The Other Persistent Universe

As far as tropes go, the idea of infinite parallel universes is a fairly persistent and timeless one. I mean, paradise, heaven, hell … alternate universes of a sort. As time and our culture has progressed, the concept has undergone some refinement, from the collection of Star Trek episodes across all series that feature alternate versions of our favorite heroes, to tongue-in-cheek meta-parodies like Rick and Morty. Sometimes it’s the overused deus ex machina to resolve the unresolvable. Sometimes it’s the reset button for stale properties–see Marvel and DC for how that’s worked out.

In real world science, the theories are there to support the existence of parallel universes, but no real hard evidence. The science is not necessarily what fascinates us about the concept, though. We don’t need it to be real, we just need it to sound real. It offers us a sliver of hope that somewhere out there in the multiverse we did get the girl, we did get that job, we did stay in school, our loved ones didn’t get cancer, our pets didn’t die, that one guy didn’t become president.

But that’s not what this post is about. Not really.

For as far back as I can remember, I have had extremely vivid dreams. While the nightmares stand out perhaps with more clarity than the mundane dreams I’ve had over the past thirty-something years, there are certain elements of all my dreams that carry a certain persistence in them.

In my dreams, the houses and neighborhoods I grew up in remain nearly indistinguishable from their real life counterparts.

Just as I could sketch out my grandparents’ house on Roberts Avenue in fine detail, I still see it that way in my dreams about that place as well. Nothing really changes. It’s such a permanent part of my memory that I don’t think it will ever decay. I don’t dream of that house nearly as much as I used to, but it shows up on occasion.

Schools are also somewhat persistent. The elementary school and junior high I attended haven’t been seen in my dreams for a long, long time, but the high school is a common locale for stressful dreams. And, apparently, I’m not alone in experiencing the persistent high school dream. Sometimes I’m a teenager, and it’s just like it was when it happened. Sometimes I’m my current age and for reasons never fully explored or explained, I have to go back and finish high school. The script is always the same. I don’t know where my locker is, and when I find it I don’t remember the combination. There’s always a class that I haven’t attended for years that I’m still accruing zeroes in, that I now have to make up. There’s always a hallway I can’t find. For me, it might be different for you, but it’s ALWAYS “O” Hall. The one time I did find it, it was a door set into a wall, 20 feet up in the air with no way to reach it. Coach Washington is always walking by and insistent that I “get up there big’un. I don’t want to see  you down here again.” At some point I lose my backpack, or my pants, or all my clothes.

You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there, too.

It makes some sense that moments in our lives that are overly stressful or tragic reappear repeatedly in this dream universe we create for ourselves. The dead return, but you always know they’re dead somehow. It’s never quite right. That one girl in high school talks to you, is interested in you, is really being receptive to your still awkward advances in the dream universe, but it’s … not quite right.

In my head I imagine I sometimes cross paths with people that are dreaming the same scenario I am, or maybe we’re just witnessing the spectre of happenings in parallel universes simultaneously.

It reminds me of something I found on reddit once.

For decades, when riding in a passenger seat of a car going down the road, and especially on long trips down highways, I start to imagine … well, this thing… running along side the vehicle, keeping pace. It leaps fences, cars, buildings. Sometimes it runs along the power lines. It’s this faceless, humanoid-but-animalistic thing. Sometimes it’s pale white, gaunt and acrobatic. Sometimes it’s black as night. It’s always there running along side the vehicle.

I thought it was just me … but it’s not. Lots of people do this. More than there needs to be to make you uncomfortable.

Now, I get the shared experience of driving down the road at night imagining the reflectors on the dotted lines of the highway are laser fire from the tower cannons and that the car is the Falcon or an X-wing making a trench run on the Death Star, but that’s understandable.

This thing, though. I’ve heard people describe it as Sonic the Hedgehog, or Mario, or a skateboarder, or a horse or dog. Mine’s not like that. I get that we sometimes play games in our mind to break the monotony of a long, dull car ride, but this thing that I saw is something persistent in my dream universe.

