Read After Covid…28

The dreams were at me again last night, carrion around roadkill.

Most of the dreams just pass on by, like the one I had about the inflatable two-seater aeroplane that came down much too low on the housing estate where I was born and sort of cushioned into some of the hedgerows of a neighbour’s front garden. The sight of it and the soft landing brought the street out and we all watched as a young man and his girlfriend climbed from deflation. The man looked a little embarrassed whilst his girlfriend showed relief. As we were looking on, it was one of those long hot summer afternoons where nothing much happened apart from the razor-rush of lawnmowers being kicked into life, the downed pilot looked towards me and asked me to give his regards to my father. My father has been dead for coming on for a decade now, but I nodded to him as he then folded the flat plane under his arm before walking off into the afternoon sun, with his girlfriend in tow.

I have never seen an inflatable plane before and probably never will again. On thinking back to my dream, I now realise that it was set in my much younger years – the seventies in which summer days never ended and life moved at a pace that some would say was dawdling. A plane coming out of the sky, to crash-land on somebody’s front garden hedge, was a memory that would attain mythic proportions, a tale to be told by grandparents to the very young for a long, long time to come. And now it’s got me thinking about the nature of dreams and the underlying reliability of reality. This dream could stick with me for many years. It may become firmer as the time ticks on and it may become more solid than some of the things that have ‘actually’ happened.

The young pilot was dressed in a rather loud tank-top (a tight jumper of the 1970s) and his jumper displayed the tell-tale carbon-dating of a plaid design. His trousers were bell-bottoms with the flares becoming even more exaggerrated as he walked away. His gilrfriend wore a cheesecloth blouse and a homemade pair of Brutus Gold shorts. If I had bothered to look up to the overhead telephone wires (we didn’t have a phone back then), I would have seen several Clackers hanging from them. Clackers were a craze toy that was derived from the bolas that gauchos used to down cattle. One of the tricks that we learnt was to spin them around, having the bolas smash against each other before reversing their trajectories, before launching them into the air above so that they could wrap themselves, forever, onto the wires above our heads.

Even in sunshine, the world was in black and white.

I had another dream that had awakened me earlier, but that one was much more disturbing and tied into anxieties of the moment. Indeed, the dream is so ridden with angst that I find it hard to write down for fear of conjuring it into existence. When bad dreams come, they clothe themselves in such certainty that the dreamer is left with a yawning scream of acceptance. The one that I had, during the darkest hours, shook me from sleep and slapped me out of bed. I was swimmer coming up to the real world again, a world that was not peopled by trolls and demons.

We have come such a very long way from the old beliefs. The new world would have us believe that the demons, we can occasionally suffer from, are self-created, and I agree. I had been prescribed some tablets for a painfully swollen leg a few weeks back. They are strong little gems that reduce everything to a flattened bleep once they are in the system. At the start of this lockdown, I became accustomed to dropping one just before I closed my eyes. Whether it was me closing my eyes or the drug closing them for me, I could not fully tell.

During the first three weeks, no dreams came. I went to sleep straight away and then became conscious in the morning with sunshine nudging me. My sleep, however, has changed in the last week. It is no longer that submersion, that absolute turning off of things that devour the night hours, but is somewhat less reliable. Sleep now comes with a sharp punch that lasts until the early hours and then gives way to other world. It takes some time to go back under and rewrite the narratives which demons have placed there.

This morning, as if in chorus, I was snatched from sleep around 5am when the raucous cries of what I took to be a seagull splitting the dawn. The squawks were so loud and so long that I was forced out of bed once again to inspect disturbance. Outside, on the path leading to the back garden, I found the culprit. It was a young magpie, one which I had seen in the branches of our tree for the past weeks. It was so engaged with the business of squawking that it initially failed to notice me. When it did so, it turned to me with a nod of the head that suggested that it had also been seeing off some darkness from the night. Then it took to the sky with relief beneath its wings and left the scene.

I returned to my bed, where my wife lay unaware, and waited for the inflatable plane to arrive.

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