There has always been a seperation between my Dawn-dreams, Night-fears and Night-mares. The latter can be welcome soil, slipping in and out of consciousness from a lush, sensual land when the mind is free to float off into reveries of lust and gratification. This is the land over which I exercise the rights of a savage monarch, a realm where people of every age and sex are objects to be picked up, possessed, fondled and penetrated. I wake up each morning with an eager cock and amused astonishment at the furious free-ranging greed of my inner self. At times I can feel like a pressure cooker about to explode with desire for absolute power and dominion over everything and everybody that has caught my eye, be they old friends or a queue of a thousand commuters that I have observed yesterday morning on the long escalators on the Angel tube. Fortunately other mornings feel like a gentle breeze that awaken me with a laugh and a sense of pride that I have this monster within me safely confined to the world of dreams.
Night-fears come with little apparent relationship to outside stress, though this may not be how it appears to others. I remember my elder brother telling me that he only controlled his sense of inner violence by exhausting himself everyday with work. To a degree I suppose I agree with him, though I have replaced his definition of physically demanding labour in the Venezulean jungle with my own style of exhaustion which can also sound like a perpetual holiday of reading, looking, drinking, talking, laughing and travelling. There was a purpose to all this continous energy for ever since I was a conscious child I have had night fears. At their most acute, they involved me drifting in a bodiless form, just my weightless inner soul or self, passing like a fast excelerating meteor away from all light, company and warmth towards ever more intense graduations of darkness, cold and utter isolation. They have always terrified me and I have great sympathy for the mystics, if these mind-wanderings are but a tithe of their dark night of the soul. I can remember night after night biting my pillow in frustration as a young boy and trying to think of anything, and talk or touch anyone, rather than be left alone with myself and this inevitable drift. One of my worst recent attacks was the first night I slept beside the Niger river. It had been a perfect day in which everything, even windblown litter filled me with a sense of wonder and delight in life.
The night was terrifying. I woke up in the middle of it, possessed by an alarming static of neurotic energy. I literally jumped out of bed, taken-over by a furious restlessness of night-fear that sent me pacing up and down the bedroom like a madman, in and out of my bathroom, running taps, flushing lavatories, immersing myself under the shower in an attempt to ground myself and halt the drift. Nothing worked so I started walking round the block of bungalow bedrooms, and then out and around and around the hotel grounds. Then I launched myself into the water of the pool and swam up and down for hours, trying to exhaust myself back towards sleep, watched only by the moon and a bemused security guard doing his rounds. By the time I met up again with the group of Sahara-bound travellers that I was with - for a 5 am appointment for breakfast, I looked impressively clean and was just beginning to feel less manickly wide-awake. I like to think I was haunted or possessed by some Djinn that night, anything other than myself. When my daughter asks me to think of something good before she can go to sleep I take her request seriously, but hide my deep concern for her, beneath what I hope looks like an easy smile.
Nightmares from deep sleep are in my case the most apparently rational, logical and believable of my dream states. They are often fascinating narratives, unfolding like a novel, a piece of theatre or a sliver of action-packed film that often makes me wish to know more. I call them night-mares because they are usually about dangerous situations, killings and manhunts. I cannot account for all of this continual internal massacre in my head. Sometimes I think it comes from the great weight of inherited experience from mankind, where for tens of thousands of years only the most aggressive, ruthless hunter-killers amongst us survived to become our ancestors. Those Darwinian testing grounds where the great primal fruit-filled forests dried up and the monkey-men learned to kill and eat their cousins in order to prosper. When you look at the accumulated generations of desperate tooth and claw work, that endless combination of hunger and fear – that is piled up somewhere within us before we arrive at the last few thousand years of recorded history, I am continuously astonished at mankind’s achievement of civilization.
Last year after a magnificently enjoyable day exploring hilltop castles in Syria a group of four friends ended up having a wonderful meal of fresh fish in a restaurant that had been carved out of a medieval cellar. After dinner we wondered around the dark walls of the old city, one of the last places that the Crusaders had held onto in the Holy Land. Their Cathedral in which there was once hung a miracle-working icon of the Mother of God by the hand of St Luke still remains there. It is an inspiring Gothick Hall within though from the outside it looks like a fortified blockhouse. That night my dreams reverted to a habitual night-mare of my childhood. I was entering a house, a known-house that perches above a fast flowing river whose opposite bank is shrouded in trees. It is a small place but packed full of cupboards and narrow stairs. I know that I should not climb these stairs because something malevolent waits there and does not like to be disturbed. I know I should not be frightened and must enter this space to prrove that I am free. The forbidden room is not impressive but the presence is intense. I feel the power lurking in one corner like the air before a thunderstorm. It buzzes soundlessly like an invisible hive of bees, I advance and feel an intolerable pressure within my skull. I know that I must back away less I burst but just them the malign presence swoops down towards me with incredible speed. Though it has no known form, sound or shape it has immense power. I am picked up by both heels and then whirled around so that I may be smashed repeatedly against the walls and ceilings. It is as if I weighed no more than a doll and I loose consciousness.
In the morning I wake up. I find my entire family dead, hanging from a low beam. Their bodies are quite still. There is only an inch or two between their feet and the floor. I search the house for the murderer and bravely, resolutely and thoroughly check all the doors, the windows, the many cupboards and alcoves. There is no one, nor after much searching do I find that any door has been broken into or window forced. I become frantic with desire to find the perpetuator of this horrible murder of everything that I love and honour. This fever to search out the culprit becomes ever more desperate, ever more intense for I have a slow creeping certainty that I must occupy myself forever with ceaseless search, less I allow myself to realise that the murderer was myself.
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by Barnaby Rogerson