I often have dreams in which I find new things in familiar places or unearth new events in my past. I discover an extra room in my house which I’d forgotten was there, for instance, or recall a place I once stayed where I was exceptionally happy and at home. In the real world, I’ve kept goldfish for most of my life – why I’m not sure, but in my dreams goldfish seem to stand for plenty and abundance – and I quite often dream of fishponds that I’d forgotten I had. These are all delicious dreams and, even when I’ve woken from them and realised that the room, or the fishpond, or the event in the past isn’t actually real, I still feel comforted.
One dream of this type that I have from time to time involves stories that I’d forgotten I’d written. It might be a short story published in some obscure magazine which has gone out of print, or a book published by a small press that’s no longer trading, but whatever narrative the dream supplies, I remember the existence of a additional story, over and above the ones I already knew about. For me my books and stories are, like my goldfish, reassuring signs of abundance and fecundity, so the discovery of stories I’d forgotten I’d written is a deeply satisfying thing.
I can never recall the stories themselves when I wake up, but I’m left with tantalising glimpses of what they were like. They’re not science fiction or fantasy, but nor are they shackled by realism and its tedious need to reproduce quotidian life. (These stories exist after all, only in dreams, and dreams disdain realism). There is just a hint in them of Arthurian romance, but by that I don’t mean that there are knights in armour in them, or archaisms, or damsels in distress. I’m just referring to the sense I took from those stories as a child of a forest, a matrix, through which a traveller could move and encounter events which aren’t linked together in a single narrative stream. I get the same sense sometimes from stained glass windows, where different stories, or different episodes of the same story, can take place simultaneously, as if in a place outside time.
My dream stories do not have plots. They aren’t dramatic. There are events in them, or at least encounters and scenes, but they manage to work, somehow, without that tiresome need to bring everything together at the end, which so often diminishes or trivialises what has gone before. The elements in them, in other words, are not parts of a machine. They make satisfying wholes, like paintings do, rather than coming to satisfying conclusions. Stuff happens, and that is enough. The lighting is subdued and shadowy, without being glum.
I’d be curious to know if other writers have these dream stories (as opposed to dreams which become stories, which is another whole thing!)