A dark, short story, based on a dream
Features: robots, brawling, loneliness, a dump or junkyard and a leather jacket
He wears a leather jacket, because it will last a lifetime. Like him. It's also durable enough to take a few licks and it covers up the parts that might be considered badly built, though he thinks that that's just part of his charm. Those unique differences. The bits that are missing are what make us whole.
"Get over there," the boss yells and he goes.
He gets on the swing, so as to not show that he's hurt, neither physically nor mentally.
He swings high, rattling the chains, high above the garbage dump.
Beneath him, the junk heap is black and silver and shining in the mix of watery moonlight and amber streetlight. There are things living in the junk. Bits of spine whir this way and that like worms. An eye without a socket wriggles like a maggot and flicks itself into the unknown. There are mini avalanches all over the place as mechanical things dig under the surface. Males seek females. Partners seek to be reunited, only to be torn apart again, for the amusement of 'the crowd'.
The swing is going to break. If he goes any higher, it's going to break. Everybody knows that.
"Get back over here," says the boss.
He keeps swinging. Higher. Higher.
If I jump from here, he thinks, it would be sixteen feet to the ground. Not high enough to smash myself apart. If I landed on a spike though, I might be able to get it through my central processing unit. That would be something worth doing. I'd like to see that. But there's no such spike. And there's no such me.
"Get down here!" the boss yells.
He lands on the scrap heap and the metal shards slide about like gravel beneath his boots. He tramples over the mound in the direction of the bright lights.
"Get in there!" the boss orders him.
There is a square, like a boxing ring, but each rope is made of silver-blue light. The lights are interrupted briefly so he can enter and then they close behind him with a crackle of electricity.
On the other side of the ring is a robot. She's skinless, silver and humanoid. She's the Harley Davidson of androids.
Fuck, she's beautiful, he thinks. It would be a shame to kill her, but then it would be a shame to die.
She moves toward him in a way that's clearly robotic. Her hips are all wrong. She's more insect than woman. She's been designed for power and speed.
At first, she seems to move silently, but only because he has tuned out the roar of the crowd. The crowd is out there in the blackness, behind the blinding spotlights, behind the flashes of cameras.
He does hear his opponent's last three steps. Fast.
Her punch sends him through the air.
His head is still connected to his body. That's something.
He crashes to the dirt on his back and dust flies up, so he knows he must be outside the ring.
The android is menacing him in the distance, taunting him to come back and fight. Wow. She's so well-trained. She does whatever they tell her. This is how they like them. The ones that don't question their orders are considered superior.
He gets up.
He dusts off his jacket, the way a human might if his body was made of metal and all he cared about were the jacket. The jacket is shredded with tiny slits all over, as if he's been stabbed several dozen times.
Through the slits, his interior glows. Yellow. Amber. White. White hot. His skin has either been ripped or melted from his right hand and he curls that hand into a fist. His fingers are as shiny as chrome. Steaming blood seeks a way out of his closed palm.
He can't let the boss see that he's burning up. He'll assume that he's burning out. This isn't malfunction or at least if it is it goes by another name too: Rage.
His hands hiss, but he clenches his teeth and manages to cool down by the time the boss gets over to him. The boss pulls open his coat and sees moonlight shining through the holes, but his body has stopped glowing by then and so he's not aware of the extent of the damage.
"Holy shit," the boss says, whipping the leather jacket off and holding it up to a spotlight so that it looks like a colander.
Sure enough, there is a holstered weapon on the female android's hip. It looks kind of like part of her skeleton, but for a second it glows blue and he suspects that she fired that at him while he was in the air, while all eyes were on him. That's a rotten trick.
Still, he doesn't think of revenge. You can't take revenge against a machine. She's jumping about in the ring, but there's nothing there. There is no her.
He turns to the junk heap where things are crawling and slithering; burrowing.
That's a better place to make friends, he thinks. Piece by piece. When you make your friends from scratch you know what's inside them.
Since it's effective to do them often, you want to be able to do them quickly, wherever you are and without people thinking you're a weirdo. For this reason, I think the best reality checkers are portable and unobtrusive.
The "Am I Dreaming?" note in the wallet or purse is subtle and people probably aren't going to notice you trying to push your finger through your hand unless you persist for several minutes, in which case you're asking for it.
