I had a dream that I was standing in an empty part of the city, unsure of where I was and why I was there. The sky looked like the early morning with pink and orange clouds. There were skyscrapers all around. As I looked above, a large plane emerged and hovered uncomfortably close to one of the buildings. I've had this dream before, but in different forms- planes falling out of the sky, crashing into the city, into homes or buildings. But in this dream, the plane hesitated, hovering uncomfortably close to the building and slightly leaning back and forth.
Right when I thought, wow, maybe it's not going to crash, it did, very slowly and eerily. I heard the impact from far away, also seeing the right engine on fire. But when I looked up, the sky was foggy, and the pieces fell down in slow motion over my head, nearing my face. I gasped, then woke up in a sweat.
“What's wrong?” My roommate asked.
“I had a nightmare.”
“Which one was it this time?” Tia’s hair was perfectly curled and her makeup was perfectly done as she rushed through breakfast. She was ready for work at the fancy salon.
“It was the plane one. It was...I don’t know it felt different this time.”
“You have a lot of repetitive dreams. I've lived with you for two years and I figured that out after two weeks.”
“It’s just a dream though. You can't let it affect you like that. You just have to decide that it's a dream and it's over. Doesn’t mean anything, even when it feels different.” She didn’t know the truth about my dreams, and I could never tell anyone.
They’d think I was crazy, but let’s just say the dreams can be much too coincidental sometimes, too perfectly aligned in time- but not every time, just when I get this kind of feeling. It’s an intuitive feeling, like this dream is giving me a vibe. “You're right. You know, it just feels so weird sometimes, it's like you don't even know how I felt in that dream” I laughed.
“Here's some coffee. I saw this post online that you might want to check out, being that you’re so interested in dreams. It’s this new program that will voiceover people's dreams. They ask them like, ‘what are you feeling right now? Where are you? The plane crash isn’t real, so walk away now.’ It’s a research to help guide them out of these night terrors and see if they can communicate somehow.”
“I’m supposed to let someone study my dreams? Do they see them?”
“I’m not sure actually, but it’s not like that, it’s technology to help people. I can’t wait to see what happens with dream technology.”
“I’ve always been afraid of some invention that can see inside my head.”
“I’m in a rush but I’ll send it to you from the car and we’ll talk about it more tonight!”
“Yeah, have a good day.”
“Have you ever wondered how your mind and body communicate with the physical world when you’re asleep? If you have recurring dreams that bother you and an interest in oneirology (the study of dreams, we want you to participate in the Woodland University study. We’ll be testing devices that measure brainwaves, rapid eye movement, and response.”
A week later, I was one of the participants. I didn’t think I was going to do it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I added up all of my plane dreams and decided they were all very scary, but why in the world would I be afraid of planes? I had much bigger fears that did not show up in my nightmares. I didn’t think I had a fear of planes, but maybe I had seen too many news stories about freak accidents. Even though it’s not often, there’s a handful of crashes and malfunctions within every year. But you had to apply, so why did they pick me? Because I was able to provide at least three good stories about planes.
- I’m dressed in a futuristic uniform, walking in line with people who have the same hairstyles and outfits. I want to get off. I don’t want to be on the plane, but they march me on, and I feel stranded and claustrophobic. The plane lifts off, and I start freaking out that it’s so damn high. It hovers still in the air, everyone stays seated and silent, and nothing moves until I wake up.
- I’m driving around a chaotic part of the city trying to get home, when all of a sudden there’s an emergency alarm. The traffic halts and people start running, so I run into a parking garage, wondering if I’ll really be safe there. The plane starts falling out of the sky, down down down- down so close it’s kissing the cars, but I wake up before it fully crashes.
- A plane flies low over my neighborhood, then something breaks. It loses balance, being dragged down by the side with the broken engine. I see it tumble down, down, down, until it crashes right in front of my yard. As the broken shards fly towards me, I wake up.
- The newest one, where I see the foggy sky, the building, the engine on fire, and the pieces falling down.
I received a small box in the mail. All I had to do was stick two wireless electrodes to my temples and wireless headphones in my ears. Would my dreams even do what they’re supposed to here? I then connected them to my phone per the instructions, and the voice guidance began.
