TO THE EDITORS OF THE SURREAL TIMES - STOP - LONG HAVE I BEEN UNDERCOVER IN SECRET MISSION FOR BUREAU - STOP - DARK DAYS AHEAD - STOP - DO NOT LOSE FAITH WE WILL PREVAIL - MESSAGE ENDS -
The above message slipped down our downspout several weeks ago, and when we fished it out we were delighted to find the ink had not run. At that time we could only presume this is the work of Alan Partridge, our Dreams Correspondent and shadowy employee of a shadowy organization he seems to be referring to now as the Bureau. It’s nice to have it named. Our hopes were confirmed when just last night a neatly typed page slipped under the door of the Surreal Times Editor’s Office. The envelope was marked: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -AP. Here is the contents of that message:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
My dear Editors, these are dark times. I hope my short missive reached you in time. The dreams of humanity are growing ever more dire with each passing night. Last night I dreamt of fire, of suffocation, of gnawing emptiness consuming my soul, and I lost my very best left sock. I am afraid for the state of the world. I am not sure if you have noticed this yourselves, but all across the world my fellow agents and myself have been noticing growing trends in the dreams of humanity. Themes of entrapment, defense, pain, and fear grow like weeds in the pavement. My own mother admitted to me last week that for the first time in 85 years she had dreamt of her home, only to see it drowned under a flood for the second time. Humanity is floundering. Our dreams reach out for a life preserver that isn’t there and with every night that falls our head remains submerged just a bit longer. My friends, we must be vigilant! All is not lost! This I promise you, all is not lost. You must be prepared for the first time to dream with purpose! This bleakness over the land dampens our lives but it MUST NOT DAMPEN OUR DREAMS. Dreams forge reality and may you never make the mistake of remembering that wrong. If you would make a better world, you can start by dreaming. It may be work, but it is not hard. If you follow my instructions you CAN dream a better future.
ALAN PARTRIDGE’S PROPER PROGRAM FOR ENLIGHTENED DREAMING
- Cardamom and mugwort tea with ginger and a touch of honey.
- Meditate before you dream on what you wish to dream about. We cannot control the scenario we find ourselves in, but we can set the tone. When I go into the local dream state for my research I meditate first on the location I find myself in, how it makes me feel, how it makes others feel, and the sights and sounds experienced by those within it. For our purposes, meditate on something that makes you feel whole.
- When you sleep, do so with purpose. When I began the science of researching the world’s dreams, I would repeat “I sleep to rest, I sleep to learn.” It was a mantra that did me a lot of good, and so I pass it on to you.
- Carry a dreaming token. It can be as simple as a small coin in your pocket that, every single time you touch in the waking world, you stop and take stock of the world. Ask yourself “How did I get here? Where am I going? What is the time?” If you cannot answer those questions adequately, it’s time to start going to work.
- Fix things. If you are in the throes of a bad dream and trigger your awareness with a token, take steps to change it. Perhaps every night you spend your evenings dreaming of a locked door with no key. Reach into your pocket for the key and find your token, it will open the door if you believe it will.
- BELIEVE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT. Holy symbols are holy because we believe them to be. Dreams are frightening because we believe there is no other option than fear right now. Laugh and believe it to be different. That is truly all it takes.
Here are three kind dreams I have kept in my archives for times such as these. May you take them and use them when next you fall asleep.
Dream One: The Atacama Desert, Chile
Ordinarily, this place is as sterile as an operating table. You need no fear of infection here, the ground is devoid of water, and as such, devoid of life. However, yesterday, it rained. Tonight I rest my head on flower petals. Desierto Florido, the desert is in bloom.
