Rooms and demons, demons in rooms. You force them into one little attic room in your head so you can throw away the key forever. But they keep on knocking ...
By most accounts, rumors, fantasies, speculations, and near-death experiences, “hell" is a highly personal place. Since my demonic nightmares started two years ago, I have come to the realization that almost every dream takes place in one particular room. Now, on nights when I’m forced to take one of these subterranean trips against my will, I try to stop dream time and take a closer look at the interiors. Is it a place that I recognize? Is it a room dredged up from the depths of my memory? As far as I can remember, it's not a room that I know. But maybe I haven’t dug back far enough yet.
Occasionally, I have this recurring dream of exasperating monotony and inexplicable inertia –
I'm in a car driving down a road at night. I can only see a couple feet ahead of me, a small patch of road illuminated by my headlights. The entire universe outside of this space is pitch black. There are occasional curves in the road, but it's unclear whether my car is driving down a linear road of infinite length, or a closed circular path, like an ouroboros. I have no idea where I’m going or if I’ll ever get there. Even worse, time is insufferably dilated during these subterranean trips. When I’m trapped on this road, it feels like I have spent days and weeks trying to reach an unknown destination. But upon waking, I would discover only 10 minutes had passed. I’ve come to call this dream “sisyphus road” – a universe filled with cruel illusions of a grand escape, but in actuality all paths lead nowhere.
Some nights, I toss and turn in bed and let my past surface to the top of my consciousness. When I look back, inertia is a prison I’m intimately familiar with. As an only child born unexpectedly into my mother’s life, I was not an extension of my her hopes and dreams, but instead a mystery and a burden. My childhood came to be filled with daily fear and disappointments. For the first 18 years of my life, disappearing inside of myself was the easiest way to assuage her rage. Don’t move, don’t speak, don’t cry; recede into the void and be nothing. Inevitably, this constriction for survival became muscle memory, and the panopticon that my mother built followed me into my adulthood. But after years of compartmentalization, running away, and not living, I realized something else of hers also came along. The other night, I had an epiphany about this dream loop. It was never really about anxiety of the unknown. When I’m behind the wheel driving into the darkness, feeling powerless against the inertia and lack of control, I’m using all my strength to suppress something that has been slowly building inside of me for years – RAGE.
/*The voice pitch and soundscape are approximated from my recollection of the dream*/
This morning as I drifted in and out of consciousness (a state scientifically known as hypnagogia), I heard a deafening roar in one fleeting moment of darkness. It was low and male, a coercive invitation in drawn out hellspeak. I could feel the endless hunger in its voice. It took me no longer than a second to realize what was going on and I immediately woke myself up. Because if I hadn’t, I knew it would drag me down into the deepest cavities of its most forbidden interiors and inhospitable landscapes – it would be filled with unspeakable savagery, traps, voids, impossible barriers and inescapable black holes, time warps forcing me into my unhappy pasts, minutes dilated into years.
If I get lost down here, I always run the risk of not having enough strength to break this demonic terror spell.
There’s a book called “The Third Reich of Dreams: The Nightmares of a Nation, 1933-39”, and it’s a compilation of dreams collected by journalist Charlotte Beradt during the years of Nazi Germany. It documented the fervor and madness that engulfed the German people, and as the regime’s psychopathic pathology consumed their entire being, their dreamscapes descended into relentless paranoia, brutality, and impotence. Even in the privacy of their nocturnal freedom, many did not dare stand up to Hitler, much less entertain revenge fantasies. The persecuted dreamt obsessively of documentation to prove their legitimacy as human beings, and unleashed their paranoia into their most intimate spaces: betrayal and abandonment by neighbors and lifelong friends, or storm troopers (Sturmabteilung) chasing them to the ends of the earth until the end of time. Paradoxically, government officials feared surveillance of thoughts and telepathic eavesdropping. Only resistance fighters had agency, envisioning themselves refusing complicity at all costs, but these dreams always ended in inevitable suffering as well – their torture and deaths. At best, Nazi Germany denizens were imprisoned in an endless loop of paralysis and shame; at worst, the regime owned every single part of them, including their unconscious selves, to the extent that they believed they were forbidden to dream.
If one was to conduct the same census of dreams today in trump’s America 2017, I bet a similar descent into fear, anxiety, and madness can be mapped across this nation’s subliminal continent. It will reveal an American psyche changing on a fundamental level, and eventually permanently reborn by this administration. I know mine is, and I can sense it fracturing microscopically on a daily basis …
I've been having a series of disembodiment and dissociation dreams lately, but they can’t be classified as escapades. In fact, I can't "run away" to anywhere specific, it's simply different kinds of voids and "placeless” spaces that I get stuck in. I usually wake up filled with dread and with a low-grade anxiety that follows me through the day. At this point, my subconscious has built a fairly detailed hellscape (demonic whisperings in Aramaic; possessions; black holes; distorted runaway laws of physics, etc.) that I truly have a full menu of nightmarish triggers to choose from every night.
