I dream about labyrinths sometimes.
Not just labyrinthine structures. There are those, too, in particular the strange amalgam of my high school and my elementary school that eventually became a recurring enough structure that I could almost map it. Of course, the closer I got to understanding its architecture and recognizing it, the less I kept dreaming it. It’s been a long time.
One is right on the cusp between labyrinth in the traditional sense and labyrinthine structure. It’s a horrible old house, dark as pitch, evil as fuck, creaky and infinite. It’s like trying to pick your way through an image folder of ruined buildings, only it’s mostly a terrible old mansion with only a bit of visible light at any time. Everything is old and worn and silent, and there’s something in there that hates me. The door to that house could crop up anywhere. I started to recognize it sometimes — I’d be picking my way through the washed-out ruins of an antebellum garden, and remembering that there’s a door just over to the left, and then I’d think, “oh, this is one of those visits to that place.” My brain would even replay some of the initial rooms, sort of like a video game in which you see how far you can get this time. I see it less often these days, too, probably because I’m getting close to mapping it again. Once it’s mapped, it stops being a labyrinth.
There’s another one, though. The labyrinth, one divided into fantastic worlds or zones or “levels” if you will. A typical dream involves pushing through one section into the next, making progress and realizing there’s still a ways to go. Again, some places I revisit and become familiar. I’m not sure if it’s a single entity — it feels like it — or if my half-conscious brain files various other dream-settings into it as I’m waking up. “That was a section of the labyrinth.” Either way is probably true, at least when you’re defining truths about dream labyrinths.
I was napping on the couch when I last visited the place. Just now. It’s easy to fall asleep in mid-afternoon with a warm dog pressed up against you, and the couch is after all very comfortable even for a long tall thing like me. And eventually, I was there. At the moment of emerging into a new zone, basically. I remember a little of the old clockwork in darkness of the previous zone, but that wasn’t what the dream was about; it was about emergence into this sunlit field, with deep amber pasture all around and a riding-court, and people walking around chatting like in an Edwardian novel. There was a house on a hill, and I suspected that it was probably a gateway into that house, and given time I might have to go forward though that to escape the maze. But it was sunny and nice here.
And I recognized two border collies out playing. Sam and Jack — both of them dead, but now running and playing with Dan, my father’s still-living border collie. Well, sort of playing — more attending to business, running low, giving other animals the Eye. But I thought “they’re dead.”
That’s when I saw Aileen. She was, uncharacteristic for her, wearing an old-school Victorian-ish dress that looked like a tapestry stitched out of autumns, all deep browns and golds, strolling along behind the border collies. She had long hair, also uncharacteristic, though it was behaving nicely around her neck and looked lovely. I walked over to her, and fell into step, and we watched the dogs a bit. Then I said “It’s Sam and Jack. They’re dead.”
She said, “No, they’re not. You’re just confused because it’s dark.”
“It’s not dark,” I replied.
“Yes it is,” she said, and turned to me, and her eyes were shut — not just shut, but the line between her eyelids was a squiggle, like the edges of jigsaw pieces locked together. “It’s dark, and you can’t see things right.”
It wasn’t dark. It was sunny. But her eyes! Were my eyes welded shut, too? Was this vision playing on the inside of my eyelids? If I opened them would see something else? I started to panic. I willed myself to open my eyes as hard as I could.
And I woke up.
Postscript: Sometimes when I wake up I will dive directly back into a dream, because then the power of lucid dreaming is with me and I can suddenly win the fight or slay the nightmare or whatever, and I exult in that revenge. I dove back in to this one, trying to warn Aileen. It’s not dark — your eyes are closed! “This is the labyrinth, and you have to wake up!”
I woke up the second time, realizing I was calling that last bit aloud. I blinked a bit on the couch, suddenly embarrassed, though the dog was still curled up and snoozing. I wondered if Aileen had heard me.
She hadn’t. She was napping, too. She still is.
I hope she gets out okay.