By Paul Dicken
The only thing worse than a nightmare is a happy dream. I used to have the most terrible nightmares. I don’t know why. I live a quiet life. I have no secrets. I yearn for no forbidden vice. But then again, maybe that explains it. I can’t even remember what they were about now, only that I would shake myself awake long before the dawn and watch the inky memories slink away into dark angles and forgotten corners, and wait for the dreary light of day to summon me to another turn of the wheel.
And then I started to have the most extraordinary dreams. They were not vivid or fantastic. Any fool can dream of glamour. I did not visit impossible cities or converse with the old forgotten gods, nor remember the hidden secrets of the future. My dreams were simple. They were warm and they were comfortable, and they continued unbroken from late evening to early dawn, night after night, each dream picking up where its predecessor paused, without fail, without end, one seamless, ceaseless whole.
It is a terrible thing to remember being happy. I came to despise the washed-out colours of morning. I came to resent the banality of my day. I had to eat, but food had lost its flavour. I would wash and dress and commute, but I don’t remember what or where or when. The people around me all looked the same. I think I watched one of them die. It didn’t really matter. I had to speak, but words had lost their meaning. I made the sounds and gave the gestures. After a while, I was promoted. I don’t know why.
In my dreams, I had a purpose, and my actions all made sense, and every task I left undone, by morning’s early light, was taken up with joyful hand and completed in the night.
I slept as much as I could. I was early to bed and late to rise. I barely even emerged over the weekends. I stopped going out. I forgot my friends. I left my novel abandoned. I took a few days sick, then an extended leave of absence. The phone would ring unanswered. After a while, I think I lost my job. I don’t remember now.
My wife did not understand, not at first, and my children would recoil from me, and stare down at the table, and rub away the tears from red-rimmed eyes, and ask me questions about her that I could not understand. But I dream about them now, and they are happy.
I enjoyed the pace of the story and the sense of hopeless complacency, ( if that makes sense), it seemed to me that this was part of a longer story. I did not get the significance of the last paragraph, it appeared to be out of place.
I actually thought the total opposite. The last paragraph evokes questions like; is the wife dead? what about the children? how much of real life has this person sacrificed to stay dreaming?
The whole story reminds me of Inception (and perhaps it was an inspiration) and the theme of the dream world and the real world changing places. Lovely piece of fiction.