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 found myself in a beautiful but wild part of the country struggling through snow. I revelled in its beauty and marvelled at all the scintillating colours, but I found the soft spongy carpet uncomfortably deep and it was very difficult to make any progress. I felt that I was pressing towards some place, where and what for has gone from my memory.
Suddenly it seemed to me that the light faded, I knew that I was in a dangerous predicament and that I must get back. The beauty and the glory faded and instead I felt myself surrounded by menace; darkness descended upon me. I was on the edge of a deep ravine, I dimly saw a bottomless pit. I was tired, and felt the need of sleep and an overwhelming desire to be covered by the soft blanket of snow. Yet if I gave way to this desire it would be the end of all experience for me. I struggled on laboriously and very slowly, I had no idea whether I was going forward, backwards or round and round, but after what seemed an eternity I was conscious of being surrounded by people. I seemed to recognise one of them who said, "How very foolish, you had only to keep your hand on the bottom of the bed, follow it round and you would have been safe."
I then felt myself saying or thinking, "I did not know the bed was there."
It seemed to me that many shapes gathered round me and they were laughing soundlessly and whispering, "They never know, they never know."
With a tremendous struggle I thought I woke, only to find myself holding on to a pram. On either side, attached to the hood, were two enormous bunches of bananas.
"You mustn't eat one of those," said someone who conveyed the words through the medium of the soundless speech which is common to dreams.
"Well," I said, "if your baby eats all those it will die."
"Not these babies, they never die but you must not touch the fruit."
Then I thought that I lifted out the baby from the pram and knew it was mine though it was nothing like any child I have ever seen. Exquisitely beautiful with sea-green hair and golden eyes. I looked round and saw that I was now in a strange place with many beds. I thought my father was in one, and friends I have known were in others, when out of a misty background I heard a sort of soundless turbulence. "They have come," was conveyed to me. "They have come and will take your baby."
It seemed to me then that this child was the most precious thing in the world and must be guarded at all costs. Suddenly many strange people in magnificent eastern garments appeared. They began searching. Then I saw my mother, who said to me, "Get under that box where your father is lying".
I did so, but I heard them coming nearer and nearer, they examined all the beds yet each occupant still slept undisturbed. At last they found me; I held the child close to my breast. Then one who was evidently the leader spoke, he was gentle but firm.
"We must take the child," he said, "it is necessary for him, but you can come too if you choose."
For some reason that I do not remember, this appeared a terrible decision to make. As I hesitated he continued. "Give the child to me and it will go well with him, try to withhold him and all this multitude that you see waiting will utterly destroy him and with unspeakable savagery. I alone can protect you. Come."
Then my father rose from his wooden bed and spoke. I can see him now standing strong and majestic--"The child belongs to my people, give him to me."
"No, no, Father, you will put him in a box. He will he there for ever and ever even as you," I said fearfully.
"And he will sleep quiet and safe as I do," Father replied.
"I will give him life," said the stranger.
"And that," replied my father, "will mean torture, weariness and gradual decay. Give him to me and he will suffer none of these."
Then all the shapes rose up in their boxes and stood crying "Life, life, life. Give him life."
Trembling I put my baby into the hands of the dark stranger and my father sank down again into dreamless sleep.
Then I knew myself to be still struggling out of the deep snow and I knew I was also struggling for life. Torture, decay--but life, that familiar companion, rather than dreamless sleep which is the gateway to the Unknown.
I'd have titled this Boxes, but then I'm Californian and Price was British; she knew snow's seduction. And the subtler seduction of emotional numbing. Her cunning dream fuses them all--snow, numbing, coldness, conformity, habit, boxes, coffins, death-in-life...
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