Dreamed c.1986 by Kristopher Saknussemm
When he left the room I had a chance to inspect the map on the far wall of the dining room. It was an enoimous map of some configuration of continents that no longer pertain, like Gondwanaland and Laurasia. Even at a distance it seemed peculiar to me--soft and seemingly raised. When I got close, I realized that the entire map was made of the bodies of a kind of large tropical moth mounted on beige cork, overlapping like feathers. On each milk-colored wing was a faint maroon stain, as if someone had taken a cigarette and gently singed a design--the shape of the massive continent on the map seen from across the room.
As I was admiring the pattern and detail of the thing, I became aware that the water was getting higher in the dining room. There was no longer any point in trying to save the expensive table linen or the parchment name cards. I sloshed out to the foyer as the electricity started to flutter. I could hear my host's voice in another part of the house, and just before the hall blacked out completely, I saw that I was wading alongside several thin, fluted candles and the corks from the wine bottles, which had been left on the table to breathe.
The suitcases were arbitrarily arranged, although their distinct rigid shapes in such quantity produced a regimented, obelisk appearance in the vast courtyard. The tall, sheer buildings that framed the courtyard began to look like giant cement valises as a result.
Despite the fact that the sun was full and hot, not a single shadow could be seen on the flagstones. Apparently, the sunlight streamed down through everything unchecked.
When I reached the far end of the plaza, the smell of fresh pies was thick in the air. This normally pleasant aroma sbuck me as vaguely repulsive, perhaps because in the midst of the penetrating heat I could not imagine how a pie would have a chance to cool.
I awoke, and it was evening in a house in the islands, Tahiti, Rarotonga, Samoa. With a tin roof to listen to the rain and the large cool porch with propped-up shutters and brightly patterned pareus that blow in the breeze, I could see and hear women in the adjacent room. They didn't seem to be aware of me. They were busy hacking up lemons, feeding them to an emaciated, immodest dog. My other hand was floating in a jar on the little table beside the bed. It faintly smelled of hibiscus.
When I looked out the open window I saw a powerful, shaggy rooster disappearing around the corner of the house by the light of a kerosene lamp. Then a small boy climbed out of what looked like a fishing weir and pursued the rooster into the dark frangipani. I started to cry, very very softly, for no reason at all.
In a bad B-movie entitled Captain Nemo's Underwater City (Chuck Connors stars as Nemo, that's how bad), the wrecked passengers saved by Nemo are requested to spend the rest of their lives in his submarine metropolis, for fear of its location becoming known to the rest of the world. The city, of course, is a sunken Shangri-La. Naturally, they try to escape with all of Nemo's precious treasure. Only a couple of them actually make it to the surface alive and are rescued by a passing ship. The only piece of the treasure which survives is something like a shell-inlaid gold spoon. The rest sinks back to the ocean floor, lost forever.
I used to reenact the escape scene from the movie in a midnight-empty public pool, using for loot my mother's silverware and bits of costume jewelry. Needless to say, she wasn't impressed. Thinking back on the sight of those forks and earrings disappearing in the deep end, in the light of the amber streetlamps, I feel much the same way about my stories and the dreams beneath them. The story ideas are only trinkets from a richer world--a world outside time and gravity. Yet in their subtlety--in their obscurity even--they imply whole coded histories, landscapes, scenes and crimes. Intricate worlds have been known to grow from the seed of a single tyger or red wheelbarrow.
I don't mean to say that dreams are more luminous and alive than the waking world, just that I am. In dreaming, I'm not deadened by the detail, by the texture. My brain dilates into a lung and I dive into a murk that seems peculiarly appropriate--simultaneously exotic and familiar. I dive, only to rise finally, sadly, like Nemo, crusted again in the giant conch, heavy-footed once more on the common beach.
SOURCE: Dreamworks: an Interdisciplinary Quarterly (v.5, no.2, 1986-88, p.92-93)
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