I am spiderman and I'm really busy today.
Every four years, all the superheroes get together to celebrate the great job we do protecting our favourite city.
Every four years, a supervillain unveils himself and tries to kill us because we're all in the same place.
How do we keep forgetting this happens every four years?
I'm running along the surface of buildings.
I'm swinging from silk.
I'm slowing down gunmen.
I'm taking the impact of an explosion,
I'm really, really busy.
A footprint, larger than a human footprint, heading in the direction of the forest.
Afraid, I follow it.
I end up in a doctor's surgery with a nurse. She thinks I am a patient. I am wondering what the forceps could be for, reassured finally that this is a dream.
A whirring, spinning answering machine takes pens in its mechanical hand and writes numbered messages for unknown masters.
No matter what I do, the machine won't stop buzzing.
Because it's not the machine. It's my alarm.
Every inmate is making use of their sanctioned recreation time. Some guys are practising karate kata. Some guys play board games in the open air. Others throw a ball back and forth.
I weave my way through them all, because I just want to meditate in my cell.
In a courtyard, behind a wall, the female prisoners are jogging the perimeter, except for one. She is walking directly up the side of a stone building, evidently having realized that this is a dream.
Seeing her reminds me that this is a dream, too.
When she reaches a ledge high above us, she sits, swinging her legs, as if she didn't get up there by walking vertically up the face of a building.
None of the male prisoners have noticed her.
A couple of minutes later, all the women are sitting on the ledge in baggy grey tracksuits, looking out over the rest of the prison.
Every surface of the kitchen is covered in white goods; blenders, mixers, juicers. Unidentifiable machines with removable, machine-washable parts.
Three young, tough-looking guys in hoodies call out to each other while putting the finishing touches on cakes and other baked treats.
The black book records dreams automatically for two weeks during a house move. It provides evidence that we adapt quickly to environmental and emotional changes and may even help predict the outcomes of future activities.
The blonde woman is surprisingly cheerful, considering she's dead.
The hospital administrator arrives.
"My name is Hazel. Go to the end of the corridor and turn left."
At the end of the corridor on the left, however, is a brightly lit room full of geriatrics making love with their clothes on.
In the room on the right, a second blonde woman is having her hair dutifully stroked by a copy typist, also blonde.
The dead woman waits in the corridor.
A weird kids' toy. It looks like a plastic, five-tier wedding cake, though much more colourful. I lift it and set it down, considering whether to throw it out.
It's connected to a TV show about a female, amateur detective. Finding a clip on my phone, the theme tune starts. Hearing the theme tune, the toy whirrs and its tiers start spinning.
There is a doll of the main character in a separate box. She has a changeable face. One way up, she is an old woman with fat cheeks and her eyes closed. Push the button at the back, however, and she becomes young, with sparkling green eyes.
Pushing the button, the face half spins, but then sort of mechanically eats itself. There is just grey and white plastic, like sticklebrick, where the face should be.
I remove the head from the doll and try to adjust it. No joy.
Seeing that the top tier of the spinning toy has a picture of a face, I put the doll head into it. It opens its doors, grabs it with plastic hands, swallows it, shuts the doors, spins, spins. When the door opens again, the head is gone.
I try to force open another door in a lower tier and it almost breaks my fingers. My hand gets caught up in the gears and there is no release until it's ready. The motor is so powerful it would shatter wood or bone before stopping for a moment.
Intriguing. I decide to keep the thing and look for instructions, but it's no kids' toy. It's dangerous.
Last night, I asked for a dream to help me title my dream fiction collection/series.
I was going to call it 90 Dark Degrees. Like Armoured Car, which is what I call the publishing part of this enterprise, 90 Dark Degrees is from the poem Sleeping Standing Up by Elizabeth Bishop. It's about the power of dreams to transport us. And it has dark overtones relating to the Second World War and the Nazis too, not unlike many of my dreams.
I created an email address based on ninety dark degrees. I designed a logo and everything. But, while I like the darker dreams and turning those into stories, it's not all about horror. I need to get away from misconceptions that leave me feeling like a fraud, and that might turn off or disappoint readers. I love my horror roots. And I write dark, but not that dark.
So, I'm looking for a new title. Since it's dream-based fiction, it seems reasonable to have a dream-based title.
