The Iron Dream: Author’s afterthoughts

„The birth of the text is the death of the author“

– Roland Barthes, unofficial mascot of this blog

Let it thus be clear that I do not claim to know any better than any reader what meaning my story has. I will therefore just comment on a few interesting tidbits about the process of it’s creation.

This story was very much an experiment, and as such, had some interesting results, which is why I’m writing these afterthoughts. The basic goal was to get over a common barrier of creative writing that I feel many people (including me) face, namely not publishing anything because it’s „not good enough“, and abandoning or not even starting writing projects because of that same fear. So when I got inspired by the excellent writing and atmosphere of „Sunless Sea“ (which would be one of my favourite games if it also had good game play… Sadly, it falls short in that regard), I decided to try to just publish (at least) one blog post every single day. To tie the form of the story into that structure, the idea of daily diary entries lent itself naturally. Diary entries are also a literary form that is not expected to be „high art“, so that structure helped justify to myself publishing very unpolished texts.

As a result, I have managed to eventually complete a short story, clocking in at about 5370 words distributed across 29 posts. It has not taken 29 days (as it should have per the self-imposed requirements), but about two months to finish (excluding this afterword). I learned that setting an ambitious publishing schedule and lowering expectation helps to get over the previously mentioned barrier. However, life often gets in the way of such schedules, and as soon as a deadline is missed, it is a slippery slope where suddenly weeks go by without a post. It’s also very hard to overcome creative dry spells, since the self inflicted pressure or guilt of missing one’s schedule further lessens creative productiveness. On the other hand, pressure should not be underestimated as a creative catalyst.

I have many ideas on how to improve upon some of these points, as well as create higher quality texts that are not limited to a format that lends itself so naturally to daily publishing. Alas, the first step to trying any of those (or even writing about them) is to start. Until that happens, Eulenzombie returns to it’s usual uneasy slumber with the occasional post popping up like a rather obnoxious recurring snore.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of those readers who have (out of niceness or sincerity) expressed their appreciation of this story. You may rest assured that I (the author) have never been subjected to recurring nightmares or cryptic messages appearing in diaries. Any similarities to me (the protagonist) are purely the result of lazy writing (characters that are more similar to yourself are easier to write, in case that wasn’t obvious).

For more interesting fun „facts“ about „The Iron Dream“, comment on this post with one (1) Roland Barthes related pun.*

*Offer good while supplies last. Only one „fact“ per (fake) commenter’s ID may be obtained. Any recourse to courts of law is excluded.

Friday, 2016-03-04 (Final Entry)

I remember everything.

I walk into the cube. The surface does not ripple. I pass through my own reflection. The dream changes. A vision:
It is the woods, from above. A sickness is spreading. Black patches, from many sources. Further up still, a pattern emerges, an impossible pattern of black, dead patches. The presence in the wood is rising. IÄISYYDEN KUOLEMATON PÖLLÖ is awakening. The world is dying. Life is consumed, a madness spreads. I am the only one to witness. I am alone. The world ends. The vision ends. I awaken.

I remember everything. There is nothing left to prepare. The dream has ended. I know what to do. I get up, the sun is just barely starting to rise. The morning is beautiful over the roofs of the city, a red sunlight reflected in the fog and dust. I put on clothes, by sheer reflex. I leave the apartment. I do not close the door behind me.

I remember everything. I get on a train and drive, I change trains, I drive further. The attendant checks tickets. She ignores my presence, utterly. Nobody on the train looks at me twice, nobody looks away, I simply exist as decoration. It is noon. I get off. A small village, somewhere, barely worth a train station. I walk, for hours. I reach the forest.

I remember everything. I enter the forest, naked, my clothes left behind. I do not feel the cold wind nor the sun on my skin. I feel nothing. I walk with purpose, there is a clearing. In the middle, a dagger. It looks ancient, it looks hand crafted, it looks impressive. It is a king’s dagger, or a priest’s. It had been passed on by other priests, older ones, druids, pagans. This dagger is older than the new gods. It is older than history, it is older than writing. It is not older than the forest, the rain, the sun shining or the stones below.

