Asbestos is released from jail in the morning. After a meal of fresh baked bread and squeezed grape juice from his favorite restaurant he heads toward his friend Bed Head's House of Dreams gallery. The large country-style cabin contains three courtyards and almost a mile of winding corridors stretching the maze-like exterior in and around the surrounding forest. Due to the nature of the exhibits it's under constant construction but still maintains a completed appearance with each addition. Bed and his wife Vanessa Head are known in these parts as onieronaut artists. Explorers of the dreamworld manifesting fantasies into reality through their multi-media art gallery experiences. Having become dissatisfied with the lack of immersion achieved by standard singular mediums, they fully design and build each room in their gallery to be a macro-medium in itself, providing thematic backdrops for dynamic compositions consisting of everything from painting and furniture making to computer animation. All their ideas come from dreams and their art from a passion to experience them in waking life.
They begin by drafting blue-prints of the rooms Bed builds in accordance with appropriate acoustics, spacing and lighting for the exhibit. Then Vanessa usually floors, paints, stencils, wallpapers or however readies the rooms for their intended atmosphere. They’re filled with her furniture, rugs, paintings, sculptures, and other still life displays handmade for the exhibit. Speaker systems are installed to play anything from white noise to original theme music written and performed by Vanessa. Some exhibits include flat screens with looped video art, animation or cinematics. Then all exhibits include short stories and poetry written for the rooms by Bed Head. The latest is a spacious bedroom with giant picture windows, behind which concave plasma screens stream video of an apocalyptic seventh story city view. The only sounds are muffled screams and distant roars of fire. She models it after a dream of Bed Head’s, which he has just finished turning into a short story for display on the nightstand.
Asbestos follows a stone pathway past an elaborate, well-tended, Japanese rock garden. An arched bridge takes him over the wavy sand dunes and leaves him at Bed Head's back door. An indescribably shaped and textured sculpture stands on the patio covered in engraved calligraphy reading:
Art imitates life as the expression and preservation of aesthetic ideals and life imitates art as the interpretation and actualization of those ideals in an infinite chain of creative symmetry bouncing back and forth between reality and ideology. A developed aesthetic sense appreciates the necessary dichotomies of life and art, beauty and ugliness, then through that paradigm redefines beauty to encapsulate everything.
Vanessa opens the door and invites Asbestos inside. They exchange pleasantries and Asbestos inquires about Bed.
“So how is he anyway?”
“He’s been acting unusual lately.”
“Last week We were arguing over the definition of homophyly and when his wasn’t in the dictionary, he bent it backwards and snapped its spine screaming, dictionaries are nothing but annotated thesauruses! He’s been speaking in analogies ever since.”
“He insists that language is nothing but a matrix of complex, self-referential associations, so analogies are the truest expressions as they intrinsically acknowledge their limitation. He’s completely stopped writing. In fact he’s trying to stop thinking in language altogether.”
“He hasn’t said.”
“So what is the definition of homophyly?”
“It’s similarity through common ancestry, but it can also express the tendency for objects in close proximity to assume the characteristics of one another.”
“Why was he so upset about a definition?”
“He thought that concept was so beautiful and needed people to know the second definition to understand his dream. Anyway, he's through there to the left if you can get him to say anything."
Bed Head sits, reactionless, slouched in a red leather recliner staring out doorway-sized windows. Asbestos approaches then sits indian-style in front of him and says:
"I understand you're experimenting with the possibilities of non-lingual thought, but do you think you could humor me with some of the limited linguistic associations I’m more accustomed to for a while?”
Bed Head smiles but still says nothing. Asbestos quotes an analogy he remembers written by a saint:
“Noam Chomsky says: propaganda is to democracy as violence is to a dictatorship. What do you think of that?”
