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The Wheel

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.

   "What a terrible place, quite deserted, and full of echoes, yet I thought it was C---- G-----."
   "You and I might have a single," said my companion, "on Mitchell's courts if we can find them."
   "I never heard of them," I said.
   "No, the courts are comparatively new."
   We threaded our way through seeming miles of warehouses.
   At last I realised to get to these courts I must climb through a bay window and drop down about 12 feet to a balustrade. This I did with some difficulty; I felt very proud of my achievement, but looking round for my companion whom I felt would give me a few words of welcome praise, I could not see her. I also realised that I had no racket. I asked myself if I was in the place that I had imagined myself to be; could these dreary surroundings be anything to do with the hospitable castle I had thought was here? I could find no answer amid the confusion of my mind which was augmented by the confusion around me. I felt the one thing I must do was to find Mitchell's courts; there I might see some sign of life, for there was none here.
   "These warehouses are on the site of the old tennis courts," said someone unseen. "You should not have come back here, your friend will not be able to find you again."
   "If we are to lose each other, what is the use of meeting at all?"
   "Ah, what is the use, who can say?"
   "Well, I must go on," I said, "and find Mitchell's courts."
   "Yes, but you have a long way to go and no racket."
   "Still it is no use hanging about here," I said. "First nobody to be seen and now crowds to push through. Where are they all going?"
   "Where indeed. Like you they don't remember. They are just hanging about till they do, like you they want to know where to go. You cannot see any of their faces, doesn't that strike you as strange?"
   "Everything is strange," I said.
   "Well, you go through the left wall."
   "Then will you find me a racket?"
   "You may find a racket, it is much more difficult to find a partner. You are so out of date, don't you realise that? You remember courts that were here a hundred years ago. You remember an old castle where these factories now stand, you are thinking of woods, gardens and stables that were once here, they are all gone. You will have to walk a long way to get to the public courts, they are on the roofs now you know, there is no space anywhere else."
   "Is there no grass at all?" I said. "No grass left."
   "None, save perhaps in some very remote spots."
   "Oh, I think I will go back," I said. "I am so confused and so tired. It seems dreary and sordid here."
   "That's because you are out of date," came the answer.
   "I'll go back," I said.
   "You will never be able to find your way back. You had better go to The Wheel, you will have to come to it sooner or later."
   "I am afraid of the pain," I said.
   "You will forget the pain--there is nothing more after The Wheel."
   "Oh, very well," I said hopelessly.
   Immediately a gigantic wheel appeared in front of me; it seemed to be rotating at a colossal speed and on the great spokes I thought I could make out nebulous shapes. In an instant I was seized and, unable to offer any resistance, I found myself bound to one of the spokes with amazing rapidity by unseen hands.
   Then came torture--struggle--and I woke.


This dream is an early expression of future shock, decades before Alvin Toffler coined the term. Feeling lost, a foreigner in one's own country, is common now among the old; but we forget this is a modern disease, caused by the steepening curve of change. Most of us now living think of this as inevitable; but Price (1880-1970) lived through the great dislocation, from a society based on stability to one in perpetual change. That truth--that change is not inevitable or necessarily good--is something only the very old now really know. Oh, we think we know it; but we can't feel the loss of real roots--roots we never had.

--Chris Wayan

LISTS AND LINKS: frustration dreams - time-travel, voluntary or not - outsiders - loneliness - dream advice and guides - trust - oops! - pain in dreams - dying in dreams - reincarnation? - more Nancy Price - an even more extreme experience of future shock by Edwin Muir: Two Centuries of Progress -

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