FICTION: THE DREAMWEAVERS
“Is it you…? Can you hear me? Can you see us…?”
The voice was tentative at first, then more insistent. The plaintive tone of all I heard could not have been more clear to me. But this was all I heard that first night. At least it was all I could remember on waking from my dream.
There were few details that I could glean as the memory of my dream passed into the oblivion that seems so eager to catch dreams and swallow them. I was standing somewhere cold and all I saw above me was a vast blackness sprinkled with a trillion stars. This and a sense of deep loneliness and longing was all I could recall.
Later that day as I pottered in my workshop working on my lifelong project to keep me sane, my perpetual motion machine I pondered what was for me yet another unique dream. I had been having a great many of these in recent months, each one totally unique and completely unrelated to my everyday life.
I looked out my window at the rolling cornfield which stretched out down a long curve to the grey stone wall at its foot. I never tired of this view from my long-sought home, Flint Cottage. Flint Cottage on Treacle Lane, Hertfordshire. I’d been lucky and had made enough money to retire here early from the grind of the nine to five working life so many were forced to endure their whole lives long. Here I not only had a beautiful home I also felt at home, completely at home.
Marriage hadn’t worked out for us. Sally and I had been in love, I knew that. But the daily onslaught of the petty details to do with everyday life had worn that love down to a nub, a nub that was then worn down flat by small differences between us becoming large. Now I was alone. Alone in my cornucopia of things that reminded me life was still good. Each small possession contained the aura of another time. A time when I and the world was young.
I am an oldie now. 72 and counting. Only my eyes are unchanged and hopefully… my spirit.
The quiet here at the end of the lane was total. Only the occasional calling of a blackbird disturbed it and for me at least this was no disturbance at all. After pottering around with my metal strips, boxes of screws and assorted nuts and bolts I retired to the other side of the kitchen to bake my daily bread. Toward the rear of the cottage, the wind soughed softly in the few small trees that grew there and the morning sun caused a few rainbows to dance in the CDs hanging from lower branches and, I noticed, from the large glass-fronted picture frame I had inherited with my home. My mind often strayed to pondering it, displaying as it did a large black, double-headed eagle. What intrepid explorer had brought this from far over sea and land, holding it dear as a reminder of exploits, people and relationships fondly remembered?
Having satisfied myself with my “work” on my machine (mostly simply sitting at the kitchen table pondering it deep in thought) and having baked my usual loaf, I plumped myself down on one of the large and deeply cushioned armchairs in my oak-beamed living room. The sun played warmly upon me. Motes of dust floated serenely in its wrays. Slowly but surely I drifted off to sleep.
“We are here. Are you ready…?”
I only heard the voice faintly due to the rushing of a very cold breeze. I sensed snow-capped mountains somewhere on the horizon, a hint of snow also nearby. I rubbed my upper body with both arms to warm myself against the chill wind, then turned. As I turned I caught a glimpse of a figure, a figure with a shimmer of rainbows about a slender human form. It was visible to me only for an instant and then was gone.
I awoke, yawned and pondered this daytime phantasm of a dream with puzzlement. Somehow it seemed to have a meaning beyond the banal and extremely brief sequence of events. I say banal but that is not quite right. There was a radiance to the simplicity, a depth to the perceptions, something that squid to me that this was not entirely usual.
I shivered a little at the slightly eerie quality of my train of thought then staggered a little to put the kettle on for a cup of tea, something that was an eternal soporific and calming habit for me as a good Englishman. There is nothing, as they say, like a nice cup of tea.
I did not return to my sleep-inducing armchair but pulled out a straight-backed chair from the kitchen table and sat there with my yellow mug holding my comfortingly steaming tea. I lay one elbow on the wooden table in front of me and let a drowsy reverie come over me.
Just then Arthur came in through his flap and nestled at my feet. I knew well what that meant. Did a cat ever do anything that wasn’t to its benefit? And did we ever mind that?
The afternoon was wearing on. The sun was now a tinge of orange and shadow began to grow in the living room. A touch of melancholy arose within me and seeking to throw it off I walked out into the back garden. As ever I made for the first tree within reach and caressed it with my left hand while still holding my yellow mug in the other. Feeling more grounded I allowed my senses to start softly tingling by remaining motionless for a while staring just left of the dimming sun. Night was coming. What would await me in the hours of mystery we all share upon taking our rest, in that little death where we abandon all control and venture into realms unknown?