Bed Head's smile widens then opens and unloads:
"You know Asbestos, sometimes I just want to express the written equivalent of an ear-piercing scream that beats the ear-drums of the immoral, apathetic masses, not reading what needs to be read, not speaking what needs to be said, and loving everything in life but each other. I haven’t written for months. This is the first time I’ve spoken in five days. Have you ever not spoken for that long? Everything feels so distant and amoral. You find so much of what you think is insane and incessant, the same thoughts in different forms, relentlessly usurping your attention, jading your judgments. Learning not to think is the best education one can get. I can't write anymore and I don't want to think but I can't meet another's eyes without language flooding up. I want to run down the road screaming, break free your classical conditioning, take to the streets and meet each other. Welcome one another with love and charity. Stop boxing up your beautiful families and let Us all in! Whatever, I’m just a dreamer. Tell me about you. Have you been dreaming lately?”
“Well, I had a strange dream last night, but it wasn't lucid. Three alien spaceships came from another planet claiming they were oppressed by their government and so sought out to discover a new planet. Naturally, I burst their bubble and told them humans had already discovered Earth. But their leader said, as far as Our race is concerned, I discovered this planet, and only that will be remembered in Our history books.
Then they read Us a proclamation from their Holy book in their alien language justifying their divine right to Earth. Soon more aliens come to Earth and start forcefully entering Our homes, eating Our food, raping the women and making slaves of the men. Then they get violent and begin exterminating Our whole species using gruesome methods described in their holy book. By the end of it, only a few humans remain tucked away on small reservations scattered across the globe.
I woke up, then fell back asleep and continued the dream five hundred years later. The Earth was covered with aliens. They controlled the government, all religious and educational institutions, claimed private rights over land, water, air, animals, food, and possessions. All surviving humans forgot their mother tongues and spoke only the alien language. Realizing the creatures love for money and games of chance, the few remaining human tribes open casinos and slowly save up alien currency until one day when We buy Our way into the government and overthrow alien rule, restoring freedom to the Earth. The whole dream feels like a big analogy to something, but I can’t put my finger on it."
“I’m not very good with dream interpretation either.”
“That’s alright. What I’ve really wanted to know is how to have lucid dreams like you talk about. I never know I’m dreaming while it’s happening. I always come to that realization after I’ve woken up.”
“To become lucid you must realize mid-dream the fact that you’re dreaming. The act of understanding you’re asleep is just a split second reflexive thought breaking through the subconscious, but it opens a parallel universe of infinite possibility. Just keep trying. One day you’ll see. The instant you realize you’re dreaming, what felt like a fuzzy subconscious movie screen becomes a conscious canvas to paint your imagination onto. So four times a night about every hour and a half when REM sleep cycles around, I find myself in different dreams and play. I’ve experienced all my wildest fantasies and even enjoyed committing hideous acts of evil too insane for reality which bring pleasure and interest into my experimental amoral dreamworld. Some nights I go to sleep knowing before I wake, I’ll flap my wings to China, travel through time, have sex with movie-stars and models, or sometimes I just wait and see what I feel like doing - either way it makes going to bed exciting and I always awake inspired for a little reality between fantasies.
Perhaps the most fun facet of lucidity is the ability to directly interact with your subconscious. Once you become lucid, it’s difficult to stay that way and you’ll often lose control over aspects of the dreams as your subconscious takes over. Like last night I made this beautiful, tall, dark-skinned, black-haired woman appear, then immediately without my conscious consent she turned and walked away. So then I consciously ran after her, but my subconscious continued to affect other aspects of the dream I wasn’t currently focusing on. So suddenly We’re no longer outdoors but in a factory.
After a typical dream one awakes with no conception of whether their dream lasted twenty seconds or twenty minutes. In fact it usually feels like the latter while being the former. Once becoming lucid, however, the passage of time can be accurately felt by the speed of Our thought processes. You can even lucidly count dream seconds and see how long before you wake up or drift away into subconsciousness. When We dream non-lucidly We can only remember time’s passage upon awakening. Non-lucid conceptions of duration are derived only by the memory of the motion of Our thought processes. That’s why non-oneironaut dreamers never know how long their nightmares last.
