Dream casts a human shadow, when it occurs to him to do so.

Last night, while I slept, I found myself standing on the set of Next Generation. I was in my red ensign's uniform, and LeVar was in Geordi's gold engineering uniform. We were in Geordi's quarters, and the entire crew was waiting to roll the cameras on an important scene.

But I had no idea why I was there, what my lines were, or what the scene was about. I hadn't done my homework. I hadn't prepared my scene. I was about to be in big trouble.

I have dreams like this from time to time. I call them "stress dreams", because when I wake up from them, I feel really stressed out, and I don't feel rested at all. I've heard other people describe similar dreams, ones where they can't remember something they were supposed to do while someone important waits for them to do it, or ones where they find themselves naked in the middle of a crowd. My stress dreams are always the same: I'm either on an audition and I don't know what it's for, or I'm on the set of a TV show and I realize that I haven't learned my lines.

Last night, though, was the first time in my thirty-nine years of dreaming that I had a stress dream that put me on the set of Next Generation, which is probably the only reason I remember so many details so clearly: Geordi's quarters had been built on Stage 8. There was a mantle over his bed with a bunch of futuristic knick-knacks on it, including a block of wood with a 20th century book leaning against it. The script, though, is the thing that stands out the most clearly to me: the script wasn't a traditional script of 8×10 paper, punched three times and held together with brass brads. This script was a WIRED magazine. All the lines and descriptions were written as they usually are, but they were inside an issue of WIRED magazine.

So I was on the set, and we were about to roll, and I realized that I didn't know my lines. It seemed that I knew what the scene was about in a general sense, and why Wesley was there, but I didn't know the exact words. So I improvised, got through the take, and then picked up the script — actually a WIRED magazine — off the top of an apple box next to the script supervisor. I flipped through it, and couldn't find the scene we were filming. That's when I remembered that I had decided to learn the scene that morning, during makeup, rehearsal, and the time between blocking and shooting (this is something I'd never do in real life, because it's profoundly unprofessional)… and I hadn't done it for some reason.

"Are you okay, Wil?" The script supervisor, Cosmo, asked me.

"I can't find the goddamn scene," I said.

"It's right here," he said, turning pages past where I was. I realized that I thought the scene took place earlier in the script than it did. How could I be so unprepared? I thought briefly about just owning up to not knowing anything about why I was there, but at that moment, I flipped to the correct page, and saw the scene we were filming. I scanned the dialog, and saw that Wesley was in Geordi's quarters because he wanted to learn all about 20th century woodworking. Wesley had about a quarter page of dialog about it, and it was all exposition.

What. The. Fuck. 

Even in my dreams, the writers don't give me anything good to do in a scene. No wonder I didn't learn my damn lines.

I woke up and looked at the clock. It was 4:17 and I had a splitting headache from tucking my chin down into my chest. I sat up and drank some water. My head throbbed as the dream I'd just had replayed itself in that blurry montage your brain gives you when you wake up at 4:17 in the morning. I woke up enough to cement the details in my memory, so I could write about them today.

Seamus, asleep at my feet, grumbled, stood up, and stretched himself out along my left leg. I reached out my hand and patted him on his head. He sighed. We both went back to sleep.

43 thoughts on “Dream casts a human shadow, when it occurs to him to do so.”

  1. My “stress dreams” are usually in the movie theatre and having to clean up after a sold out show (I used to work at a movie theatre). I smell the popcorn and the sticky soda on the floors. OR, I realize that I am one high school class shy of graduating high school except I’m already in college and how did I get there?!

  2. I have similar dreams where my old high school has become a labyrinth (it was actually pretty big in real life) and I have to first find a way to print off my school schedule and THEN find the class that started 5 minutes ago. I’ve also had dreams where I’m starring as Lady Macbeth and don’t know the lines. I have a really bad problem with memory (diagnosed with ADD early in life) and I know my anxieties about not remembering things is what fuels those nightmares.

  3. My stress dreams usually involve realizing it’s finals time and I didn’t attend class all semester (and I graduated six years ago). Yours are way cooler, Wheaton.

  4. I have dreams like this 2 – 3 times a week. I’m a courier for FedEx, and my dreams involve me being behind schedule… usually by hours >_< Sometimes I lose my whole truck. Worst dreams ever.