I remember everything. There is a doe on the edge of the clearing. I take the dagger. I take the doe’s life. I paint strange symbols on my skin. I have seen them before, I do not understand their meaning. They are letters of Latin, runes of my own invention, runes of ancient languages, they mean nothing to me. I can feel something now. I feel words, burning on my skin, it hurts more than anything I ever felt. I do not hesitate, I do not even acknowledge the pain. I carry the carcass and put it on the tree stump. The deer still has blood to give, a little puddle is forming.

I remember everything. There is a shoat on the opposite edge of the clearing. No birdsong, no wind, no sound but naked feet on the leafy forest ground. The little boar does not scream, it dies as quietly as the doe. The other naked human is a stranger. It lowers its dagger and paints itself in strange symbols of blood. They resemble eastern characters, I do not recognize any. As it walks over to the tree stump, carrying the shoat carcass like a precious child, I can see the tiniest amount of smoke rising from where the symbols burn into skin. The human does not flinch. I paint the others back in expert strokes of foreign characters. The other paints my back, for a short time, I can feel sun and wind between the strokes.

I remember everything. Every detail, every leaf I pass as I paint the ground. The doe does not stop bleeding, until the very end. Neither does the shoat. We have completed two half circles, they are not touching. The sun is setting. The evening glow falls onto the tree stump. The blood shines. The circles connect. I touch the other human, we lock hands. The words fuse across our bodies. The symbols flare and vanish. We leave in opposite directions.

I remember everything. As I walk back, I am still smeared with blood and dirt. The symbols have vanished in form, but their paint remains. It is dark as I reach the edge of the forest, I do not find my clothes. I start feeling the cold, black clouds have started to form. As I reach the train station, a thunder rumbles in the distance. I step onto the train right before the doors close.

I remember everything. I remember every drop of rain sputtering against the windows of the train. I remember the stains I leave on the seats, I remember nobody paying any notice whatsoever. People still do not see me. As I walk home from the train station, the rain washes off the worst of the dirt. It is still pouring intensely, even here. I reach my apartment, the door is still open. Without conscious decision, I step into the shower and mechanically clean my body. The sun is setting. I collapse onto my bed.

I just woke up, there was no dream, no visions, not the slightest disturbance of my deep, exhausted sleep. I just woke up, and I still remember everything.

I don’t know what to do now. I can not go back and live my normal life again. I don’t know what to do.

I remember everything.

I understand nothing.

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Afterword

Wednesday, 2016-03-02 (!!!), Afternoon

I kept obsessing over the cube, for most of the day, but there is something else that caught my attention. I am missing a week. An entire week, hidden away somewhere beyond memory; It turned March without me even noticing. I went back and read through my journal, but I couldn’t see an obvious time where this week could have gone. Something almost as worrying, no one else seems to have noticed. No missed calls, no emails,  no messages, nothing. I even missed that psychiatrists appointment and nobody followed up on that.

Have I, in that week, cut all ties? Maybe I was at that appointment? Did I delete all communication from that time? Why don’t my friends care, why doesn’t work care?

I know that this missed week should be reason enough to have myself committed to the hospital. But I have to see the next dream, first, I can not risk medication or sedation taking it away. I have to go back. I need to figure out this mess myself.

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Wednesday, 2016-02-24

There is a cube below, below, there is a cube. There is a cube below, of perfect shape, there is a cube of black. There is a cube below, of perfect black, reflecting all, the surface an impeccable clear silver. There is a cube below, of impossible color, there is a cube below, in perfect smothness. There is a cube below, in a giant cave. A cube, a perfect cube of unknowable size. There is a cube below, it draws me. My reflection walks towards me in perfect clarity, from an infinite blackness. There is a cube below, and a smell of metal. Below, a cube awaites me. A cube, below, filling my vision, black, silver, a reflection of itself, dark, shining, cold, perfection. A mirror, in the cave, a perfect surface, I walk towards myself, there is no choice, A perfect cube. I touch it. I feel nothing, I am awake, I am calm, there is no sweat, my bedding perfectly level. I understand that the cube is to big for a single dream. I understand, in the next dream, I will understand.

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Tuesday, 2016-02-23

I am getting closer. I ran from the presence in the wood so many times now, but never before have I felt it so clearly. It feels wild, mad, raging, senselessly destructive, devouring life without purpose as the forest withers. There is no reason in it, nothing to reason with. I know this with a certainty that is only present in dreams, when things are simply taken for granted, with nothing to indicate the deduction of these brute facts.