Finding that reddit post made me feel uncomfortable, but that kind of thing happens with reddit. Kind of like the Mandela Effect, where everyone SWEARS that it used to be BerenSTEIN Bears and not BerenSTAIN Bears, and that Nelson Mandela died in prison, and that the orange guy’s name in Masters of the Universe was BEASTOR and not BEAST-MAN. That’s just culture. That’s just all our generation being exposed to the same marketing, the same products, the same cartoons, that we sometimes just all misremember in the same way. That makes sense.

This thing next to the car though …

I had forgotten about it for a long time until I saw Stranger Things. While the Demogorgon is not THE thing, it was damned close enough to make me feel quite uncomfortable.

I imagine this thing on car rides, but it has, on occasion made it into my dreams of car rides. The difference is that in my dreams, it’s really there. It is a denizen of this dream universe that I experience. It is always there. It is all the bad things, just like Pennywise.

When I’m having a fantastic dream and I’ve just learned that I can float 6 inches off the ground on demand, this thing is the black dog I encounter around the next corner that wants to bite me in the face.

When I’m just a kid again, walking home from school by that weird house they always told us had bad people living inside, this thing is the man with the long arms that reaches out from under the van and tries to pull me underneath.

When I’m alone in my old house, and I can’t find my parents or my sister anywhere, but decide to check the utility room  in the garage. This thing is the intruder with the knife that charges at me.

But, in reality, it’s always this THING just before it’s the thing it becomes, but I only see it as this thing when it’s running alongside the car.

Yes, it’s creepy, but in reality, it’s just a conglomeration of fractured memories, reassembled into something tangible by an overactive brain. Right?

Recurring dreams are common among people that dream. Like I mentioned before, it’s not unusual for a traumatic experience to replay in the dream universe of those that experienced it. What I wonder is this: how persistent is the dream world for other people as compared to my own?

This is what my post is really about. I’ve never tried to detail the extent of this dream universe, but the majority of it is recurring. It changes, but only slightly. It’s a very real thing to me.

In my dream universe, there are locations that only exist in the dream world, and I can repeatedly visit this places. I can almost map out the entire world in my head. I know that the McDonald Street in my dream world is an amalgam of Tennessee Street and McDonald Street, and there’s nothing but an empty stretch of land past the Steffey’s. It starts to snow when you get to where 380 should be. Going back south there’s a big curve where a tire store sits, and there are numerous roads extending west from there, but never any going east.

The version of the McKinney Square is somewhat more expansive than real life. The buildings are taller. There’s a bar I like there that can only seat three people, but it’s attached to a fancy restaurant with pink tablecloths. I can never get a seat there, and I’ve been kicked out for sitting at a fancy table.

There’s a barber shop that I’m always perpetually waiting to get a haircut in. Next to it is a clothing boutique that exits out to the street from it’s front and back.

The courthouse is a massive glass tower that has many floors, but you can’t go past the fourth floor, except to get to the top floor balcony, from which you will most definitely tumble from for no reason at all.

There is a motor bank that has lanes you can never get through as they are too narrow for any car. You’ll try, but you’ll ruin your car and have to pick it up and move it elsewhere, but then it will be a tiny car that you can’t get back into. I always go inside now, and it is a maze of glass doors set in glass walls and you are always in the wrong line for what you want to do, and it always closes right before you do find that right line.

Going north from pseudo-McKinney along 75, there are a number of forested hills so tall that you can’t see past them. It’s very easy to get lost there, and there are not a lot of turnarounds. If you do get past them, it is very simple to get to Colorado. There are cliffs that you encounter first, and there’s a grocery store that I always stop at for maps and licenses. Sometimes I climb the bluffs there to stare out over the cliffs.

You can take a road there that leads you to water. There are the canals that I always seem to be in on a boat faster than I need to be in. The water there is blue and clear, and there are always sharks. Not far from this area, and possibly connected to it via those waterways, there’s also a lake and an expansive beach broken in to two sections. One is tiered and dirty. Lots of tents and RVs. The water is brown, but overall it is a safe place. The second area is more like a beach next to a sea. The sand is pristine and the beach extends far inland. It takes quite a while to get from the parking lot to the water. The sun is always baking you relentlessly. Most of the sea beach area is safe to swim in, but the waves are ridiculous, and they can carry you over to another area without a beach that is more of a swamp than anything. You can reach this place by road that degenerates into wood planks, but most often I get there by being swept away by waves from the sea. There are ALWAYS snakes in that water.

