The dreams layer over one another, like soft blankets. Inside of one dream is another, and inside that, still another. The layers deepen until you lose sight of them.
In the first dream a group of billowy pink creatures reaching down to me from the sky. Their hands are like soft tethers held together by sophisticated boating knots and a gooey substance from which I am unable to escape. Consequently, my arms and legs are soon linked in a clove hitch. A halyard is used to secure the belaying pins. A boat hook is used to snip the tendons.
More and more of these creatures begin to show up in unexpected places. They roam the aisles of the supermarket. They run a traffic count meter on the street outside my kids’ school. Sometimes they climb into bed with me, absorbing the sheets and blankets onto their side when they roll over.
In the dream below that, the scene is pre-pandemic. People—strangers, gather together in large groups. They are passionately making out with reckless abandon, swapping partners every ninety seconds or so. Do I wish to join them? Naturally. The people are all fit and attractive, but something holds me back.
While this is going on I notice a second group of people have begun to arrive. They form a circle around the group of pleasure seekers and begin to hurl obscenities and insults in their direction. At first the people inside the circle are oblivious to what’s happening around them, but slowly, as they begin to shuffle between partners, they take notice of this external activity. They begin to get embarrassed, those who had begun to shed their clothes slowly begin to button and zip themselves back up.
A few of them panicked and attempted escape, but the surrounding group quickly repelled these attempts. For a few moments, while the group inside ran around bumping into one another, they resembled a school of fish trapped in a net which was slowly being brought to the surface.
Eventually, the original group decided to acquiesce and began to lie down on the asphalt. Once they seemed compliant, the net tightened around them and the people who showed up hurling insults started binding their hands and feet together with a transparent, military-grade twine. Shortly after that, a line of boxy trucks arrived to scoop up the people on the ground and drive them off.
In the dream inside that there is no such thing as men or women — everyone is neutrally gendered and impervious to the whims of gravity. In order to remain staked to dry land we’ve all had to connect ourselves via ropes and cables to an intricate constellation of metal cleats installed on the ground. Floating too high is considered impolite, so most of us merely hover a few feet above the ground, delicately playing out the rope as we move along so that we don’t drift too high.
There are some who are more graceful than others. They ride the currents of the wind like a hawk. They gently glide around the periphery, quickly circumventing others as pass by.
There are some people from my past here as well, ex-lovers, siblings, professors, etc. The billowy pink creatures from the dream two layers above occasionally show up to monitor proceedings. Their role is one of watchful waiting. Watching and waiting for what, I can’t be sure, but their presence is somehow reassuring.
Despite being completely desensitized to my own body I feel invigorated somehow. I begin to take notice of specific things. The way a particular person exhales before they speak. The webbing at the base of my fingers. The texture of lint in the bottom of my pockets.
A few people bump into me and interrupt these observations as I make my way around. With some I find we may briefly glom together—for reasons unknown—before gently pushing on.