the Story of Memory and Dreams Written by Marc M端hlenbach Illustrated by Anna Parini
‘And every dream tells it all – And this dream is your story ‘ David Byrne In Loving Memory of our dear friend Martin Inda
The Story of Memory and Dreams. Written by Marc M端hlenbach Illustrated by Anna Parini
The First Day.
He was always sure that when he would grow up, he would be a doctor: a doctor of memory of dreams, perhaps. But when his teacher asked him on the day it all started going wrong what it was he wanted to become when he grew up, well, he just couldn’t remember... It was a strange feeling not remembering: like he had gone missing, even though he was clearly still right here. After school that day he walked home by himself, like every day, but unlike every other day he suddenly found he couldn’t remember where he lived. ‘What was the name of my street?’ he wondered, ‘and the number of my house...?’ As it started getting dark and he still couldn’t remember a thing, he decided it was best to lie down on a bench and try to sleep. A little animal he could have sworn he had seen before came up to the bench and glanced at him. He tried so very hard, but he couldn’t remember what kind of animal it was. It was a very sad and tiring thing, he thought to himself, not being able to remember anything. He suddenly felt very alone on that bench. That night, the boy fell into an especially deep sleep...
And in his sleep he entered the village of Memoriam for the first time. The air was thick and foggy and only an occasional lantern lit the way. Soon he came up to an old house that looked cold and forgotten. Inside, he noticed many strange things, like clocks that had stopped and food that was rotten. The armchairs and stairs had been gathering dust for years it seemed, and there were several strange tools and gadgets he had never before seen in all his life. And with a start he realised that at the top of the stairs somebody, or something, was indeed staring at him. ‘Precious young boy, what brings you here? We haven’t had visitors in – oh, surely, many a year. You must be from far away! Yes? No? If not, you are at least sure to be from long, long ago’ ‘From long, long ago?’ he repeated to himself, whispering. Then he spoke up, ‘but I don’t even know where I am! How can I know if I am from far away or long, long ago, if I don’t know where or when I am?’ ‘Don’t even know where I am? Why, you are now a visitor of Memoriam’ said the creature at the top of the stairs. ‘And this is the House of Constant Forgetting. Where iron turns to rust and armchairs gather dust; for these things this house is the perfect setting. For this is where no matter what you see or say or sing, nobody remembers anything. So tell me, if you will, my dear, what did you say it was that brought you here?’
‘I never told you’, the boy said, wondering why the creature was asking him again. ‘I don’t know what brought me here’, he said, finally. ‘I was just...on a bench...and then...’ ‘My precious young boy’, the creature continued patiently and as though it wasn’t paying any attention to the boy at all, ‘you really ought to be more aware and act, when you do, with a little more care. You know you can’t just stumble into any odd stranger’s home, clearly confused and all alone. I imagine next you’ll just off and disappear, but before you do, remind me please, what was it you said that brought you here? ’ This truly did seem like the House of Constant Forgetting. ‘Well,’ the boy started, ‘...what is it that brings you here? To me it is you that seems quite confused and all alone’ ‘Me?’ the creature replied. ‘I was sent here, that much I know. But that is all I can remember, so, that is all I have to say; I was sent here, but by whom or when or why, I couldn’t tell you no matter how you pry. Besides, things are best forgotten and one should never look back. What’s done is done and that is that’. The creature looked worried and lost and smiled an awkward smile. But before the boy could ask it another question, the creature’s concern vanished from his face and he spoke again, ‘My dear little boy’ he began as before, ‘I think this is no place for little boys at all. You cannot help me with your questions or with whatever you may choose to say; I think it best if you were on your way’. The boy thought it was best too. This truly was the House of Constant Forgetting. And as he left, the creature waved an awkward wave and smiled another awkward smile, and the boy felt bad that this gentle creature had no idea why he had been sent to Memoriam or by whom or even when...
The Second Day.
When he woke up the next morning, he noticed he was able to remember things again. He remembered clearly now where he lived and he remembered some other things he had forgotten the day before, and he smiled a smile of relief. He was excited that he was able to remember again, but then he noticed that something about this didn’t feel right either. He thought back and tried to remember his dream and although it didn’t feel right, he felt strangely happy. Things weren’t that bad in the village called Memoriam he thought. In fact, it was probably a good thing that the creature he met couldn’t remember anything. That way, he couldn’t remember any of the sad things in his life. And that was surely a good thing, the boy now thought to himself. He now remembered his most recent birthday and he remembered turning nine years old and he thought to himself, ‘that was the best birthday I’ve ever had’. I remember there being cake and balloons and I was wearing a colourful party hat. It must have been a great birthday party,’ he thought. ‘I hope every year I will have a birthday just like that’ . Later that day, when it was already dark, and he had found his way back to his house and into his bed, the boy fell into another especially deep sleep...
