the Pale Lobster
A relative dreamt, as a child, anxious and eager, that something came out of the ground outside her rural home. It was by the garden, writhing like a dying worm, but it was being born. There, dirt sticking to its slimy body, was a pale lobster, terribly malformed. Peeking out of the ill-made shell were wings, too slick and too wrong to fly. Her brothers laughed and pushed her towards the lobster. In the distance an atomic bomb had detonated, and though they were far enough out to avoid immediate harm, for miles around the radiation settled on the land and birthed creatures like this, born to spontaneous, painful life, then quick deaths. I wonder what the radiation and the chimeras would do to the soil, to the crops, to the mocking brothers, and to the little girl.
When They Bite You
An old high school classmate dreamt, in awe and fear, of giant spiders destroying the city where he lived. The stone and concrete they merely leveled, but where humans were too injured or inured to flee they squatted down to bite. The venom was a curse, for no matter where they bit it would be your head that swelled and turned to uncooked steakmeat, shaped oddly into a cube. But who had cut this meat into shape, and was it bovine, human, or otherwise?
the Tree Rage
A friend dreamt, many times, in anger, of losing control. His rage would seize him, shaking turning to explosions of tree-like growth. He says “tree-like,” so I imagine they are strange brambles and branches indeed that puncture him, his perspective pitched upward and upward to look down over the affliction. And it must only make him angrier. This friend has always had a green thumb, a master gardener and outdoorsman, so I wonder what this says about the essence of his soul, that loves trees when trees love rage.
Corpses in Concert
A friend and in-law’s in-law dreamt in a time of uncertainty and inadequacy, of losing his friends. He dreamt a creature, rocked and roiled in his family’s cabin, its tight body and fat tendrils formed from those of his friends that it had already killed. He and his last friend hid behind the couch as it pursued them, until they could attack in retribution. I don’t know if he killed the monster in his dream, but I haven’t seen that man in a good long time.
What They Touch is Stone
My lover dreamt as their world closed in, of dinosaurs in the style we are accustomed to, all rubbery scales and unambitious forms closed around the skeletons. As they walked, they smelled for human prey, and where a tail dragged or a flank brushed or tooth tore, the substance the dinosaur touched would turn to stone. My lover studied geology; they love rocks. They could tell you what kind of stone it was, even after all this time. But as the ancient enemies bore down on them, they risked becoming the subject whose study they had forsworn.
A man I knew not, only words uttered in frustration over a distance, dreamt, young and uncertain, of a toy, one of his favorites. It pretended to be a camera, well enough to actually function. But one dream, he picked it up to see that the familiar lens had been replaced with a face— horrible in its judgement and obvious malice. When we are young, the mere intention to harm us, even denuded of capability, is shocking. And I do not think the boy intended to be seen.
I dreamt, when weary and certain I was no longer depressed, that my mother and I walked in a forest. I was a child again. We came to a hill, with a man and his son observing a bat which had carelessly been caught in some kind of anomalous chimney. Mom discussed with him whether they could help get the bat out somehow while I left to play with the other kid, but after some time the man laughed, and explained to my mother precisely what game we were playing. For this “child” had overpowered me, and bound me to a slab of stone in a valley by the hill. There were many other such slabs, with children weeping and beaten. Above each slab, a stone chute ran up the slope, and our parents would be made to roll food down these chutes to feed us. But the cruelty was this: the slope was such that nothing managed to roll down onto our faces. Instead, every meal got stuck a foot above us, and we had to wait for the bugs and maggots to get at it, then eat those. With horror, I turned to see another child, feasting on decay and filth, and he looked at me not with a child’s eyes, but a maggot’s, his skin as soft and puffy as the creatures he now ate. My mother resigned herself to be another woman feeding a leech.
Blissful and Deadly
My lover dreamt, surprised and unglad, that they were in their high school gym. The teachers lined up everyone and ordered them to stare at Thing in the middle of the room. It was certain death to look upon, and total pleasure. They couldn’t physically force you to your happy murder, but they did everything they could to shame and oblige you to look into the Thing.
Not Attack But Curse
They dreamt also of a creature, an oversized tarantula that laid lazily in the dirt road, staring. Hatefully it watched, and though fearsome it did not attack my lover, but curse them. When next they “awoke”, every surface of their home— their bed!— was laden with spiders. Fat ones, hairy ones, quick ones, all in a dense carpet. As they screamed, they wondered just what they could have done to avoid this.
The Crawling Tome
A man I met, but did not know, who lingered in online spaces dedicated to reviving old and old-fashioned books, dreamt with fearful curiosity. In the dream, a book crawled towards him, the front cover raising up to look at him with bulging, many-colored eyes, and to grimace with blocky cartoon teeth. As he watched, transfixed, it left a trail of cold drool. It was hungry. I’ve heard it said that no words can truly be read in dreams, except for this book, that all memories of reading in sleep are snippets of the drooling, crawling tome, scrawled with fading letters around the top: “Bestiary of Dreams.”