In my lucid dream diary, I wrote: "What shall I title my dream fiction series?"
That night, I dreamt I was performing an exercise in French textbook. I had to group like words together.
Which gave me the idea that this is a good place to start. I used to do it sometimes when writing poetry.
The Call of the Void
Regarding the French component, I followed the suggestion and read a blog post Google pushed my way called: "Nine French phrases that English really should have too." L'appel du vide spoke to me. It translates as the call of the void or the call from the void. Also known as the high place phenomenon, it's that feeling you get when you're high up and start to think about jumping. You may not be seriously interested in breaking your legs or committed to dying that second, but nonetheless, the voice starts whispering and there's a tug.
As a title, The Call of the Void sounded good at first, but I think:
So this might be the title of one book out of several. Or it might be a signpost that leads to other titles and other ideas. I've brushed up on my dream incubation techniques to generate more suggestions from dreams and to learn to read them better.
If you have any thoughts about The Call of the Void as a title or if you have other ideas about titles, I'd love to hear them.
Email me or leave a comment. It will make a difference.
It's all about the owls at the moment.
In a memorable dream, a giant owl/eagle/vulture landed next to me on the edge of a cliff. As we looked out together, I felt at peace, but also on the edge of danger and opportunity. I wouldn't say the huge bird was friendly, but in the dream I knew it had my back.
I woke with a strong feeling about owls being awesome and started noticing them everywhere.
So with every owl-sighting accompanied with pleasure, amusement, and a sense of deeper meaning, I decided that owls were a thing and I was going to make them even more of a thing.
Now I see at least 2 or 3 owls per day: the keychain owl, the writing room owl, and the email owl. And it's not unusual for my morning walk to my caravan to be accompanied by the sound of owls.
But where I think this gets interesting is the random owls.
It's like when you start seeing certain patterns of numbers. You get the number 11 bus at 11:11 and you check your shopping receipt and you paid £11.11. It's coincidental but it starts to feel spooky. And the more you think about it, the more you see it.
In the two weeks before writing this post, I was seeing at least one random owl per day. I had a great conversation recently about owls vs. larks. They are in kids' drawings, games, adverts, online, and on people's clothing.
"I see owls. They're just like regular owls. They don't know they're owls."
All this owl-spotting has prompted me to track it for 30 days, to see if there's a pattern, to see what happens next, and for fun.
I'm only adding the owls that I didn't plant myself. And I've decided not to get weird about taking photos of every single owl. This is fun and everything, but if I get obsessed about taking photos of dream signs, that's going to make me less connected to my environment, not more. Noticing dream signs is one thing. Pulling out my phone and stopping life traffic is another.
Here it is.
December 26th 2019
A couple of weeks ago, I saw that my daughter had an owl on a necklace and I told her that I liked it. Today she was going through a bag of her things and pulled out another owl.
Was getting rid of some school papers from when the kids were very small. Quite a few owls in here.
I was tidying up in the kitchen while the family listened to a Radio 4's Book at Bedtime, which sounded like His Dark Materials. It had Lyra and someone called Pan. And an owl.
Before bed, I listened to an episode of the All Aboard the Dream Train podcast. Jennifer Dumpert talked about sleep and dreams, including circadian rhythms and how she is definitely an owl.
Day two. No owls.
Kind of embarrassing actually.
Starting to think that I've made a mistake starting this and that I'm not going to see any owls for a month.
Two owl sightings today, both logos for content I was researching.
Should I have an owl logo?
Another owl logo online this morning, while searching for something completely unowl-related.
Then, one or two owls hooting as I left my writing room in the evening. I love this. It feels reassuring that they are there, even though I can't see them. I realize that if someone had a phobia of owls, the fact that they can see us but we can't see them would be terrifying. Fortunately, I feel like they are mostly indifferent to us. I just like having them around.
Going through kids' old schoolwork again, since I'm clearing out a bumch* of stuff, and I came across another owl or two. Kids' exercises are full of owls. Not as popular as hens and cows and dogs and cats, but they're up there.
Went in for lunch and the girls were looking at an owl in a sewing and knitting book. They were excited because they have an owl just like it, which our neighbour made. (This is the same neighbour that we were to see the next day, so check out that entry below).
