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The Apartment Dweller’s Alphabetical Dreambook
An abalone shell in a dream signifies a new home.

To be afraid in a dream signifies strife along with danger, which seems obvious enough.

Clear air in a dream signifies success in one’s business affairs.

If the air is polluted, it signifies a disagreement between you and your mother: a common enough condition, though you usually know better than to respond to her ancient, flaking criticisms. Still, there are days when you are tired, or just tired of it all. Tomorrow will be one of those days and you will find yourself yet again tasting rusted metal and sulfur.

To sit in an Audi signifies great strife and financial disaster. It is hard not to connect this to the fact that your ex left you for someone who owned an Audi.

To dream that one is awake signifies a death.

To be stung by a bee in a dream signifies weight loss. Anyway, according to humanity’s many attempts to map meaning in dreams, this is one of the possibilities and the one of most immediate interest to you at the moment.

To see birds in dreams signifies that one will hear bad news that is of no immediate relevance to their own life.  

To snare birds in a dream signifies a poorly told lie in the next day, a lie that nevertheless convinces. Which lie? Large or small? There are so many possibilities in a normal day. Are you the liar or the lied-to, the fool or the villain?

For birds to take something from one signifies hearing loss. This should not worry you: you know you’ve been losing the higher pitches already. Maybe the world will be calmer when you are missing more of it.

To pluck the first blueberry of the season, filled with anticipation and the sweet grainy memory of how blueberries taste, to place it (in your dream) upon your tongue, and to realize by that angry little snap of sourness that it is not yet quite ripe, signifies a financial loss.

To handle someone’s bones signifies hatred. The knob of the femur is a fist. The ribs are an argument. Finger bones are needling, slanted gossip. The skull like a stoneware bowl in one’s hands is the end of it all.

To hold a book in a dream signifies a sudden discovery. Can you open it? What is its title? Are the pages blank? Is there writing on them? Print? Is there a library from which these books come?

If you awaken remembering a book from your dream—the loveliest story, but lost now: Remembering what you cannot remember will ruin the day. But you will forget, eventually. Do we need to spell this one out for you?

If dreaming, he sees his brother or sister, he will develop a cold sore.

To dream of a calendar signifies a sudden interest in football, charitable donations, sports cars, cloud-watching, tango, the prints of Hiroshige, cosplay, or sharks. Is this true because you have dreamt of a calendar and then read this list, or would it have happened anyway?

A car approaching at a great speed, so close that he feels the wind of its passage, signifies a text that he will misinterpret.

To be in the back seat of a car with no one in the front, even as the car is rolling along the highway, and to stretch across the seat for the steering wheel, desperately wondering how to reach the brakes: nothing is as it should be.

If you dream that you are installing a crate engine into your car, an ATK Ford 302 long block; if in the dream you observe the throttle’s choke plate, pretty as jewelry, a silver disc that pivots along its diameter to reveal an intake manifold, the sort of aluminum gullet that can speak only in growls; if you and two friends you do not recognize are washing dead leaves from it (for the crate was opened outdoors, and it is October in this dream: a fatal mistake) and water splashes into the manifold, and you are overwhelmed with dread because you might ruin the engine—such a dream signifies a personal regret.

Cats playing signifies praise in a public forum.

If one of the cats is striped, you are ill-advised to read the comments.

To accept new cheese signifies an unexpected small windfall, a check of between one and two hundred dollars.

If the cheese is old, you will keep forgetting to deposit the check.

A dream of climbing a tree signifies that she will gain honor. But how does she know what climbing a tree feels like, to have dreamt it: her hands on rough bark, the complicated exchange of information between muscle groups, bones, and tendons? Has she ever climbed a tree, or is this somehow embedded into the genomes of this body she alternately ignores and obsesses over?

To climb a mountain, but looking up, to realize that you will never get to the top, signifies that your future is coming, and you are not ready. You have faked it before this, sure. This time won’t be harder, will it? And it never is—until you fall. Or worse, until the moment your right posterior talofibular ligament finally betrays you while you’re stepping off a curb, maybe, or into a car. The orthopedic surgeon will tell you that this is the result of all that running and working out when you were younger, that your other ankle—that, in fact, all your joints—are just as damaged, primed to go as easily as this one did. The takeaway from this dream: you’re fucked.

