Role of the Dream Sequence in Fiction: Short Story - Journey Beyond the Boundaries: Does the Dream come True?

In the Dark

What's out there?
What's out there? | Source

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

Thousands of people every day on all these lines, underneath the streets of London
Thousands of people every day on all these lines, underneath the streets of London | Source

From Company....

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.


The train came towards me; I saw no driver
The train came towards me; I saw no driver | Source


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.

Blocked up

Blocked from use - what would you find?
Blocked from use - what would you find? | Source


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?

  • Yes, in a novel.
  • Yes, in a short story.
  • Yes, I've based them on my own dreams.
  • No, I think they detract from a story.
  • No, they're too difficult.
  • No, they serve no purpose at all.
See results without voting

The Significance of Dreams

Do you think dreams have meaning?

  • Yes, they predict the future.
  • Yes, I analyse mine all the time.
  • Yes, they help the processing of problems and fears.
  • Yes, they are entertaining.
  • Yes, they give me ideas for hubs.
  • No, they're just the brain playing games.
  • No, they have no psychological significance.
  • No, I never dream.
  • No, they just get in the way of a good sleep.
See results without voting

More by this Author

Comments 33 comments

annart profile image

annart 14 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Pico. The dream actually happened but I've tweaked it a little! Good to see you.


Pico Triano profile image

Pico Triano 14 months ago from New Brunswick, Canada

Nice dream sequence. I did have one in my first novel and it was an important element of the story.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, teaches. Yes, dreams are fascinating. For some reason I used to have many more dreams when in our holiday home in France; maybe I was more relaxed or maybe it was the spirits of the previous owners - we knew the family and I like to think their gentle, deceased relatives appreciated us there!

Good to see you today. Hope you have a great Christmas.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 23 months ago

Your article kept me engaged and inspired. I do believe dreams have meaning and often help us make sense of life.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Gypsy Rose Lee: Thank you for your visit and comment. Yes, it's true that most of the time it is a relief to get 'home' after a nightmare.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 23 months ago from Riga, Latvia

You described it just right. I do feel that way that I'm glad to be home after I've been away dreaming all night.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Romanian: Yes, dreams are often about daily tasks or worries but often our minds act out our fears or relive events which have scared us in the past.

Thank you for your visit and for commenting. Much appreciated.


Romanian profile image

Romanian 23 months ago from Oradea, Romania

You usualy dream thing at what you are thinking during the day. But sometimes you dream different things.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Dora, for your lovely comment. I'm glad you liked this and thanks so much for the compliment.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 23 months ago from The Caribbean

"Silent crying." Perfect for the dream. You caught and kept my attention and the suspense was well crafted. Great response to the challenge.

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Hi Mary! Not sure what you're apologising for but you don't need to!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 24 months ago from New York

I'm back to apologize for not remembering. Guess I got too caught up in my own!

annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks so much Iris. It has given me an idea to follow up but it might take a while! Thanks for the encouragement and the vote.


Iris Draak profile image

Iris Draak 24 months ago from Boise, Idaho

This was good! I want to know what the boom...boom...boom... is. I hope you'll follow up. Excellent writing. Voted up.

annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you DDE. Yes, as Bill said, our dreams can inspire all sorts of ideas, be they joyful or nightmare'ish!

Thanks for reading.


DDE profile image

DDE 24 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A beautifully thought of hub. Sometimes we don't think of our dreams.

annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, John. Glad you enjoyed reading this. I'm sure you'd do a great job with a dream sequence; I'm looking forward to reading it.

My Dad had a brilliant dream one night; he woke and wrote it all down in a notebook he kept at the side of the bed. In the morning he looked at it and the writing was complete gobbledegook!

Good to see you today; I appreciate your continuing support.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 24 months ago from Queensland Australia

You certainly wrote a successful dream sequence here Ann. This was gripping from start to finish..and you left us wondering..what was the "boom..boom..boom" and what happens from here?

I couldn't answer your first poll because I have not written a dream sequence yet but I want to. I think they can add a lot to a story. I have written down about a dozen of my dreams.. maybe I can convert one of them into a hub like you did here. Voted up.

manatita44 profile image

manatita44 24 months ago from london

Thanks Ann.

I do a thousand and one things myself and also travel. So I understand. Glad tidings.

annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, manatita. Good to see you; I appreciate your visit. I have some of your hubs to catch up on!


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 24 months ago from london

Very nice approach. I like it. Peace.

annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

always exploring: I'm so pleased it had that effect. It's so difficult to gauge what the response might be when one has written it, so thank you for your lovely comment.

I'm sure you could write one too; just throw yourself into it and you'd probably be surprised what comes out. I dare you!

Good to see you, as always.


annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Mel. Yes, using our experience is great because we know exactly what to say and what it feels like. Sounds like you've been busy with your stories too - wonderful!

Thanks for the kind comment. Good to see you today. Have a great evening!


always exploring profile image

always exploring 24 months ago from Southern Illinois

I was glued to the edge of my seat, what was the boom boom? I was terrified in the tunnel! You are a brilliant writer. I wish I had the nerve to write a dream sequence, anyway, I certainly enjoyed yours. Thank you for sharing

Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 24 months ago from San Diego California

Dreams are excellent fodder for story ideas. I wrote a novel based on a dream I had, and there is a children's story budding in my head that is based on another. Writers have to pay attention to these things. Awesome sequence!

annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks Frank! 'Confusingly wonderful' is different but lovely; hope I didn't confuse you too much! Your visit is much appreciated.


annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

Hi Faith! Bill didn't really set it out as a challenge, more like an encouragement to try the technique. I'm glad I did although it was out of my comfort zone. It does us good to push the boundaries and see what we can do.

Lovely to see you today, as always.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 24 months ago from Shelton

I don't really care too much for dream sequences .. even though ive done maybe one or two.. but I really was taken with your entry to the challenge.. voted confusingly wonderful....

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 24 months ago from southern USA

Stellar read here, dear Ann! I was drawn into your dream sequence right from the start to the very dramatic ending. You have taken us right into your dream here, experiencing such terror with seemingly no escape, but ...

I am so glad you participated in this interesting challenge, and I did not realize there is an actual challenge, but you certainly have met the challenge head on!

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Suspenseful and riveting write.

annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

It was fun doing this, bill, and quite scary. I wasn't sure whether or not I'd succeeded. I suppose that's what happens when you try new techniques.

Guess what? This was based on a personal dream I had years ago so not totally concocted; one of those old pieces of writing revamped so a bit of a cheat really!

Thanks for such a lovely comment. I do so appreciate your encouragement and support - but you know that. 'Bravo!' is also a favourite word of mine :)


annart profile image

annart 24 months ago from SW England Author

Hello Mary. The dream was supposed to finish when she's back home but I think the nightmare is just starting.....

Stephen King?! Wow, I never thought about being anywhere near his style; praise indeed!

Thanks, Mary. Great to see you and thanks for your kind input.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 24 months ago from Olympia, WA

Over the next two years? What's going to be happening for the next two years, Ann? No fair, leaving us lost in the darkness with no answers. :)

But of course, that's what a good mystery does...leave us groping in the dark for answers, and you did it well. Thank you for taking the challenge. You constructed a dandy of a dream, one that played to our senses and had us experiencing the terror and helplessness.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 24 months ago from New York

I voted all but funny Ann. This was gripping from start to finish and what a finish! I was beginning to feel like I needed to run and then, what did happen when the dream was over or was the dream really over? Where did the boom...boom...boom come from?

Magnificent and in the style of my favorite writer Stephen King!

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