Role of the Dream Sequence in Fiction: Short Story - Journey Beyond the Boundaries: Does the Dream come True?
In the Dark
Pushing our Boundaries as Writers
This came about when Bill Holland (aka billybuc in this link) urged us to try writing a dream sequence, claiming that they weren’t as common in writing these days and that, used well, they can be effective. It’s true. We used to read many. They became rather clichéd and died a death. I agree it’s time to revive them but we have to be more inventive, more subtle. They need to have a purpose, they need to have meaning within the main story.
I confess the thought of writing one scared me. Any previous attempts were pitiful. Pushing my boundaries is something I need to do in order to prove to myself that I can do more than a passable job with different techniques of writing. Therefore I’m subjecting you to my essay, my detour into dreams. I hope it’s not too far from plausibility.
Thank you, bill, for making us cross our boundaries, for helping us to ‘spread our wings and fly.’ I hope I manage to keep flapping.
Journey Beyond the Boundaries
I was cold. I was alone. I was afraid. Shivering in the cab of the train, I squinted into the dark void. Black and hostile. The train had stopped in the tunnel. When, I did not know. Had I been sleeping? I did not know. There were no lights, no movement, no sounds. I was isolated in this dark, dank tomb. How did this happen?
People Bustling & Jostling Underground
There had been unintelligible buzzing conversation around me, people spoke to their phones or talked to thin air, plugged into the ether. Carriage lights beamed down on us. We were rocked into misguided security then jolted back to existence from one station to the next.
Individual passengers, each going about his and her daily business, were comfortable with the routine. You could pick out the occasional unseasoned travelers who kept glancing at the underground map above them, checking on the neon signs, listening carefully to each station name as we came snaking and screeching up to each platform, some not even sure they had chosen the correct route.
.... to Isolation
Then they were gone. In a semi-heartbeat, those around me had vanished as the lights clicked out. Realising they had deserted me in body too came as a full-on electric jolt. One second I could feel their presence, hear their breath, their murmurings; the next, there was that emptiness of the soul. It held me to my seat for a minute. I waited for normal service to resume. It didn’t. A couple of minutes later my fear had urged me into action.
Boom.... boom.... boom
So I had gone to the cab, groping from seat-back to grab-rail until my eyes adjusted to the dark and I could see dim shapes of my imagination around me. There was no driver. Silence. Nothing. No one. Outside, the tunnel was just an all-absorbing black hole. What was happening to me? What should I do?
I couldn't stay there. I had to do something to stem the rising panic. Now I could hear a boom… boom… boom. I opened the door and, feverishly grabbing the side rails, levered myself down the steps one by one. The clatter echoed unbearably. Then I was on sharp gravel beside the track. The train loomed huge and black above me. It made me shake. Again there was that boom… boom… boom in my ears. Drips from the tunnel roof hit my head. My hands felt the slime of the wall. Sharp stones stabbed my feet through thin soles.
I started to walk away from the front of the train. The tunnel had to have an ending but I couldn't see one, no faint light ahead. I tripped and staggered close to the wall. I could hear the drip, drip of water from the roof and the stones rattled under my feet as I stumbled forward. My feet were getting wet. Boom… boom… boom… I looked back. I could see no train, just darkness all around me. I felt the cold, the damp permeated my clothes and an embracing fear tightened my lungs.
Then, a light came on. It was in the cab of the train. No driver controlled this metal monster’s surge. The train began to glide after me, a bird of prey swooping to grab me out of the dark. No! No! I opened my mouth to scream but I gagged, my throat so dry that no sound emerged.
I ran, tripping, slipping, grazing my hands on the wall. My feet were wet, my body freezing and shaking my muscles pouring away. Tears coursed my cheeks in silent crying. Without warning, I thudded into brick, my way blocked by a wall; a wall across the tunnel! Surely not! There had to be a way out. I looked back. The train slid closer, surging to strike me down. Terrified, gasping and sobbing, I fumbled along the wall. A handle! My fingers slipped. The train came on. I rattled the handle up and down. My nails broke, my fingers bled as they tried to scrape at the brick, wrench the handle, open the door. My brain shrieked, 'I will not die here!'
The door opened, to brightness that shut my eyes. The train buzzed behind me. I froze in fear. Then… Silence. No crash. No pain. No rending of metal against stone. I breathed deeply and my pulse settled a little. What would this place throw at me next?
I opened my eyes. I was home. The morning sun shone through my window. The clock showed 7:00. I was overjoyed to be back in my real world. I checked my fingers and found no scars, no grazes, not even a broken nail. My feet were dry. All my belongings were around me.
Then that one sound resumed; boom… boom… boom…. I thought it was my heart but no, the vibrations came from outside. I pulled back the curtains. Not a soul was abroad. Where was everyone? I couldn’t hear my neighbours getting ready for work. Their dog wasn’t even whining, anticipating its lonely day.
The city was normally vibrant at any time of day. Cars, buses and trams buzzed about, giant ants following their prescribed routes, taking their charges to and from work. Now, as I surveyed the streets, nothing stirred. The empty calm chilled my bones. I tasted the void, I touched the dry air.
Boom... boom... boom
A strange sulphurous light filled the scene outside my window as the boom.... boom.... boom.... rose, assaulting my ears until I had to put my hands to my head to block it. My body vibrated with the waves. My head reeled. This was the sound that had filtrated my dream. This was the sound I would grow to dread over the next two years. As I watched and held my breath, the darkness followed.
Copyright annart/AFC 2014
The Dream Sequence in Fiction
Have you ever used a dream sequence?See results without voting
The Significance of Dreams
Do you think dreams have meaning?See results without voting
More by this Author
Interesting idioms and phrases including the word 'dog'. Another word chosen at random, its history and its uses, presented in a short story. It also looks at some breeds of dog.
Challenges push a writer's boundaries, something we need to do all the time or we do not progress, nor improve. This story tells of a personal challenge which many face, dealing with another's pain.
A word doesn't have to have an immediate impact to be important. 'Let' is not a word you would pick for being diverse but when I started to think about its uses I came up with a surprising number