“Hello. We are here. Are you there? Can you find your way?”
For some reason, I was minded to reply with a positive response though I had no real reason to, none that I knew of. I didn’t know a John, at least not currently. I knew this much as I drifted within my dream. Somehow there was an element of conscious awareness held separate from the full mesmeric aura of the dream. I seemed to be plumbing deeper depths than usual… though all remained as much of a mystery as usual regarding any more enlightening details.
Next day I ran my hands through my hair as I awoke and stumbled to the bathroom to clean my teeth. I would make myself no breakfast today but venture into the village. I had no clear idea of exactly why I should do this but felt it was a good idea anyway.
The Rose & Crown was typical of the old, if not ancient, pubs that could be found in every village for many miles around Essendon. A pub lunch and a pint was a common ritual hereabouts and I looked forward to indulging myself later in the day. But for now a stroll down the High Street was my aim and quiet pleasure. People watching and the odd (sometimes very odd) conversation were two pastimes I found most conducive to feeling all was well (despite all in the world that was not).
As the street tapered out at the far end of the village I found myself lingering by the massive chestnut that stood there. Beneath it was a rather forlorn and somewhat broken down wooden bench with a straight back. Having just turned 72 and my legs not being what they once were I decided a sit down with legs outstretched under the trees long, tapering and leaf-laden branches was not a bad idea…. Not a bad idea at all.
“We miss you. It shouldn’t be as it is. Let us be together.”
There it was again, that recurrent theme. What was going on? Being a fuzzy-headed oldie I’d dozed off again. This had never happened to me in my youth I’m sure! Who was talking? Why to me and what was it all about? An image of a blinding blizzard emerged from the daydream and I struggled for more… but anything else slipped from my mental fingers like mercury loosed from its containment.
That thought took me back to secondary school and some foolish idea to hold a glass thermometer over a bunsen burner flame. The result of course was tiny rivulets of mercury scurrying all over the heavily carved and inked wooden desktop. Herding cats was the only greater impossibility than corralling those shiny streams into any other container. For all I know they still reside in the gaps between those hoary old school floorboards.
I shook my head again as I had done when I awoke this morning. Much as I loved mysteries this recurring dream theme was beginning to freak me just a little.
I walked the short distance to the Rose and my spirits rose and assumed their normal mental posture once more. I was quite well known in the village as it was known I’d made a fair bit of money writing a story or two. Faces turned toward me as I entered but soon resumed their previous demeanours, chatting or nursing pints. One face that turned toward me which did not look away however was that of Penny. My heart gladdened to see her. Once long, long before we had shared a relationship. It hadn’t worked out but I had never quite managed to fall out of love with her.
Penny beckoned me over to her at the bar and I took a stool next to her. Her familiar patchouli essential oil wafted over to me as I gave her beautiful tawny brown hair a glance. Yes, I was still very much in love with her. But I was not the right one for her, I knew that. But, as a confidant, I knew I could always rely on her to listen and provide good advice. So I told her of my dreams over a pie and a pint.
I could see that Penny found my story interesting and was glad. The self-obsessed ramblings of an old fogie are not everyone’s cup of tea. Penny had been at Glastonbury in 1969 with her dog Heron. I remembered her back then with her silver ankh and purple t-shirt, all fresh, new and vital, seeking to explore all that life might offer. I had let her slip between my fingers of course being the gauche young man I was then, hopelessly shy and inexperienced, especially with the opposite sex. Valiantly I tried to bring myself up to present time and not get too lost in my useless reverie of fifty years before.
Penny thought for a few moments before making a suggestion.
“I suspect this is all to do with Flint. You’ve awakened something there, some memory trace.”
Penny had submerged herself in Glastonbury, climbing the Tor and venturing to the stone circle at Avebury. Ley lines and the Arthurian legends ran in her blood from that heady time of youth to now when her old age like mine was creeping through those now elderly veins.
“We have to look around and see what we can find.”
