Which came first, the dream or the narrative?

What would your last dream look like if you asked the AI Gods to render it as art?
Odd concept? No.

***Also… don’t do this – it removes jobs from artists and writers who work incredibly hard to produce content. ***

It is derived from the inner workings of the mind during REM sleep. As we wake, these images are more likely to stay with us and thus remain in our memories.

Many of the stories I have written have been the product of dreams. For instance, I have a piece in the oven right now inspired purely by a dream, and it is not a genre that I would typically delve into; however, when the universe gives specific signals, it is prudent not to ignore them.

We write stories with our minds, and if we are lucky to remember them – eventually with our hands (or other digits, I am not partial). My dreams are incredibly foretelling.

Small gnome-like creatures run amuck in my psyche’s bog, screaming in aphasic tongue and riddles of infinite deliberation. It feels like nothing makes sense, as if nothing could apply to present life. I sit there on my bed as the garbage truck outside screeches its load into the… ass-end of it. I can’t remember the name of it. It’s early. Cut me some slack here. Why would I find myself naked on the beach, holding a peanut butter jar and a handful of seaweed to cover the clam? Why?

Carl Jung thinks there is an entire “narrative structure”, as detailed in this article by Scott Meyers over at Go Into the Story. Our horror writing professor recommended it as an optional supplemental read on dreams and their translations into our writing. I, of course, indulged.

“The dream begins with a statement of place, next comes a statement about the protagonist. I call this phase of the dream the exposition. It indicates the scene of action, the people involved, and also often the initial situation of the dream way.
The second phase comes the development of the plot.
The third phase brings the culmination of peripeteia, a sudden change of events, a reversal of circumstances, used by Aristotle. Here something decisive happens if something changes completely.
The fourth and last phase is alysis, the solution or result produced by the dream work.
This division into four phases can be applied without much difficulty to a majority of dreams met with in practice, an indication that dreams generally have a dramatic structure.”

“On the Nature of Dreams” by Carl Jung

It makes sense if you think about it. Typically, our nightmares are plagued with the plight of finding ourselves (or an unknown character) in some sort of distress. This is where we are faced with the question – “why am I naked on a beach? What is the peanut butter for?” Dogs! They are chasing me!
“Good job! You saved the whole pack!” From what?! What am I DOING?”

Yeah, I usually wake up before I ever find out, so I don’t totally agree, Carl, but it’s a cool concept. However, on the topic of writing – I feel that dreams are the best inspiration for fiction, especially horror writing. The ability of the mind to make zero sense and still produce a sensical chronology is reasonably impressive.

It is our job as writers to interpret these signs as the word oracles that we are. This is what we throw into the cauldron of our minds to bubble up a concoction of words that terrify the fraying edges of the readers’ consciousness.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Scott writes, “Do we dream with a narrative structure because of our exposure to stories or do we write stories with narrative structure because of how we dream?”

Did the narrative come before the dream, or did the dream hatch the narrative?

In answering this question, I postulated… how do the blind, deaf, or/AND mute dream? How can one have a narrative if they’ve never experienced a visual or auditory narrative? Is narrative native to our minds?

Narrative, telling stories, dates back to 700 BC! In fact, this is the best method of transporting information from one culture to another over time. It is what builds our history and language. Stories are the gas in the engine of imagination and survival. Without stories, our ancestors would never have been able to spread warnings about plants, animals and other dangers. Nor could they have shared their knowledge or creative processes.

I may be biased, but I believe humanity would be extinct without storytelling.


Back on track. Storytelling and narrative are as much a part of us as sight and sound. It is in our genetics. Thus, I believe the narrative came before the dreams.

Going back to the blind, deaf and mute. It is suspected that they, too, experience dreams. It is different, but there is a narrative. If individuals without the ability to experience the world through the same lens can dream stories – it is only natural to accept narrative -> dream -> story.

How do Blind/Deaf People Dream?

Imagine a world where your stories are touch, smell, and taste based. You cannot see, you cannot hear, and you cannot speak.


by Arwen-Wynter Oakley


Elizabeth pressed her lips into Sadie’s neck and pursed them slightly. With a short inhale, she buzzed her lips on her daughter’s pale neck. Sadie squirmed and parted her thin lips into a wide smile. Three more taps on her shoulder.
Sadie nodded vigorously.

“Okay, breakfast it is!” Elizabeth said to herself. She grabbed Sadie’s hand and guided her gently to her small maple dresser. She guided her daughter’s tiny hands to the drawer and tapped her twice. Sadie nodded her head and plunged her hands to the elbows into her sock drawer – feeling.
Her mouth opened wide, and she smiled, teeth apart; such a sweet and goofy girl, my Sadie. She brandished two socks of equal length, one red polka dots and the other green squirrels.

Elizabeth giggled a buzz into Sadie’s curly black hairline. Her misty eyes reflected the Manhattan sunlight like ponds in midwinter dawn. Her daughter squeed and laughed, hugging Liz’s slim mahogany legs.

Breakfast was the same as always, the way Sadie liked it. Orange juice with pulp for texture. Blueberry pancakes with powdered sugar and strawberries for flavor. Toast, extra crispy, with blackberry jam; her favorite music through cochlear implants to finish it off.

“Uhhhnnnggghhh,” she moaned, pointing toward the corner cabinet or the floor.

Liz turned to her seven-year-old and smiled, “yes, honey, in 10,” she responded, holding ten soapy fingers up. Sheepishly, she returned to washing dishes. It’s easy to forget that her world is dark.

Sadie smiled and giggled some more, jam seeping from the edge of her mouth. Oh, my Sadie, how does the world look to you? How do you see? Would you know me from Annabelle next door? Painful memories trickled down her worry-worn cheeks into the sink below, popping tiny bubbles dancing on the dishwater.