Sending a message to a friend, Facebook suggested that I invite her to join messenger. They are using an owl as their image for this.
After dinner, we watched Guardians of the Galaxy. My wife said she'd mistaken the title for "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole"
On returning to the writing room for something, owls hooted above.
Finally my wife gave me a Natural History Museum diary. I had a flick through and January had a photograph of an owl.
*This was a typo, but I think it should be a word.
Today started with owls hooting around the writing room, which was a nice way to start the day!
On returning to the kitchen for breakfast, a bunch of the kids' revision books fell on the floor. The brand name/publisher for some of these books is Chouette, which is an owl.
Tidying up the old writing room to turn it into something else, I found a postcard with an owl on it.
Finally, having New Year'sEve, we had dinner with a friend, starting with Coquilles Ssaint Jacques. Being the artistic type, she was thinking of keeping the shells to make them into something. When I asked what, she suggested an owl. She once made an owl out of shells, she said, and when she was a kid there were owls all over her room.
Owls hooting this morning and this evening. This is a common occurrence around here. Still feels special though. It's a great sound.
I'll probably keep reporting it, but feel free to dismiss it from the owl count.
Having dinner with some friends when I noticed this beauty!
Watched Bird People today. I despise trailers and there's no clip at the moment, so there's no link here. nothing. Just know that there's an owl in it. And if you've spent any time on my website or you've enjoyed my stories, you'll probably enjoy the movie. I loved it.
January 7th - Missing day
Stuff happened, of course. I just don't remember an owl having anything to do with it.
Watching the Sorcerer's Apprentice. The one with Nicholas Cage. If you've not seen it, it's a great family film, by which I mean nobody watching falls asleep. It's funny. And I think the magic is Barker-esque as you'll see from the clip. If you can get through the interminable opening narration (just keep your eyes on Monica Bellucci and Alice Krige), you'll probably like this.
8 mins in, there's a stuffed owl in a shop. Owls and magic, eh?
Come for the owls, stay for the evil magicians in a Russian doll.
Owl coloured by my friend's daughter.
One of them made an owl noise during our get-together and they discussed a scene with owls in a movie they love. They said they often see owls on their way home.
Checked out an app for making animations. Flipaclip. One example was an owl that exploded into birds that flew away.
I also noted the owl on a case of sketching pencils.
My daughter lost her handwarmer. Guess who found it?
There are no fewer than four owls in Rango. They are the chorus.
My daughters recently got into videos about unlikely animal friends. Today, they really wanted to watch the one about the owl and the cat.
Downloaded some story-reading apps today, including chat stories. Hooked Chat stories and Tap Chat stories both had owls for their logos. Owls have eyes and stay up late reading fiction I guess.
I also downloaded something called Remente self improvement, which is a goal setting, journal keeping, mood tracking app with an owl on it. Too interesting to uninstall.
The bus brakes suddenly. A moment later, there is a shockwave, people turn, and screams come from behind us. I run toward the screams and meet my colleagues there.
Later, I see people in poverty, enslaved on an alien spacecraft. They tell me their stories of being tricked.
I start the dream again and try to save them.
This time, when the bus brakes, I'm already watching carefully. This time, when people scream, I run the other way.
The explosion, causing the screams, was a diversion. I see a big car speeding across the grass and I jump in front of it, thinking that it would be good if I had a gun. The car doesn't stop (the windows are blacked out and I can't see anyone inside), but fortunately a car full of civilians rams it from the side, saving me.
"Get in!" they scream.
I jump in.
I end up hearing similar tales of woe as before. "The aliens are coming." "They are enslaving us." "They don't care about human life."
All the while, my mind is working on how to save everyone.
A Stephen King novel meets A Game of Thrones. A cold fog is sweeping through the town. Anyone it touches, anyone who walks into it, is taken by the cold and they cannot ever leave. They can only move within the confines of the ever-expanding, cold fog.
Vans and removal trucks speed along the street. They growl and swerve as they race to get out of town.
I am in a position of responsibility, perhaps the sheriff. In my attempts to protect people, I end up standing in the street with the fog approaching. I end up walking into it. Just a few feet.
An unseen wind blows through me. It chills my ribs and my spine. I imagine leaves and dust blowing between my bones. My flesh feels as insubstantial as air.
I look back at my team and other onlookers.
