I had a very bizarre dream last night. I was driving to the gas station to buy milk. It was the middle of the night. (In case you were wondering, I don’t normally make nocturnal milk runs, or buy my dairy products at the local Exxon-Mobil station.) As I pull into the gas station, I notice several police cars parked outside. That’s odd, I think. Then, as I get out of my car, I notice a police officer frantically waving at someone near me, trying to tell them something. But I’m determined to get milk, so I head inside. That’s when I notice that the store clerk is being held hostage. I’ve walked into an armed robbery. I wake up cloaked in sweat.
My dream, of course, is entirely banal. But it’s also extremely weird. What I can’t understand is how my brain knew the ending of the dream before I did. I was just a bit character – my unconscious was the director. It was as if my own mind was deliberately withholding information from me in order to generate narrative suspense. After I realized that I had walked into a hostage situation, all the prior anomalies that my brain had crammed into the dream – the police cars parked out front, the officer trying to get my attention – suddenly made sense.
The larger question, I guess, is whether the narrative suspense that characterizes so many dreams requires an omniscient director, an unconscious who knows what will happen before we do. Has this ever happened to you? Or were all the suggestive details just a retroactive delusion?