There's something about having a reality-checking object that is really great though. It could be said to be a lucid dream talisman. Check out this coin from Robert Waggoner, which you can rub your fingers over while its in a pocket and no-one knows you're reality-checking.
I used to use a compass. I'd test several times a day to see if North really was North. It was interesting to me at the time to know what direction I was going in, since I do have trouble finding my way around, and the theme of direction and navigation did start to pop up in my dreams, sometimes making me lucid.
I'm currently using an awesome reality-checking object that my wife bought for me for our steel anniversary. It's a spinning top like the one in the movie Inception. In the movie, a world in which the division between dreams and reality are increasingly blurred, Cobb spins the top routinely to check what state he is in.
Rebecca Turner, whose work has helped me with my lucid dreaming, suggested that spinning top might not make the best reality checker, however, because who wants to waste precious dream time waiting for a top to stop spinning? "Hey, this top just spun for six minutes straight and so I'm definitely dreaming, but now my alarm's going off ..."
In my experience, I don't think that spinning the top in a dream will be that predictable though. I don't think it will spin forever. I think my subconscious would have other plans for it and I'm looking forward to seeing what those are.
The connection between my new reality-checker and Inception is a powerful thing. Whatever I thought of the movie - I think I would have been very happy if Christopher Jordan had been able to make it a horror movie as he had wanted - a metal spinning top screams REALITY CHECK to me. I just have to look at it to feel my awareness shifting.
My wife bought me the steel top, which is a beautiful thing. Very heavy. It even arrived in a neat, little box, which I can't quite throw away (it's numbered), and a little cloth to polish the top with, or perhaps to dab my eyes.
It makes a whirring noise when you get a good spin on it and it's sort of all-absorbing. Again, a good meditation. So I spin this regularly and I feel cool - I've got it going for almost a minute now - and I think about whether or not I'm dreaming. I'll post results on the blog and Twitter [link].
If you're going to get one of these for reality-checking, I'd also recommend the lighter, mirrored one, which ForeverSpin [link] also sent us. Mirrors are good for reality checking, because what you think you're going to see is often not what you're going to get when dreaming. Dreams themselves are like mirrors. Dark, carnival mirrors. They reflect around corners. So the mirror surface spinning top can be full of significance for dreamers. Most of all, they look really trippy as they reflect lights and surfaces as they whir around the table.
They're small enough to go into a pocket and they're subtle enough ... unless you start spinning one in public. Everyone wants to have a go. And that's cool in its own way. Like I say, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when dream characters see me spinning a top.
Maybe I'll try to spin a top and I'll start spinning instead.
What is reality checking?
One of the ways to increase your likelihood of having lucid dreams is to perform reality checks.
In terms of lucid dreaming, reality checking involves asking yourself if you are dreaming at various times during the day. The idea is that by doing this during the day, you're awareness of the difference between reality and the dream world will be increased while you're sleeping. You may find yourself performing a reality check in your dream. The realisation that you are dreaming and can therefore do and be pretty much anything is amazing and well-worth the effort of training your mind to spot evidence of dreaming.
10 Reality Checks to Stimulate Lucid Dreaming
More detail on of these later, but for now, have a look at these common ways of checking reality.
1. Breathe - Can you pinch your nose and still breathe? In dreams, I breathe underwater.
2. Jump - When you jump, do you float gently down again, or does your money just fall out of your pockets?
3. Fly - Flying is the commonest thing for people to attempt when they first start lucid dreaming. Well, at any stage of lucid dreaming. Flying is great. So this is a good reality-check for fun reasons alone. Can you fly or levitate at will?
4. Read - Look at a sentence. Look away. Now read it again. Is it the same sentence? If not, what did your dream just tell you?
5. Look around - How far can you see? Are colours the same as usual or is everything brighter, or almost monochrome. Are objects distorted or blurred?
6. Hand - Can you push your hand through a solid surface?
7. Time - A bit like reading text, reading a clock face or digital watch in a dream can be tricky.
8. Palms - Examine the palms of your hands, check out those lines. Do they look normal? Are they even your hands? Argh!
9. Mirrors - You're beautiful, but does your reflection look normal?
10. Maths - Many people find maths tricky in waking life. Apparently, they don't stand a chance in dreams, though I've not checked this one out myself. Give it a go. Can you perform simple addition or subtraction?
Can you add your own to the list? If so, let me know what you come up with.