Just as the presence in the woods, I sensed that in the cave more clearly as well. It is cold, it is iron. Calculating, scheming, mad. I saw blackness in the cave today. Nothing but a blackness, filling almost the entire room, but with clearly defined borders.

I don’t know why, but I kept searching the internet again today. And I don’t know how, but I found something. A strange website that has clearly never seen the light of CSS. There are hidden links there, easy to miss and references I don’t understand. It talks about strange books with a clear expectation that every reader knows their contents by the letter. I would discount it all as useless gibberish, but some of these references could be about an owl being. Some of the references are remarkably similar to my feelings in the dream. Some of the references speak to me.

The site is a pain to navigate, and, it seems, purposefully so. Content is spread around hidden subpages, snippets are hidden in mouseover texts. I spent half the day until I found it, and half the day on it. Nothing has made much sense yet, but I have a feeling like I just have to read more and all will fall into place.

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Monday, 2016-02-22

The dream is changing… Or rather, it’s continuing. The cave, now brightly lit by the truth, glowing as bright as my understanding, definite in it’s completeness. A way has opened or revealed itself in the sick red light. I follow it. The symbols keep repeating, the same message, over and over again. I can not differentiate between the strange symbols and their transliteration or their meaning. It is like the message, true and removed from it’s presentation, is written on the wall, and it is only my eyes viewing it that overlay the different representations they have witnessed.

There has always been a presence in the cave, and as I follow the pathway, it strengthens, becomes oppressive. I can feel now, clearly, that it is different from the hunting presence from before. I can’t quite lay my finger on the difference. There are veins of glittering ore in the walls, the way widens, I can not stop going further, regardless of the mounting pressure and fear.

The path becomes a hall, the hall opens into a giant cavern, and inside the cavern… I awake.

It was afternoon when I woke up, I had slept a full 10 hours, just one dream. It holds a renewed significance now. All night, I obsessed over the little details, going through it again and again, in my head. I scoured the internet for hints, searching for mentions of eternal immortal owls and all sorts of variations of the message. I found nothing relevant in the heap of information. The dream will take me back soon, I can not wait, I want to see more.

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Sunday, 2016-02-21

This now, is the truth. The missing words are Finnish. „Iäisyyden“ revealed this fact to me very quickly, of course, thanks to the internet. It took a while to deduce the rest of the words from the little sample of letters I had, and checking for each probable combination if the result was valid Finnish. But this now, is the truth. This is the full text, the true message.

i am eternal
iäisyyden kuolematon pöllö
asleep waiting
iäisyyden kuolematon pöllö
it is time
iäisyyden kuolematon pöllö
awaken
iäisyyden kuolematon pöllö ymmärryksen takaa

Apparently, the finnish part translates to eternity immortal owl and „eternity immortal owl understanding from behind“ or something in that vein. Maybe a less… mechanical translation could be something like „eternal immortal owl (from) beyond understanding“?

I have concluded that it is a name or title, I feel like nothing else would adequately explain the structure of the text. Now that I finally found the meaning of these dreaded symbols, I don’t know what I am supposed to do with this information.

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Friday, 2016-02-19

No dream tonight. I feel refreshed.

Yesterday was great, I got so many things done. First, I went to the psychiatrist, and seeing the state I was in, he was able to make some time, although for some reason my wednesday appointment seemed to have gotten lost. Well, all the better, since I missed it anyways, I guess. I showed him my journal. He said I should seriously consider stationary treatment. He found it extremely worrying that apparently I had lost control and/or memory of my actions for some amount of time. I told him that I would consider it, especially should the situation worsen. I told him that I felt confident that I would be able to seek treatment before I lost too much control.

Maybe it was just hard to imagine, from a relatively sane perspective, how I could not be in control of my actions. Maybe the craziest thing I ever did was to not act on his warnings immideatly. In any case, for now, I’ll trust that I can get through this without resorting to such extreme measures. I also got some medication against anxiety, and my next appointment.

After the my visit to the psychiatrist I went to the library. It was unevenful and unremarkable. I spent about an hour browsing the books, but nothing really held my interest. When I left the building, I felt a lot less tired for some reason. Ate street food for dinner and went home, and slept for a long time.

Today, after sleeping in, I went shopping for groceries and cleaned the apartment. Nothing else of notice.

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