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.
I had a lot of dreams about zombies while binge watching The Walking Dead. Here's one of my favorites!
The girls are sort of milling about outside the hut, waiting for something to happen, when Jane spots a zombie.
She turns to look at the other women, but they haven't seen it. As a result, she isn't sure if she's seeing what she thinks she's seeing. She looks back. She sees what looks very much like a zombie climbing out of a window.
It is about six foot six, male, with broad shoulders. It's wearing a plaid shirt that is ripped and wet. It's face is ... it's face is sort of the wrong shape, more like Darth Siddius than a person, though she doesn't know that because she's never seen Star Wars. And she never will.
The zombie spots her, but it doesn't hesitate the way that she does. Instead, it strides towards her, grabs her by the shoulders, and proceeds to attempt to bite off the top of her head.
She still doesn't scream.
People are still busy, preparing for a zombie invasion that they don't really believe will come.
Her brain finally kicks in, the brain that the zombie is trying to eat. Her brain tells her that this is a definitely, really a zombie, but she still doesn't scream, because to sceam would make it real. If she screams, she thinks, she's dead.
Fortunately, somebody sees the struggle and soon there are four people, armed, pulling the zombie from her and hitting it and stabbing it.
"Why didn't you call for help?" Lisa says, her face wet with sweat.
Jane is in shock.
Lisa shakes her head.
"You finally got one," Vinnie the leader says, looking from the corpse to Lisa. "We could do with more women like you," Vinnie says.
"There are no women in the zombie patrols," Lisa says.
"So start your own," says Vinnie.
"Where would I patrol?" asks Lisa.
"You can have the whole of Scotland," Vinnie says. "I've got to move out."
He means him and the majority of his troops.
He probably has orders from London, Lisa thinks.
"Get to it," he says with a smile before walking away. It's not an order. It's the only thing he's ever said to her as an equal, as a friend.
It's funny in this new world. People look at you in the eye and they see you, they listen to what you have to say, because they know that you're probably going to be dead in the next 120 hours. Every exchange might be your last or theirs. And yet people still end conversations with things like: "Go to work" and "Get to it." Nobody says "I love you" anymore. That's the kind of thing you say as you're bleeding out.
Vinnie walks away in his big military jacket and boots, carrying more dust in their creases than is left on the road.
Lisa stands there in her red, cotton, sleeveless blouse and jeans; bare arms, bare hands, holding a bloody rake.
She looks at the dead zombie. She looks at the other women: strong, together, afraid.
In that moment, it becomes real: this is the first all-woman zombie patrol.
It will be the first of many such units throughout the country, but she doesn't know that yet. She won't be dead in the next 120 hours, and she doesn't know that either. Even Jane, who almost had a zombie bite into her skull because she couldn't scream, even Jane survives a few more weeks.
"What now?" asks Sandy.
Lisa creates two teams to check the house, while a third team checks the perimeter. The others should either be doing a stock check of weapons, including potential weapons — see rake — or attending to Jane's mental state. The orders spill out of her mouth, as if by reflex.
The women get to it.
Every night, the kid remembers to check the window. Every night, it’s unlocked.
He is about to attach the lock, which is a flimsy chain - a hoop at one end that slips over a nail - when he wonders whether this nightly fear is based on anything real.
He opens the window and leans out.
There’s a guy down there in a cream suit. He looks like he’s been wearing it all day, in the office and in the pub. He’s looking up, as if searching for the best way to climb up the wall. Like he doesn’t do it several times a week.
“Hey,” the kid yells down. “How’s it going, dickhead?”
The guy just keeps looking up, planning his climb to the window.
Unnerved, the kid hurls down the first thing that comes to hand: a kitchen knife.
The guy steps aside and the knife hits the floor. He is now glaring up at the kid, who pulls the window closed and fumbles with the lock.
It’s at this point that he remembers that there is a back way in. He dashes to the back and checks the fence.
The fence is there, but it doesn’t go all the way across. So begins 20 minutes of adjustment and readjustment, trying to get a 20-foot section of fence to fit in a 26-foot gap. All the while, he looks beyond the fence at the place where the man will appear sooner or later: a black field that disappears into shadows and then trees.
Not long later, someone is walking out of the darkness.
The kid freezes and abandons his ministrations with the fence, ready to face this guy, whoever he is … whatever he is.
