Chapter 28 of Martha’s Children, and dreams

Detective Kammen warned Nora O’Donnell that something bad might happen to him or to her brother. So when Kammen appears to be missing, Nora goes searching for help. And in chapter 28 of Martha’s Children, she find it . . . in the very last person she would expect to offer it!

Martha’s Children is my serialized story of vampires and cops, and sorcerers, too, in 1969 Chicago. If you’re not already reading it, you can start here. A new chapter goes up every Friday.

I rarely have memorable dreams. More typically, I’ll wake up from a dream, recollect that it involved an impossibly shifting and incoherent combination of elements, and quickly forget about it once I’m up and about. I’ve twice been killed in my dreams, once by a co-worker using a pistol, and once in a situation involving a transporter much like the ones in Star Trek. Both times, my mind has retroactively edited the scene such that what was actually killed was a doppelganger. Guess I wasn’t wearing a red shirt.

This is usually not considered a good thing

This is usually not considered a good thing

Which brings me to this morning’s dream. I had recently gotten into an online conversation with a Facebook acquaintance over fetches and doppelgangers, and she recommended I read Henry James’s short story, “The Jolly Corner.” This being the man who wrote The Turn of the Screw, you know it’s going to be a story of subtle psychological horrors hinted at. One can read it as a story about an extraordinary doppelganger. Or . . . one can read it as the story of a haunted house, the actual jolly corner of the title.

Now I’ve wanted to write a haunted house story for a long time. I’ve even got a great ending for one. Of course, the beginning and middle are missing, so the ending is completely worthless, so far. And that’s because I couldn’t think of a new or worthwhile angle for a haunted house story.

I'd go to "the most haunted house in England" for inspiration, but it burned in 1939.

I’d go to “the most haunted house in England” for inspiration, but it burned in 1939.

And then this morning I woke from a dream. It was a dream about a house, a house which, in the dream, I had grown up in. There were grotesque events involving strangers that could have come out of Twin Peaks. And I was negotiating with the house, bargaining over how much we’d get from each other of what we wanted . . .

No doubt reading “The Jolly Corner” inspired this dream; I don’t usually dream of haunted houses. While memorable, the dream is not a viable story as I remember it. Like many dreams, it contains inexplicable and inconsistent elements. But somewhere in there, I can see the glimmer of an idea, a different angle on the haunted house story. So if, in the course of the next year, you see a haunted house story, or something that might once have been a haunted house story, you’ll know the answer to that age-old question directed at authors, “Where did you get the idea for that story?”


About Brian Bixby

I enjoy history because it helps me understand people. I'm writing fiction for much the same reason.
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9 Responses to Chapter 28 of Martha’s Children, and dreams

  1. Judy says:

    Dreams can often provide the core of a story. I am a big believer that you can program dreams if you want. You just have to mentally dwell on ideas you are working out before falling asleep. When I was in school that always helped me with reports. It was hard for me to narrow my theme. Very often worrying about it while falling asleep produced some great hooks in my dreams. Very important to write them down when you wake up though so the nuances don’t dissolve with the daylight. We shall hope that will head in a better direction than the programmed dreamer in The Lathe of Heaven. Though it was the psychiatrist and not the dreamer who did the programming there.

    My most memorable dream was when I was a U of M Senior living near the campus at my Aunt Peggy’s house (lived there my last semester). It was one in a long chain of spider dreams. I am a confirmed arachniphobe. This one I did NOT program though…later I reasoned that what triggered this one was that as I put my head on the pillow to sleep, I was startled by what I thought was a spider, but then realized it was just the thready looking design on the pillow case.

    I have always had a love/hate relationship with scary movies. A beautiful girl in an upstairs bedroom would hear a noise and creep down the stairs with a candle to the basement where horrors were being perpetrated by a mad doctor. I would always be saying, “go back , go back” etc. Well, in this dream I was the girl in the flowing white dress floating down the staircase with the candle. The mansion around me was dark and decrepit and as I stepped off the stairs I saw in the room a mahogany chair sitting on a frayed oriental carpet. The seat of the chair was of a brocade fabric and quite decayed; as I approached the chair I realized that black widow spiders were pouring out of it and just as I realized what they were, they were running up my legs and biting me. The biting was painful and I woke up. The really odd thing was that this is the only dream I have ever dreamed where the sensations in it carried over to waking. I was awake while I felt that sensation of the biting subside. The moral being….stay upstairs!!

    Sometimes dreams are quite detailed in color and theme!!

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Sorry I’m a bit late getting back to you on this, Judy; it’s been a busy week.

      I have had little luck with productive dreams, myself, which is not to rule out their usefulness for other, just my experience. Wish it were otherwise.

      And I know of one movie dream sequence, involving spiders, you had best not watch!

  2. Judy says:

    Ummm….you probably right!! Gives me the heebie jeebies just wondering which movie. I have seen a few spider movies… One odd thing is that when I was about 6 living in Hawaii, I was fearless about spiders. I collected them in jars from the space under our house which was mounted on beams high enough up to have plenty of access. One day when I was a bit older, I almost walked into a poisonous spider web hiking along with a friend, can’t remember where, and the friend stopped me in time. That was the night the spider dreams began.

    Maybe sometime when you least expect it, you’ll find you have awakened with the solution to something on your mind which worked out from a dream.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Well, the film in question is not about spiders. It is 1981’s “Deadly Blessing,” a lesser Wes Craven effort which features a spider scene that was featured in movie posters and involved a young Sharon Stone. The movie is so-so, but the spider scene will ruin your sleep.

  3. Judy says:

    Oh, no I have not seen that one and since the hairs on the back of my neck are tickling..I won’t!!

  4. crimsonprose says:

    A haunted house? Jung would have suggested some entity from your unconscious. Is it threatening? Or helpful? And where, particularly, in the house does the haunting manifest? Basement? Look to your sex life – or perhaps your past. Attic? Are you suffering conflicting thoughts? I used to have dreams where I was constantly running up stairs . . . trying to achieve more than I was able. Oddly, since being afflicted with sleepathons (thanks to CFS) my dreams have taken a particularly tranquil turn. No need to comment on that.

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