"Get back!" I say as the fog continues to creep toward them.
After a few more seconds, the fog stops. It roils, but doesn't advance any further.
In the mist, like the white walkers in A Game of Thrones, trapped people wonder within the fog. They are wearing what they were wearing when it enveloped them.
I'm in uniform. That's me in uniform forever.
I don't feel like I'm losing my mind yet. The others, however, look gone mentally. I wonder how long that takes. I wonder what that feels like.
A man straight out of a Stephen King novel approaches through the fog. He is wearing brown, leather boots. Something about me being captured has changed things and, talking to the people outside the fog, he offers a truce between his fog and the rest of the world.
As long as no-one tries to get anyone out of the fog, he says, he'll let the rest of the world survive. Anyone who enters the fog of their own volition, however, will be his.
"How come you can turn into a werewolf AND other things?" someone asks. It seems impertinent, like, unnecessary right now.
"I shapeshift into a wolf," he answers quickly. "From my wolf form, I can shapeshift into many things."
He moves on quickly, physically, as if to avoid questioning. It seems like we've found a plot hole in the story and he wants to gloss over it.
Gone, the evil man lets us mull over his deal.
I consider my life in the cold.
It's not as cold as I thought it would be.
But it does look like forever.
Those in the fog have given up, but those on the other side are trying to think of solutions. I admire them and I think I might be in a unique position to help from here.
In a camp of survivors, I'm having a laugh with three soldiers when I realize that the leader is watching.
The soldiers have become fat and soft over the last few months, but this will not do. I turn nasty on them, but they think my yelling and admonishments are part of the joke. I try to whisper to them that this is just for show and that they need to play along, but they only laugh at me. Until I hit one of them.
They look upset. I'm upset. They stand up straight.
Later, during a military training exercise, the leader takes his large army bag and I know he's leaving. He looks like the guy who used to do The Daily Show. He hugs me and then he's gone.
Later still, people realize the washing still needs doing.
I organise the taking down and folding of half a load of washing. My friend folds with me.
Downstairs, I hear a tape recording. A deep voice booms:
"Don't forget your keys."
"Don't close the door."
"Take your keys with you."
"The door locks automatically."
On cue, I hear a loud CLICK and then a guy yells: "Shit! Fuck! Fucking fuu-ck!"
My old flatmate stomps up the stairs, cursing under his breath. He turns on heavy metal music. I don't know whether this is to calm him down or to help him think.
Outside, I'm impressed by this workplace/living area.
We are on communal land, owned by a rich, young visionary; on a hill, with an exceptional view.
The main house is all dark glass at the front, on three floors. Modular buildings stand In a rough semi-circle on the land in front. Each unique building has its own character and looks as if it were designed by an architect. Each is owned by a different group and is overseen by the main house.
A woman in a leather apron stands outside her workshop, a one-story building with a pink, sloping roof.
This is beautiful. I want to stay.
Kevin Spacey is a lighting salesman.
My two friends - a man and a woman - and I are close enough to talk to each other without looking at each other and to have some witty banter with some gentle mockery,
The man tests some of the lights as he walks around the store. He hits upon one that has various attachments. It changes from a downcast light to uplighting that illuminates the corner of the massive showroom in a weird way.
Large, leafy plants in the corner suddenly glow, alien-like. Changing the switch of this light is like having the room re-interpreted by a different artist.
I ask Spacey how much it costs. He says the words, but there is so much excitement that I don't hear him the first time. On asking him to repeat himself, I brace myself, and he says:
"Three thousand three hundred pounds," with a straight face, with no expression at all.
My friends make some mocking noises, but I keep playing with the light.
It's the one. It's perfect.
I begin to tell them that I have an idea about a dream home, and while I can't afford this today, maybe one day ... but I know that voicing that is the ideal way to kill the dream. Instead, I look around and wonder if a place like this ever has a half-price clearance sale, in which case ...
On the way out, I thank Kevin Spacey and I reach into my silver business card case. My cards (IRL and ITD) are deliberately sparse, but I've pre-annotated the first one (IRL and ITD) with my full contact details. I start pulling it out but hesitate.
I realize that if Kevin Spacey is serving me, then I must be in a movie. And if I'm in a movie with Kevin Spacey, I probably don't want to be giving the Kevin Spacey character my full contact details.