To suddenly realize in a dream that one is not wearing clothes is the human condition.

New clothes in a dream signifies new love. Why are you having this dream? You have your spouse; you have already made all these compromises. Maybe it only means that you are sick of those jeans with the coffee stain on the thigh that has never quite gone away. Surely, that’s at least equally likely.

To speak with a dead person signifies annoyance, happy news, or a change in one’s fortunes.

One who sees a dog with a red ear will receive an email with mixed implications for the future.

Dogs barking or running free signify a show that will haunt you even at work, even when you are kissing the person you’d like to think you love. Why is Westworld so much realer than anything else in your life?

To dream that you are dreaming signifies a death. Yours, eventually.

To drink wine, a gaffe.

To drink vinegar, it is time to renew your driver’s license.

To be driving along a remote country road; the gas gauge says E, and there is nothing nearby; this signifies trouble with money.

If in a dream, he is in a gray elevator: One corner is thick with shadows that the light does not dispel, which he realizes are a creature that means him no good, though it does not attack. When the elevator’s door opens, he steps into a gray room with a very high ceiling. There is a corridor. He is holding a knife. The shadow is beside him now, and he suddenly knows this is an adventure, not a dream. He feels a slight sense of loss about the world he is no longer part of—the job, the partner, the kid, the hobby, and the car payments—but here he and the shadow have an important mission, enemies, allies. How is he supposed to get up when the alarm goes off at 6:30, shave himself, read his emails, drink his coffee? His life will never be this strange, this frightening and empowering and exciting. This dream signifies nothing at all. If it were to do so, it would break his heart.

To physically fight in a dream signifies a problem with your taxes.

If the fights follow one upon the next, until the night is filled with battles, this signifies the sort of decision that has no good options. It does not matter whether the battles are hand to hand, or with weapons.

If one sees fire in any place, that signifies a reorganization of one’s place of business. One will escape the layoffs, but will be asked to select which of one’s staff is to go.

To book a flight signifies a mistake. It is $328 through Expedia; $422 with Southwest, but then you don’t have to pay for your bag—but you still will have to drive through rush hour to get to the airport, and then TSA, and how long will that take? The possibilities for failure in your day to come are endless.

To see in a dream your great-aunt’s glassware standing on a card table at an estate sale, with a sticker that says 8 red wine, 8 white wine, 8 sherry, 8 water, 8 tumblers $40 the set, signifies a sudden change in your situation.

To handle some grain signifies illness. This must be another dream from your deep memory, for when have you ever handled grain, to know what that feels like?

To hold a gun in a dream signifies a thunderstorm, or perhaps self-delusion.

If the gun is an HK VP9, you may expect an email from overseas. It has news that will seem good; later you will realize that the email brought you only sorrow.  

If one sees oneself accept honey it signifies that one should be careful not to be deceived by another. But really, so what? It would be so much more pleasant to believe what she says, and knowing it is lies changes nothing, after all.

To see horses running loose, or to be attacked by them, signifies trouble at work.

To kiss a dead person signifies one’s child is at risk; otherwise, that tomorrow will be stormy.

If, in one’s dream, one sees a creature, an inarticulate lemur-thing: Its eyes are a pale violet, and the fingers of its paws are very long. It makes garbling sounds at you and you can’t help but feel it is trying to communicate, but you are fully occupied with some small tedious task: counting nails or writing status reports or sorting receipts. It remains with you throughout the dream, a weight on your shoulder so slight that you forget it for short periods. Every so often you suddenly remember it with a jolt of panic: Where has it gone? You must not lose it! It is critical! But it is still right there, still garbling, still staring at you with its violet eyes, and so you return to your pointless dreamtime counting or compiling. Your therapist would have a field day sorting this out, but you do not tell her. You feel protective of this lemur-thing. Your secrets are your own. Such a dream signifies, you are pretty sure, nothing worth discussion.

To receive a letter in the mail, in a handwritten envelope with a stamp on it, signifies a personal regret.

To see the moon signifies a happy surprise.

To see two moons, her cholesterol levels are slightly higher.
To see a crescent moon, it is September in her dream.

To see a white moon signifies nothing at all. Why do we assume everything means something?

If her period starts in a dream, it signifies a meeting at work.

To check one’s phone signifies that your bladder needs relief. Anxieties are all the same anxiety.