Officer, do you remember? When was she lost? The days we counted while people searched and phones rang nonstop… I do. My Sadie was snatched by that lunatic mother at the park. She took her right out of the sandbox – led her halfway through the Upper East Side before she realized. Dumped my baby like trash in Mayor Timmons’ front yard. Her little brown arms wiggling into the air – oh… my Sadie. Thank goodness he was home. Sadie latched onto him as if he were her father, just as she had quickly gone with that lunatic. Sadie, do you even know me?

Sadie stood on weak legs and carefully stepped her mismatched feet to the refrigerator – following the counter until bumping into Liz’s hip. he opened her mouth to speak, but only air came out.

“Thank you, baby,” she responded with two taps atop her daughter’s curly black head.

“Mrs. Desmond, Sadie is showing concerning signs in her artwork. I am very concerned for your daughter’s safety. I am very concerned for your daughter’s safety. I am calling to arrange a meeting between the three of us to discuss these recent images. Thank you.”

Sent via iPhone at 6:47 pm on December 13th

Clark Hampton PsyD
Hampton Psychiatric Services
East 77th Avenue
New York, NY 11075

“Them” – Sadie Desmond

“Elizabeth, please answer me. I am terribly worried about Sadie’s mental health. Her images are becoming incredibly concerning. I feel as though we may have to intervene with inpatient therapy, Mrs. Desmond. I am very worried. This is the second email I have sent to you. I have left numerous voicemails. Mrs. Desmond, I am going to call the police.”

Sent via iPhone at 9:32 am on March 7th

Clark Hampton PsyD
Hampton Psychiatric Services
East 77th Avenue
New York, NY 11075

“Bye, Bye” – Sadie Desmond

“We are here today on the Upper East Side reporting straight from the crime scene. NYPD has confirmed that there are two dead inside Grand March Apartments. The identity of the victims has yet to be released. Stay tuned for upcoming details regarding this horrendous tragedy.”

Officer Gerald pushed open the second-floor apartment door; it was unlocked as expected. No one locks their doors on the Upper East Side. The smell permeated through the inch-wide gap in the open door. Dan winced as he pushed the door open, pausing every few inches to stifle a gag.

The putrid scent of the long-dead enveloped him as he stepped inside the dark living space. The carpet depressed with a sickening bubbling as he stepped closer to a lump on the small chaise lounge by a tall bay window. Swarms of flies erupted from the mass as Dan edged closer. With trembling hands, he flicked on the long metal flashlight, illuminating a black heap – wet and wriggling. A surge of nausea washed over his body with tremendous force. He couldn’t hold it back. A plume of flies swarmed over him as the chunks of vomit splattered on the soggy carpet below.

“Get the coroner! I can’t do this. I can’t fucking do this. I can’t even see what is dead, for fuck’s sake!” he screamed into his radio.

“Tara, get my lashes. We have an update. It’s juicy, too.” Cammie Underwood instructed sharply. Crime reporting was her forte, and this was going to be her break. A murder-suicide! How exciting!

“Live in 3… 2… 1…”
“Good afternoon, New York. This is Cammie Underwood reporting from 77th Street, where we have an update on the atrocities committed inside of this sleepy apartment building.” she opened gleefully.

“After eight hours of intense investigation, we have been informed that there are two dead. Elizabeth Desmond, 37, of Manhatten and Sadie Desmond, 14, her daughter, were found by police after a concerned physician asked NYPD to perform a welfare check on the family. Psychiatrist Clark Hampton of Hampton Psychiatric Services reported increasing concerns for the welfare of Sadie Desmond – a deaf, blind, and mute child that has been under his care for the past 10 years.”

Sirens wailed in the distance signifying the arrival of the coroner. Bands of onlookers watched as the bodies of both Elizabeth and Sadie were toted down the stairs, almost too small to look human. Two women vomited, and three passed out, but mostly everyone left after the smell of the dead wafted into the streets.

“The daughter, Sadie, found solace in music through specially designed cochlear implants. However, she began to draw out her dreams over the past few years. Dr. Hampton became concerned as the images turned from amorphous shapes to haunting, detailed imagery of violence. In December, Sadie drew an image, here in the upper right of the screen,” Cammie continued, pointing to the virtual display, “the shapes are undefined but obviously displaying both human and inhuman characters.”

The wailing of friends to the family intensified as the bodies were loaded into the same hearse. They didn’t need two when all that was left was soggy, putrid flesh and maggots.

“In his second email to Mrs. Desmond, he included the second photo. This photo clearly displays violence between two figures. Mrs. Desmond had not answered Mr. Hampton the first nor the second time. His concern was heightened when Sadie stopped attending scheduled appointments. He called NYPD today, who have confirmed this as a murder-suicide. Young Sadie Desmond could not handle her isolation anymore. It is suspected that due to the difference in decomposition – Sadie murdered her mother in December and then committed suicide near mid-February.” Cammie continued.

Cammie pressed her left hand to her diamond-clad ear. Her face twisted as she listened to the information being passed to her.

“Wait! We have an update. It’s fresh too!”

“Dr. Hampton received an email approximately five days ago. It is from Sadie Desmond! He states, “Sadie Desmond sent a pre-scheduled email that arrived five days ago. I had not read it as I was on vacation without the internet. It is incredible. It reads, “Dr. Hampton, I know it does not seem like it, but I can hear, see and speak. In my dreams. I have a family there, a life, and friends. I can see the people in the darkness of my mind. They call me. I answer in a voice I never had when I was awake. I hear the voices of the figures. They tell me to join their family. They showed me how. I did it. I took away the mother that made this monster – me. I waited and listened, and when I was ready, I took myself as well.

I can see clearly here.”

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: