Listen now, there are two dreams that trouble me. It took me many years to realise that these dreams pursued me, but I recognise them now. I recognise them and treat them with caution, as I do with people I have not seen for along time. I am tentative. The first dream has me in a nuclear power station. The reactor, like Chernobyl, has exploded and the fallout is thick in the air. Around me there are the burned and the poisoned; and there are dead people. I take part in the struggle to stabilise the reactor. I walk through shredded offices and shattered glass, pulling unknown instruments into some crude order. As in dreams of terror, I know that I am at risk but cannot escape from the danger. My rational mind tells me that I am in a nuclear accident and I should leave. I should go as far away as possible, but, instead, I stay and work on the repairs.
This is the logic of dream terror; you know what you must do to escape, but somehow never do it. If you try, your body remains still. I look at my hands and I look at my face in the mirror: I have developed a light sunburn, a radioactive burn. This is a bite from an artificial sun. I know I am being poisoned, but I work on. I know I am burning, but I work on. I look up at the ruined reactor building and feel afraid. I am afraid and still I continue.
The other dream involves a tower. The tower is not always in the same place; sometimes I am high up on a hill and other times low on a beach. The Sun is usually setting; the beach is shaded pastel and, on the hill, from my tower, I can watch the red blob of the Sun sink beneath lower hills. I have many guns in my tower and I am besieged by a mob. The mob is dark and indistinct, but it is determined. It storms the gates, it takes over part of the tower…it never takes it all. I wake up before disaster comes. The dream is not quite terror; it has the nightmare quality of inevitable defeat, but I hold my own. I kill the invaders; at times, I push them back outside the tower. The terror comes from the inevitability of the event, from being surrounded. I am safe and unsafe at the same time. The archetypal model is Rorke’s Drift; the colonial troops surrounded and outnumbered. The memory must have gone deep into my mind after repeated watchings as a child. We are all surrounded.
I wake up before the tower is overrun; sometimes, the attackers are falling back. I spoke to a psychic about it and he said it was probably an attack on my astral body. The astral body is vulnerable when the physical body is asleep; it is open to invasion and predation. This battle, the battle I must fight again and again, is what predation looks like.
We never repeat the good dreams, it seems. I believe, as the psychoanalysts say, that the bad dreams are the body’s attempt to digest experience. One day, when our psyche is done with the problem, the dreams will go away. The dreams will have become part of us. We live in a society that is short on doctors and wizards; we have a great many pills and potions, but we lack wizards. The men who would be wizards are otherwise engaged; we should be bringing them our dreams, but we are only offering them dust.
To be burned alive or to die defending a tower: this is the choice my dreams present. There is a sacred element to a tower; a retreat into the blue, a nest for the rarest human birds. The nuclear power station is practical alchemy; we exchanged magic for its concrete parameters, and it was not a wise exchange.