BY SHANE O'SULLIVAN - Ireland
I have been a light sleeper for as long as I can recall and, consequently, I’m interested in aids that deepen the sleep experience.
I took to wearing a humble eye mask in recent times, the type that used to be given out on overnight flights.
I wore it nightly with some success, until a ‘know it all’ friend advised me that most masks prevent the eyelids from flickering, a key step in the REM or dream-making part of sleep.
On hearing this it struck me that I had not been dreaming (in as far as I can consciously recall) for some time so I took to sleeping commando, at least from an eye mask perspective!
I’ve been rewarded in good and bad measure for the change in approach.
Curiously, a childhood nightmare has returned. It’s one where I’m being chased by an ambulance, making good my escape, until suddenly I’m not. For no apparent reason my sprinting, cartoon-style legs begin to slow with the inevitability of a decelerating treadmill. The more I try to run, the lesser my legs respond. Resistance is simply futile. Trampus, our sheepdog, my protector and friend, is within sight but out of reach, as always was the case with this now age-old nightmare.
The dream never develops beyond this point. No person in a white coat alights from the vehicle to complete the capture. Instead, I remain in suspended animation, as was the case all those years ago. There is one difference this time round though. Back then I could hear the sirens a long way off, before I caught sight of the ambulance itself on our countryside road, whereas this time there are no sirens, just the flashing lights fast approaching from a distance. There is something more sinister about this silent, flashing ambulance that chooses not to forewarn of its arrival or purpose.
There is a theme of slow-motion and silence about the good dream too, but it is altogether more cathartic, if not as recurrent as its bedfellow.
Picture this: It’s a weekend morning, early, the hinterland between night and day, the half-sleep before awakening. The wispy curtains are drawn, and the window ajar. A light breeze blows the page of an open book on a bedside table. I am resting but not about to stay put. A slow, gentle levitation commences up, up and up still. Morning becomes afternoon and I am high in the atmosphere now. There is an embalming warmth, the sizzle of heat. It’s a perfectly pitched existence, until it isn’t.
A misty veil begins to form. There is an anticipation of something impending. It engenders the same sense of helplessness that the silent white ambulance generates. It is visceral, certain and beyond anticipation.
Then, thankfully, the point of inflection. There remains a sense of something approaching, never before experienced, but a certainty now that this is a force for good. The silence becomes omnipresent. This must be what outer space feels like. Or what it sounds like inside a very inflated balloon.
My attention, on high alert, is brought to one single pore on my skin, where there emerges a searing yellow light, a tremendous, overpowering bolt of purifying energy. It spreads at pace to all other pores of the skin, a honeycomb effect, combined with, of all things, a fit of the giggles. A cranial burst follows, an implosion, a thought of hemorrhage, but instead a calm, overpowering serenity. The dream continues, in that decelerating treadmill fashion until, slowly and surely, the wispy curtains return. I am re-born.
So, what does this all mean and where to from here? Should I invite or ignore the advice of ‘know it all’ friends? Or seek to understand better the doors of my mind? Or maybe I should just concede and give myself up to simply ‘living the dream’.
Shane O’Sullivan is a new writer, having taken up the pen in his spare time this year. Based in Dublin, and aged in his early fifties, Shane has a particular interest in short, non-fiction essays.