Dream Asylum

I don't pretend to understand them.


The king and his captain of the guard are talking on the balcony, overlooking the busy town. The captain is reporting that he's had no luck trapping Count Dracula. He wears a big bullet-shaped helmet, and is shorter than the king, who looks regal with his white beard and thick red cape. The director is going for a passionate, sweaty, over-dressed kind of middle ages.

The camera pans up, bringing the torsos of the two men flush with the edge of the stone railing. In an instant, they become gargoyles, snarling at each other, frozen on the side of a grey wall. It is a labyrinth of stairs and arches, a mystical region of the castle gardens, enchanted to bend the perceptions. The camera swoops down the wall and into a disorienting tangle of walkways, lit by afternoon sun and torches.

I am Winona Ryder. I am running through the maze because I am frustrated, and because I like the idea of being hard to find. Dracula is after me. The camera catches me at an angle, so I appear to be running along the wall, head down, carrying the front of my long white dress so I don't trip over it. Somewhere out in the world, a man is plotting to seduce me, a terrifying man, but familiar, and oddly compelling.

I run through the maze and the camera follows me. I end up in a rectangular chamber filled with shallow stairways, criscrossing and intersecting each other like a crossword, all running upwards to one wall of the chamber. It is laid out like the second level of the old arcade game, Crystal Castles. Sometimes the chamber is illuminated through big bay windows on one side, sometimes by fiery torches ensconced on every wall, as if it were underground.

I am not alone. A woman in red is standing on the steps nearby. She looks exactly like me - exactly like Winona Ryder - except for the red dress. She is an alternate incarnation of me, an anthropomorphic personification of my deepest insanity, and she craves to be with Dracula. She loves him as deeply as I hate him. She does not, however, bear me any ill will. Nor do I resent her. It would not make sense to, for we are both the same entity.

Suddenly, Dracula has arrived, standing in the center of the chamber. His face is grey and indistinct, and he wears a black cape lined with red satin. Immediately the three of us begin to argue. We march up and down the stairs as we talk, weaving all around each other on the stairways. The woman in red is trying to convince Dracula to elope with her. Instead, Dracula wants to elope with me. I want nothing to do with him.

Hours of tense dialogue pass by in a moment. Finally, Dracula is standing in the center of the chamber, and me and my counterpart occupy the corners of the wall at the top of the steps. The red woman has revealed some secret to Dracula, and because of it, he is helpless to resist her demands. He is screaming at her, over and over, "NO!" At the same time, I am screaming at him, telling him that I will never be his betrothed, over and over, "NO!" "NO!" "NO!"

Dracula panics, and transforms into a small bat. I dash out from my corner and clap two salad bowls around him, trapping him inside. Suddenly the crossword of stairways is made of the pink and yellow tiles in my downstairs living room. The bay windows are the windows on the sliding doors to the porch. The woman in red is still there.

I realize that our shouting may disturb my parents, who are upstairs reading. I wonder what to do with Dracula. Along one pink-wallpapered wall is the door to the darkroom, where my father used to develop and enlarge film. I yank the knob and fling the salad bowls inside, slamming the door quickly so Dracula can't get out. That will hold him for a while.

I notice my counterpart, in the red dress, the other Winona Ryder. Shouldn't she be angry at me for trapping her beloved? I realize that she understands we are playing different parts of the same entity. There is an unspoken rule that, whatever one of us does, the other cannot undo. Instead she lays face-down on a towel, intent on sunbathing in the bay windows. She reaches around to untie her bikini to avoid tanlines.

I realize that Dracula was the keystone to the dream, and that without him, everything is beginning to lose cohesion and break apart. I will wake up soon. "Oh no you don't, not yet!" I shout, ostensibly to myself, in the dream. I run over to the other Winona Ryder, screaming "Ah, my counterpart! Come here you fine thing!" and tackle her headlong, pulling her naked upper body around in an arc so I am lying on top of her.

In carnal haste I suck her right breast into my mouth, and grope the other one fiercely. She arches her back up into my face, my insane self submitting to the urgency of my sane self. "If I don't stop this soon, I'll probably have a wet dream," I think. "Exactly where am I sleeping? I can't quite remember. It is safe?"

In the end, I decide it is.