Once upon a time in a suburb far away, there lived a wee lass who was afraid to fall asleep.
She was tall and spindly, with long strawberry blonde hair, dark almond shaped eyes and a smattering of freckles on her nose and cheeks. In her bedroom was a large mirror over her bureau and every night before bed, she would give her hair 100 strokes with a boar bristle brush. That was a lot of strokes for her six year old head, and a lot of counting, but she was diligent nonetheless.
The problem was that when she looked in this mirror, she saw something else staring back at her, through her eyes. It was her, but it wasn’t human. It was as though her brown eyes and freckled face were merely a human mask in which lived…something else. Vampires and werewolves were the only creatures she had ever heard of that could look human but weren’t, and this frightened her. She wisely never told anyone of her condition.
When all the nightly rituals were done and it was time to go to sleep, she feared. Sometimes a group of not-human beings would gather around her house in a circle and sing to her. They told her that she was one of them, and that they could always find her by her light, a beacon she apparently emitted without meaning to. Whenever this happened, she pulled the blankets over her head, shut her eyes tight and curled up into a little ball under the covers, waiting in terror for them to leave.
These experiences persisted throughout her childhood. Thankfully though, life got very full as she grew; full of track metes and ballet and sleep overs and sunburned summer weekends at the beach. There was much else to distract her. But when she turned 16, a terrible thing happened. The Annunciation.
She was walking up the stairs to her room one night and suddenly, before her, was one of the not-human beings. Never had one come so close and never had she seen one without the group. It was male, and terrifying to look at, close enough to touch. He was larger than a human man and had pointed metallic teeth.
She froze in abject terror as it communicated the following: “I have always been with you and I always will be, forever.” She couldn’t say how long she stood there, so terrified that she was unable to run away. It felt like an eternity. It may have only been a few seconds. He did finally disappear. Thus began a period of time during which he would appear to her at random times for no particular reason.
She was not raised in a theistic religion, but she had seen movies where ghosts and demons were compelled to leave by the power of amulets and prayers. Though she did not believe in God or Jesus, she tried holy water obtained from a Catholic church, a crucifix and reciting Psalms. She then turned to pentagrams and other arcane methods, which similarly had no effect.
This continued for years. She was at least comforted that he never actually did anything. But she dreaded seeing him and just wanted this supernatural stalker to be gone. Notably, once the Stalker made his individual appearance, the group of entities that used to sing to her stopped coming around. In her mid twenties, things got much, much worse. All kinds of beings would appear, but these were different than the Stalker. Different groups of beings, very peculiar looking, would appear and actually touch her, even put their hands inside her body and move her energy around. This became a daily ordeal and finally, she confided in a friend.
This friend, who lived far away, suggested she speak with a woman she knew who lived in a nearby town who might be able to help her. In desperation, she paid this woman a visit, confessed her harrowing tale and fully expected to be pronounced psychotic. Instead, the woman pulled out a deck of illustrated cards and asked if any of the beings resembled the drawings. Astonishingly, they did.
The woman explained that these classes of beings were known to a few humans, and were trying to help, not harm. She taught the lass how to control her fear and communicate with these beings.
The next time the Stalker appeared, she established some ground rules, such as distance and appearance. The Stalker complied, took on a pleasing appearance and did not come closer than the threshold of her bedroom door. He remained at the threshold and once she fell asleep, he accompanied her into her dreams. In the dream state, he narrated the meaning of the elements of the dream as they were happening. He could slow down the dream, rewind it, replay it so that she could gain the fullest understanding of the meaning, and even transform fear and pain into neutrality and wisdom.
Astonishingly, he went from being the Stalker to a being she affectionately called the Narrator. She was no longer afraid of him and deeply valued the work they did together. He was always with her, and she assumed he always would be.
One night, many years later, she was walking in the woods. In an instant, between one step and another, she inexplicably woke into an unparalleled lucidity, clarity, emptiness, spaciousness. She was no longer partaking of the dream of selfhood.
After this, the Narrator, her constant companion, never again appeared. Not in the waking state and not in dreams. His absence was felt, as though she were used to sleeping next to someone who was no longer there.
One night she tried a dream yoga meditation, and from then on, she was completely lucid when she slept. She found that she could rewind her dream, alter it, slow it down, try out different endings. She understood the meaning of the dream, and if someone or something appeared in her dream that she did not understand, she could simply ask it and it would reveal its purpose to her directly.
Her waking and dreaming adventures continue, now without the Narrator. Was dream narration his only purpose? If so, what did he mean when he said he would always be with her? Perhaps he will appear again in another form, with another role to play, another gift to offer. If so, she will not fear him. Her days of reciting Psalms and flinging Holy Water are, happily, over.
A reader recently shared that he found he could analyze his dream from within the dream, as it was happening. He prefaced this by acknowledging that it probably would sound very weird to me. I have also found myself prefacing things I say with that same caveat. It’s all weird and it’s all mundane. Many people who seem perfectly normal have had extraordinary experiences. Sometimes they are fleeting and sometimes persistent. While we may feel alone and exceptional in our weird experiences, we are most certainly not.
image: taken in Paris, 17th arr