“Hello! I am Dr.Carolyn Smith, the leader of our dream study. We are going to start with a few exercises, and then you will be guided through a sleep meditation. You will also hear two sounds- one that you will associate with an object and one with a place. If you see the object in your dream, turn your eyes to the right. If I hear the sound of a car horn, I will think about a red stop sign. If I then see the red stop sign, I will look to the right. Let’s practice with our eyes closed.” She played the car horn on a low volume in my headphones. Each time, I thought about the red stop sign and turned my closed eyes to the right. It didn’t have to be a hard eye roll, just a shift. “Very good” she continued. “We will be able to see when you are stressed out on the monitor during your disturbing dream, which you will begin to visualize yourself in right now, and then we will play the sound in your headphones. Next, if you hear the sound of trees rustling in the wind, think about a grassy field. If you change locations or see the field in a different direction from the disturbing event, roll your eyes to the left.”
Falling asleep instantly, I found myself in the chaotic city again. I hate traffic and crowding. I feel nervous and on edge. Then I see the plane coming. It’s very far away, gradually getting lower and closer. I start looking for a place to run and hide. I expect it to crash. I expect everyone to run, but the plane is still unnoticed. There’s no alarm yet. That one just goes by. I sigh in relief, but then I’m sitting in stop and go traffic right next to the airport! Planes fly very low over the intersection like it’s nothing. I guess they’re high up enough, but the sun goes away for the five seconds it takes each of them to pass. I hear one car leaning on its horn. Then another, and another, and another, until the radio turns on the alarm on full volume, so loud that it startles me. I immediately turn it down, watching the sky closely. The traffic is frozen again. I hear that horrible alarm from my own radio, everyone else’s car radio, and a flashing construction sign reads SORRY AND GOODBYE! I want to get out and run under the freeway bridge, huddle on the sidewalk, but no one is moving. I can’t find the parking garage. The drivers around me are all blank-faced, another aspect of my repetitive dreams. I hear a more mellow car horn going beep beep! The traffic starts up again. Everything is fine. Suddenly, I’m at a stop sign, and I turn the car right. I wake up. My phone says “test 1 complete! Wait for your results to see if you qualify for the next tests.”
Three days later, I walked in from working on the outdoor plants. My roommate was scrolling through the channels, grateful it was Friday. “I’m so interested to hear what your test results will say!”
“It was cool and everything, but I didn’t hear any voice over. The dream just kind of took a different turn. There was no crash. Maybe I did it wrong. I heard the car horn though.”
We talked a bit more, then she got up to get a snack. The story that came on was unreal: “This just in, large pieces from a plane’s engine fell from the sky while it was flying over a suburban city. Locals heard loud explosions and crashes.” An interviewee said, “I was in my yard gardening, it’s quite a cloudy day today, and then I see these things falling out of the sky! I got my dogs and I inside right away!” The reporter continued, “Another neighbor had the largest piece- the engine that caught on fire!” ‘I wasn’t home. I just got home and there was this giant piece of burnt up metal on my lawn and the police.’” I stood there with wide open eyes, shocked, but still...this has happened before.
My cell phone rang. “Hello?”
“Hi, Miss O’Connell? This is Carolyn from the polysomnography Lucid Dream experiment.”
“Hi, yes? What can I do for you?”
“We were wondering if you’d be able to actually come into our center for a few more tests. We have a luxurious sleeping facility.”
“What kind of tests?”
“Your results are of great interest. You responded to every single prompt.”
“I don’t remember responding to anything really.”
“But you did! That’s why we’d like to retest. Your response rate was exceptional. You’re in the top 1%. Our other respondents woke up during the experiment. We think you’re part of a very small, very special part of the population that could prove a world of possibilities in the study of dreams.”
“Thank you. That’s really helpful and useful information. I’ll think about it.” But something told me not to answer the phone again. I sent the device back, closed the case, and paid close attention to my dreams and wrote about them and dated them. Then, when something I dreamed about happened later on, I wrote that down too.