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I’m sure that it must happen to everybody.
If you’re lucky, it only occurs in dreams; that moment where some part of your brain decides that whatever horrible thing that’s currently happening is just too awful, that things will never be the same and that this cannot actually be real – and of course, it isn’t, so you wake up with a rush of relief.
That overwhelming feeling of – would you call it dissonance? I’m not sure if I actually know the word, if there is one, to convey a feeling that combines a sort of incredulous and removed sudden acknowledgement that whatever you’re experiencing is terrible and life-changing as well as an utter disbelief that it’s actually real simply because it is so horrible and shocking.
I’m still feeling like I’m totally sucking at explaining this, so here’s an example. A few months ago, I was woken from a dead, deep sleep by some seriously booming and cracking chain lightning – I had the window open, to air out some of the cigarette smoke that constantly seeped through the walls from our upstairs neighbor, and that made the noise even more intense, of course. The sound was so unlike any other lightning storm that I’d ever heard that, when combined with my sleep-addled state, my brain somehow parsed it as “holy shit we are being bombed” – even if it’s not exactly likely that our mysterious enemy would start their offensive against the USA in central Ohio, of all places. But in that moment, I felt sheer, absolute terror – then a feeling of complete helplessness (because really, if we were being bombed, what exactly could I do?) and an absolute sense of total surrealism and denial. The fact that, of course, it was actually not happening is irrelevant – that particular chain of emotions was so intense, so severe, that it branded itself into my brain to the point that I can still recall the feeling as vividly as if it had been last night, not upwards of three months ago!
Yet, if I’m being completely honest with myself, there’s something almost pleasurable about such experiences. The moment after you realize that you were just dreaming, or that the bombs were just lightning – there’s almost a bit of disappointment and yearning wrapped up along with the more sensible feeling of relief. Now why on earth would that be?
My theory is that it’s because most of us live incredibly mundane lives, and those few minutes of sheer uncertainty are the most thrilling moments we’ve ever experienced. I mentioned before that feeling of “things will never be the same” – and deep down, that is secretly appealing. Those moments of emotional freefall give us both the terror of losing everything we know as well as the hope that our future will finally be as interesting as our dreams. If I had to choose one word to describe it, it’d be “potential”. We experience in those times a vision of our life’s potential, both good and bad, and for a generation as used to living in comfort and ease as mine, that is deeply exciting. Why else would so many people yearn so desperately for something as terrible as a Zombie Apocalypse or The Robot Uprising and countless other terrible-yet-interesting scenarios?
It’s because we, as a generation, are all so mind-numbingly bored. Even if we’d all most likely die if the dead actually started to walk – knockoff anime swords and internet trolling techniques aren’t quite as effective on zombies as one might think, surprise! – there’s still that portion of our brains that still wants it to happen, just to break up the monotony.
Now, moving on. Have you ever heard of Queen Mab?
If you paid attention in English classes, you may be aware that she’s somehow related to Shakespeare and fairies. Mercutio makes a speech about her in Romeo and Juliet, and since then she’s become a figure that most people have heard of only in passing and vaguely associate with dreams.
Putting aside the part of her mythology that says she climbs into your brain through your nose (what) on a tiny carriage (no really, what), what’s most interesting is this: she apparently takes her nightly nasal voyages in order to give you dreams of your deepest, most secret desires – and then help the dreamer to ‘birth their dreams into reality’. The midwife of wish-fulfillment, basically. Doesn’t she sound lovely?
Now here’s the part where my ramblings will start to come together. If you’re at all familiar with the Fae, you should know that they tend to be more than a little mischievous. Things are not always what they seem when you’re dealing with fairies, and one of the most-repeated and probably cardinal rules of dealing with the Fae is this:
Do not accept their gifts, because there are always strings attached. Even the sweetest fairy present will have a bitter aftertaste.
So what happens when we combine a generation who secretly dreams of tragedy to free them from their boredom with a being who makes it her business to turn dreams into reality?
I think that the perverse, trickster side of our little fairy queen would be quite tickled by the idea of passing over such simple wishes like true love or superpowers or a money tree in favor of the more complicated, darker desires that we all possess. Fairies love their double-edged deals; delivering us to our collective dooms while still being able to honestly say they were just granting our deepest wishes is just so perfectly Fae it almost hurts.
It’s funny, isn’t it? Growing up, so many of us have been told to follow our dreams.
With Queen Mab’s help, we may end up following them right to humanity’s end.
Credit: Emilie Magnus