If you can navigate your way through the plank roads in the swamp area, you’ll eventually get to some quarry-like depressions in the land. Some of these are fenced off, but there is a cemetery just beyond one of the larger gates that always seems to be open. The church there is an old Catholic Chapel, and there is a funeral home attached to it. Sometimes my grandfather is working there, but other times my father and I are trying to find a headstone and we’re being chased away by men in suits. There’s an old natural history museum in that area as well. Sometimes I can find it, sometimes it’s a ruin. Outside they have animal enclosures with bears, lions, antelope. Sometimes the animals get loose. The museum is always a favorite place of mine. It has several floors and lots of animal skeletons and artifacts. I never have a bad dream there. Sometimes I can find a room that houses old documents, ancient tomes, and locked boxes. There’s a rolltop desk that I can never open and the setting sun’s rays bleed through metal blinds. Dust motes traverse those rays like snow.

If you do pass all this up and make your way to Colorado, there is only ever once place to go there. There is one building, the lodge, where you always check in at. It’s a log cabin, naturally, with a steep A-frame front. The accents are faded mustard yellow. There’s a large round yellow rug in front of the front desk. It has a bell to ring for service, and there’s a small rack of brochures next to it. Typically, I’ll meet family or get attached to a random group of hikers to make the climb up to the mountains. Making it to the top is easy enough. There’s snow and ice there, and you’re always going to fall, but it’s always fun. Sometimes I ski, sometimes I snowboard, but you can only go down. Eventually, the snow runs out, and you’re in highland woods. Without fail, there are ALWAYS bears. I go into that place, always knowing there are bears, and I try to warn people, but they don’t listen. The bears always run, and you can always run just a little bit faster, but you can kiss the dream goodbye, because you’ll never get to a safe spot and you’ll just wake up running.

Back to pseudo-McKinney and the big curve on McDonald Street, one of the roads there goes through a run-down part of town. There are empty, abandoned houses. Old lean-tos with skeletons of cars surrounding them. Single-wide and double-wide trailers. Laundry lines webbed between barren trees. Fences are sometimes made of metal siding. I’ve been in some of those places. I’ve been chased through them quite often. You eventually come to a massive red stone building that I’ve never been able to determine whether it is a church or a school, but it is surrounded by a tall wire fence, which also contains a large concrete area that could be a parking lot, or basketball court, and I am always just driving by it. But it marks a transition from the run-down area to the beginnings of the downtown historic area.

That road can lead you to downtown, along the south side, and it eventually intersects a road leading south that is equivalent to Tennessee Street as it really runs south. There are two buildings of note along that road. One is a massive abandoned house with three floors, the top of which has holes in the floor in places. Not far beyond that is the funeral home. My grandfather is always there, and even when he’s not present in the dream, I’m always welcome there.

Back to the square, if you head north, you’ll come to a road that runs north-south that intersects several roads leading to residential streets that are somewhat similar to historic McKinney, Waddill Street, Church Street, Tucker Street, Hunt Street. They all have their dopplegangers.

Heading south along one of those streets will run you into a version of Graves as it runs east-west. There’s a massive farm and field there on the south side, and it eventually curves around to the High School where I’ve been so uncomfortably naked before. Towne Lake extends the entire length of Wilson Creek Pkwy all the way to Tennessee Street in this version, and there are numerous areas to pull off the road and park. The lake, however, is treacherous at all parts. Deep, black water. Snakes. Alligators. Sometimes there is quicksand.

If you were to follow Wilson Creek north, with the interminable Towne Lake, you would reach 75, but in this dream version, it sits hundreds of feet higher than Towne Lake and the land rises to meet it in parts so that there are cliffs overlooking the lake, which are overgrown with massive trees that extend up to the highway.  I’ve jumped off of those cliffs into the water before. I’ve also driven a motorcycle off the highway into that area, too.

75 going south is a lot of nothing until you hit Plano. And there, every exit is just a roundabout that leads you to the other side of the highway. In Richardson, there is a Highway 246 or something that you’ll always want to get to, but can never quite get there. Sometimes it’s half a mile in the air, and if you find the unfortunate way to get to that section of it, you end up driving off it, because of gravity. Other times it’s the exit you just missed. Sometimes it’s best just to get out of your car, and carry your car over the grassy medians to it. Again, if you do this, you end up with a tiny car you can’t get back into. When you do finally get to this elusive highway, half the time it is under construction with massive gaps in the road which you tend to drive into. It’s really best to pick up your car and carry it through this area, tiny car be damned.

And speaking of driving, don’t expect to be sitting in the front seat. You will always end up in the backseat driving with your feet somehow.

In the nearest suburbs of pseudo-Dallas, there are all the big department stores. There is a K-Mart that you can only ever perpetually find the back of, off a road you can never turn off of. Sometimes, you’ll find a road that leads to a very colorful area where each building is graffitied or has a wood siding facade. It has the feeling of the western area of Six Flags. There’s a yellow building there, in my dream universe, not Six Flags, that has THE BEST donuts in the universe. But they will never have chocolate. This place also sells hot dogs and pizza, and salad. A block or so over from this restaurant is an arcade, and it has every game you never knew existed, but none of the ones you are familiar with. I’m always looking for the Star Wars game, but it always takes weird coins that they don’t exchange there.

Just before you make it to Downtown Dallas, there is a massive dome that happens to be a massive shopping mall.

The main pedestrian thoroughfare through this mall is circular, but taking the circular route only ever takes you to stores that are closed. To get anywhere you have to find the store that most resembles GAP but it’s not GAP.

On a sidenote, there is a random window along the circular route that appears to be for that pseudo-GAP store, but the store is nowhere near there.

Anyway, once you go into the pseudo-GAP, you soon find that inside are one of two versions of the store, either there are racks of a million dresses, purses, jewelry and bras, or there are walls and racks full of sports attire. They will never have any hockey ballcaps or jerseys, and you will not recognize ANY of the teams they do have. There is always a Miami team though, and I swear to you that this is where I first saw the Marlins logo before the team ever existed. Incidentally, on occasion, if you get the women’s shop version, there are drawers under the jewelry counters that contain candy you can steal. Sometimes, though, you end up being transported back to pseudo-downtown McKinney at that store which opens to the street from its front and back. That sucks, because you usually can’t get back to the Dallas mall in that same dream.

Whichever version of the pseudo-GAP you find yourself in, there is always a curtain that looks like it goes to a dressing room. This is not where it goes. Behind that curtain, is the rest of the mall. Typically, this leads directly to either the appliance department of a massive department store, or the shoe department of said store.

At this point, you have reached a nexus of all realities, as pretty much every store you have been in has an access point at this department store at this mall. You must be cautious, however, since going into a particular store instance and leaving from the actual storefront, and not the mall access, will put you directly wherever the hell that store exists in the dream universe.

For example, there is a bookstore that you can reach through the mall department store (by first going through the curtain). It is a massive bookstore that is also a library, which is also a university of some kind. Here you will find all the books you want, but you will not have any money to buy them. There is a series of fantasy books that spans something like a thousand different titles, and they have them all. I spend a lot of time trying to decide where to start this series, and it is MASSIVE. At some point the series becomes something of a cyberpunk series. I’ve seen the covers so often in my dreams that I’ve found similar novels in real life and freaked out. But they aren’t the same. I kind of know the main storyline, and the all are part of different Chronicles, like the Blue Knight Chronicles, or the Vespers of Aldrenaea Chronicles, or the Last Elves Quadrilogy. There is a perpetual race of humanoid knights whose legacy extends across several star systems. You can start with their inception in a barbaric age and follow it all the way through to a galactic civilization they eventually found. There is a lizard race that always opposes them, and several spin-off series explore their story with them as the protagonists. I never buy any of these books, but instead stare endlessly at them. There are several check-out counters to this store, and most put you back at the mall through exits nearby, but there is one check-out counter that is built into a tree that has grown up through the store (this is right near where all those awesome fantasy books are). There are double doors there that lead out into a parking lot that is someplace I’ve never been able to get back to except through those doors. It’s always dusk, and it has always just rained. The western sky is still slightly red.

