There is a recurring figure in a number of my dreams. About the size of the ‘Stay-Puffed’ marshmallow man of Ghostbusters but more robot and less cuddly looking; more innocuous than the fiendish evangelion figure presented above, but of that ilk.
A few nights ago, I begged the Doc to sleep in the spare room so that I would be assured of a good night’s sleep. I had been working silly hours over the preceding nights and was thoroughly sleep deprived. He conceded and I slid into bed, indulging in my much coveted centre bed position. This is going to be brilliant, I thought; I’ll read some of my book, then I’ll have a decent, deep sleep.
At about 3am, I woke in a terrified cold sweat. I had dreamed I was in my ‘home’ city (a hybrid of London, Sydney, somewhere fantastical, resembling both a port town as well as Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers; a modern-day Kind’s Landing is probably the best description) which was being evacuated due to some imminent threat – a nondescript evil horde was on its way to sack the city. My father, Sean Bean (brilliant!), was steward of the city and while I prepared myself to stand and defend, my sword at the ready, my father came and instructed me to take Astrid and flee along with all the other town folk. I was to take the ferry, he said, and make for the mainland. I duly grabbed Astrid and ran to Embankment tube station, pushed through the crowded subway and down to the bank to await the ferry. As I looked along the Thames (for it was the Thames in my dream), I saw thousands of people gathering at various ferry terminals dotted down the river, screaming and chaotically shoving their way onto the boats. It was a human scramble and I began to panic. And then, as I looked across the estuary and out to the mouth of the sea, I saw the 50-foot robot wading through the ocean and in toward the harbour city.
Sheer terror took hold of me and I remember having to mentally prime myself. In previous dreams I scurried like a rat looking for a dark hiding place, knowing that the first thing the machine would do was start crushing buildings. I was aware of my need to ignore this usual panic-stricken tendency to run and hide; that with Astrid to protect rather than just myself, a more strategic plan was imperative. At the same time, whenever we ran, despite trying to blend with the masses, I knew the machine would single us out, as if we were familiar to it.
Across the bay was a small national park island. In there, I thought, we could at least obscure ourselves; the robot would be less likely to look to destroy uninhabited forest when there was an entire city full of screaming people to annihilate. I grabbed Astrid’s arm and began to run across a highway overpass that lead over the channel. But the more we ran, the more entangled we became in a series of intersecting roads. Before I knew it, I realised we were the only two on that section of road – obvious and easy prey for the oncoming robot demon. I knew immediately that I had failed Astrid and that we would both die there, exposed and helpless.
Then I woke up. In my semi-conscious state, I tried to continue thinking constructively about escape measures. I envisaged looking down from the highway bypass and seeing by the bank an abandoned ‘tinny’ motor boat. With this helpful addition, I tried to will myself back into the dream, dragging Astrid down the stairwell from the road to the bank, jumping in the boat and buzzing along the water, across the channel to safety. But I couldn’t get back in there. Instead I became increasingly awake, lying there afraid in the dark, worrying that I had left my daughter to perish in the harsh realm of my unconscious.
I fretted for a few minutes, too scared to close my eyes, before deciding to scurry downstairs and creep into bed with the Doc. I’ve had a nightmare, I whimpered like a five-year-old. The Doc groaned at my babyishness, rolled over, putting his back to me and went back to sleep. I wrapped myself around him like a clinging little spider and eventually went to sleep, albeit haphazardly. The next day I carried with me a lingering sense of foreboding which often accompanies these sorts of dreams. Not one normally prone to superstition and definitely not one for new age dream analysis, I tend to be quite affected by these rather elaborate nocturnal mindscapes, often taking at least a day if not more to shake off the unease they instil in me. The fact that the themes as well as the figures are often recurring only adds to the malaise.
Where this figure derived from I’m not sure, but he’s been gracing my dreams with his terrifying presence for years. I think it began when I first saw Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984), a disastrous offshoot from the Star Wars trilogy, and the advent of the Gorax into my bogey man repertoire.
Scary isn’t he? Lest I remind everyone I was about six when I first saw this.
Having been subject to a fairly consistent throng of nightmares throughout my life, they did tend to peter off in my very late twenties and early thirties, only to see a spike during pregnancy. The spike is often characterised not just by giant robots, but rather the sense of apocalypse which often occurs in my dreams; sometimes it’s tidal waves, other times its medieval warfare and at others its more of a War of the Worlds motif, which is where the giant robot slots in I think. Is it anxiety about parenthood? About being able to protect my kids? That explanation seems a little banal for my liking. And yet, this sense of doom is quite heavily interrelated with children for me. For instance and at the risk of sounding like an unforgivable hippy, when I begin to dwell on the realities of global warming, nuclear war and so forth I begin to despair about what sort of fate I’m leaving my offspring too. Films like The Road and to a lesser extent, shabby sensationalist nonsense like Knowing, fill me with a deeply melancholic feeling that I have selfishly brought children into the world whose innocence will be shattered by a life of fear and privation after I have long since departed; unable to comfort them as they’re left to scramble on the ground of a cold and forsaken world. Such thinking can often send me spiralling into truly dark places.
Perhaps it is this fear that is my gorax, my evangelion demon. Or, perhaps I just watch too many apocalyptic films and should take the Doc’s advice and immerse myself in more rom-coms. After all, does this worry really serve a purpose? I can’t help but feel that on some level, it does.
Several years ago, I was dating a guy whose parents lived in Chiselhurst. His mum told me about how her mother had had to hide in Chiselhurst caves during the air raids. His father, during this discussion, went to his shed and pulled out several military issue gas masks and showed them to me, saying that any sensible person should have these in their house to equip them for the plethora of looming nuclear attacks that awaited us. Everyone laughed; my boyfriend cupped his face in his hands in abject embarrassment. Quietly, I thought his dad was onto something.
I will most definitely be one of those folk with a bomb shelter in my backyard, like some paranoid 1950s nuclear physicist. Most definitely.
Image source Vortex.com