Water on the Brain

on May 4, 2011 in Fiction

Every night, I dream of the lake.

It started sometime after college. The lake is never there when the dream begins. I’ll be sitting in a classroom in my old high school, or at the mall, or walking down the street in the middle of town. The dream will start up and it might be a bunch of random nonsense or there might be something like a plot… or maybe it’s always random nonsense but sometimes I’m able to see a plot.


The point is that when my dreams start off they’re like anybody else’s, like mine used to be. But sooner or later the water starts to rise. It comes up through the ground or floor or whatever I’m standing on. The other surroundings are submerged, or carried away, or just seem to recede on their own. Ceilings disappear. Buildings open up. Eventually everything goes away and it’s just me and the lake, clear and calm as can be.

The lake is the same every time. It’s round, but not perfectly round. It’s maybe a few hundred yards across and maybe eight feet deep in the middle. The shores are dirt, not sand. Sometimes the ground is dry and cracked just a few feet away from the water. Sometimes it’s muddy and wet. Sometimes it’s powder. If I walk away from the lake in any direction I’ve picked, I can walk across unchanging ground until I wake up.

I’m never surprised by the arrival of the water, but I don’t expect it. If I’m dreaming that I’m in an auditorium and there are zombies trying to break in, I never think, “Gosh, I have to get out of here before it floods.” or “Maybe the water will take care of the zombies.” I accept the zombie scenario as real and deal with it like it’s the only reality that matters, until the water comes and carries it all away.

There’s nothing disturbing about the lake. The whole thing bothers me only in that I can’t explain it. I don’t know why it happens. I don’t know what it means. I’ve asked psychiatrists and psychologists about it. I’ve seen sleep experts. The first thing anyone wants to know is if I wet the bed. There’s always an“aha!” moment, a triumphant look on their face when they ask me that and a bit of disappointment or confusion when I tell them no. The worst of them tell me that they can’t help me as long as I insist on lying to them.

It doesn’t matter. None of them can help me anyway. The best I’ve ever gotten is advice: if it doesn’t cause you problems, don’t worry about it.

Good advice, but I never did worry, precisely. I just wanted to know if it meant something.

I don’t have any childhood traumas relating to water. We never lived by a lake. My parents took me swimming sometimes when I was a kid. Sometimes I liked it and sometimes I didn’t. Lakes never meant much to me before. They still don’t, really. I have no strong association for water in general or even my lake in particular.

It’s just, “Oh, here it is again.”

My girlfriend says I should try to find the lake in real life, but I don’t think it exists. It’s too perfect. Too regular. And there’s something unfinished about it that’s hard to put my finger on. She won’t let go of the idea that it existed somewhere and that there is some meaning, something I’m meant to go and see. She thinks there’s something important about the dream, something supernatural.

I don’t blame her. The first time it happened, I thought it was weird. The second time it was like, heh, that’s kind of funny. I thought that thinking about it had given me the same dream two nights in a row. The third time it was weird again. Then when it didn’t stop, I thought what she thinks: this is important. This means something.

After more than ten years of the same lake taking over my dreams every night, I’m not ruling out anything as far as a cause goes. It could be supernatural. It could mean something. But after ten years of the same dream and no sense of urgency and no change, I don’t think that supernatural necessarily means important.

Every night, I dream of the lake.

That’s all.

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