He is relieved to discover that it’s not the guy in the suit but a neighbour.
“Hi,” says the kid, trying to sound natural. “I’m trying to make the fence fit.”
The neighbour puts her shopping bags away and then returns to help.
More neighbours arrive from the forest. They’ve had a day at work or studying. A few help with the fence while the rest gather, smoking and drinking beer and white wine. There is a pleasant hum of people chatting about everything and nothing.
Soon, the fence stretches all the way across, at which point the kid starts thinking about barbed wire. Broken glass. Electricity. Another six feet of height.
“What’s going on?” someone asks him.
“I was fixing the fence,” the kid says, “and everyone started hanging out. There must be four hundred people here! It’s a fence party!”
The moment he says the words ‘Fence Party’, everybody leaves.
Now it’s just him, and the fence, and the waiting.
Ted is in a wheelchair on a rockery. He's sliding down, trying to slow his perilous-looking descent by gripping the tryes with his bare hands. He's dangerously close to the edge, which is about two feet above the footpath. The soil is sliding and crumbling beneath the wheels. It's raining.
"Get over here a wee minute, will you, Deano?"
I climb onto the rockery and step over small plants and soil to where he is struggling with the chair.
I try to push the chair back up the slope and back to safety, but he tilts his bald head and yells:
"What are you doing, man? I'm going down!"
"What?" I say, stepping back and looking at the drop. "You're crazy."
"Give me a hand," he says. "That's it."
The chair edges towards the edge. It's lurching dramatically, and Ted's so huge that I think he might hurt himself.
"Maybe there's another way," I suggest, looking around.
"We're nearly there."
As he teeters on one wheel, he pulls a small phone-like device from his pocket.
"There we go," he says, happily.
He points the device and car headlights shine in the distance. Next, the engine starts. Then it's rolling toward us across the empty concrete walkway.
Via remote control, he brings the car - a sleek, black, sports car - as close to us as he can, which means parking it temporarily on the road that leads to an airport carpark. He leaves the engine running.
"It'll be alright there," Ted says. He's hurrying now.
I take the weight of the chair, and him, but he's a big guy and this is not ... going ... to work ...
Suddenly, floodlights illuminate the rows and rows of cars in the carpark, including Ted's, which is illegally parked, standing idly in the entrance road.
A siren sounds in the complex. It's not the car, but an airport alarm.
"Come on!" Ted says, and he ditches the wheelchair. He jumps down to the path, letting the chair clatter, empty, to the ground.
The next thing I know, he's running towards his car, legs pumping hard, legs working just fine, and I stand there with my mouth open, looking from his flight to the chair and back at him before I start running too.
Although he's about 20 years older than me, I can't keep up. His black clothes are 'flashing' in the dark as the shiny material reflects the floodlights which are reflected in the puddles and on the starry-wet tarmac. I hear his big, smart shoes thumping the road. Clump-clump-clump-clump-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. I put on a burst of speed, but apparently so does he, because I still can't keep up. I feel very inexperienced at this kind of thing: evading capture. I don't normally do things that require running away when the lights come on.
I don't know what we're running from or what will happen if we're caught. I just run as hard as I can, as if my life depends on it, because that's what Ted is doing, and then I spot a man in a reflective jacket and flat hat ahead of us. He's crossing the car park at speed, pointing his torch at Ted and yelling:
I skid to a stop. It's a cop.
Ted, far ahead, and thus nearest to the officer, turns to me with a rictus of anxiety on his face. He waves his right hand at me, subtly but urgently, as if to say: "Go, ye' fool! Save yerself!"
I sprint left, away from the cop, away from the car park, away from the rockery.
The cessation of the siren suggests that the cops think the emergency is over now that Ted has been apprehended. I keep running through this midnight, corporate arena, wondering whether I'm being tracked via cameras and whether or not they'll be able to record my face at night. I intend to run and run until I'm home. When I get there, I'll think.
As I flee the scene, I pass a second car park, smaller than the first and comparatively empty, but also notable because there is a police van with lights glaring, screaming to a stop. Half a dozen cops pour out.
I keep running for a few seconds.
"They've not seen my face," I think. "They don't know who I am yet."
As two more cops appear to my right, however, I decide that this place must be swarming with them. And it's not worth getting shot in the back because I tried to help a guy play with a wheelchair.