So it was we began our investigation. It was a mixture of pleasure and pain walking with Penny home. The past could not be remade. It could not even be talked of without the risk of embarrassing elements of our relationship being rekindled or perhaps even worse still, awkward silences being introduced between us. I wanted to apologise for being such an idiot then and most of all for not fighting for her, for letting her go… But I said nothing. We walked mostly in silence with a little inconsequential small talk interrupting it from time to time.
Flint Cottage had been Penny’s parent’s home. A few years after we had split up she invited me down from where I was staying in London to help her celebrate her birthday. As I arrived I realised that her current boyfriend was there. I am not much of a drinker but that night I couldn’t stop myself from swallowing one spirit after another. Much the worse for wear I somehow stumbled out of the house, down the lane and into a muddy field. There I slipped and careered drunkenly and eventually emerged onto a street I was totally unfamiliar with. I had no idea where I was or how to get back to Treacle Lane. In my drunken stupor, I approached the nearest home, another detached cottage. I weaved as best I could down its path, knocked on the door and asked for directions. Somehow I found myself back from where I had strayed. I must have been a sorry sight, bleary-eyed, swaying, hopelessly drunk with muddy trousers and shoes dirtying their no doubt expensive Turkish carpets. I was helped up a set of wooden chairs and helped to fall onto a single bed. There I fell instantly asleep. The morning is a blur. I only knew one thing. I was incapable of telling Penny I was still in love with her.
We arrived at my front door and entered to find Arthur purring loudly before us. Him fed, we stood there, me waiting for Penny to come up with an idea or two. Of course, she knew the house, every nook and cranny of the place. She placed a finger on her chin and thought for a moment. Then she strode to the stairs I’d been dragged up so long ago. Stepping quickly up them she stood over the wooden frame upon which the single bed had once been laid. Kneeling she pressed her left palm on the dark wooden panel as if to receive some subliminal message through it.
With that, she made her exit but only after standing before me silently before she did so and quite mysteriously but pleasurably she touched my cheek with her cool fingertips. It was only for a brief moment. Then she was gone… leaving me to sigh before picking myself up and giving myself a mental slap for being so silly as to harbour those same old thoughts and feelings from so long ago.
I went to bed late that night. I put on an old Cat Stevens record that Penny had loved (along with the man) so many years ago. I had always associated a certain song with Penny and this I played several times. ‘Ruby Love’. She’d played it for me here in this room half a lifetime ago.
As I lay encouraging sleep to take me (quite unsuccessfully) my mind began to wander to an earlier similar feeling of eerie other-worldliness I’d once felt. It was in my earliest years living with my parents in their tiny two-room home on Woodlands Street, Montrose. Nearby was a large detached villa some way back from the street with high walls surrounding it and several tall fir trees standing within its wide front garden. The family who lived there were known as the Doors and they had a son who to me appeared to be more an adult than a peer to me. Yet for a brief time, we were interlinked. I would have been about nine. He was probably no more than fifteen. The details are now sketchy but what I recall is this. He told me he knew how to obtain plans for a tunnel to be built all the way to London. Why London I do not know but that was not the strangest thing concerning what he said. He told me that by stripping an area of bark off one of the fir trees in his garden the plans would be revealed in the fine white flesh of the tree then revealed. I was of an age and of a time, the late Fifties when this was believable to me even though this was the beginning and end of the connection I had with this boy whose name I did not even know. Somehow that experience and the one I was having with my recurrent themed dream were related if only in the eerie feeling they caused to rise within me.
I didn’t know then but my reveries would only increase after this point.
For barely half-known reasons I took off for London the next day. First to Highbury Hill where I had stayed for a while in the early Seventies, then to Islington High street. Lastly, I took the St. John’s Wood tube station then walked to 34 Grove End Road where I had stayed in the summer of 1970 near Abbey Road Studios. From there I walked to where Klooks Kleek, the jazz and rhythm n’ blues club had thrived in the mid-Sixties on the first floor of the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead. I had only the vaguest of notions of why I was doing any of this. Was it merely nostalgia for my long lost youth in a time when the world seemed aglow with wonders? This was most likely. But something else at the back of my mind said this was not so.
Returning home by train I had the feeling that I had exorcised something by my day out to London. Mixed in with my feelings of renewing old acquaintances was some buried knowledge that this was all somehow necessary for certain ghosts to be laid to rest. A little perhaps akin to the still very lively ghost of my love for Penny.
