Dream World

by R. A. Lafferty

Tags: Science Fiction, Novel-Classic,

Desc: Science Fiction Story: It was the awfullest dream in the world, no doubt about it. In fact, it seemed to be the only dream there was!

He was a morning type, so it was unusual that he should feel depressed in the morning. He tried to account for it, and could not.

He was a healthy man, so he ate a healthy breakfast. He was not too depressed for that. And he listened unconsciously to the dark girl with the musical voice. Often she ate at Cahill’s in the mornings with her girl friend.

Grape juice, pineapple juice, orange juice, apple juice ... why did people look at him suspiciously just because he took four or five sorts of juice for breakfast?


“Agnes, it was ghastly. I was built like a sack. A sackful of skunk cabbage, I swear. And I was a green-brown color and had hair like a latrine mop. Agnes, I was sick with misery. It just isn’t possible for anybody to feel so low. I can’t shake it at all. And the whole world was like the underside of a log. It wasn’t that, though. It wasn’t just one bunch of things. It was everything. It was a world where things just weren’t worth living. I can’t come out of it...”

“Teresa, it was only a dream.”


Sausage, only four little links for an order. Did people think he was a glutton because he had four orders of sausage? It didn’t seem like very much.

“My mother was a monster. She was a wart-hoggish animal. And yet she was still recognizable. How could my mother look like a wart-hog and still look like my mother? Mama’s pretty!”

“Teresa, it was only a dream. Forget it.”


The stares a man must suffer just to get a dozen pancakes on his plate! What was the matter with people who called four pancakes a tall stack? And what was odd about ordering a quarter of a pound of butter? It was better than having twenty of those little pats each on its coaster.


“Agnes, we all of us had eyes that bugged out. And we stank! We were bloated, and all the time it rained a dirty green rain that smelled like a four letter word. Good grief, girl! We had hair all over us where we weren’t warts. And we talked like cracked crows. We had crawlers. I itch just from thinking about it. And the dirty parts of the dream I won’t even tell you. I’ve never felt so blue in my life. I just don’t know how I’ll make the day through.”

“Teresa, doll, how could a dream upset you so much?”


There isn’t a thing wrong with ordering three eggs sunny-side up, and three over easy, and three poached ever so soft, and six of them scrambled. What law says a man should have all of his eggs fixed alike? Nor is there anything wrong with ordering five cups of coffee. That way the girl doesn’t have to keep running over with refills.

Bascomb Swicegood liked to have bacon and waffles after the egg interlude and the earlier courses. But he was nearly at the end of his breakfast when he jumped up.

“What did she say?”

He was surprised at the violence of his own voice.

“What did who say, Mr. Swicegood?”

“The girl that was just here, that just left with the other girl.”

“That was Teresa, and the other girl was Agnes. Or else that was Agnes and the other girl was Teresa. It depends on which girl you mean. I don’t know what either of them said.”

Bascomb ran out into the street.

“Girl, the girl who said it rained dirty green all the time, what’s your name?”

“My name is Teresa. You’ve met me four times. Every morning you look like you never saw me before.”

“I’m Agnes,” said Agnes.

“What did you mean it rained dirty green all the time? Tell me all about it.”

“I will not, Mr. Swicegood. I was just telling a dream I had to Agnes. It isn’t any of your business.”

“Well, I have to hear all of it. Tell me everything you dreamed.”

“I will not. It was a dirty dream. It isn’t any of your business. If you weren’t a friend of my Uncle Ed Kelly, I’d call a policeman for your bothering me.”

“Did you have things like live rats in your stomach to digest for you? Did they--”

“Oh! How did you know? Get away from me. I will call a policeman. Mr. McCarty, this man is annoying me.”

“The devil he is, Miss Ananias. Old Bascomb just doesn’t have it in him any more. There’s no more harm in him than a lamp post.”

“Did the lamp posts have hair on them, Miss Teresa? Did they pant and swell and smell green--”

“Oh! You couldn’t know! You awful man!”

“I’m Agnes,” said Agnes; but Teresa dragged Agnes away with her.

“What is the lamp-post jag, Bascomb?” asked Officer Mossback McCarty.

“Ah--I know what it is like to be in hell, Mossback. I dreamed of it last night.”

“And well you should, a man who neglects his Easter duty year after year. But the lamp-post jag? If it concerns anything on my beat, I have to know about it.”

“It seems that I had the same depressing dream as the young lady, identical in every detail.”


Not knowing what dreams are (and we do not know) we should not find it strange that two people might have the same dream. There may not be enough of them to go around, and most dreams are forgotten in the morning.

Bascomb Swicegood had forgotten his dismal dream. He could not account for his state of depression until he heard Teresa Ananias telling pieces of her own dream to Agnes Schoenapfel. Even then it came back to him slowly at first, but afterwards with a rush.

The oddity wasn’t that two people should have the same dream, but that they should discover the coincidence, what with the thousands of people running around and most of the dreams forgotten.

Yet, if it were a coincidence, it was a multiplex one. On the night when it was first made manifest it must have been dreamed by quite a number of people in one medium-large city. There was a small piece in an afternoon paper. One doctor had five different worried patients who had had dreams of rats in their stomachs, and hair growing on the insides of their mouths. This was the first publication of the shared-dream phenomenon.

The squib did not mention the foul-green-rain background, but later investigation uncovered that this and other details were common to the dreams.

But it was a reporter named Willy Wagoner who really put the town on the map. Until he did the job, the incidents and notices had been isolated. Doctor Herome Judas had been putting together some notes on the Green-Rain Syndrome. Doctor Florenz Appian had been working up his evidence on the Surex Ventriculus Trauma, and Professor Gideon Greathouse had come to some learned conclusions on the inner meaning of warts. But it was Willy Wagoner who went to the people for it, and then gave his conclusions back to the people.

Willy said that he had interviewed a thousand people at random. (He hadn’t really; he had talked to about twenty. It takes longer than you might think to interview a thousand people.) He reported that slightly more than sixty-seven per cent had had a dream of the same repulsive world. He reported that more than forty-four per cent had had the dream more than once, thirty-two per cent more than twice, twenty-seven per cent more than three times. Many had had it every damned night. And many refused frostily to answer questions on the subject at all.

This was ten days after Bascomb Swicegood had heard Teresa Ananias tell her dream to Agnes.

Willy published the opinions of the three learned gentlemen above, and the theories and comments of many more. He also appended a hatful of answers he had received that were sheer levity.

But the phenomenon was not local. Wagoner’s article was the first comprehensive (or at least wordy) treatment of it, but only by hours. Similar things were in other papers that very afternoon, and the next day.

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