It came back last night. After 3650 nights of varied entertainment, I'm finally going into repeats. My unconscious has run out of fresh programming, and is delving into the catalogue. I have a syndicated dream.
It originally aired when I was fifteen, and ran for a full season before utterly exhausting its premise. Once a week, twice a week during periods of particular stress, each episode brought minor variations on a single theme. The difference would always be in one place: in the pictures on the way down. On the way down from where--from the top of the stairwell I inevitably climbed at the end of the obligatory chase scene.
The A-Team are always going to build something, the General Lee is always going to jump something, Kit will never fail to turbo-boost. But I don't want to ruin the ending for you.
Most of the time I dream in color. Sometimes in black and white, but only for aesthetic reasons. Once, I swear I had a dream that was letterboxed. Honestly--black bars at the top and bottom, my psyche presented in cinemascope. I have no idea what the dream was about, but I remember it was very nicely lit. If it really happened I'm not a little proud of it.
I must be a little proud of this other dream, too, to have screened it again just last night.
When it starts, I'm already running. The ground is familiar--in a state of near lucidity I think something along the lines of "I know this episode," and realize, right away, that I'm dreaming. I feel I'd have to stop running, though, to open a door out--to get out I have to draw a door in the air with my finger. Doors don't work if the lines don't meet. Dream portals only work in two dimensions. "No good," I think, because I really must keep running.
There are shadows approaching me from behind. Not shadowy figures, not semi-transparent anthropomorphic mists with vaporous outstretched arms and trailing shreds of fog, as one would hope for, but simply shadows on the ground, lengthening at the constant speed of time-lapsed photography as the sun goes down behind some unknown object. I know they're there because I know the dream, and know as well that though I don't have to look I will, for no better reason than I'm compelled to follow the script.
They need the sun to live, the dream wants me to think--so I do, and spot a door across the parking lot that only seconds before was a road. The intent telegraphs the cut; I'm on the other side of the door almost instantly.
It's the Guggenheim. Or the Guggenheim at about a quarter of its actual diameter and four times its actual height. At the top of the tower a wrought iron Star of David buttresses a skylight of frosted glass. The place is empty and serene--quite beautiful, I think, until the shadows slip under the door. They slinky up the stairs after me.
There are pictures on the walls--one on each level as I go around the atrium. They are always across the building from me, whenever I look, hung on the outside of the stairwell, in the light from above. On the first level is a picture of me at the top of the stairs. I'd never seen that before. I've had spiders, ghosts, that screaming guy from the Munch painting. Last night was the first time I was the subject of a painting. "Interesting," I thought, ascending level two. The shadows spread like spilled ink over the tiles. They pursued me to the top, where I saw a painting of me standing on the floor at the bottom, my arms held straight up in the air. On the other side of me, as always, an exit door leading to the roof and a fire escape. As soon as I hit the pavement the shadows recede.
The cop at the station is something out of Prohibition. Big hat with a shiny badge, tufts of white hair sticking out from beneath it, blue eyes staring over a red nose down at me in my modern clothes, white-knuckled and panting. He's sitting at a large desk, one of the high ones with two glass globes on either side like from the movies. He has an Irish accent.
"Now now, my laddie, calm yerself down there, calm yerself down. Tell me what's the trouble."
"They're chasing me," I tell him.
"Sure they are, my boy, sure they are. Who're chasin' ya?
"I don't know," I say, and as I describe what happened the police station disappears, cop and all, dissolving into the parking lot. Though I know I don't have to, I look over my shoulder.
The dream repeats within itself. Usually three or four times. Last night I ran up the stairs three times before I reached the familiar understanding. With the shadows at my feet I understand I have a choice; the door will always lead to the police station and another terrifying cycle of pursuit. There's another way out.
I don't fall at the normal rate. On the way down, the paintings make a little filmstrip, like a flipbook. In the past, it's been an animated Scream, a ghost swirling around, a spider exposing its fangs. This time I got to watch myself falling to the floor in reverse. Right before I was supposd to hit the ground I noticed the building was a level short--there should have been one more painting at the top.