As I stop and raise my hands, I wonder what crime I've committed exactly. I'm in more trouble than I've ever been in, but it seems like a waste of manpower and adrenalin.
"Okay," I say, breathing hard. "Okay."
The police officer nearest me is a woman. My hands are still high in the air when she tasers me.
The moment before she does it, I see the instructions on the gun. It says that police procedure is to use the taser twice. First, for a few seconds. Then, after a pause, a second blast is optional, depending on the circumstances.
The instructions explain, pictorially, that the pain caused by tasering is approximately equivalent to being roasted at gas mark 8 in any standard kitchen oven appliance. The image is zigzagging lines, denoting electricity, next to a 2D, whole, cooked chicken. The instructions also say that there is a slim chance of death, depending on what kind of coat the tasee is wearing and whether or not the zip is fastened.
I'm paralyzed with pain for a few seconds and then I'm finally able to drop to my knees, sort of gagging with the agony of it.
Then, she hits me with the second blast.
I'm in an office, sitting on an uncomfortable, wooden chair. I feel like this room served a purpose once, but now the tables, chairs, and photocopier are still and cold with a sense of abandonment. Everything is brown-tinted, like we're in a faded Polaroid.
Ted is in good spirits, as usual.
"What were you doing in that chair?" I say.
"John said I could have a wee go, like."
John has lost the use of his legs. Ted seems to have lost the use of his brain.
"Did you know that if you send a DS back to the factory, they don't recycle it?" he says, a propos of nothing. "It's cheaper to just throw it in the bin," he continues, "so that's what they do."
Except, he doesn’t say ‘do’, he says ‘dooo.’
I fail to see how what he’s saying connects to anything.
Case in point:
"You know, my dad's got cancer," he adds. He's heading through a door and gazing down the stairwell.
"No, I didn't," I say. "I'm sorry."
"Did you know my dad?" he asks, his voice echoing in the stairwell.
"No," I admit.
"Then why are you sorry?" he says. "I'm not." He smiles. "He's a bastard, my dad."
As Ted lingers on the stairs, the door closing slowly, I start to feel like I'm in a hospital bed and he's just been to visit me. It's like he's saying goodbye.
As he starts down the stairs, three female police officers walk in, followed by half a dozen male officers.
"What do I do?" I hiss to Ted.
He looks confused.
"I've never been in this situation before," I explain. "What do I say? Do I delete your number from my phone?"
"They'll find it anyway," he says. "Just tell them my name. Tell them everything."
He descends out of sight and the door swings shut.
The cops don't appear to have seen him at all.
The cops are all taking off wet jackets. One woman looks particularly miserable as she approaches me with her clipboard. She gathers up pens, a voice recorder, and some other administrative objects from a nearby desk.
She has short, straight, black hair, dank from the rain, and she's chewing like she's chewing some gum, but I don't think it's gum. She's just chewing with her mouth empty.
She sighs when she looks at me.
She says something about how they all have to work overtime now, because I've been a bad boy, and if I just tell them what they want to know, they can all get home to their beds.
I don't hear the words, only the tone of her voice, and despite my earlier fear, I find myself feeling very calm and very angry at the same time.
"That's not going to work," I say. I'm trying to helpful and save myself from some bullshit.
"What's not going to work?" she asks, popping an imaginary bubble. She's half-sitting on and half-leaning against ... nothing ... her legs crossed, clipboard on her grey-trousered knees.
"This 'bossy-bored-and-busy approach,'" I explain.
I can't believe I'm about to get locked up for helping a guy play with a wheelchair or for parking a remote control car in an airport carpark. And, having heard the woman's tone, I feel all information about Ted and his whereabouts sinking deep down within me, like it's disappearing into the quicksand of my unwillingness to share, and the more this woman questions me the less she'll find.
"If I seem bossy," she says smartly, "it's because I am a boss." She points to the stripes on her shoulder.
I think that means that she's a sergeant.
She points to bracelets on my wrist and says, laughing explosively: "I've got three more stripes than you!"
None of the other police officers react to her attempt at humour. They look bored and busy.
"Right," she says briskly.
I am calm, but hyper-alert, as if I might want to store this memory under: "This is where it went bad."
I see a flash of red from a bracelet like mine on her wrist.
Her hair falls in her face, still soaked from the rain.
She has black lips.
She leans forward.
I decide to tell her nothing.
"Tell me everything," she says.
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.
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