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.
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.
Dee from Battlestar Galactica is on a date with an astronaut.
He underestimates her, like everyone else. She tells a witty joke about opening the emergency door on a space shuttle, but her heart isn't in the conversation.
She ends up alone, at a table in the middle of the bar, tapping on her forehead with a pen.
I'm writing the scene, putting words in her mouth and mind. I too am tapping my forehead with the end of my Biro.
They find me in my tent, tending a long, slow fire, dozing.
"It's warm in here," the boy remarks.
I glare up at him, but the whole world seems upside down.
Later, at dinner, the truth of my thoughts drifts back to me.
"You look like you're very far away," the maester notes.
"Not me," I say. "We're fine. It's the world that's gone."
"Gone," he chuckles, his blue eyes twinkling. "Gone where?"
"I don't know," I reply thoughtfully as I push the grey meat around my plate. "But I know we're dreaming."
I look up at him to pierce him with the accusation. He seems shocked. Whether it's because I found out his secret or because he doesn't know himself, I don't know. But I will.
I go back to mopping up bloody gravy with mashed potato. He goes back to pretending I'm a silly little girl.
A giant elephant rampages in the shadowy garden.
It's not just an elephant, but a giant elephant.
It bats trees out of the way like twigs, thunders in and out of the darkness, devastating the stillness.
My friend suggests putting it on a lead.
"It'll be fine," he says, running alongside her with the rope..
Trembling inside the relative but not absolute safety of the stone house, I become #lucid.
I float for a better perspective, but get
when I pass through the ceiling into the attic.
Dusty material. Cardboard boxes. Corridors.
Unknown people in casual clothes perform science experiments in converted classrooms.
A strange-looking woman mistakes me for someone else, hugs me, and tells me she'll be right back, but this is a dream; real as it seemed to her, as real as I seemed, her entire world is gone before she returns.
Almost in silhouette, I see Winona Ryder stomping across a hilltop towards our barn. She is wearing a long, black dress and boots. I hear her furious thoughts.
"I HATE it when he hides in the other room," she thinks, "and pretends I've discovered him doing something!"
When Winona enters the barn, I make sure to stumble into view, looking harried.
"Sorry," I say, breathless. "I was just in the other room."
I gesticulate towards the other room,
On the other side of the room is an open door, which, even now, is closing its secrets to us - to her - in a slow arc.
Winona smiles warmly.
I’m falling asleep and see a large red sky, gently swirling. In the process of watching, I realize that I’m dreaming and I jump into the dream, like a bird taking flight.
I hang in the sky, sort of sliding along, carried by the sky. Ahead of me is a sharp image, like a mandala. It contains many hexagons. In each hexagon is an icon. The floating mandala thing spins and slides away from me just as fast as I slide towards it.
Between you and me, I’m a bit disappointed by this.
The sky is red. The ground is green. The world is blurred, except for the mandala.
Physically uncomfortable, I open my eyes briefly, shift in my seat and lose the dream. I shut my eyes again and try to get back into the dream.
This time the blurred sky is grey-blue. I jump into it again and hang there, floating like before, but the mandala is gone. The world is still blurred.
I then dream about living in a rustic commune and sharing responsibilities and facilities, including a cooker that has its symbols drawn on in pen and if you rub your finger over it the symbols disappear, which complicates things for people who don’t know how to use the cooker.
I rub one mark away with my thumb and it disappears as cleanly as if it were never there.
I should come back and redraw them, I think.
Later, we break into somebody's apartment.
I'm with a my friend's boyfriend, a flat-nosed, orange-skinned gangster.
We enjoy the stuff in the apartment, like we are in "The Bling Ring." There's a modern, brown, leather armchair that looks like it belongs in a museum. Even its shadow is beautiful.
I'm rolling a cigarette when I spot the shared bathroom. It is shared by other apartments. Across an acre of wet tile floor, black grills and plugholes. In the distance, there is a portly young man in a towel. Unsurprisingly, he looks surprised to see me.
I shut the door.
It's too late. Within a minute, there are people at every door, either banging for us to open up or preventing us from leaving, demanding to know who we are.
Angry faces everywhere. They chatter at us, at each other.
Thus cornered, I wake myself
Lying in the dark, scared of the consequences of breaking and entering.
I shouldn't have done it.
But then I realize it's over.
Which means that I managed to wake up.
Which means it really was a dream.
And now I feel like a wimp.
to the dream.
In a shared room, now, with bunk beds and friends. An orthodox Jew is making us watch TV.
A young boy of about eight years old, his personal student, is looking up at him and asking questions.
The old Jew answers, but always in a way that is derogatory to me and my friends.
"Would you like my chair," I ask the old man, standing, conciliatory, "so you can be more comfortable?"
He accepts, but in a way that suggests any discomfort, therefore, was directly my fault.
Although I'm burning with anger, I move away from the chair. I don't want my friends to see how furious I am. I want them to see the best in people. I want to set the example.
"What does that word mean?" the boy says, pointing to a page in his book.
"That means: 'two things helping each other,'" the old man replies, and he gives the boy a loving smile.
