‘To sleep, perchance to dream- ay, there’s the rub.’ Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)
For when you are dreaming, you will wake. You assume. But what sort of waking will it be? I think we have all experienced at some time that dread, dripping, crushing sense of fighting our way back up from .. something .. out from .. something. And to emerge as though breaking through an ocean surface, taking great gulps of waking reality, and to realise that the place or something you have fled from was not really there, and must have ‘only’ been a nightmare.
“He dreams of blackness: an endless blackness, darker than the crow and more inscrutable. There is a solidary light far in the distance, a dull yellow pinpoint swallowed into the void, and he stumbles towards it on his phantom legs.” The Crow.
But what if, as you sit up taking in your surrounds, another realisation crashes in – that perhaps you have just woken from someone else’s nightmare?
The calm prose of Dan Djurdjevic’s Hazy Shade of Twilight stories (new edition issued as The Shadow of Dusk) belies the growing consternation of his characters as their personalities and identities shift and change. Frequently their perceived realities seem distorted.
“It took a while to realise that I was now in a different place altogether: a blank, featureless room of cold white … empty save for the bleached glare. There were no shapes, no corners, no lines. No shadows”.
They reassure themselves: it was only a dream, a nightmare, it’s because I’m exhausted, it’s what happens out in space, it’s the drugs I took for the pain. But again and again these ‘explanations’ don’t hold up. The characters sometimes seem to be changing places. Their loves and romances, fears, jealousies, start to seem to belong to other selves, as if they are seeing them through distorted memories. Or they might be seeing mirror images of themselves – which of course are similar but reversed, and perhaps distorted and warped too. Such a possibility is explored in The Mirror Image of Sound. (My review here.)
Dan’s stories, to different degrees, float in half lights and shadows where things may not be what they seem. In the modern romantic drama Nights of the Moon to which The Shadow of Dusk collection serves as a kind of “sequel”, we met the same characters (or are they) who apparently have a very definite existence in the harsh geographical reality of a mining camp in Western Australia. But they are presented to us only through the memories of one person’s point of view. Are we reading what has ‘really happened’?
Perhaps somewhere in the obscurities of moon light, twilight, dusk, and shadows all of us are able to become more acutely aware of alternative lives that we could be living had we made other choices. Perhaps those alternative ‘I’s sometimes merge with and partially morph into the “I’ that we think we own.
To dream. Ah there indeed is the rub. For how can we know if we ever wake fully?
Where to find Dan’s books: Book Depository (also with free shipping):
A Hazy Shade of Twilight – and other nightmares, The Mirror Image of Sound, Nights of The Moon , The Shadow of Dusk , Essential Jo and, suitable for Young Adults, The Girl In The Attic.
On Amazon: The Mirror Image of Sound, Essential Jo, The Girl In The Attic, Nights of The Moon, The Shadow of Dusk (first edition titled Hazy Shade of Twilight). You can also find them at AbeBooks.com: there is a general link below.
Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.