There are similar stores to the bookstore that can be reached through the mall:

There is a video rental store that has Ghostbusters 3 and had a different version of Back to the Future II before the real one came out. They also have Goonies 2 but it is always checked out. It’s never a Blockbuster. It’s always a family-run business. This store uses the little circular paper and aluminum tags that hang on nails, but you will never ever reach the front counter with the tags you meant to pull. There is a pornography section as well, but you never go there intentionally, you are always just suddenly there and then suddenly the entire store is an adult video store that is populated with people looking at you.

There is a music store that has albums you’ve always dreamed of but that never really existed. Emerson, Lake, Palmer, and Hendrix (definitely NOT Hendrix, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer even though the acronym is more pleasing) is there. Also that album where Michael Jackson teamed up with the Muppets, and that Beatles/Tina Turner supergroup with the red album cover and the rocket. Sometimes, for no reason, this store can morph into the video store quite easily, but stranger than that, it is possible for it to suddenly become a store devoted solely to Dungeons and Dragons. You never want to end up there. You will be ridiculed by the clientele and the staff.

There is a store that sells computer games that still come in boxes the size of cereal boxes. I always find the most amazing titles here, and I am usually successful, somehow, in purchasing them, but I never make it anywhere that I can install or play them.

In addition to these stores, there is a massive Toys-R-Us-ish entity that has every toy imaginable. The Star Wars toys are of particular interest, and the Lego sets are unrealistically awesome. They sell video games here, but you have to take a slip of paper from a title you want to the counter to purchase it. Only, there are no slips of paper–all the games are sold out. Especially, the original Mario Bros. and Ice Climber. This store can sometimes morph into being something of a Wal-Mart (which can also exist on its own), and there is everything else from clothing to knick-knacks to battleaxes to be purchased there. The check-outs are an impossible barrier. You will never get through them with any purchases. Lanes close while you are in the middle of buying things, or suddenly you’ll be outside in the little breezeway where the Neo-Geo console sits next to the crane game. If you end up in the breezeway, you’ll be stuck in what can only be Garland, where the parking lot extends interminably into the distance.

There is a grocery store there in the dream universe, somewhere, but like the Wal-mart-ish area, you will never make it past the cashiers. Even worse, this place is one of the few that has no exit to any other locations. You will never ever get out of it until you wake up.

While on the subject of stores, I’d like to mention a couple of others that aren’t located or reached through the mall, but continuously pop up the same way each time.

First, there is a gas station with pumps that are arranged so that once you pull in, you will not be able to pull out without hitting another car, running over an animal, or killing everyone. I tend to always get to a pump easily, but either the pump never works, or when I go inside to pay, I get stuck trying to by a candy bar, or a drink. All they have to drink there are wine coolers. I always know this, and go in looking for the watermelon flavor which they never have. You can be tricked, though, because there is a “melon” flavor that is spicy and tastes like lava that looks almost exactly like the watermelon flavor.

Secondly, there is a pharmacy that stocks more candy and mints than anything else. The product is arranged by color and all colors in existence can be found there on aisles that reach to the ceiling. I highly recommend the brown mints and the blue candies.

Anyway, back to the mall. There is a food court that sits in a massive open area. Most of the chain restaurants there are closed, or at least have the bars down over the fronts. It seems like I was still able to buy something once from one of these stores, but they made me make it myself by reaching through the grate, and even then it was just  some lettuce, rice, and sugar cookies that I put in a taco.

The escalators never work, and the stairs almost always lead back to the circular thoroughfare that leads nowhere.

If you make it past all of these distractions, you can actually reach downtown pseudo-Dallas, which is also called Houston or New York. There are two levels to the city, and you will always reach it from the top level where you cannot access anything on the bottom level without difficulty.