"It's the opposite of internecine," I spit, "which is where two things destroy each other."
"Yes," I think, glaring at them. "I'm implying that you're going to destroy each other."
They just look at me, like I've walked in on them in the middle of something.
Image source: Your Best Digs
A girl takes me to her apartment in Japan. Her apartment has an anti-gravity setting.
She and her roommate clamber over the walls and ceiling. It's like the dorm is turning slowly, like in an 80s music video, but I can attest that it's not. I'm on the ground and the room is not moving at all.
She turns the setting to neutral to make breakfast. Toast.
Meanwhile, she listens to her favorite song, which is backwards.
After two bars, I guess the track.
I can see from her shocked face that I'm correct.
"Are you not impressed?" I ask. "I got the right answer. After two bars!"
There are some beautiful moments, particularly how it begins and how it ends.
If you don't have software to have fun reversing your own tracks, here's a link to a site that will take care of it - https://www.mp3-reverser.com/en/
This is handy, too. - https://www.online-convert.com/result/a7835e98-5da6-4c1b-b1eb-49f616203153
The movie projectionist keeps moving the image on the screen. He makes it larger. Centres it. Pulls out. Moves to another area.
The audience groans.
Finally, the film starts.
Young US college kids are joking around. They jump into the sea.
Under the water, they cling to each other and kick and finally jump as one to break the surface again.
Then they're in a bar. Chatting.
I'm with them, in the movie. They requested audience participation and I'm it.
The college kids are joking around. There's an edge to it though. Jibes. Taunts. Not a sentence is said without it being at someone else's expense.
They dive into the sea.
They kick. Bubbles.
As one, they attempt to break the surface, but this time they can't manage it without a boost.
I wade into the beautiful, cold water to help.
Chatting in the bar, I'm smiling at the college kids' jokes.
There's a man there, drinking himself to death. He has about sixteen glasses of various kinds of alcohol lined up in front of him, taking over the bar.
He's pissing off the kids and they're pissing him off.
To cool off, the kids jump/fall into the beautiful, blue water and it's all white bubbles and thrashing legs and shorts billowing out like jellyfish, red and blue and white.
Underwater, it's all grimaces and silent screams.
They scrabble and push for the surface, hampering one another, like a bait ball inviting destruction not protection.
The boys finally break the surface, gasping.
In the bar, the guys are chatting while trying to put an elastic band around a lightbulb.
I start to join in with the conversation. I don't know if I'm meant to talk or not. If I talk, and go off script, will they improvise around me? Am I supposed to say something to break the cycle of drowning and drinking? There are no instructions. So perhaps I'm supposed to ask questions.
I open my mouth to speak and the camera moves away from me.
The alcoholic is no longer at the bar.
He is in the audience.
The woman sitting in the row behind him is stuffing a plastic bag into his mouth and he is trying to spit it out to scream.
A guy next to him is spraying his face with water through a straw, effecting a bizarre cinema water boarding incident.
Everyone but one woman ignores this, because they are watching the movie. They've not noticed that the alcoholic from the movie has stepped from the screen into their reality.
I watch from the screen as the woman gets up to save the alcoholic.
I leave my scene and cycle up a hill where there is a remote house built by a survivalist.
I cross the impressive green grounds where vegetables should really be growing, but instead it's all lawn.
There is a steep drop off one side, which I avoid.
In the modern house, which is grey and square, like blocks placed randomly beside each other and on top of each other, I examine the kitchen and storage areas.
A survival expert enters to help. He gives me advice about the granite sink, surfaces, and storage units.
He is unimpressed, but he says:
"We can make this work."
To leave, we all climb up through a trapdoor.
My friend, let's call her Sara, is the last to come.
We ask her to pass up the food before she climbs.
She passes up cake.
"The meat!" one of us yells. "Pass up the meat, love. Meat and frozen things. The meat! Fackin' 'ell."
Sara is feckless. She doesn't follow any of the instructions we give her.
I get frustrated with her, too, until I realize that the door is unlocked and we don't need to use the trapdoor at all.
I open the door for her and she just sits there, crying into her hands.
"Let's go," I say, gently.
She doesn't look up. She sits there, sobbing, until I wake up.
Mom's talking to me, but I'm ... n o t ... l i s t e n i n g ... because there are giant bugs crawling out of the sky.
They descend on near-invisible strings. Silent.
A few dozen feet from the ground, they crawl before each one takes its final step to the ground, the way an elderly person might step from a train onto the platform.
The world - our world - is volcanic black, ashy yet watery, as if an ocean has just been drained. Perhaps, the sea went down a plughole.
Everywhere, I see craters of shimmering water. Rivulets shiver, begging us to drink them. They seem to be flowing, except they start and end nowhere.
The wetness reflects the sky, which must contain red and yellow and blue although it is night, like 1 or 2am. The water must be reflecting astral bodies that I can't see, beyond the stars.
The blackness of the sky is heavy and close and seemingly full of holes. The stars are like an engineer's schema, an elaborate dot-to-dot.
In the distance, beetles the size of buses prepare to do battle amid squashed volcanoes and perfect, black gravel.
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.