Unable to hide what I'm doing, I switch cards for a sparse one that just has one phone number and an email address.
He takes it the way a man takes a business card when he has a courtesy case full of business cards at that which he never looks.
He watches us go with that empty expression. The alien leaves glow in the background.
A little boy is in a room with several other kids. They ask me to wait until he's outside, and then I can escort him to the bathroom.
As a joke, I sing to him through the keyhole. My voice is high and ethereal, but I can't hit a note.
I decide to take out my tablet and load up Etherpad, but there's a box of stuff on top of it. I have to excavate the junk to get to it. Fortunately, the screen is intact.
I talk to the guy next to me about Etherpad. He's retirement age and he's not that interested until I start playing. Then, he raises his eyebrows and watches.
My playing is interupted, however, by a video.
In the video, people (pedestriants, commuters, sightseers) are sleeping on an interactive 911 monument in London. The monument is made of leather cushions the size of small sofas with several gigantic blankets thrown over them.
The person videoing the scene pulls a blanket off someone. The guy who was disturbed quickly covers himself back up, irritated. Hilarious.
When the video ends, I close the window and play some more Etherpad, but I fall asleep waiting for the boy to come out.
On waking, the boy is gone. His mother took him home. The man next to me is gone too.
Now it's just me and the tablet and the remaining kids, sleeping.
I play Etherpad some more.
I'm having a nap in my writing room. I feel a bit weird. I'm exhausted and maybe dehydrated. A glass of water and orange is on the other side of the room. It's within reach, yet it seems so far away.
Falling asleep, I find myself sitting on a bench in a small tent.
The sloping canvas roof of the tent keeps slapping against my head and face. It's white and light pushes through it. It bulges inwards with the wind, as though an animal is shoving it from the other side, but I know it's just the wind.
Still, I swat at it, as if there is some sentience behind it.
Meanwhile, although I see nothing, I feel things like large spiders crawl up my leg and into my lap. I try to get used to the feeling, because it would be nice not to be bothered by such things. All they are going to do, if they are real, is touch me, I reason. They won't even touch me; only my clothes.
After less than half a minute, I can't take it anymore and I'm swatting at them. This means, therefore, that I'm swatting at nothing and I know it.
My friend: "'Ello, mate. Can I come in?"
"Hang on," I say.
'm half-laughing as I wake myself up. It's like hauling a bucket out of a well and I'm the bucket. Dream is slopping over the edges.
I pull my way out of sleep, up through the swirls of white tent roof.
With a deep breath, I make my way across the tent toward the door, stepping over office equipment.
I think: "I'm a bit disorientated," but I don't say this out loud. I meant to speak, but the words stayed inside me.
When I reach the door, I realize that the door is attached to the tent, which means I'm still in the tent, which means I'm still dreaming.
This is not going to help me reach my friend, I think, who is standing outside the door in waking life, not the door in the dream.
try to wake myself up again.
In my writing room, my hood is over my face. I get up and stagger to the door, holding onto things to steady my way.
There's no-one there.
I flop back down and drink that glass of water and orange.
Later, I ask my friend if he called out to me earlier.
He says no.
I'm driving a taxi to earn some extra cash. My friend yells at me for not switching on the fare computer.
My very first turn as a taxi driver - left - is wrong.
My passengers are worried about being shot down.
Yep. That could happen.
A woman in white is laughing, but she's in another dream.
I land the car and help a naked fairy. She was tortured and stripped. I clothe her and we jump to freedom. She lands beautifully, but I land some way off. The distance frees me from her spell and I realize that she is using me.
The fairy is dictating a blog post as she steals my car. I could run and get in, but I don't want to.
That woman in white is still laughing, but she's still in the wrong dream.
A young man has worked out how to talk to evil spirits. You have to use a raspy voice, high in the hertz.
He screws his face up as he demonstrates. Listening to his voice, I feel the world change a little, like something new is looking our way, the way a bear might look at ripe fruit hanging high in a tree. Or it's like a window has been pushed open a few inches and a distant wind blows through our world.
As I hang up washing, I hear someone complaining about me. They are saying that I am evil.
I finish hanging the washing.
Thought I'd see if I could capture my dreams through drawing and painting. This one's a bit ambitious. Not recognisably Jackie, but I'll get there!