Waves crash overhead, the land dreams of the sea. Between my toes rise tiny purple florets, with every step they float ever upward like the finest silt. I take a deep breath, the air smells of faint perfume, of wet dust, of patient seeds. I walk on. The waves roar, the sun flickers and dances. My feet leave a path of white petals like snow. The snow capped mountains in the distance are just another bloom. At once a wind picks up, rushing over countless little flowers, buffeting me and driving me forward. I trace its path in the ripples across the plains and walk on. Someone sits before me, his fire just starting, just ending, roaring hot, a dying ember. She is old and young, male and female. They speak with all voices in the language of birds. The sun goes out, comes to life. I am wrapped in fiber, buried beneath the red dry sand. The rains come. I bloom.
I awaken in the fog.
Dream Two: The Tundra in Spring
The land of the midnight sun. One would think sleeping would be hard here, but for all the effort I have expended to get here, kayaking through sea ice to reach this abandoned hunting cabin, sleep finds me as easily as in a feather bed.
It has been many years since a human has dreamt here, and it was many years before that that no human has ever ventured here, but here is where they came for seal, when the ice melted, when the tundra began to warm above the permafrost. I see the seals now, their populations receding in the real world, they are remembered by the land, and the land dreams of them. I leave my cabin and as I shut the door it becomes a scrap of leather flapping in the cold breeze, the hut now made of bleached white driftwood. Those who came before me left these fragments here when they departed, I am grateful. Though the air is cold, the sun is warm here and there are flowers blooming, sheltered by a nearby rise. They are blooming out of a rotting skull. In 1960 musk oxen were brought here from Iceland, and they thrived. This one was slain by a polar bear, and its body laid to rest here in the shelter of the dirt and rock rise. From its death, from the very body it once lived, flowers now bloom. My breath steams in the sun, I do not pick the flowers. Next week the whole tundra will be alive in the short summer season, but here, death brought life a little sooner. Dream of things and they happen, sometimes things happen and they are dreamt as well.
Dream Three: A Walnut Grove
Black walnuts are native to North America. Their nuts are delicious, if difficult to process. Near my hometown there was a large hill known to the locals as Walnut Hill. At the top stood a huge walnut tree, the mother of the thousands that dotted the whole hillside. Black Walnut grows fast. My brothers and I used to play with the nuts, staining our hands and clothes a ruddy brown, my grandmother burns the husks in her wood stove in the winter. They give off a powerful heat, and a smell that once you know, never truly leaves you. Tonight I sleep at the foot of the mother tree, a walnut in each hand for wisdom.
Soil, cool and damp in my fingers, under my back. I am lying in a warren, deep under the ground. It is all I have known, it is all I will know. My forebears lived their whole lives here, and yesterday I knew my descendents will do the same. Today, something is different. A smell permeates the air. It promises so many things, food, warmth, words, knowledge, water. It promises sensations, wind on my face, heat on my back, light, something I have never known, in my eyes. I follow the scent. Climbing higher and higher in the warren, away from my family, away from the larders, along smaller and smaller tunnels until at last I am on my belly wriggling through a tiny crack. The scent is stronger here, but I just can’t reach it. The tunnels have stopped. In desperation I lash out with my hands, the vision so strong in my mind that my eyes see things they have never known. I weep. I break. I sob. I rip at the dirt with my hands, clods falling off behind me.
I AM BLINDED.
The LIGHT. My eyes scream.
Is this death? My hands are still tearing at the soil and everywhere they pull the light gets stronger and stronger. I feel it burning my skin. My eyes are clenched tight and everywhere, all around me, the smell of walnuts makes my head swim. The hole is large enough now. I climb forth into the light. Ahead of me is something soothing, something dark. I rush towards it, out of the bright white light of the sun to where its rays are shielded by the roots of a tree, but they are growing up not down, covered in green leaves not hairs. In my rapture I step on a hard green object underfoot and tumble to the ground. In my rage I smash it into a rock, and something wonderful comes out. I am overcome with hunger and greedily devour it.
Rapture. Worse than the light. My mind is overwhelmed with words. With ideas. I am afraid though I had never known fear. I am aware as if I had never known myself. I am myself. I see myself. I know myself. I may never return.
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