I had two weird dreams last night, which I suppose was technically all part of the same dream, wherein I was visited by dead people. I mean they weren’t dead in the dream, but my brain was self aware enough to be like, you know these people don’t belong here in your house…they’re dead…also they’re Terry Pratchett and Robin Williams, and let me tell you friends, it was as wonderful and weird as you can imagine it being.
I first knew something was off kilter because when I walked into my kitchen, Terry Pratchett was sitting there drinking a mug of tea. The dragon under the stove was also a give away, but famous authors, even dead ones, are not often found in my kitchen (contrary to what you’ve heard about my baking). He was reading something, and to my absolute horror I realized it was one of my manuscripts. I started to stutter and sat down in front of him, and because I am British offered him a slice of cake to go with his tea so I might slide my work out from under his fingers. Not to be distracted by the prospect of a Victoria Sponge however, Terry looked up at me and said “It’s a shame really, I was rather enjoying it until the words just stopped…why did you stop? Did you lose your words too?”
At which point I rocketed upright in bed and tried to rationalize why Terry Pratchett would be in my dream and giving me a mild telling off for not writing anything…and then because it was Terry Pratchett and I miss him I had a bit of a cry and went back to sleep.
Which was when I “woke up” in my bed because I was being prodded in the side. Assuming it was my husband trying to wake me I rolled over and told him to go away, at which point the voice of Robin Williams bounced around the room at full volume as he yelled “Rise and shine funny-girl, it’s time to climb the walls!”
Ah yes, thought I, I am still asleep and dreaming…or I am in a coma and someone is playing Robin Williams to try and wake me up…which was the point when I heard Terry Pratchett ask “is she up yet?”
“Tip her out the bed.”
So because Terry Pratchett told him to, Robin Williams tipped me out of my dream bed and laughed at me when I swore.
“Ach aye, there’s your accent lassie, none of that Amerrrrrican inflection eh? Just had to get you good and mad eh?” said Mr Williams, in his own Scottish imitation as he hauled me upright and carried me over his shoulder out the door while I squawked and flailed.
The next few images where a blur, but after that we were in a castle which I recognized to be one of my own ideas, my own characters stood still like cutout cardboard mannequins, frozen in time. Terry was walking between them, pausing every now and then to peer at them through his spectacles like they were an exhibit it a wax museum and giving a little nod every so often, like he had just seen the eyelashes in the wax and was mildly impressed.
Robin at this point had his arm around my shoulder and was giving me the grand tour of my own work, yelling out jokes about my characters and making me laugh at them.
“And here we have underdeveloped character number three! Half baked and still gooey at the center, it’s salmonella for everybody but at least it tastes good!”
When I looked round again, Terry was sitting at the foot of the dais to the empty throne, sheets of paper between his hands again as he read from the script.
“It says here “exeunt pursued by man in bear suit”…” he said.
“I thought it was funny…” I replied sheepishly…looking at the world which had sparkled mere moments before and watching the color seep away until it was turning grey and cold at the edges… “I thought…well it doesn’t matter I scrapped it.”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you lose your words?”
“Then why aren’t you writing?”
“I don’t…”—by now the world was starting to fall apart and crumble to dust, falling upwards into the pitch black sky as though it was being pulled away by a black hole.
Robin came in front of me then, placing both giant hands on my shoulders and leaning in until we were butting heads.
“I know it’s hard,” he said, smiling right into my soul, “I know it’s hard when all you want to do it stop, and sometimes you have to, sometimes you can’t chase the demons out, but what you can do, and no one ever tells you this…what you can do…is make ‘em laugh. You can’t burn ‘em out, you can’t chase ‘em out, and you can’t leave without them because it’s your head, but you can make ‘em laugh. You can shake hands with the devil and make him laugh and the world is your clam chowder, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll still find the pearl. Does that make sense? No? Good, nothing makes sense, nothing in this whole existence we like to pretend is reality makes sense, nothing but doing your best and trying to make yourself happy, and if you can’t do that do it for others. You can, you know you can…otherwise your mother wouldn’t be so angry when you tell jokes and there wouldn’t be a man over there dressed in a bear suit waiting to follow us out.”
I laughed, realizing I had been crying when the sound came out harsh and broken. I looked over to where he pointed, and there was indeed a man in a bear suit. He waved, and I waved back. By now the world had dissolved, the walls melting away until only the cut out people remained, illuminated by starlight where previously there had only been black. I turned round when I felt a hand on my shoulder and found Terry standing behind me, his eyes crinkling up under bushy eyebrows as he smiled, handing me back my manuscript.
“I have to go now,” he said, “we both do, because this isn’t real and you’re dreaming. But I’ll have that cake before I go.”
So the three of us turned together to walk out over the stars, pursued by a man in a bear suit.
I woke up sometime before four am, with a heavy ache in my throat, feeling rung out and completely exhausted, but ultimately feeling as though somehow everything is going to be okay. I’ve got walls to paint and chores to do, but later on I’m going to bake a cake and then I’m going to write. And I’m keeping the bear suit joke.