's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Private Myths

Submitted by Dave Lerner

Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths

Joseph Campbell

I know I have just enough time. Just enough time to tell you the things I wish I'd said while you were alive. Just enough time to explain why I can not honor your dying wish.

I'll start by telling you about Ronald Wheeler.

Ronny has a fairly ordinary life. He's a patent attorney for a major bioscience firm, a job even more boring than it sounds. He has an ex-wife named Maria. He has a small circle of friends. He plays poker each Thursday. Once a year he takes a two-week vacation to a different country.

Perhaps the only thing that's truly interesting about Ronald Wheeler is that he can never remember his dreams.

He knows he does dream. His mother, and later Maria, would tell him that he talks in his sleep, somniloquy, and he occasionally thrashes around. But he wakes up the next morning, with no memory of what he'd dreamed. No feelings of joy or anger or sadness. He just wakes up.

When he was a child he had a teacher who'd have the children share their dreams. Occasionally, he'd make something up, lie, just for the attention, just so he wouldn't feel left out.

He'd started smoking in college. Six months ago he went to a hypnotist who helped him quit. He and the hypnotist tried to help him remember his dreams, but it didn't work.

He'd read several books on dream interpretation, tried the techniques recommended for remembering dreams. He avoided coffee and alcohol for an hour before bedtime. He muttered "I will remember my dreams" over and over while he fell asleep. He didn't set his alarm clock, so he'd wake naturally. He set his alarm clock early, so he'd wake in the middle of his dream. He kept a notebook and a tape recorder on his nightstand. Nothing worked.

Once in a while he'll set up his tape recorder to record his somniloquy. One time he recorded himself humming a beautiful tune. Another time he'd recited a few lines of a poem he did not recognize.

Being unable to remember dreams hasn't affected his day-to-day life, his work life, his social life. Three months ago he and Maria got divorced, but his lack of dreams memories had nothing to do with that. They'd just realized they weren't compatible and had made a mistake. The divorce was about as amicable as such a thing could be, and they're still friends.

A part of him suspects that nobody ever really remembers their dreams. That everybody makes things up, like he'd done when he was a kid. A larger, saner part realizes that that's nonsensical.

Yesterday morning when Ronny woke up, he was surprised to find his face covered in tears. Last night Ronny went to bed as usual. And I woke up here again, as usual.

Here in Gossad Lough I am not Ronald Wheeler, patent attorney. Here I am Roan'l the Wheelmaker. Roan'l the Hero. Here I have fought monsters, brokered peace between the Gossad and the Peppits, saved the Fesbyon Lake. Here I recognized the tune hummed in Ronny's sleep as Asler's Lament, one of my favorite songs. The poem was a few lines from The Epic of the Wolf King.

Here I met you. Here we fell in love. We married. You bore me two sons and a daughter.

Here I could not save you. I held you in my arms as you died. I heard you whisper your last words. "Promise you will always remember me."

Maybe this is truly a dream. But it feels so real, for good and for ill, that I can not believe that. I do not want to believe that. Even the pains, the agonies, the griefs, are more real here. Regardless, perhaps it is fortunate that I forget this world when I'm awake in the other, for that world would be unbearably bland by comparison.

I can sense when Ronny will soon wake up. Sometimes I am in this land for only a few hours. Sometimes for more than a week. I eat here. I sleep here. I even dream here and I sometimes remember those dreams. Times does not pass the same here as in his world. Regardless, I know when he'll wake up, even if he's woken in the middle of the night by surprise. And when I return here many hours later, it's as if no time has passed here.

So now I stand here, in front of your freshly-dug grave, and I tell you, for the first time, of that other world. I never told you before, because nothing of that other world mattered to me here.

I will wake in that other world soon. And I cannot keep the promise you asked of me, for when I wake I will forget this world. I will forget you.

But I can promise you this: In sixteen hours or so I will go back to sleep.

And I will remember you then.