If I dream of a bowl of fruit by next Wednesday, I'll have a more recognisable drawing to post..
Here's the dream:
I couldn't find a good clip of the exact fight scene that this dream reminds me of. But here is a trailer for the film it's from, Police Story, and it's sequel, Police Story 2.
I sidestep from wakefulness into a lucid dream in which I'm outside, on a hill, on a bike;. Stationary, but balancing on two wheels, I hop and make the bike clear the ground by a foot.
I do it again. Two feet.
Again. Three feet.
On descent, I feel my stomach rising, that thrilling sensation of falling. I find it unpleasant, but there's something compelling about bouncing,
I bounce onto an old stony wall that separates the garden I was in from the rest of the world. The rest of the world is no less green or lush, but it goes on further. The land slopes downward for a long way and ahead I can see the bottom of the valley and then another mound of earth rising in a great hill, not quite a mountain, on the other side.
Still on the stationary bike, I hop down to the ground, landing on the "rest of the world" side. My stomach rises into my chest, giving me butterflies.
The sky is red. Beautiful. It looks like something somewhere is on fire and the sky is gradually reflecting the colour and movement of flames. The clouds are slow, black shadows. In the distance, trees are silhouettes.
I bounce higher so I can see more.
I bounce higher, to see how high I can bounce.
The butterfly sensation becomes so intense that I can't stand it anymore
I wake up.
There's a beautiful woman at work. She might be Iranian. She's tall and sullen. We've never seen eye to eye, I don't know why, but when I see a crowd around her and I hear her saying googbye to people, I go over.
She's wearing a denim dress with a short jacket. Her hair is naturally brown and blonde, very short and curly.
When I'm near enough for us to hear each other and we make eye contact, I say:
"It sounds like you're leaving for a long time."
"I'm fired," she says with no hint of emotion.
"Oh," I say. "Look, I'm sorry we didn't talk more, but ..."
She raises one hand, like a police officer stopping traffic.
She moves on to the next conversation with the next person.
Delighted by my humiliation, my boss smiles at me from her podium.
I check on the animals. They are in a field, penned into a small area by electric fence wire.
The goat has a great capacity for kicking things and is currently kicking a bail of hay over the fence line so that the animals can't eat.
"Why are animals such assholes?" I ask myself.
Later, the goat challenges the bull to a fight. The goat soon charges, but instead of butting heads, it jumps, runs over the bull's back and jumps off the other side.
"BACK IN THE OFFICE"
I try to get on with my work. I fix a computer screen. I chat to an old friend I used to work with IRL; she too is spiky and uncommunicative, as if she is upset with me.
Later, a female colleague I don't know sidles closer and closer until she is clinging to my arm. A man is staring at us, distressed.
"If you want to break up with him," I suggest to the woman, "you should probably be more direct."
After thinking it over, she relinquishes my arm and breaks into song. She sings to her partner about how she feels. Trapped. Like he doesn't appreciate her.
He sings back, operatically. He loves her really. He just doesn't know how to show it.
"That was great," I say.
They look at me blankly, until I sing something like:
"That was great
what you said;
put the past
in its bed."
The happy couple beam at me.
In the toilets, a white, enamel sink that stretches the length of the room. By the chrome-plated taps, there is a 6-octave piano.
I don't even pee. I just wash my hands and play the piano. Everything I play on this piano sounds beautiful. The sound reverberates and swells, pushed around by the dank, grey-brown walls.
I play a sad song with deep, sorrowful chords and a wistful, heart-rending melody.
I worry that anyone hearing this outside the toilet will worry about my mental state, but I'm ok. I just need some time.
A prophecy says the Hound can only be killed on Valyrian soil. When he stops a caravan on its way to Highgarden and demands that the occupants come out, therefore, he thinks he is safe.
From inside the caravan, Ser Loras Tyrell fires two arrows.
The first arrow merely pierces the wall and sprays the Hound with dust.
The Hound looks at his already soiled cloak and realizes that this new dust is from Valyria.
"Oh, fffuck!" he says, more pissed off and disgusted than afraid, though he knows what is coming.
A second arrow pierces his armor and thumps into his chest.
He drops to his knees.
The ground drinks his blood.
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.