There is a very fancy hotel and restaurant that is accessible from the top level of the city, but you must dodge rich people and staff to reached the street level where all the cool stuff is. Even when I do reach the lower level of the city, only the bars and dance clubs are open, so all the cool stuff has just disappeared, or never existed.

Now, when I do make it to this particular area of the dream universe, it never ends well. You may think that bars and clubs are cool, but not here. The dreams do tend to become exceedingly adult in nature, but nothing good ever happens. Without fail, it always becomes night, and every place outside the bars is a bad part of town. I unerringly end up in a dark alley where people are looking at me like I don’t belong there. Without fail, I have to run, and in running end up in a chase through factories, warehouses, on rooftops, and through sewers until I inevitably die, murdered or bitten in the face by dogs.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in that bad place. I typically end up being able to run out the dream in the hotel by staying in a room that isn’t mine and pretending to be someone else. I always get excitedly momentarily when I finally make it into the fancy dining room, but it always ends up being the Luby’s at Collin Creek Mall in the end.

Rarely, I get past the lower level of Pseudo-Dallas through a set of wide stairs that lead down to a combination subway/airport/train station. It is always difficult to obtain a ticket, but when I do get on a plane, it always crashes (never fatally, just ridiculously, like through a pillow factory or into a vat of chocolate). The train always end up being topless, or just a platform on wheels that skids off the tracks in grassy fields where the corpses of previous train still lie being swallowed by the grass. The subway always becomes a school bus at some point, and I end up driving it and promptly wrecking it.

Pseudo-Dallas always ends in those two ways. Death in the alleys, or a transportation accident.

Off of 75, somewhere south, but its never really clear to me, you can get to a rural area where I am always intending to visit distant relatives. Inevitably, there are familiar landmarks. Barns, fields with windmills, rows of sunflowers, but I never seem to find the place I was headed. On some visits I end up in a field without a car, lost. Usually, this type of dream ends in the swamp with the snakes. Sometimes I end up just driving in circles until I wake up.

In dreams similar but separate to the “going-to-visit-relatives” episodes, I’m riding a motorcycle–which I neither know how to do in real life or in the dream world. I make a pretty good go of it for a while, but eventually crash. I have no idea if the way I learn to ride a motorcycle in the dream world is the real world way or not. I’d prefer not to find out.

Sometimes I travel to an army base for training, and sometimes I make it through this training via instant passage of time. I’ve been to war several times. Shot and killed, blown up. I one time piloted half of a B-52 into a supertank and ended World War Three against the Germans. I died, but I could still hear everyone as they carted my corpse around and then burned it.

My point? Oh yes! I had a point somewhere.

My point is that these places I’ve described are recurring in the dream universe I travel to during my slumber. They may not always be exactly the same, but typically I remember them both in the dream and in making life as having been familiar and repetitive.

I’ve even seen a map of the dream world on many occasions. It looks like an old Risk map with names and shapes I don’t recognize, but it is instantly familiar when it does appear. There is a smaller version of the map that shows Texas, and everything is just thirty miles from everything else down Highway 246. Most of the foreign countries are either desert or tundra.

My mind creates this place. I go to this place and function in this place. I can remember the things that I do there. I can retain knowledge of those places, and while I cannot always influence the course of events, they do occur to me as being familiar. Sometimes, I can take the knowledge back with me when these places reappear. I know not to go to the top level of the courthouse, I know Dallas has a brief pleasure reward, but always ends badly, I know there are bears that will chase you in Colorado, but the snow is fun first. I know where to get candy.

I wonder if other people have been to these places in their dreams. While I’m sure they mirror actual places in my head, some of these places are completely alien to anything that I’ve experienced in real life.

That’s why I’ve decided to write this all down. It’s taken me several weeks to compile all of this, but I finally think I’ve covered every place in minimal detail. Maybe I’ll revisit each locale in more detail later.

So, beyond what science would require to declare it fact, are these parallel universes? Could we tap into the human mind and hijack those portions of our brains that make it seem so real that we can essentially create our own paradises at some point in the future?

In some parallel universe, we already have.

Maybe this is it.



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