The dream began at a battered checkpoint, a no-man’s land between the unknowable and the unknown. We were apparently under occupation, but the occupiers were interchangeable. At one moment, I would see myself on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall, fishing for a fake passport in my pocket; at another, I’m a prawn-like alien in Soweto, straight out the film District 9, standing in line for gas. There was rubble everywhere.
I never stuck around the dream’s settings very long, and the transitions were always unexpected. I found myself in a subtropical urban environment - the humidity felt like Miami - caught in mazes of barbed wire and land mines, some leading to freedom, others to my doom. A few moments later, I’m in a Turkish carpet shop where F. Murray Abraham is offering me tea while dressing a bloody wound on my left leg, plotting the next round of resistance. Then I’m in the outer parking lot of a baseball stadium, watching it being vaporized, one seating section at a time, by lasers emitting from a spacecraft hovering above it. Somehow, the upper bleacher seats were eliminated last, suspended in the air, waiting their turn.
Interspersed among these scenes, I experienced moments where I was awake in bed. Each time I checked the clock, it was a little later at night than it had been previously. I don’t know if I was actually waking up and picking up the dream where I left off, or if I had incorporated these waking-like sequences into a very long dream. Either way I was aware that I was experiencing some type of dream - or perhaps even a simulation.
Eventually the pattern of dreary conflict zones was replaced by a new setting - a dark, red room with walls of old television sets stacked atop each other. Each TV showed footage of the various scenes I’d just experienced, as well as cable news programming. There was someone standing next to me, and I remarked to them, “This is like a bad modern art exhibit.”
Before they could respond, the room filled with other people - friends, family, colleagues from work. My son stood in front of one of the TVs and moved the index finger of his right hand in a horizontal swiping motion, as if he were waking up an iPad. The TV suddenly switched to a 1960s Batman episode. Another person did the same to another TV, and it turned into an old black-and-white set. A third person swiped their finger in front of another television, and it turned into a small refrigerator.
Then out of nowhere, Craig Silverman of the Poynter Institute appeared in front of me.
“It’s a shuffle party!” he yelled.
He swiped his finger and disappeared across the room, joining another conversation in progress.
I looked around and realized that everyone in the room was using the same swiping gesture. They could change the conversation, change the people they were mingling with, even change their clothes and gender, with the simple move of a hand. No one seemed to have control over their swiping, though, as it would take multiple swipes for them to achieve an acceptable result. It was as if everyone was experiencing the party in shuffle mode.
Finally getting it, I swiped my way across the room several times, flitting from conversation to conversation until I found one that seemed promising. Before I could participate, though, a stranger standing directing in front of me moved an index finger just in front of my face.
I‘m gone from the party, now back at the no-man’s-land at the start of the dream.
I’m at the Turkish carpet shop. F. Murray Abraham is brewing more tea.
I’m back in the red room, now devoid of people. The pile of TV sets crackle with static. For a moment I panic, not knowing who is shuffling me from place to place. I have no control.
I open my eyes. I’m back in bed.The alarm is about to go off.