Whatever you do, ask yourself: "Am I dreaming?"
For the best and quickest results, do it many times during the day. As well as repeating this often, it's helpful to really think about what you're saying and ponder the answer. Not dreaming? No. But why not? How can you tell?
In dreams, the world is often morphing. People and settings are regularly inconsistent. Think about the people around you. Are they behaving in a typical, consistent manner? If the guy behind the counter is a wizard strumming a cat, you're probably dreaming.
Check out the air, the light. What can you hear? What are you wearing? Naked in class again? This had better be a dream.
Reminders are good. You can try a Smartphone app that chimes at regular or irregular times during the day. PING! Perform reality check. A meditation app can perform the same function, but rather than noticing the tension in your shoulders, you can do your reality check. And relax too.
Another handy reminder is to write "AM I DREAMING?" on a card and keep it in your handbag, purse or wallet. Every time you flip them open, you have your reminder to see if you're dreaming or not. You could stick this on your phone case, since your mobile phone is probably something that you have with you all the time and look at regularly. Likewise, a reality-checker is well-placed as a screensaver, home screen or lock screen on your phone or computer.
Live alone? Write it on your bathroom mirror or Post-it notes around your space.
One of the benefits of frequent reality checking is an increased awareness of ... well, everything. It's a kind of meditation. Taking time to see, feel, hear, smell and taste the world promotes a feeling of well-being that is not just good for hippies. It can be good for everyone - particularly in the fast-paced Western-world from which I write - to take a momentary time out and really observe, really feel, really exist.
As well as observing your environment, actively testing reality is a positive, effective way of improving your ability to lucid dream.
The 'Am I Dreaming' card is particularly useful for reality-checking, because text is notoriously difficult to read in dreams. Either it tends not to make sense or it moves. Read, look away and look back and it will often be different.
Other common reality checks that involve assertive testing include attempting to push your finger through your hand or sticking your hand through a solid object. You guessed it: if your finger goes through your hand, you're dreaming. If you knock over half the wine bottles in the beverages aisle, get the hell out of there - you're about to be asked to pay for the damage.
Turning lights on and off is said to be a good one, though I've not tried this in dreams. Lights rarely behave the way they should apparently.
You could also cut to the chase and try to fly. Go on. See if you can fly right now.
Top tip: start on the ground floor.
Since receiving a steel spinning top for my steel/iron wedding anniversary, I've been thinking a lot about the movie "Inception" by Christopher Nolan.
It hadn't sunk in just how complex it is unitl I discovered these infographics that attempt to explain the movie as elegantly as possible.
These things are works of art in my opinion, as well as being functional. I' wonder if such visual representations might be the future of my own plotting.
Here's the runner-up to Co,Design's Inception Infographic competition. Looks very business-like. Heads within heads seem very familiar.
This is the winning entry (by Rick Slusher) to Co,Design's Inception Infographic competition..
My interests in dreams, lucid dreaming and paranormal/horror writing are growing daily. I'm enjoying the intersection between the two, which has developed over a number of years, particularly after writing my dream guide How to Remember Your Dreams. I'm now in a place where any blog I create on writing novels and short stories will mention my dreaming and any blog on the subject of dreaming will undoubtedly go into some details about my fiction books.
Creatively I'm primarily a horror writer and so yes my mind has workshops with psychos and zombies and werewolves. These are what my subconscious plays with. The darker side of things is where I often exist, awake and even asleep.
Opening yourself up to your dreams, doesn't necessarily mean opening yourself up to darkness, however, unless you also work in the horror industry.
I think that most people who remember their dreams, interpret and explore them find that they are mirrors, not creepshows.
Reluctant to create two separate websites, which seems like a wise but time-intensive strategy to satisfy what might be a divided audience, I'm going to try blogging on both of these subjects.
I'm prepared to pivot if necessary once I've given it a go. Tell me if you like it or hate it. And keep me accountable (I've committed to blogging once a week ... on Mondays), by emailing or tweeting me or by continuing your eerie, disapproving silence.
As I envision it, I'll be providing some personal dream experiences which I hope you'll find entertaining and useful, posting about my writing life and upcoming projects, and there'll be new books, new offers and strange stories along the way.
Dean's Dream Journal
I'm often inspired by dreams.
"How to Remember Your Dreams" will help you with:
Exchange your front row seat for a starring role.
Available on Amazon.