back | home

Lucid Dreams In The Inverted World

By Kael Knoxton Martin

I didn’t know I was dreaming at first.

I often know, the minute I enter the fantasy and shroud myself in each intangible possibility, that I am dreaming. It’s very easy to tell you’re dreaming when the dream you arise in involves a life you have never lived. In most dreams, I live a life of safety. I live in a realm of peace, a dimension in which I have never known ache or rubble. The dream unfolds like unfurling cotton candy and envelops me in its sweetness and tang, forming a cocoon of security around my body, now fetal-position curled, now operating at the same capacity it reached when I took my first breath.

My dreams are always vivid. This is their only constant state. I fall asleep and awaken inside of the planet’s core. Sometimes it burns; other times it revives. It’s like living a double life, or perhaps moving through two different worlds on a whim. On Earth I am weak, brittle. I have not experienced much of Earth yet. I nest in my house and I sway to the birdsong. I am kept in by wooden talons closing over me. I am held down by my body’s inability to propel itself forward. I never learned how to form connections and I never learned how to love in a holistic manner and I never learned how to be anything but scared.

In my dreams I can walk.

In my dreams I can walk and I can love and the spaces I move through love me back.

If you practice hard enough, you can control the dreamscape on your own. At will, you can bring a loved one back from the dead, or you can bring death to those that have stolen from the natural cycle of recreation. You can soar through the air, weightless and bold. You can be famous and your singing voice can transition from the sound of a mercy-killed animal into the sound of a million angels holding hands and spilling choral hymns from their lips. You can ensure that every child in the universe will have enough to eat just by imagining it. You can paint the skies a soft pastel rainbow and turn the seas bubblegum pink. You can give into your waking hunger and eat and eat and eat without your frame ever shifting or your stomach ever filling. You can reach beyond imagination and pull yourself through into the astral.

I think they call it “lucid dreaming.”

Most of the time I am very skilled at lucid dreaming, and it is humiliating when I fail to adjust. I don’t tell anyone about my dreams because usually they branch out beyond words, and this is typically a good thing. It’s my little secret, the secret I share with God and the other aspects of me he created. We meet one another there and we dance in the flower fields and crown our heads with daisies. The acknowledgement that this isn’t real is supposed to be comforting because the dreamscape is a haven, an escape. The comfort is not supposed to come from the fact that the dreamscape being false means the creatures cannot hurt you once you leave it.

I didn’t know what was happening at first. I am ashamed of that.

When I noticed them surrounding me, I thought it was real. I truly believed that I had left my bed, wandered into a forest until the trees became tainted charcoal onyx and the skies became crimson, too reminiscent of my inner world, and stumbled to my knees, my skin cut by the glass grass. I remember what they looked like - balls of lightning that lacked light, crackling black voids that sometimes looked circular, sometimes looked like the skeletal remains of something ancient, and other times resembled a mosaic of every fear I had ever felt in all twenty-one years of my existence, including the fears my brain swallowed to protect me.

When they realized I had discovered them, I heard a cacophonous shriek that wasn’t a shriek at all—the sound originated within my soul, as if something inside me had regained consciousness and was crying for help like a newborn child. The wail was a mixture of organic and mechanical sounds, typewriter clicks and soft sobs and high-pitched fire alarms blaring through buildings, blades being unsheathed as blood was drawn from a wound drop by drop by drop.

One of the creatures looked at me with eyes like a house of mirrors embedded into the surface of a meteor and in the reflection I saw myself in a different way - not mangled or disfigured; the creature gazed at me and the parallels met my own gaze. I saw myself but it wasn’t me. I saw myself but it was the version of me I have been mourning my entire life; staring back at me, mimicking each of my movements, was the girl who grew up unscathed. Plucked from a different universe and injected into this creature’s torture, I watched the girl smile at me with a wide grin, like she was mocking me for my weakness. We can’t all make it out alive, I told her. You did. I didn’t.

She had never been traumatized, and for me the experience was traumatizing in and of itself. Just more pain to sew onto existing pain. I’m sorry, I told her. I don’t know what happened. I didn’t know what was happening, I told her. What’s your name? I asked her. What do you call yourself? I asked her. Are you in school? Do you know what’s like to be happy? Do you have friends?

Are you a writer?

I was not blessed with an answer. Instead the creature blinked, and in the moments before its eyes closed and the ground crumbled beneath me I saw the correct version of me shed a tear of pity. It was infuriating; I didn’t need to be pitied by myself. I needed to be pitied by the creatures, or by the man who hurt me, but no one in that equation was capable of pity. The ground fell away and I fell with it, hurtling downwards like I had finally been cast out of the only reality I deserved, like the universe was finally done with me, and I was destined to become something even more grotesque. I expected to crash into hellfire but instead I kept falling.

I spent a while like this, plummeting through centuries, my surroundings swapping between flashes of light’s utter absence to a bouquet of light eating away at my vision, burning my eyes until they leaked from my skull and regenerated in the darkness once more. I fell and I fell until everything became stationary. I was still falling, but I wasn’t falling; I was frozen in the air, encased in psychological amber for eternity. I had been trapped in the most celestial cage the human mind could comprehend and then I stopped falling and allowed time to take my place.

From my place in the stream of all that is and was and will be, I watched time move in different directions all around me, like inverted waterfalls created by the shredding of physical law. I saw existence itself melting into puddles of potential and tragedy, and I put on my too-tight rainboots and splashed around in them, mixing the concepts until they were indistinguishable from one another. I saw birth and death with nothing in between. I saw the in-between without birth and death, things that existed before the universe sobbed itself into being and things that will remain in existence even after every form of life has flickered out. I saw beauty and I saw what remained of beauty when no one was left to witness it.

More than anything, I saw the creatures.

They were watching me through a monitor, as if they lived in a pocket of space that only they could access or understand. I couldn’t see them but I saw them. My mind turned into the periscope of a submarine and I watched them watch me like I was an experiment, a candied volcano at an elementary school science fair, a poor dissected rabbit on the table. I had become becoming and everyone that I knew was beneath me only physically; in every other way they had risen above me to witness the ultimate outcome, the place I always knew I’d end up at—being absorbed by the graveyard dirt itself. I was thrashing against the mental windows, trying to reach the creatures to beg or to interrogate, like a misguided moth hallucinating a light that had left it long ago.

My world had been inverted, each thought being conceived backwards and upside down. Aphantasia enveloping me and draining imagination from my body until all that was left was a reality that couldn’t be coped with. There has to be a balance—pure imagination carries the risk of getting lost in the fantasy, and the pure facts of reality carry the risk of developing a greater understanding, one that we’re not ready for quite yet.

The moment I realized what the creatures truly wanted from me, I woke up. I have not dreamed since that night.