By CL Bledsoe & Michael Gushue
Superstition leads many of us to believe that bad dreams are caused by dwelling on negative thoughts before bedtime, or even indigestion, but the truth is far more sinister. The popular thinking is that dreams come from the brain processing its perceptions of the day, and this is true, in a sense.
You see, what we perceive as reality is only a thinly veiled delusion, a chenille throw draped across the wine stain on the loveseat of reality. Our senses take in information which our brain interprets, but what we perceive is very limited. Our eyes only process a fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum. Our ears only process a fraction of the audio spectrum. Similarly, all of our senses perceive only a tiny amount of the information available, and much of this is filtered out.
But what of all that information that we don’t register? It may shock you to learn that this “ignorance” is intentional. There is a saying that humans only use ten percent of our brains. This is a fallacy, and experiments have shown that our brains are very active. In fact, only a small portion of the brain is used to store memories and necessary sensory information, but the vast majority of the brain’s computing power is used to block us from taking in information from our other senses, information that would drive us insane. We think of the brain as a garage to hold all our stuff. But it’s more like a bouncer keeping out information that’s poorly dressed or not good looking enough.
Some of this information is benign, of course. If we could feel all the hairs on our body or our clothes touching us at all times, we’d never stop scratching that itch until we were bloody, mutilated things. The phenomenon known as “nose-blindness” similarly helps us acclimate to unsavory environments or even our own normal body smells while leaving us free to smell more important things, such as a change in our body smell that might signal disease, or a gas leak in our apartment, which we can smell even over the trash that needs to be changed. It makes sense that we’d ignore certain things, but beyond these common smells and sights and feelings are more sinister things which our senses have filtered out over millenia for the sake of survival.
What would you say if we told you that, right now, you are not alone? What if we said that none of us are? That there are beings we don’t perceive but who share our space? In your bed, in your cubicle at work, in your car as you drive to the store, there are beings who have been with you since you were born and will be until you die. The reason that you don’t sense them is because they don’t want to be sensed. In fact, they react very violently if they realize they are sensed. And so, out of necessity, our brains have evolved to filter out their presence in order to survive. Now, it’s almost impossible for us to retain any knowledge of them for more than a moment.
We don’t know what they’re called, other than Them. It’s unclear what They look like. Or rather, it’s nearly impossible to remember. It’s also unclear what, exactly, They get from us. It’s nourishment of some type, we’re almost sure. Perhaps They fear us. Perhaps They love us. Perhaps They devour us slowly, psychically, or simply desire protection from the elements. But further investigation is like trying to push against a wall of fog. Our knowledge and understanding simply dissipate, and we’re left confused.
The only place where knowledge of these beings surfaces is in our dreams. But it is a fleeting knowledge that fades when we wake. As we sleep, our brains process the information they have hidden from us during the day to make sure there isn’t anything in it that we need. As it does this, we can see Them hovering over our shoulders to read our books, smell Them sitting beside us, hear Them taking in nourishment, feel Them touching us. This information is processed and then immediately destroyed — not just forgotten, but erased. We don’t know if They are mind-readers or just acutely observant. If we wake before this deletion is completed, we have what we remember as a dream, which is the brain’s desperate attempt to recode these memories into something harmless. We are left with often confusing images and a vague sense of desire or menace.
But They are patient. They will wait until we forget, as long as we forget quickly.
You’re telling yourself this is a story, and you are right. You’re telling yourself you don’t feel a breath in your ear, something brushing the back of your neck, and you are right. We caution you not to stop reading, though. Don’t look around. Don’t do anything noticeable. The quicker you read, the sooner you will finish and click away. Once you’ve done that, you will forget and you will be safe.