  5. Having done a little dream work in my time, I would think that you dreamed about Next Generation because you recently were with the cast of Next Generation :) Just the minds way of subconsciously working out some stuff (remember the speech you posted last week where you really let your heart do the talking for you?) yup, just opened it back up is all :)

  6. If you’re seriously interested, I have some very good friends who do some fine dream interpretation. :-)
    Hit me up if you really care to follow-up on it.

  7. I actually have similar dreams going back to my paramedic days, which were 10+ years ago. They’re invariably about me rushing to get all my paperwork done on time, or arriving at the hospital and I still haven’t finished my history & physical.

  8. My stress dreams usually take the form of being late, whether it be for high school classes (and I also happen to be naked, or at least not wearing my school uniform–and I’m five years out of high school) or missing my plane for a trip. Usually the flights I dream about missing are ones I’m actually booked on, though they’re sometimes weeks in the future from when I dream it.

  9. My stress dream is getting a letter in the mail that says, “Oops, we made a mistake. You were actually a few credits short for graduating high school. Welcome back, you will have to repeat your senior year.”
    Yeah, at this point in life, I’d give them the finger and settle for a GED. There is NOTHING in this world, short of holding a gun on one of my kids, that would make me voluntarily go back to high school.

  10. I used to have those dreams when I was in college: on stage, not knowing what my lines were, sometimes not even knowing what the play was that we were performing. Now that I’m a writer I have stress dreams where I write a book, I’m at the bookstore, everyone opens their books, and it turns out that I wrote nothing but gibberish. Terrifying.

  11. My stress dreams usually involve showing up for a class I am supposed to teach and not knowing the material for the course or where the room is for the class or what school I am supposed to be teaching at. (I have four teaching jobs – my schedule can get confusing.)
    My guess is ST:TNG was on your mind because of the Calgary panel and that is why your “stress” took this form. I am curious if writing about it helped you relax/process the feelings. That usually helps me a lot.

  12. When I was in college, I constantly had stress-dreams about coming to school and finding out there was a big presentation due that I hadn’t even started yet, and I’d wake up stressed and unhappy.
    If I wasn’t having stress dreams, I had the complete opposite, ultra boring chore dreams, where I would just dream that I got up, had breakfast, went to school, did some grocery shopping, came home, made supper, spend all evening doing homework, worry about my project that was due in a week, etc etc etc, and I’d STILL wake up stressed and unhappy and feeling like I hadn’t rested at all.
    After I finished my program I stopped having those dreams, thank goodness.

  13. great title. neil gaiman, right?
    i had a “stress dream” the other night where i was working at a circus, but not as a performer, and was i found myself in the center ring with a lion, no idea what to do or say or how to use the props or how to keep the lion from eating me. the lion, for his part, just kept eyeing me contemptuously and dragged his own stand over to where it was supposed to be with his teeth and performed his act without any help from me. i had the distinct impression he would eat me later, but i woke up.
    in real life i’m a paralegal and i don’t even have a cat!

  14. My stress dreams usually involve college. Either there is some afternoon class that I keep forgetting to go to, or it is the end of the semester and I realize I haven’t gone to class at all.
    Recently I had a stress dream about going to Disneyland with my wife, daughter and mother and my wife and mother constantly insisting on doing tasks that would keep us from getting to the park. I’ve had that dream about three times now.
    Then there was that one stress dream I had maybe 10 years ago where I was at your birthday party and I had to tell your friends that I only knew you from posting on your blog and they’d look at me with scorn and derision.
    I’m pretty sure I’ve had non-stress dreams about being in the Star Trek universe. It is kind of sad to me that you’ll probably never have a dream like that.

  15. Mira Bai said, “Having done a little dream work in my time, I would think that you dreamed about Next Generation because you recently were with the cast of Next Generation”
    I kind of agree with this. It was a classic work related dream. I have them a lot. Not so much stress related but more about boredom I’m experiencing at work. Usually, it means I need more mental stimulation or a new challenge. I know what I’ve read online about your thoughts of TNG at the time (God only knows if they were true or not), but my guess is you felt like you weren’t getting enough out of the Wesley role. The dream reflected that.
    That being said, make sure you report any Big Bang Theory set dreams. You could possibly turn it into a new episode! :)

  16. We used to call them ‘finals nightmares’, even when the term didn’t quite apply, as in yours.
    My wife believes that when we’re stressed, it’s our brain’s way of reminding us “See? That never really happened. Don’t sweat this thing so much.”
    My theory is that my brain is saying “Dude, you didn’t let me think about anything cool all day today. Tonight, you’re MINE! MUAHAHAHAHA!”

