A Chain of Dreams

7 Dec

I have for a long time possessed a sense of profound guilt without knowing why. Since this mood of utter despair was greatest upon waking up from sleep each morning, my logical conclusion was that my conscience was suffering because of dreams that were impossible for me to remember. What could it be that my mind imagined when I was asleep? That question thoroughly puzzled me until a particular night vision happened to survive in my memory one day a month or so ago.

The dream happened to be a horrid scene of murderous execution using a pickaxe. It was difficult to make out who the young female victim was, but there appeared to be a few familiar features in her terrified face. I had no doubt that it was I holding the axe and carrying out the vicious crime of slaughtering the woman.

My nightmare was short and swift, over before my mind was able to comprehend the degree of pure evil involved in my actions. All through the following days, this memory would repeat itself, troubling my work in the archives of the great metropolitan library. The pattern repeated itself without interruption each succeeding day. What was I to do about this strange obsession taking possession over all my thoughts? I read several recent studies about dream phenomena. Yes, the conscious ego can for long periods of time suppress the ugly and the frightening. But it often happens that this censorship is forced to cease by the force of powerful emotions in the depths of the mind.

I came to understand that was what occurred within myself.

Should I go to some psychiatrist or psychologist to obtain relief from what had come to trouble me?

It seemed doubtful to me that any professional therapist would take my complaint seriously. So, my only alternative was in a completely different direction. Through my librarian friends, I was able to locate a fortune-teller who was said to be an experienced interpreter of dreams, an adept oneirocritic.

This proved to be a middle-aged widow named Opal who was able to open up an unforeseeable world to me. I had never expected such amazing self-enlightenment.

The small, wrinkled woman spoke to me as if instructing a naïve child.

“Most people have no idea that they dream constantly, nearly every night. Nor that there exist certain central dreams that persist from childhood on, to the end of life. The average human being does not suspect that a dream could be a projection from out of the mind of another person. Time and distance are meaningless on the plane of the chaotic unconscious. From another day and location, visions of the unreal can come to us in the night. But this is especially common among those that share genes and chromosomes. The closer two individuals are biologically, the easier it becomes for them to transmit dream material. It most often happens unintentionally, without plan or reason. The dream of another person moves over as if on the wind.”

These words of hers were very interesting to me, so I asked how this could be applied in practical terms to rid me of the horrible dreams I was experiencing. She then spelled out a remedial method for me to apply to myself. As soon as I could, I mapped out a family tree with both my paternal and maternal relatives included in it.

My plan was one of visiting and discussing the subject of dreaming with each of them in turn, from the closest to the farthest relative.

I was uncertain what I was looking for or might finally find.

From my two parents, I was unable to learn anything at all. When the topic of dreams and nightmares was brought up by me, neither of them had anything to say. I talked to each one separately, not together. But neither my mother nor father had anything to reveal on the matter. It was impossible for me to describe the horribly disgusting features of my persisting dream. It became necessary for me to put a halt on my probing about with them.

Since several other relatives resided in the metropolitan district, I made visits to paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, and later to numerous first and second cousins. All of these occasions turned into failures for me.

Since all of my grandparents were deceased, there could be no opportunities for inquiries into the past of our family dreams. But then I recalled mention years before of a certain great-uncle who lived out in the country somewhere. It was easy to uncover his address from one of my female cousins.

“Why do you want to know that?” she asked me.

“Perhaps just idle curiosity,” I replied, tongue in cheek.

Here was perhaps my last chance for discovery. I packed a suitcase and took a train that stopped in the small hamlet where old Great-uncle Henry lived. The widower, alone in his ninties, was happy to see a relative from the city. He took me to a neighborhood tavern, where we conversed at great length about family history and relatives from the past and present.

Finally, after food and drinks, we reached a point when it seemed safe to bring up my topic of personal concern. First of all, I described my terrorizing nightmare that I had each and every night.

As I went on, the gray face of my relative began to turn a bright shade of red. I had never before seen him display any such intense emotion. It was evident at once that my description was gravely affecting him.

Without mentioning anything concerning outside influences on my mind, I came to a stop and stared with concentration at the face and eyes of my aged granduncle.

When he started to speak, it was in a hollow voice unlike anything he normally used.

“What you have told me is not new, but an echo of something earlier and much older. Let me explain.

“I had similar dreams for years while I was a young man. Then, making a detailed study of family genealogy, I came upon a certain true event from out of the distant past. It was this: my own maternal grandfather had been convicted of the murder of his wife, my grandmother. Instead of being executed for the crime, he was committed for life to an institution for the criminally insane. He was still there when I uncovered his personal history in old newspapers and court records. I was not permitted to see the elderly resident of the state asylum. But I talked with his psychiatrist, who informed me that he suffered nightmare visions of his crime every single night.

“I left the place with the immediate knowledge that it was he who was transmitting telepathic signals into my sleeping mind. Over time, I was able to put a halt to what I had been receiving from him. That occurred shortly before I learned that my insane grandfather had died.

“In recent days, though, the bad dreams have started once again. I have to conclude that he is still sending such visions from out of the past, from a plane of time that can still strike my sleeping mind.”

The old man looked at me with bitterness, but also a bit of sympathy.

I had to ask him a final question.

“How can I ever free myself from this torturous dreaming?”

“You cannot do that on your own,” he told me with a moan. “Only when he himself halts the dreaming can yours come to an end, as they once did for me. Today, I am suffering nightly pain exactly as you do. My only hope is that grandfather decides to no longer have this nightmare, even in his grave. It seems to me that alone will be your salvation as well.

“I am sorry, but that happens to be both your and my situation.”

I excused myself and quickly left the hamlet, never coming back again.

My fate has therefore remained at the mercy of this demented, dead grandfather of my own great-uncle, and I continue to dream of a murderous crime committed over a century ago.

I marvel every morning when I wake up at the genetic factor involved in the dream still broadcast into my mind.

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