This was originally posted to my blog, Peculiar Times. It is a true story.

Well, -ish.


     The other night I experienced what I believed at the time was a lucid dream.

     A lucid dream, for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, is a dream where the dreamer takes control. In effect it's a seamlessly realistic virtual reality with an unlimited budget, where the recipient is in constant command of the things they experience. Its proponents claim it's a difficult but liberating discipline, which can take years to learn. The first stage is, supposedly, to realise that you are dreaming without automatically waking up.

     Anyway, the other night I was out in the street going to a wedding, or searching for my twin brother, or running away from some Nazis or something, when it suddenly came to me that I was, in fact, dreaming. I forget now what tipped me off – some background absurdity, presumably. ’I'm dreaming,’ I thought to myself, expecting therefore to wake up.

     ‘Hang on a minute,’ I thought a moment later, ‘I'm still dreaming. Time for another experiment with lucid dreaming, then.’

     (This is something that happens to me roughly once every six months.)

     The second stage, apparently, is to concentrate on something familiar – your hands are often suggested. Personally I'm rarely aware of my hands in dreams, but what I did now was to raise them and look at them. They were distorted, and one of them only had four fingers, so I concentrated on bringing them back to normality until they did, indeed, look exactly like my waking hands.

     ‘Fantastic,’ I thought, ‘I'm lucid-dreaming. I'm going to materialise Gillian Anderson.’

     (This, for some reason, is always my first thought under these circumstances. I say ‘for some reason’, but in fact my reasons are predictably sordid and I won't bore you with them. Apologies to Ms Anderson, though, if she's reading.)

     So, I concentrated, and – rather impressively – the pavement in front of me suddenly burst upwards in a shower of slabs, and a redheaded woman in a trenchcoat rose up from it and stood in front of me. On closer inspection she proved to be Nicole Kidman rather than Gillian Anderson, but I wasn't going to complain. (Apologies to Ms Kidman, too, if by some freak chance she happens to be reading over Ms Anderson's shoulder.)

     She was holding, in an arresting sort of posture, a teenage boy, who was struggling. He took advantage of their sudden emergence from the bowels of the earth to wriggle free.

     ‘Phil!’ shouted Nicole Kidman. ‘My suspect's getting away!’ I dived to stop him, anticipating what my reward might be.

     And at this point, the dream crashed.

     Everything froze – Nicole, the teenager, a few still-airborne paving slabs – and hung there ominously motionless. When I tried to touch them, or concentrate my mind on altering them, all that happened was that little ‘chink’ noise by which Microsoft Windows tells you it's far too busy failing catastrophically to pay any attention to you clicking your mouse, thank you so much. My dream had undergone an unrecoverable error.

     ‘Bugger,’ I thought, ‘the dream's crashed. Now I'm going to have to reboot and start again.’ At which point I woke up.

     Two alternative conclusions are possible from this. Either I'm being too ambitious, and when I find myself lucid-dreaming I should try having the self-discipline to materialise something rather easier, such as a chair or a cheese sandwich, instead of diving straight for erotic simulacra of screen icons.

     Or else that I've never actually had a lucid dream, as opposed to dreaming that I'm having one.

© Philip Purser-Hallard 2004.

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