Existential anxiety: It wasn't until I watched a science doc about how our universe would end that I started to understand what the voids in my dreams were – it’s an unimaginably distant post(10^10 trillion … ∞)-apocalyptic future, where our bodies and the world as we know it have ceased to exist, but the universe and entropy relentlessly continued, until time itself has reached its natural conclusion. In my dreams, I have never seen a void collapse back into some kind of "primordial atom" (like in a "Big Crunch" scenario). But interestingly enough, the voids all “feel" different – some are expectant, full of pent up energy, as if waiting for an excuse to explode. Others feel dark, full of fear, pain, and death; a resigned and exhausted end after eons of interminable suffering. Most often they just want to show me the moment I disappear and how inconsequential my existence is: in some kind of “Phase Transition” scenario the universe resets itself and within a few minutes all the atoms in the cosmos are rearranged, wiping out the fact of our existence forever, and none of us even knew it happened.
“Within the universe are the seeds of our own destruction" physicist Michio Kaku said matter of factly through my computer screen one restless night, and it’s becoming more prescient by the day. One of these nights, I’d like to have a flying dream, I haven't had one in a very, very long time …
The dream started out fairly quotidian – I was in my room searching for something (I can't remember what). Then suddenly, without provocation, my unconscious mind throws up a name – Pazuzu. Most people today know him as the demon that possessed Reagan MacNeil in the movie "The Exorcist” (William Friedkin, 1973). But he's an ancient violence, an entity conjured up in the days of first millennium Mesopotamia, a demon of famine and destruction powerful enough to be called upon to scare off lesser demons. My heart sank and I’m thinking “motherfucker, here we go again”, my room is about to collapse into a netherworld dimension and I have to witness yet another horrific demonic possession.
However in this dream, TIME became the threat. It slowed to quicksand, seconds felt like hours, and I had to fight against it with all my strength. Then my arm started tingling and losing sensation, and as I tried to move forward in space, I began to disappear into this newly formed void.
What it felt like was a vacuum of “unmade” space: no temperature, no energy, no sound, no atoms – a kind of “end” of spacetime. At this point in the dream, I remembered something that a scientist said in a documentary I watched a couple nights ago, “eternity doesn’t exist” she said, and even “space and time" and blackholes "will come to an end" trillions and trillions of years from now. And in fantastical dream logic I have arrived at this endpoint of our universe, literally stuck somewhere "in between” – behind me was everything I had ever known, and in front of me was the ultimate epilogue, a ghost universe where all the stars have died and the sky has turned black, the laws of physics are starting to break down, and the fabric of the universe itself is ripping apart, dissolving reality along with it.
I was able to wake myself up before I completely disappeared into this void.
In my dream last night, a fallen angel fell out of the void, wailing in unspeakable pain.
Their anger and disappointment felt as viscerally painful as mine.
They wept for a long time, then the fallen angel finally asked, ”Where do you want to spend eternity?"
I sat in that sea of darkness exhausted, responding with silence.
Keanu Reeves as Constantine, at the threshold of hell and earth.
Lately, I’ve been having feverish and vivid nightmares. For the past year, I’ve had recurring dreams of demonic possession where high ranking demons invade and fight for power within the bodies of people I know. In the dreams, I am put in the position of the exorcist and forced to confront these impossible crucibles. It usually starts as tauntings (demons supposedly know your darkest secrets and fears to use against you), then they go into various disguises (in the last couple episodes the demons actually started speaking what I think is Enochian, which is rumored to be the language of the angels), and finally the visual imagery escalates to a disgusting body horror spectacle – the entities are basically eating the host body alive and I stand there impotent, paralyzed with fear as the people I know disintegrate into the void.
It's usually at this point when I have to scream myself awake, breaking through multiple nested dreams and layers of consciousness (something I’ve never had to do), and I’m left spending the rest of the night trying to separate reality “wake state" from my psyche and questioning whether everything is just an illusion (the Enochian speaking demons threw me off). The nightmares have become part horror movie, internal psychosis, daily political anxiety, apocalyptic visions of a fallen world, but most of all, I resent how Catholic these nightmares are – I went to Catholic school but clearly it means nothing to me, since I can’t even recite a prayer to save my life. I am only consoled by the fact that I am THE EXORCIST and not the possessed.
So now, fueled by these nightmares, I’m on an occult binge: learning about exorcisms and its origins (humans have probably been warding off evil spirits since they fell out of the trees), reading up on things like xenoglossy and demonology, and watching A LOT of Constantine, especially the Keanu Reeves ❤️one.
I found my dream diary that I kept when I was 14 or 15. Here’s one of the more coherent and PG rated dreams that I recorded –
Met Salvador Dali in a dream. We were sitting in a house near the Mediterranean Sea. We were discussing art, I was sketching and he was correcting them. The phone rang and he answered it. It was his mother asking him to come home. He angrily answered "no”. Then I woke up.
As a teenager, I used to have a beautiful and haunting recurring dream where I would watch from very far away ships falling off the edge of the earth, into a black void.