Steve Webel: The great wall of China
I had a dream last night that I was in China: at least, I think it was China. I couldn't speak the language, or read any of the signs, so I guess that's where I was.
I'd arrived in a large city full of fields and strange anthill-like structures with little windows in them. They seemed to be made of clay.
Eventually I'd stumbled into one of them - some kind of monastery, I think it was - and booked a room, or rather an alcove in a corridor full of monks and other polyglot tourists.
Unfortunately, when I went out to explore, I got disorientated and couldn't find my way back. The dream got increasingly nightmarish from this point on. I wandered around, unable to recognize anything that looked in the slightest degree familiar, and even when I finally found a taxi-driver who spoke English, there was no way he could tell me where my room might be. My room and all my luggage - passport and money included, I suppose.
Finally we drove to a little park overlooking the city and tried to make sense of where I might have been, what route I might have taken to get where I'd ended up. Another couple of guys had joined us by then, but didn't seem especially motivated to help.
The dream might have been prompted by that time I got left behind in the toilets on New Year's Eve in Thailand. There was the same sense of mounting panic, of not having any clear coordinates to steer by. The Chinese anthill imagery might have come out of Kafka's Great Wall of China, perhaps, or else one of De Quincey's opium dreams.
The one thing that's certain is the sense of being lost: lost in a self-constructed labyrinth which no-one else can access to help you out of. No matter how obliging my guide was in trying to help me find my way back, it all depended on my fragile memories of just what twists and turns I'd taken in the dark in my first few minutes in the city.
Frances Wilson: Guilty Thing: The Life and Times of Thomas de Quincey