That Night David had a Dream

That night David had a dream.

He dreamt that he was a writer obsessed with dreams. He couldn’t seem to get more than a chapter through any story without slipping into a dream sequence, no matter how inappropriate; his fingers would type the words ‘that night he dreamt …’ and there it was.

It was a terrible habit, and one which David’s editor (in the dream he had an editor) constantly complained of, but he couldn’t help himself. This was doubly odd because he (the dream him) seldom dreamt, or at least didn’t remember when he did. Because of this, he became an obsessive collector of other people’s dreams, especially those that appeared in novels. David believed that real dreams meant nothing — they were simply the random firing of neurones in the night. Literary dreams were nothing like that because they were always a reflection of the themes that the writer wanted to convey, except distorted, transmogrified, and altered, in a way that David found irresistible.

In the dream, David was trying to write a novel about love, but it kept turning into a novel about dreams. He had a character named Jim, who had been dumped by his girlfriend, and struggled to find new love through a series of amusing incidents that would make perfect holiday reading and, David hoped, a Hollywood movie — if only he could stop writing the incidents as dreams. He tried writing in the middle of the day, to avoid thinking about sleep. He tried writing dream stories first, to get them out of his head. He tried writing outside, which, in the dream, was supposed to do something useful.

Nothing worked. Instead, the problem got worse. Every second chapter in the novel became a dream, then every second page, then every second paragraph, until he was no longer sure — from one line to the next — whether Jim was awake, dreaming of love, or asleep, dreaming of meeting women. Was the woman in the bookshop a dream? When Jim was assaulted by a railway conductor and flung from the train that would have taken him to love, was that supposed to be a real incident? David’s words became hallucinations, phantasmagoria, delusions. He lost track of what was Jim’s story, and what was his own.

Desperately David tried to escape the keyboard. He stopped writing and turned off the screen, put on his coat, and went out the front door, intending to take in a movie at the cinema ten minutes down the road, only to discover that the door led back into his writing room where the phone was ringing.

When he picked up the phone he heard the voice of his editor, who was calling to ask how the novel about love was going. David found himself lying; he said it was going pretty well. Then he told the editor that he had decided to make it a novel about dreams instead, which wasn’t true. The editor’s voice became strident, even shrill, but David could no longer hear it even though he was still holding the phone to his ear, instead he focussed on the screen of his computer, which had turned itself back on. Inexplicably, the room was full of printers, which began to spew out reams of printed pages, filling the room up to the ceiling.

David was engulfed in paper. He flailed, trying to swim to the top of the room, but the paper wouldn’t bear his weight. Instead, he found himself grasping sheet after sheet, each of which bore part of a dream sequence that he had written. He opened his mouth to scream, and the pages poured inside, forcing their way past his teeth and down his throat, filling him up with dream words until he burst.

David woke abruptly, back in his own bed.

It was very early morning. In the half-light he could just make out the many unfinished stories that littered his bedroom furniture. He reached for a piece of paper; the dream had inspired him. Fumbling for a pencil he began to write: “That night David had a dream …”



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