Dreams are portals to more than just the imagination. With training, they can carry you much further, if you learn to navigate their labyrinths. If you can learn how to reach these secret ways that lead from sleeping mind to sleeping mind, into realms beyond.
Without training, for the few who stumble into these twisted trails without intention, it is all too easy to get lost, for the mazes to twist not only on themselves, but to twist the unprepared mind with their unconstrained possibilities.
That was how it began for me - visiting an acquaintance, I took a stroll through the orchards and gardens of the grounds, and came to such a pleasant clearing that a nap beneath the wizened apple tree was too tantalizing to resist. And so I learned how one may, or even must, travel through dreams; how quickly one can lose their way, and even all sense of themselves.
I’ve come to call the places where the labyrinths lead glades, after the one where I found myself seduced by sleep. Anything could be possible from the sweetest to the sourest imaginings of any dreamer. They have their rules and logics, though many are similar. There I have met and conversed with many dreamers and travelers, sifting through their secret teachings to learn what I can so that I might return, once more, to myself. Time, I am told, is illusory here. The stretch of it may feel like days or years and be only an instant in the world to which I seek to return. So many conversations folded into seconds - I hold to this - my slumber need not be so long, if only I can find the right path back.
For each pleasant glade where I may sit and speak with some wise teacher, or spend an afternoon in pleasant company with some kind or amorous dreamer, or lost in a pleasant adventure, there are glades with nothing but twisted landscapes filled with horrors - slavering beasts, visions of madness, imprints of pain and loss to enough cut you to the core with nothing but a taste of their soul-poisoning vistas. The logics of such places are beyond comprehension, even for one who has traveled in these realms so widely as I, and their dangers are not to be underestimated - they too can pass like other figments of dreams along the paths. Horror can attach itself to you, so I have learned. It will follow, undaunted, through any place it can enter, and find its way through or around any obstacle. Unrelenting, it will hunt you, and in the path between the glades, you will only know it from its shadow.
I am the quarry of one such horror that set upon me as soon as I stepped from the safety of my own dream. I have not seen it - this surely would be my end, so chilling would be the sight, I am sure. I can feel its gaze, or something else, locked upon me. Some glades offer brief respite, but though I may long to tarry by some restful pool or in a vision of other comforts, I know there is no escape but wakefulness, and so I must continue to seek my way back to myself and I know that each time I pass from glade to glade through the winding stairs and twisting paths, holding fast along the chains that bind us all dream to dream, that I am stalked, and cannot tarry.
And so, despite all I have learned of navigation, I cannot put it to best use. I cannot retrace my path unless I turn to face this haunting force, and worse, without pressing forth back into the dark vision from which it was spawned. And so I must find some more circuitous route - here though a child’s enchantment of living toys, there through another’s vision of being watched by other eyes than mine, and yet here through the lusts of a lover whose desires wakefulness must suppress. I search for the vision that lured me from my own restful glade when I turned my thoughts to slumber beneath that tree, too like a dream itself to stay closed to the labyrinths that stretch beyond. I remember how like the waking world I’d left behind my vision had been, with its gentle paths through trees and fields long tamed from natures wilderness, that led at last to winding stone stairs, and then more stairs, and more, arches between them. I recall how I stared in wonder at the great links of black and shining chains that passed overhead and, when I turned to look back, into the deep darkness beyond. It is so fixed in my mind - I shall know it again, I am certain. I know these labyrinths well, and can recognize their subtle shifts. I know so much more than when I first found myself lost. And I must return soon, or never, for always behind me stalks the ravenous black shadow that would be my doom.
And so on I go - and though some might, I have not lost hope. The glade may shift at times, unlocking new imaginings, but the paths maintain the link, and as long as I am here, I am connected somehow. There will be a path. It may look like this, what I see before me now - yes, this arch here, and the great black links below! Behind me, I sense the shadow drawing near, and I must not tarry - I must press on with haste, and with confidence.
But what path stretches before me now? I know this glade. I have walked the old trails through the orchard, past spring blooms promising sweet fruit at harvest, along this mossy fence and past this gentle stream. I cannot stop now to delight in them, for my monster had followed the open paths of enchantment. I am drawn onwards, back to my sleeping self, lying beneath the apple tree, a vision of peaceful rest.
I rush forward.
I open my eyes - but no. This vision has been naught by artifice - some other dream influenced too strongly by my own desire, and fear. This is not the glade I sought, and what is here has left me coloured by its deception. My vision grows dark, the paths and all that lies beyond are obfuscated and cursed! Yet I cannot afford to be subsumed by despair. I know what lurks beyond, though I see no trace now of my stalker. Instead I see a light meandering through the darkened glade and I know that this will guide me to freedom. I cannot lose focus. I cannot let myself be dissuaded from my quarry. I gather myself, and pursue.