The city and the mall

This is my first foray into making my dreams public. How fitting that this should also be the first dream during my newest venture into biphasic sleep…

I have a history of recurring dreams. Some are pretty standard. Some are incredibly, heart-wrenchingly poignant. Fortunately, none of them are nightmares. But, this one is certainly one that leaves me out of sorts when I awake…

There is a nameless city which I have visited thousands of times in my dreams. This city is as compact as a Japanese metropolis, and as sprawling as Dallas/Fort-Worth. It has suburbs, and boroughs. Havens of prosperity, and dens of iniquity. And, it distorts time and space. You could walk the same street a hundred times in your lifetime, and it would never take you the same place twice.

In this city, there’s a building. It has ten floors, with a two-story mall on the ground floor and an executive suite in the penthouse. The mall, itself, has many of the features of the city. It is a sprawling maze almost designed to get you lost. There’s a food court far larger than should fit in the building, and many interconnecting department stores and specialty stores. If any of you have read House of Leaves, some of the space-bending properties may seem familiar.

It’s unclear to me whether the building is part of the city, or if the city is what it is because the building infects it. Either way, this building is at the heart of it all. If I’ve been in the city thousands of times, I’ve been in this building – this mall – millions. Almost as though it were a conduit between my other dreams and their worlds.

Over time in my countless explorations of the mall, I began to find back paths and extra-dimensional shortcuts. I would turn a corner or take some stairs on one end of the building, and I would come out in a hall clear on the other side and on the same floor. M.C. Escher would be so proud. But one time, I took some stairs, and I found a basement, in a building with no basement. And so I explored. Vast, empty halls and rooms I explored. Until I found the elevators.

Now, there’s nothing strange about elevators in a ten story building. Except, I’d never seen them before. And upon inspection, these elevators had buttons for every floor – except the basement. Buttons, 1-10. In exactly one elevator, however, there was an additional button situated next to 10. It was a little, black, 12-point star with a light in the middle. It almost looked like the plastic cover for the button had come off at some time. This button, no matter how often I pressed it, did not do a thing.

Over time, I learned more about these elevators. They had always been there, but unless you knew where to look, you would walk right by them, none the wiser. Having no button for the basement, these elevators were impossible to discover unless you happened to stumble across the basement as I had.

To my great misfortune, these elevators were never intended for public use. I became a person of interest to the building’s security, and what had been a time of peaceful exploration quickly became a string of hurried chases, filled with anxiety. I found myself running down halls and using the many shortcuts and secrets I had learned to evade my would be captors.

Even during these frenetic chases, I continued to learn more of this building. At some point I had begun learning about the city outside, as I was learning of the building inside. And as had happened with security, the city’s law enforcement had begun a man hunt, as well. In my attempts to evade all of these pursuers, I eventually found back entrances to the building from the city outside. Some of these were even more elevators with a single, 12-point star button. This button, when pressed, would bring me to one of the department stores, close behind me and disappear, blending into the wood paneling without so much as a crack hinting at its existence. Over time, I came to use these elevators more and more, as the building’s security became aware of my tricks and blocked off many of my shortcuts. And then, one day, I finally discovered the purpose of the non-functional button in that basement elevator.

During one of my many chases, and in my haste, I hit a couple of buttons at the same time. Including the star. Up the elevator shot, all the way to the 10th floor. But, when it arrived, the doors did not open. Instead, one of the walls slid to the side, and I was blinded by a flash of light. I had found the heart of the building. What I still believe to be the secret center of this dream universe. I have since returned there countless times, and learned the logic behind the elevators. But, I am never allowed to recall what I saw or learned in that hidden room. I am fully aware of its existence, but not of its purpose. Every time I return to this room, the dream begins anew. Each time, I am a little more aware and a little more familiar. But, the cycle never ends.

The elevator’s logic, at this point, is likely an unimportant detail… but here it is.

They are, in all cases, normal elevators, except for a few details.

  1. Having no button for the basement, the elevators cannot be used to reach that level. This makes the basement exceptionally difficult to reach, because its entrance moves as much as the rest of the building changes. It also makes the elevators difficult to use, as all entrances outside the basement level are exceptionally well concealed.
  2. The star button is in one elevator, and one elevator only. Not including the secret entrances.
  3. The star button will never work on any floor, except the basement.
  4. The star button will never work if any button is pressed before it.
  5. The star button will only work when pressed in conjunction with 10.
  6. Once the star has been invoked, the elevator behaves as an uninterruptable express. It will not stop on any other floor, and no buttons will work until it has stopped.
  7. There are no elevators on the 10th floor. Much as the secret elevators into the building, all of the elevators are one-way passages. The stairs back down do not provide any exits until you have reached the first floor. In this way, the building is like a big circuit, with the elevators taking you up, and the stairs taking you down.

This dream feels very muck like an evolution of one I had in college, where I was exploring a world between the walls of my school. It feels much the same, but where the college dream seemed dark and forboding, this one seems both more neutral… and more urgent.


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