Next day, without any dreamscape experiences that night Penny knocked early on my front door.
“Make me a tea, will you?” A herbal tea of course. Penny had been a vegan for the better part of her life and her habits regarding tea were also aimed in a healthier direction than most. Me, I like my tea sweet with a huge dollop of honey (now replacing my earlier two and a half teaspoons of white sugar) and as creamy milk as I could find.
Having our individual “poisons” before us we sat across the kitchen table and sipped a little before engaging in any conversation. To enhance the mood a little I used my newly found ‘Radio garden’ app to play ambient sounds from my favourite radio station ( ChilloutFM broadcasting from Surgut in the Russian Federation). The song playing as I pressed the play symbol was ‘Ajai Ajai by Mirabai Ceiba. The atmosphere created was as mellow as we could wish.
“We need to perform an exorcism, that’s what’s needed.”
Her words shocked me I must confess. Images of poor Linda Blair spewing green slime across her bedroom while turning her head 360 degrees came instantly to mind.
She saw my look of aghast horror though I had done my best to restrain my features.
“No, not that kind of exorcism, not at all.”
“Come with me.”
She took my hand and we climbed together up the wooden stairs to the scene of my drunken slumbers.
She took the multicoloured satchel she had over one shoulder and opened it. From it, she took a small bell and a slim box of incense sticks.
“Now we wait.”
She arranged us on the floor each facing the other with legs folded beneath us.
“Close your eyes. Hold my hands.”
I was not at all averse to this contact of course. The smell of patchouli again wafted over me and the heady aroma of the sandalwood incense began to have its effect on me. The feel of Penny’s cool fingers holding my own made me feel sad, excited, sensual and full of longing in one complex emotion.
From the kitchen, the next musical track began playing, ‘Awareness’ by 4lienetic.
My head began to swim just as my spirit began to soar from the closeness I felt with Penny now. Not only physically, but spiritually if I can use that oft-abused term. The music, the incense and the peculiarity of the moment and its cause began to have their effect.
‘Tomorrow’ by Pensees began to play.
I felt myself entering an altered state. I half-opened one eye partially in fear and partly in some unnameable emotion that mirrored to a degree a feeling of an overpowering force taking over me I had experienced on an LSD trip once long years before. Penny looked serene, her face slightly pale though suffused with a delicate pink around her high cheekbones. Her gentle nut-brown eyes remained closed.
‘Dark Angel’ by Pavel Khvaleev, Loolacoma now.
I lost it and entered a different place or space entirely.
Two men were sitting looking out over a vast wilderness of ice. Their hair was long. They were bearded. They seemed unaware of my presence. I’d seen similar figures one time during a visit to a friend deeply into Eckankar many years ago on a farm near Bern. On that occasion, the men wore white robes but these wore normal, even colourful clothes that reminded me of my Sixties experiences.
I heard Penny softly intoning a mantra of some kind as I numbly tried to stop my focus from returning to normality. I had to find out what this meant. I needed some resolution.
This was not to be, however, not in the sense of any definitive meaning.
The men whose gaze had been directed across the vast plain before them now turned to me. I felt Penny’s hand tighten in mine at this moment. As their eyes met mine I felt recognition dawn. Just then I recalled an event that had long before been lost to memory. I had known these men but not in this life, not as presented. But they were the ones I had known in another form. They had come to connect one last time before some further stage that was their fate or reward.
The taller of the two rose and came to me. You know me and I you. We and this other are one.
At that moment I saw tens, hundreds of lifetimes flow before me, faces of all kinds but the spirits always familiar, always family.
‘Falling’ by Discopolis.
I was awoken from my deep reverie by the sounding of what seemed at first like the very distant tolling of a temple bell. Slowly I came to know that the sound was from the small bell Penny was now holding in her left hand.
“Do you now see?”, she said.
We rose and walked downstairs.
At one and the same time we opened our arms and embraced, tears falling from our faces.
“Tonight we will sleep together apart… And sleep more soundly than ever before.”
‘Tonic’ by Vonnboyd played, softening all corners, quelling any remaining nerves, on out into the darkening, embracing, gently love-imbued night.