The Red Light
Dreamed 1948 by Nancy Price
Source: Acquainted with the Night by Nancy Price (1949), selections from an experimental dream journal she kept for one year.
"I must have two things from the chemist before I travel if I go tonight."
"It is imperative you should," came the answer.
"Very well," I said, "I'll try the chemist again but he does not answer his bell."
There in the long winding village street of my old home was his red light glowing, showing that he was open all night, but I could get no answer and each time I came to the door the light vanished. Yet from the opposite side of the street I could see it quite clearly and there was nothing to cause any reflection. I could not understand it at all and felt bewildered.
At last with an intense effort I read the name over the chemist shop which I could but dimly see. John Armstead, Chemist, 1861. Then as I looked down the street I saw the names over the shops were different to those I knew as a child, and I realise now that part of my mind was seeing 1861 while the other clutched at today.
While I was puzzling over this, some boys came trooping out of a door, and an intense desire came upon me that I might have a son. I used to wish for daughters but I told myself now that sons were easier to manage. Then a crowd of little girls appeared the other side of the road, they were all looking at me and each one had a wicked face. Almost immediately one of the boys was driving my head down; I seemed to be tied to a plank and my head was forced lower and lower.
"I am your son--do you hear," the boy shouted, his face close to mine. "I am the son you desired."
"If you don't lift me up I shall die," I said. "I cannot breathe. I beg you to lift up my head."
This was done and I felt easier although I knew myself to be still bound to the plank. Suddenly the cords were released and I found myself again looking at the red light in the chemist's shop from the opposite side of the street which I again crossed and hammered at the door of 'John Armstead, Chemist, 1861'.
Then again I was back on the plank, I beseeched the boys who circled round me to lift my head but this time they all laughed.
"Get your own head up," they said. "If you can--if you can--if you can--if you can. This is 1861--you are dead. Your son killed you."
A week after this dream someone from my native village sent me some old prints of the village street dated 1860, and there was the Chemist--Armstead. What purpose the dream had, who can say? Was it merely recollection?
This dream has two interwoven strands: the chemist's, and the murder. The chemist-thread turned out not to be recollection of the past but of next week. This half of the dream seems literal, not symbolic--her time-confusion and the elusiveness of the chemist make perfect sense a week later. Hard to get a prescription from a historical print!
But if this half of the dream turns out to be literal and predictive, do we have the right to dismiss the other strand as merely symbolic, a Freudian knot of Price's wishes and fears about children? Or do these murderous boys mean what they say? Did a son kill his mother in Kinver, England [Price's home village] around 1861 (Mr. Armstead) or 1948 (Price's dream)? As I write this in 2009, the state of the Web (and my research skills, or lack thereof) won't let me answer that question--yet. But it is a testable hypothesis. Care to try?
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