To dream of standing offstage waiting for one’s entrance in the third act of a play, a play one has not even read, let alone memorized, signifies strife at the holidays related to the in-laws.

If she sees her front door opened by a rabbit-butler, and knows his name is Montgomery, and steps into a Palladian entry-hall painted the blue of robins’ eggs, where she shakes the rain from her great red umbrella; if her rabbit-butler takes her wet things and offers tea in the library and a crime novel she has never read; and then she awakes, she will look around her bedroom—her yoga pants on the floor and tomorrow’s work clothes neatly on the dresser—and then she will call in sick and spend the rest of the day trying to get back there.

A radio turned on and chattering signifies bad news, but there’s nothing dream-specific to this.

To rejoice in a dream signifies sadness.

A river flowing through her house—she will remember nothing of this dream.

To have sex in a dream signifies anything but sex, if your therapist is correct. Or is it that she’s just tired of people distracting themselves from the hard work of humanity?

To have sex with one’s spouse signifies strife.

One who opens his mouth in a dream to shout a warning and finds he can make no sound—he will realize that he has lied but that no one seemed to notice; is that because he was good at it, or because no one cared enough to do more than find ways to step around him and his inadequate lie?

If the sky is in flames, this signifies an evil that has its bitter advantages: your senile father’s death, the chlamydia that brought the affair to light.

To make a speech one has carefully prepared signifies a happy situation at home. All that therapy has paid off.

In a dream, if one walks beside a low concrete retaining wall and hears a voice in one’s ear, and turns to see a spider the size of a small dog sitting upon one’s right shoulder; if in the dream it has taken a great bite (which was not felt) and the shoulder is turning gray—it signifies ... Hmm. It would be easier to know what this signified if one could remember what was said by the spider and by you. This exchange was the answer to all your questions, then and now. This dream will haunt you for the rest of your life.

To see a butternut squash in a dream signifies self-doubt, or else a good report from your child’s school.

Driving an SUV—you will realize you are in a dream, and yet you will be unable to awaken. Who selected this vehicle, anyway? What production designer makes the decisions about your dreams?

To be turned to stone in a dream signifies that your fifty-ninth birthday is coming.

To eat sweets signifies that tomorrow your child will surprise you with a flicker of maturity you never suspected, followed immediately by an action so spectacularly immature that you will wonder whether that bedroom can ever be converted into a workout room.

To taste something in a dream signifies news. One may draw all sorts of obvious connections between what that taste is and what sort of news it indicates. Milk chocolate = cheerful news. Pickles = sour news. Coffee = bitter news, or eye-opening news, or warming news. Bacon = news that is not healthy and may be cruel but which is nevertheless almost irresistibly attractive—such as learning that your ex’s new lover totaled the car, or is still sleeping with their own ex.

One’s teeth falling out signifies that the water heater in your home is about to go.

Recollecting in dream the vivid smell of the dusty theater where one’s high-school plays were performed, signifies that, if in the morning one were to walk slowly enough into one’s place of work, a crow would offer advice of some importance. But of course you’ll be running late and you’ll ignore this dream. It’s wildly improbable, anyway.

To be caught up by a tornado in a dream signifies new love.

To wash dishes by hand signifies a sudden memory.

To be stung by a wasp signifies angry gossip. You must stop.

To wind a very old watch you do not recognize, and see that you are only turning the hour and minute hands around and around, signifies that you will receive a year-end bonus of between two and ten percent of your current income. You will imagine this changes something in your life, but will spend this money almost immediately on a new transmission.

To see water on the boil in a dream signifies strife with an enemy. Is it Rick from work? Your oldest son, nineteen now and accusing you of not understanding him? Your mother?

To eat dry wax signifies a wedding in the family.

To yawn in one’s dream signifies confusion. Are you even asleep? You are in your bed, there is light creeping in through the door to the hall. But surely that blurred face in the mirror on the bedroom wall is a dream?

Later, as you stare into a sky the color of ageing zinc, you will wonder whether there is a way back into last night: the garden of sapphire leaves, the fountain of car exhaust and roses, the man who told you a secret.

Kij Johnsons short speculative fiction has won the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. She teaches creative writing, speculative fiction, and experimental literatures at the University of Kansas, where she is associate director for the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction.