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Chapter Three – Make a Change
(Inquisitive Cadbury’s Purple)
Dream Navigator is a bit of a misleading term.
It suggests I just walk from dream to dream, and as I’ve already explained, physically jumping from one stage to another is actually a very hard process.
But it’s also misleading, because it undersells what I can do. You see, I not only see what people dream, I can also change it. I chose the name Dream Navigator because it made me sound noble, as if I were fulfilling some higher duty – overseeing people’s nocturnal musings. But what I really do is far more invasive. Dream Meddling … if you were. Though in my defence, I like to think of what I can do as far more noble than simply watching on while people dream.
People’s dreams affect their lives.
Whether he wakes up with only vague recollections, or remember every detail, a dream colours a person’s day. It taints his feelings about the topic at issue, and can fill him with courage or drain him of confidence. It can poison an idea, or lay fertiliser for ingenuity. And so, in my role as a Dream Navigator, I like to try and make sure that a person’s day is coloured an appropriate shade for ideas and happiness to flourish.
‘What real difference can I make?’ you ask.
The answer is an immense one. People are riddled with fears. Negative energy, doubts and insecurities threaten their everyday lives, it just sometimes takes the night to bring them out. Because it is at night that they are most susceptible to these fears. In a dream, a tiny niggle can hold an entire court, and in the morning, that niggle will have firmly planted its seed.
So what? What happens if these fears are allowed to spawn? If doubts are allowed to colour people’s creativity? So the world might be devoid of a few ideas? A few inventors are stopped in their tracks, or a couple of Romeos don’t fight for their Juliets? But that’s not it. Or it is, but it isn’t.
When I was four, my mother committed suicide.
She had depression, in an age when the disease wasn’t so quickly diagnosed, and when medication was either too strong, or not strong enough. My mother committed suicide. She left my life just a handful of months after I had entered hers. She robbed me of the chance to know her. To ask her advice about boys, and haircuts and A-Level options. To hear her wisdom on periods and sex and all the other awkward things my poor Dad ended up lumbered with. To see me graduate, go shopping for my wedding dress, and name my unborn children. But she didn’t rob me of those things. Her depression did.
Depression; something which coloured her days.
A feeling she couldn’t put a finger on, but knew was there. A sense. An emotion. A shadow of something. Ring any bells?
So there you have it. My motive. My raison d’etre. Or at least my reason to be inside people’s heads. You see, I never had any chance in my calling. The radio is always on, blaring in the background, and there’s only so long I can ignore it. But I can control what I do when I’m being called, and so for that reason I tweak.
Tweaking is the name I’ve given to dream alteration. It took some time before I realised what I was capable of. For months I just sat there awkwardly in the background. Sometimes I was fascinated by what was happening inside people’s dreams, sometimes I was scared, but for the most part I was just bored. I know I’ve used television as a metaphor, but people’s dreams really aren’t like TV shows. They are incomplete. The reality kind of hangs there, reliant on what the dreamer, or the Forecaster as I like to call him, is focussing on. So a person might only have a face, or a world might have a sky but no ground. I only see what the Forecaster sees, so I see the world in frames, neat slivers of reality. And that was the problem. In the early days I was searching for the realities. I was looking for things I recognised, expecting the dreamer to entertain me like a movie director. But the forecasters don’t know I’m there, and to be honest even if they did, they would be too busy trying to make head or tail of what they are dreaming about to worry about me.
I got bored.
I would sit uncomfortably in the corner of the dream, waiting impatiently for the Forecaster to wake up and free me from the show. I would drift off … daydream. Oh the irony! The only time I ever daydreamed was in other people’s dreams! And that was when I felt it. Not a harsh broadcast like the dreams themselves, but a general undercurrent. A vibe. The same vibe the dreamer would wake up to. And suddenly I knew what colour the dream was creating – what effect it would have on that person’s day.
You’d think it would be obvious. That a person dreams of sunshine, and puppies and sunflowers, and wakes up glowing with happiness as a result! But for the most part dreams don’t happen like that. They are the careful downloading of your brain – your daily thoughts and experiences being filed and processed by a computer, and so sometimes a dream may start negatively but end positively, and vice versa. By watching the fragments of reality, I might get a certain impression about the dream, but it is the undercurrent that tells me what is actually going on.
An internal ‘happy-o-meter’.
‘Warning, someone is about to drown in this cheerful beautiful waterfall!’ That kind of thing. At first I just accepted the colours. Saw them as a warning for myself. Like a certification on a film. Rate 15 – this show may contain swearing and content of a sexual nature. Rate Red – the dream will end unsatisfactorily and the Forecaster will wake up feeling angry. And then I began to wonder if the colours were fixed, or if I could do anything to alter them.
It was actually Dom who helped me discover tweaking. I had been telling him about the colours. About how as I had stood at the periphery of this particular dream, I had known it was going to be a bad one. ‘But you interrupted my dream!’ Dom had remarked. ‘I stopped what I was doing, and came to you. And now we’re just chatting, so how can that be so bad?’ he asked.
And so I concentrated again, searching for the sombre grey colour that had flashed at me as I had entered his dream. Instead I found yellow. Mellow, level yellow.
‘It’s changed!’ I gasped. Dom nodded intuitively. ‘I always feel different when you appear in my dream. Your counting helps me find you, but the minute you enter my dreams, it’s as if I feel lighter … I know you’ve arrived just from that feeling.’
Buoyed by his words, I decided to see if I could change anything in other Forecasters’ dreams. After all, Dom could see me when I navigated, so I very directly affected his dream experience. Surely in dreams where I’m invisible, it was a different matter?
The next night I returned to Quincy’s dreams.
For some time I had avoided the little girl’s company, shunning offers of work, because I was still shaken by the vivid reality of Quincy’s monster. But that next night I accepted a babysitting job, and like before I wrapped my arms tightly around the sleeping toddler as she drifted off to sleep.
That night Quincy dreamt about her parents. Matthew and Rachel Graham stood prominently in the centre of her dream, the only clear objects in amongst the confusion of light and taste and pillows. I sensed the danger of the dream before it appeared. The dream was jet black in colour – the type people wake up from crying. And just as I felt the danger, Matthew and Rachel began to disappear.
‘Mummy! Daddy!’ Quincy shrieked, screaming at the disappearing figures.
‘Mummy!! Don’t leave me! Where are you going?’ I watched on helplessly as her parents quite literally evaporated, dissolving into the warm nothing around them.
I gritted my teeth as Quincy’s sobs boomed all around me.
‘Make a change!’
I commanded myself, and lunged forwards at Matthew and Rachel, or rather the space from which they were disappearing. Somehow I caught hold of Matthew’s leg. I was literally just holding a limb – the rest of his body had already disappeared, and there I was, face down in the pillows, arms outstretched like a fallen rugby player lunging for a ball, but with my hands gripped around a disembodied leg instead! And if that wasn’t weird enough, the leg felt like Playdough! I’d never tried to touch anything in a dream before. I’d touched the dreamers, tried to get their attention, but everything else had just seemed too private. Forbidden. I hadn’t wanted to intervene. But that day I realised that perhaps that was actually what I was supposed to be doing.
I gripped hold of Matthew’s leg, fighting the urge to let go, caused by the revulsion at his leg’s putty-like texture. As I squeezed the putty more tightly, it seemed to elongate, shooting upwards and downwards. But the section of leg didn’t change shape like a normal ball of putty.
Somehow the leg began to grow back!
I concentrated on the limb, imagining Matthew’s leg back into existence, and then just like that the putty sprouted. The leg grew a foot, and then a body, then another leg. And very soon Matthew was back standing in front of me. I focussed on the space beside him. I’d been able to conjure Matthew from what had been left behind … could I really create Rachel out of nothing? I thought hard about my next door neighbour, the friendly young mum who had taken me under her wing like a little sister just a few days after she and Matthew moved in next door. I thought about her smile, the way her mouth crinkled at the sides, and her carefree blonde curls. I focussed on her laugh and how at home she always made me feel, and just like that, my hand filled with putty. Or rather, more precisely, with Rachel’s calf. My other next-door neighbour literally sprouted to life before my eyes.
‘Mummy! Daddy!’ came Quincy’s narrator voice. ‘You came!’
‘Of course we came,’ I mouthed, but the words came from the putty parents’ lips. ‘We love you!’ The colour of the dream changed into a warm, comforting purple, and I woke up with a jolt.
I’ve been tweaking now for four years, and over that time my skills have definitely come along. Using my own memories I conjure things, people and places – anything I can think of to change the scene and lighten the mood, and the colour, of the dream. I can make people speak, or do things, and I can make other things disappear. Basically the only person I can’t affect in a dream is the Forecaster himself. But hopefully my changes will affect his real life instead.
I’ve used tweaking to do everything from making a mother feel more comfortable around her newborn baby, to removing the clothes off a dream audience so that a little boy felt more confident giving a speech at school. I’ve vanquished monsters and demons and muggers and thieves, and given children wings, A-grades in tests, and football skills.
And while I do see it as a duty, you can also see how it might be a lot of fun at the same time! How I might withdraw into a world I can control, rather than live in one I don’t particularly understand…
But the problem is it isn’t just children who dream.
And not all dreams are as easily solved as erasing a monster.
© C-C Lester 2011