There is No Response
Who are the people who live in dreams?
Where do they go when a sleeper stirs and awakens?
There had always been night voices that belonged to others in his head. At first, he thought it shocking. Those voices came with the feared fog of psychiatry. Each night as he slipped into sleep the others’ voices began talking. Sometimes the same, unrecognized individual returned night after night before vanishing and being replaced by a different person. No one in his head seemed surprised by his nightly appearance. They ignored him and carried on talking to each other. He could never make out what they talked about. At best he would catch random words and phrases, and even they made no sense.
He waited, like a minor character in a poem, to be granted some form of active involvement in the action in his brain. He wanted to join the conversation.
These people were unfamiliar to him. It wasn’t as though his dead mother refused to acknowledge him; it was more that they did not know him and had nothing in common with him. They were like others on the subway, squished into close quarters by rush hour but with no intention of communicating with others sharing their space. So the people in his dreams went on about their business and he was left with the odd sensation of oneiric voyeurism.
One night someone finally noticed him as he lay, face down on the floor. A disembodied voice said, “There’s no response.” At times during the following day, he thought about what the scene had meant. Had he witnessed his death? If so, it was certainly an unremarkable end. He was reminded of a statement on death by Ingmar Bergman — that it was as though a light had been turned off, no big deal.
Of course, he knew it was commonplace to deal with a fear of death in dreams, but this death had all the drama of grilled cheese. It was so mundane that it was pathetic. There was no pathos, no speech, not even a guttural death rattle — simply a short statement based on objective observation. It offered no clue about any kind of afterlife or judgement.
It took a while to make peace with his dreams. Years later he ceased to breathe and there was no response. Except in his head, where, after years of absence, he walked back into the room of strangers. Now he could hear them. Finally, after years of wondering what it meant, people spoke to him in the land of the dead.
But they were speaking in a language he did not understand. It sounded ancient. He knew then he had not come far enough yet to decipher it.
And with that realization, he re-entered the world.
Better luck next time.