  17. Curious. Was the apple box one for fruit or one of those antique not-so-personal computers? My dreams tend to be where I’m in a school and have no idea where I’m supposed to be next. That recurs with me…

  18. It sounds as if that article on ZDnet with the misleading headline,20 year old photo and unfortunate reference to you as Wesley Crusher, may have decided to pay you one last visit as it exited your psyche.

  19. I’d agree that was stress-induced too. I had a similar dream recently, except I was a stand-up comedian (something I’ve never done in real life) and had an open spot at a local comedy night. I was psyched up to take to the stage until they called my name. I turned to the person next to me and said ‘shit, I haven’t written any material’. Woke me up early and set my mood for the rest of the day.

  20. Ergh, sounds nasty :(
    My stress dreams always involve arriving somewhere late, unprepared, and not dressed properly, and/or not knowing where to sit. They usually tailor themselves to upcoming situations, for example, one of my most recent ones was turning up to windband practice late and without any usable clarinet reeds; the previous one was arriving late to teach a music lesson without my lesson plan; both of them I dashed out of bed to get there and thus was still in my nightie.
    That said, they’re better than the ones I used to have until a couple of years ago, in which I would always be late for some event at one of my childhood schools and arrive completely naked *shudders*

  21. I teach information competency (research skills) at a community college. Sometimes I dream that either i have no idea how to teach the databases I’m demonstrating, or that the students have zero interest, are looking bored, and all my laugh lines are bombing. Luckily, I’ve only ever bombed a few lines in real life.

  22. There’s a name for the dream you had: it’s called “the actor’s nightmare”. It’s actually fairly common among performers, especially actors. You’re onstage, everyone’s there, it’s time to perform – but you have no idea what you’re supposed to do. I’ve had conversations with friends who have these dreams while they’re rehearsing for stage plays, or while the play is going on. Consider that after so many years, you’ve achieved a milestone in your profession!

  23. My stress dreams usually involve waiting tables, and I can’t remember what anyone ordered and can’t remember which tables are mine. It’s funny because I was actually a server for only a very short period of my life. You’re lucky; at least your stress dream was about Star Trek! :) I’m sure if you would’ve been called upon to save the ship, you would’ve remembered what to do. 😉
    My fiancee and I were discussing these dreams one time. The obvious explanation is stress, as you say. However, it occurred to us that usually in these dreams, we find ourselves either not able to use technology or remember numbers–like dialing a phone, opening a combination lock on your locker, remembering an order… I imagine remembering one’s lines would be similar. We theorized that, as the brain is very compartmentalized, perhaps during sleep different areas of the brain aren’t always able to communicate with one another like they do while awake. So you know you know the information, you just can’t access it. It may explain the mechanism, but I too think the root cause is stress.
    Gotta relax more man! :)

  24. I had one of those stress dreams on Saturday night. I teach Preschool Music & Movement classes, and one of the things I’m really good at is remembering kids’ names. Not so much with the moms and dads, but I can recognize a kid years after they’ve gone on to grow up. So in this dream, I had a full class of 12 2-year-olds, and we got to the part where I sing goodbye to all of them, individually, by name, and I couldn’t remember any of their names. “Good-bye, striped shi-irt!” “Good-bye, girlwithyellowpigtails!” UGH. It would never happen, but it sucked.

  25. Man, I hate stress dreams. Mine are almost always about a task that needs completing, and there are always things blocking me from finishing (including my own befuddlement), and sometimes time moves at a strange pace. The worst are the ones when I am back in high school (augh).
    I can never tell if there’s a reason for these dreams, or if it’s just stress being manifested in my dreams.

