• James Eichenlaub

What Dreams May Come!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to enter the dream of another person? What would you see? Would you be seen? Would you be frightened or amused by the ever-changing scene as the brain flitted from one scape to another in a world to which you do not belong?

After many months of practice, I found that I could capture and recall most of my dreams and, in doing so, wanted to commit one of the most vivid and complete dreams to writing. If for no other reason than to learn what it would look like to others.

During nearly nine hours of sleep, the following is one of the more explicit and vivid dreams, and oddly, one that I was able to wake from and fall back into when I returned to sleep.

(A brightness formed around me and then)

My mother stood there in a room I did not recognize. "Are you going to school today?" She asked. For a long moment, I did nothing more than stare at her. She died more than forty years ago. Why is she here now asking about school? I ran away! ... Finding myself in the hallway at school with lockers on either side of the white marble floors that extended into the distance. There were no students present. As school lockers go, these were more comparable to small closets that, when the doors opened, a light from inside reflected on the floor, causing the slick surface of the marble to become translucent with glistening flakes of silver embedded deep within. ... 'Is this Altoona High?' Then which school is it, where is it, or why I'm here? They didn't want me here. Mr. Butler told me I would drop out, and I was bullied daily. Oddly, I can sense, more than smell, the delicious odor of food coming from the cafeteria, which causes me to believe it may be Milton Hershey School for boys that I attended for a short period in my teen years. Neither school looked like this, but I wanted to be here! I wanted to be a good student! ... The three of us ran up the narrow metal staircase that led to a parapet somewhere high above. My mind told me I'd been here before, but where "here" was, I had no idea! Maybe in a lighthouse or something? We stood at the rail high on the side of the school and looked across a narrow, grass-covered valley.

On the other side sat a huge, glassed, clerical building whose windows reflected the image of us standing on the high scaffolding at the top edge of the school. The reflection was that of the new Altoona high school, but much larger. There was a longing inside me concerning that large, glass building, an empty feeling of loss or longing about not being in there. I want to, but how can I go there?

(We jump again) ... We (someone is with me) walked together; the people crowded about me were familiar, from, well, somewhere as we all walked along an unfamiliar street to a destination I seemed to know and yet regret being with them. Had I at some time worked with them, perhaps?

There were no definitive faces in the crowd. I just 'felt' who they were, old mates from old jobs, but from where and when I cannot say? I moved away from those that made me uncomfortable. I knew they didn't like me. In fact, I felt that most did not care to have me along. They were merely courteous.


We walked within a wide space, as if an outdoor mall or something similar, between large buildings on either side, but where were we going, and why? That was another question? Together, crowded on a nondescript sidewalk in a strange city, we moved slowly along. The murmur of their voices in front of, and behind, all familiar voices talking but saying nothing intelligible made me feel self-conscious and alone. ...

(Thoughts occur to me) They, all of them, are far more educated and far more likely to succeed than am I. An overwhelming feeling of insecurity flooded through me as I recognized how very little I knew about any single thing in life compared to any one of them who seemed experts in their fields. Insecurity is overwhelming: having little or nothing to offer by comparison, how can I ever compete?


(Back in the halls of school)

My mother would be so disappointed. There she is again, my mother, but why? Why was 'she' here? She stood at the corner opposite, watching as I passed. I felt helpless not going to her, not speaking to her. ... Running this time through those sparkling marble halls, lights from the many opened lockers illuminating that translucent, silver floor, I had quit; I dropped out. I'd told someone, somewhere, that I was done, leaving. I was carrying a feeling of finality, a sense that I was asked to leave. Finding something new, somewhere where I could find what I know and how I know it. Not what they wanted me to know, but what I already knew. It's already here! I'm confused.


(Farewell to old acquaintances)

Walking into a large cafeteria without actually traversing the many staircases required to get there (those I recall from Milton Hershey School), I looked behind me into a cloud, somewhere down a corridor, a staircase, and yet another corridor; all was visually masked.

Again, I am among dozens of people who were familiar to me from every facet of life, executives and managers from the companies I'd worked for, old military buddies of my Navy days. All of them sitting together, having drinks and talking, murmuring, and seemingly ignoring my presence. ... "Mike," I said. My old boss, and probably the closest to a friend of anyone in my career, approached. He sat there among them and stood to greet me, the only one to do so, and with his familiar and genuine smile, he placed his arms around my shoulders and slapped my back. He gave everyone the benefit of his compassion. I felt patronized by his greeting.

As I tried to shake hands with others to say goodbye, they stared at me blankly, offering a deep and hurtful feeling of rejection, as if to say, "Who are you?" They sank slowly back into a cloud-filled room, and I was somewhere else once more. ... Now running again, three people are in front of me, one of whom was a man I seemed to recognize, coaxing me back onto the parapet above. I couldn't truly see his face, but I instinctively knew him. His name was Spencer. "We have something to do there," Spencer said, "something before you leave!" I felt lightheaded and out of breath as we emerged through the opening at the top; a nondescript feeling of doom or danger lurked as we walked onto the parapet. ... Again at the rail and looked this time over a flowing, green-meadowed that replaced the narrow grassy space of the first visit—a stark change in earth and sky. The sky above was dark with clouds, and the air smelled of rain, a sudden draft of cold air, and an acrid odor of vinegar.


Across the valley, just as before, sat "the building!" Strangely, taller, more expansive, full of glimmering dark windows filled with silhouettes. The three of us alone now presented on the parapet and reflected in the darkened windows as we stood at the rail. No longer a large crowd of onlookers. 'Where have all the others gone?' I wondered.

The beautiful building, now surrounded by elegant landscaping, tall flowering trees, and fountains, exuded the appearance of erudition and the intellectual air of a citadel of higher learning. "All you want to do is stare at it!" I shouted as a feeling of hurt and betrayal washed over me, and they all began laughing.

"Keep in touch!" I heard as I charged toward the dark opening to the staircase. The sound of their chattering voices faded amid brief sounds of laughter and cheers as I leaped down the narrow stairs, skipping over dozens of steps, jumping, or so it seemed, from one floor to the next until I found myself running up the long silver-floored corridor toward a group of large oak doors. Each door had a dozen or more small, sparkling glass window panes and shiny brass hardware.


Although I do not recall reaching them, I suddenly burst through the doors and down the long concrete stair to a tree-lined street at the bottom, I looked back and saw that it was 'not' Milton Hershey as I'd believed, but instead, Keith Jr. High School, my old middle school of ages ago. I looked left and then right, up and down the empty tree-lined street. ...

(It ended, and I awakened and lay there recounting it and wonder why and what brought it on.)

It wasn't yet daybreak. Knowing that dreams often reflect realities (which is why I struggle to retain them, and the reason I put this one in writing), I lay there, pushing away that strange feeling of loss that was all that was left from the experience. I ran through it again and again to retain it.


Albeit, the revelation of any dream is a bit embarrassing and painful to the soul. Still, much of it appears to represent the realities of life and an ominous admission of regrets and failures.

"What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause. There's the respect that makes calamity of 'so long, life.'" (Hamlet, W. Shakespear)

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