Lou Sidley dreamed he walked further and further into a forest at night. He followed a winding path illuminated by the pale glow of the moon. He searched for something, though he didn’t know what for or where to look. He walked deeper and deeper into the forbidding blue darkness, until all around him was dense black and he could not see.
While a pandemic transformed life as he knew it, Lou Sidley pursued his frustrated passion for writing. He wanted to write a story. The night of the dream he stared at a blank word document for hours before finally falling asleep with hot eyes and an aching head. He awoke with the intense indifference he was now accustomed to living with in lockdown. Every day he laboured to write but struggled with no ideas. He searched for inspiration in books, films, and TV, but he had no luck. It had been that way for weeks. Months.
Today – as he did yesterday morning and the morning before – Lou Sidley followed his usual routine and it bored him. He thought about writing his story and decided to procrastinate. An accumulation of books, loose papers, and all sorts of stuff cluttered the floor including the pink index cards on which he recorded dreams. He began sorting the mess into piles and recalled his dream of the night before. With hardly another thought, he fished out the pink cards from the clutter, laid them out on the kitchen table and read into the afternoon.
In one dream, Lou Sidley lay in a hospital bed recovering from radical cosmetic surgeries. His entire body had been carved up and remade. He hosted a party for himself and his new body on the hospital ward, which was well attended by friends and family. Though bandaged and bruised, his swollen, purple face looked pleased under the stark-white, hospital lighting. He urged all of his friends around his bedside to take pictures of him and post them on social media.
Lou Sidley had been sitting down for too long. He stood up, touched his toes, put the kettle on, emptied the dishwasher, made a cup of tea, loaded the washing machine, hoovered the carpet, checked his phone, and scrolled and scrolled until the unceasing, smooth glow of the glass screen left him cold.
In another dream, Lou Sidley entered a Wacky Warehouse, a soft play centre he visited as a child. He moved through a labyrinth of dimly lit, rainbow-coloured rooms. He waded into ball pits, slid down slides, scrambled up cargo nets and trampled over bouncy castles. But things began to change. He noticed crumbling walls and tatty interiors, figures slipped in and out of shadowy corners, long and narrow corridors ended where they began, there was no escape.
Lou Sidley craved new distraction. He put on his coat, gathered the rubbish, left the building, walked to the corner shop and bought various nonessentials. On his way back he spotted things he disliked about the neighbourhood – dogshit, for example, or the little silver laughing gas canisters lining pavements.
In the last dream he read, Lou Sidley sat with his family in the front room of his childhood home when he noticed his eyes were blood-streaked and oozing. While inspecting his face up-close in a mirror he found two tiny microchips wedged between his eyeballs and lids, which he extracted with a pair of tweezers. He questioned his family about the microchips, but they ignored him. He became hysterical and turned green, fled the house and fainted on the driveway.
Lou Sidley’s dreams pulled him from one world into another where anything that could possibly happen did, or was suddenly probable. As he sat at the kitchen table flicking through the pink index cards, his imagination spun and he felt dizzy. Then it hit him: his dreams told stories: some were haphazard, ambiguous, cryptic, some were spontaneous, truthful and relatable. He liked them all the same exactly as they were. But the idea that he could short-circuit his writer’s block bothered him for reasons he didn’t understand.
At the end of the day Lou Sidley was confused. It was late and the room was dark. The day had disappeared suddenly and with such ambivalence that he felt at a loss. He would give up and try again tomorrow. He brushed his teeth, undressed from daytime pyjamas into nighttime pyjamas, slid under bed covers, and as he closed his eyes, he whispered to himself: tonight I will dream a story.
Lou Sidley dreamed of the moonlit forest again but it was different this time. He walked further into the dense darkness, still searching for something, and though he didn’t find it, whatever it was, it didn’t matter. He had a new awareness of his own body and the physicality of the forest. He enjoyed the walk. After a while he came upon a wide, clear view of rolling fields carpeted with bluebells, and he drank in the purpley-blue colours.
Lou Sidley paid closer attention to his dreams from then on. His remaining nights in lockdown were far more adventurous than his wildest days before the pandemic. He failed to write a story, but he did more imaginative things under the conditions of sleep. As he left one world and wandered off into another, he kept a pen and paper under his pillow, in case he might return in the morning with a story. But, he often thought, what are stories alongside the richness of dreams? Words, words, words.
Andrew Price (b. 1993, UK) lives and works in London. He currently holds curatorial and archival positions at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art and Lisson Gallery. He has worked on exhibitions, publications, commissions, and live programming for a variety of arts organisations including Barbican Art Gallery, Tate Modern, Chisenhale Art Place, and artists’ studios. Andrew completed an MFA in Curating from Goldsmiths University in 2019 and a BA in Culture, Criticism, and Curation from Central Saint Martins in 2014.