I wonder why We’re denied the ability to experience duration in non-lucid dreams. If twenty second dreams feel like twenty waking minutes, does that mean Our subconscious processes information much faster? And what’s speeding through my subconscious when I’m awake? Is it always fucking with me in waking life too? Making beautiful girls appear and then walk off?”
Asbestos laughs. “If you know you’re just dreaming, doesn’t that ruin the fun?”
“Not at all. It becomes less like a dream you awaken from into reality and more like a separate introspective reality that you come back to every night. Feasibly you could intentionally sleep to the same dream every night where you live in a house with a family, you have a job and other routines that claim your day until every night you wake up. Or you can dream a new fantasy on your nightly whims. Either way the dream world is just as real as the waking world only it doesn’t conform to the laws of physics or space-time, morality and consequence are irrelevant, and fun is the only thing that matters.
Our latest project is this reoccurring dream I’ve been having about Vanessa and I being the last two people on Earth. Last month We lucidly dreamt it together in the exhibition room. I don’t know if We were in each other’s dreams, sharing a common dream or having simultaneous interpretations of the same scene in different dreams but whichever way, it worked! We merged the two worlds. Butterfly kisses, the hand squeeze and everything! Read this.” Bed Head hands Asbestos his latest short story.
The last days were softly approaching beautiful as a lucid nightmare on the verge of awakening. Flames paraded down dark city streets cackling and consuming suffocated onlookers, leaving on orange haze to replace the horizon like permanent sunrise over the crumbled skyline.
One day the flowers simply began uprooting themselves. Soon all Florae followed their example, from rain forests to coral, until the world’s vegetation had committed mass suicide. Grass lay flat on lawns, flowers wilted brown in their death beds, and forests became massive wooden caves of winding roots and piled trunks. Some said plants were communists; their sacrifice stemmed from under appreciation, and was in protest of photosynthesis.
Regardless of reason, Mother Nature was merciless. The air quickly thickened with the breath of billions. Clouds descended and banded together to pour their acid reign over humanity. The sun, moon, and stars disappeared at the speed of darkness, and night consumed all but lightning and fire. Mass subsidence swallowed cities whole, and random earthquakes replaced plate tectonics with theories of chaos once fault lines could not be blamed. The final dream was environmental holocaust complete with open-air gas chambers and high-rise death camps.
During the last days we committed ourselves to your seventh story prison and watched world destruction from out picture windows. The city below was in ruins, smothered in ash and black silence, but the dismal scene seemed strangely serene reflecting in your eyes. Even the horizon had left its imaginary home on the skyline to find itself captured between the green in your eyes and the blue in mine. For hours our lashes kissed butterflies in vast fields of perception. One night entwined in sheets and limbs you said, “If I live longer I’ll have loved you for your forever,” and it hit me like a ton of silk.
Our chests pressed together while breathing in symbiotic opposition set a slow rhythm for the involuntary music of our bodies. Your heart slammed syncopated echoes in off-beat harmony until our hearts’ homophyly helped synchronize the melody. Then your stomach gurgled an impromptu drum solo, and my fingers performed a pick slide down your spine ending in a cadence of dissonant grooves. Lightly strumming a vocal chord, your whisper resolved the progression - A sharp diminished minor with a sustained second that lasted forever.
Trivial divisions of moments like minutes and hours lost meaning without motion. We had laid there inside each other drifting freely between sleep and the nightmare for an indeterminable silence when we entered some collective state like unconscious osmosis allowing us subjective parts in a common dream. I squeezed your hand to make sure you saw me then mistook our sleep for surreality. The world was new again and cast in vast green fields, beneath warm sunshine, we watched butterflies flutter by our eyelids like casual lashes caressing like kisses.
And with one eye open in darkness I saw your subconscious smile.
Then you curled cold toes around mine and I felt your involuntary band play its last number, so my heart gave a bleeding ovation then stopped beating - for you, forever.