In the beginning, God created humans so that He could be entertained by our dreams. In our earliest incarnations, we performed all necessary functions while asleep. We had sex while sleeping, foraged for food while sleeping, ate, digested, hiccupped, laughed, gave birth while sleeping. We had no understanding of ourselves or our surroundings. Our dreams were very boring. God decided to wake us up for short periods—an hour a day at first, then two hours, then six. Our dreams became reflective and philosophical, and God was pleased. But there were complications. The more we humans were awake, the more trouble we caused. Our dreams, in turn, became violent and angry, full of anxiety and fright. The few happy dreams became lost in a sea of strangeness. God has now moved on to the dreams of dogs and tadpoles. Sometimes He tunes in to the dreams of humans and is overcome by sadness.
Dreams do not originate in the sleeper but in the slept upon. Objects that have no life in our world experience their aliveness in dreams. When a pillow dreams through us, we see the images as if they are familiar, when in fact the true meaning of those faces and events are known only to the goose down beneath our heads. Mattresses dream of levity; sand dreams of water; and the cotton of our spouse’s T‑shirt dreams of a great unraveling.
We inherit our dreams just as we do our slender ankles, the shape of our eyebrows, a predilection for classical music. Though the images adjust to modern technology and recognizable personalities, we are continually dreaming the dreams of our great-great-grandmothers and their great-great-grandmothers before them. Eventually all dreams can be traced back to a single common ancestor, who hunted antelope by day, shivered in cold caves after dark, and dreamed of lions, rain, and waiting for lightning.
Someday we will learn how to sleep like dolphins, half a brain at a time. (We will also have three hearts, like an octopus, but this is another matter.) When our left hemisphere is sleeping, the right is awake; when the right hemisphere gets drowsy, the left perks up. Instead of disappearing, our dreams will overlap with our reality, each projecting on the other as two filmstrips on the same screen.
When we die, we discover that in the afterlife we are not judged by our actions in our waking life, but by those we have undertaken in our dreams.
In another realm, angel-like beings shuffle our dreams in a deck and use them to play cards. The rarer a dream, the higher its value. Sex dreams are on the low end of the scale. Likewise dreams of being chased, of showing up to an exam for which you have not studied, of failure, of flying. The dream that knows bliss—deep, bodily bliss, beyond the thrill of romance or the exhilaration of flight; an absolute rapture of spirit—is a card so singular that its play halts the game, and the angel-like beings unlatch their false wings and close their eyes, basking in the radiance of its light.
When we dream, we go into a very large and very dark room. All of us are in the same room. Some of us have flashlights, and some of us have wax lanterns, and the very unlucky have nothing to illuminate their way. They spend their dreams crippled by fear on their small patch of ground, huddled in darkness. When they wake they believe they have had no dreams at all.
Jenny D. Williams is a writer and book editor currently living in Marburg, Germany. She received her MFA from Brooklyn College, and her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and graphic stories have appeared in various publications and received numerous awards. You can find her at jennydwilliams.com.