I have a friend, who has been having the same dream every night, for the past decade.  Not exactly the same dream though, repeating itself over and over like Groundhog Day, which is impossible to shake.  His dream is more of a continuing drama, involving the same set of characters, including himself, which picks up each night, where it left off the previous morning.  He describes it as being like a soap opera, not so dramatic as to be a worrying event, and not so boring that he gets tired of it.

In fact, he says, like someone addicted to say Coronation Street, or Eastenders, he looks forward to each night’s sleep with anticipation, wondering what will befall his character whilst he is tucked up in bed.  He, it goes without saying, is the central player, and all events revolve around him.  In his dreams he has another parallel life entirely, with work, relationships, parties, and romances, but with all the dull stuff taken out.  He can recall vividly driving a new car in his dreams, but has never once paid an electricity bill.

His second life bears almost no relation to his real life.  There are no recogniseable characters or places, work is different, and of course his own personality is more akin to how he would like to be; more confident, engaging, talented, and sometimes even bad.  That said, elements from real life do play a part, like news events, elections, current technology, the weather.  I asked if he had any form of control in his dreams, or if the drama merely unfolded around him.  He replied that this was indeed the case initially, but he had learned, by force of will, to bend situations to his plan, to the point now where he has almost total control.  “Are there any limits on what you can do in these dreams?” I enquired. “There are”, he said.  “I cannot leave the fictional town.  I’ve only tried a few times, but whenever I get close, something happens to turn me back, like a flat tyre, or an emergency at home.  I did discover, that by concentrating really hard, I was able to fly (only a few feet above the ground), but found that it made everyone else react in a bizarre way, so stopped doing it”.

So what’s going to happen next in his dreams?  Will they ever resolve themselves, or come to any kind of conclusion?  Apparently this has happened a few times, when a logical dramatic climax has been reached, and he felt he had to option of leaving.  Usually this is accompanied by a couple of dreamless nights, but inevitably results in his return. He has the freedom to leave, but ultimately chooses to resume the night-time drama.  He now feels he cannot leave, he has too much invested, and would miss the characters, who are almost tangibly close friends.  If he ever did, what could he replace them with? Would a new timeline even be possible?  He realises that he has something that no-one else does, and mundane as it is, he wouldn’t change it for the world.

So why then, did he tell me? He didn’t, I already knew.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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