enjoying the crab

Okay. So. I’m a futuristic marine, making my way with the rest of the corps through the undergrowth of some hostile alien territory, pointing laser rifles, making ridiculous hand gestures that are supposed to mean clicks or formation or something, who knows. Some of the other marines pass by in a troop carrier like a metal spider with fancy hydraulic legs. It’s impressive to look at but very unsteady. It’d be quicker and safer if they just got out and walked.

Suddenly I come up against a thick perspex screen with an alien behind it. Basically, the alien looks like a giant penis, with a tight fleshy head and a mouth full of crooked, spindly teeth. The alien stares at me for a while, then when it’s sure it has my complete attention, very slowly and deliberately puts a whole crab in its mouth. It crunches it up, maintaining eye contact, as if to say: You’re next. But I’m not convinced. I can see it’s not enjoying the crab.

The dream ends with us all playing football – marines, civilians, aliens – like we’re at a Cosplay convention and just decided to have a kick around in the car park. It’s a nice feeling, but I can’t help being a bit disappointed. Did I go to all that trouble and get dressed up for this?

* * *

There are lots of theories about why we dream. Some people think it’s just a kind of cerebral defrag, a way for the unplugged brain to process and store all the data flying around, and install important updates, so please – don’t wake up yet. The story element is entirely retrospective and incidental, that cute thing humans have been doing for thousands of years to try to make sense of the world. Dreams, lightning, religion – same thing. Others believe it’s your unconscious shooting a movie it hopes you’ll find personally enlightening, using whatever costumes and props it happens to have lying around. (And if you don’t – well, fine – it didn’t cost anything to make, being shot locally and entirely CGI). And then there are whole dictionaries and websites dedicated to listing the meanings behind all the thousands of common dream images (although I’m not sure that my understanding of crab is anything like yours – mine being ME as a ten year old in jelly sandals, turning over stones in a rock pool, and yours being YOU as the first mate of a trawler in the Bering Straits, hauling in a thousand dollars worth of Alaskan King Crab).

The only thing you can say for sure is that everyone dreams. Even the people who say they don’t, because if you watch them whilst they sleep (get them to sign something first) – well, excuse me, but they certainly wave their arms, jerk their legs, shout random things and spookily flick their eyes from side to side like the rest of us dreamers. So I’m guessing the difference is they can’t RECALL those dreams, or have decided it’s simply conversational death to even THINK about describing that dream they had when a bus made of cheese pulled over, the doors opened, and Maisie Williams was the driver, dressed as a cat.

So taking dreams to be your unconscious brain reaching up to your conscious brain, tapping it on the lobe and whispering: Hey! Look at this! THIS is what you REALLY feel about that thing you’ve been worrying about…, what the hell am I supposed to make of my alien dream?

A giant penis eating a crab?

Not enjoying it?

Hmm.

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