  26. As a Scripty, in my stress dreams, I’m always late to set without having looked over the scenes we’re shooting today, which, of course, ALWAYS have their continuity previously established. So pretty much exactly like yours: UNPREPARED for the task at hand (with the added bonus of running late). I only EVER have this dream on Day One of shooting, after a longish hiatus of any work at all. I know it’s the stress of wanting to KEEP the job I’m about to do (since I know that I can DO it and the only reason to fire me is if I’m running late or lost or unprepared).
    Funny how we all have these, and how similar they are, no matter what industry we work in or what our stressors are.

  27. Dick Cavett has this dream, and he hasn’t performed in years!

  28. i keep dreaming about high school, even though i’ve been out for more than a dog’s age, (fairly common, i understand)
    1. i’m late for class
    2. i can’t find my locker
    3. can’t remember my locker combo
    4. can’t find my class
    5. i have realized that i haven’t been going to that class for some reason
    6. all of the above

  29. Mine?
    I’m in surgery. I’m closing an incision and I get called out of surgery for some reason (which is odd in and of itself). And no matter what I do, I can’t get back in there and finish closing. And no one can help me (again, that doesn’t make sense, but that’s dreams for you) and I’m stressing out that the patient has been under anesthesia too long and every time I try to get back there, something waylays me and won’t let me. I get other patients thrown at me. I have to talk to a specialist. Whatever.
    I had this dream many times until I told a colleague about it. She promised she’d finish for me if that ever happened. Haven’t had the dream since.
    I did have one just last night, though, where I left work for some reason in the middle of my shift and then couldn’t get back on time, so I guess it’s sort of similar. Then again, I have a patient I’m worried about, so…hm. :-/

  30. The first “proper” job I had (contract, responsibilities etc) I used dream every night for weeks about work. It wasn’t the horrible not-prepared or showed up naked dreams, just regular work stuff, over and over, multiple dreams each night. And yet it was stressful (and irritating), because it felt like I was doing 8 extra hours work, and not getting paid for it.
    wabbit89 might be onto something about getting a friend’s help with the dream. I used to have pretty frequent nightmares about a person from my past until my sister told me dream her into those dreams with a baseball bat, where upon she would sort him out (she’s not at all violent in her waking life, I feel I should add). I don’t know if I could have done it, but I didn’t have to. The dreams stopped after that. I don’t know what the real-world solution to that kind of situation you dream about might be, but if you can think of something and get someone you trust to help, maybe your brain will stop serving up those dreams.
    But on the other side of things, I occasionally have funny stress dreams. I once had an incredibly vivid dream that I was in the US Navy, and had been on leave, but that I was supposed to be back in the Washington Naval Yard that morning. I woke up still convinced — because it was so vivid — that this was the case. I woke up in my bedroom in Ireland, 3000 miles away, thinking about how fucked I was. Reality kicked in pretty fast, but there was a genuine moment of OMG whathaveidone? panic. But the whole thing felt so surreal that I wound up finding it hilarious. Like my brain was pranking me.

  31. That’s a pretty amazing dream right there. I’m utterly incapable of reading inside my dreams. To the extent that I’ll sometimes try to read something within a nightmare, just to reassure myself it’s not really happening. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work–I’ll find a way to rationalize why I can’t read (no glasses, I’m drunk, I’m going insane, etc.) which often makes things worse.
    It’s about the closest I get to lucid dreaming.

  32. We call those “work-mares” and on the rare occasion I have one I’m very very grateful that I almost never remember my dreams. ‘Cuz it would suck to remember them more often.
    Mine are either the “my crew isn’t doing what I say” variety, or the “oh crap I have to direct/TD this show and my rundown/scripts/etc aren’t marked.” (i.e. I’m not prepared) Although there was one once where I was all set to go, but the buttons on the switcher (think computer keyboard times 1000, every button is different, we have to know what all the buttons do) had lost their labels so I had to punch the entire show while trying to remember which button was which.

  33. My “beer priced armchair therapist” take on this dream is:
    YOU FEEL that the Star Trek culture is the true foundation/substance of the WIRED associated coolness of today’s nuvogeek culture. (I would agree with you – and – God I like that word nuvogeek I just coined! Drat! just realized not the first.)
    YOU FEEL your place in the nuvogeek culture was unexpected and never fully supported by your minor character’s lack of prominence in the show so you feel insecure about it. (I would disagree – you have transcended your Star Trek existence and make more important and relevant contributions now.)
    Whadda think?
    Beer me please.

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