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 dream posts are 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.