When he started dreaming, he found himself in the village of Memoriam once more. He walked through the fog along the dimly lit path, passing the house of Constant Forgetting as a shiver ran down his spine. He speeded up his pace and headed towards what was known as the House of Constant Pleasure. As he approached the house, he heard glasses that were clinging, chatter and laughter, the pouring of wine and people singing. All the while an old gramophone was playing a selection of forgotten favourites in the background. Too intrigued to look any further, and noticing the front door was ajar, the boy slowly walked into the house. At first the people inside the House of Constant Pleasure didn’t even take notice of the boy, that’s how absorbed they were by their joy. He walked into the middle of the room and found himself standing between a married couple deep in conversation. They looked down at the boy and he noticed they were smiling a most peculiar smile. ‘Hahaha, look at this lost little boy’, the man laughed. ‘Charmed’ he went on, ‘the name is Roy. And this is’, he went on, pointing to the woman, ‘my missus’. ‘Hahaha, the name is Liz’, the woman laughed, ‘pleasure to meet you, it really is’. ‘Where am I?’ asked the boy. ‘What is this strange place?’ ‘Well, this is no place for a little boy’, said Roy, ‘this is the House of Constant Pleasure, but it doesn’t house a single toy. Things here are always sublime; no one can remember ever having had a sad or painful time. Here we try to have fun night after night and we try to forget the things that don’t feel right. That way, when we remember anything at all, we are sure that what we recall is always trouble-free. It really is quite perfect; wouldn’t you agree?’ The boy was not so sure if he agreed. He was suspicious and curious and wanted to know more. ‘How did you end up in the House of Constant Pleasure?’ the boy asked the couple. ‘Well, we were sent here by a king,’ said Liz, ‘a king who remembers everything, but when or why we just don’t remember and we don’t really care. What if it’s not a pleasant memory? – that wouldn’t get us anywhere!’ ‘Hmmm...’ the boy thought to himself. ‘I wonder if the forgotten creature was sent to the House of Constant Forgetting by the same king. I will have to find out, he thought, but surely these two are of no help if they only remember pleasantries. Again, he thought it best to be on his way and bid the couple farewell, genuinely hoping they would enjoy the rest of their evening...’
The Third Day.
He awoke the next morning feeling strange. He thought back and tried to remember his dream again and although he was sure that he had met a couple named Liz and Roy that were having a great time in a house where people only remembered pleasant things, he found himself feeling rather sad. Again, he remembered his most recent birthday and he remembered turning nine years old, but he remembered something he had seemingly forgotten the day before; he now remembered that he was actually all alone on his birthday. He realised that he had not had a great birthday party after all and he hoped that he would never again have another birthday party as sad and lonely as that one in all his life. After a long day spent feeling sad and alone, he lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. He tried to sleep, but it wasnâ€™t easy. He twisted and turned for a long time, hoping he would dream of Memoriam again and continue his search for the king. A king that remembers everything, he thought to himself over and over again, until, at long last, he fell into yet another especially deep sleepâ€Ś
As he had hoped before falling asleep, he found himself back in Memoriam once he was dreaming. He rushed passed the House of Constant Forgetting, which looked as dark and lonely as ever, and he rushed past the House of Constant Pleasure, where glasses were clinging again and music was still in the air. At the end of the long, poorly lit path beyond a rusty gate, he made out the shape of another, bigger house, one that he hadn’t seen before. He walked up to the house and, noticing some candles that were lit, he walked inside, hesitating a bit. Inside, the house was as silent as a graveyard and although there were people sitting around in rocking chairs, they weren’t saying a word. All that the boy could hear was the creaking of the rocking chairs that were rocking backwards and forwards. The air was heavy and the people in the house looked sad and depressed. Feeling very much out of place, the boy suddenly noticed movement on an old woman’s face. She had a voice that was gentle and frail and motioned for the boy to come closer with an old, bony finger with a long fingernail. ‘This is no place for a little boy’, she started. ‘This house is full of things, but it is empty of joy. For goodness sake, make sure you don’t stay long; the power of sadness is very, very strong’. ‘What is this place?’ the boy finally asked her. ‘ This is the House of Constant Sorrow’, answered the old woman, ‘where memories are sad every yesterday, every today and every tomorrow’. ‘But why?’ the boy asked painstakingly. ‘Why are you all here?’ ‘ We were sent here by the king’, said the old woman. ‘The king who remembers everything’, said the boy, and his eyes opened wide. ‘ Yes, indeed’, said the old woman, ‘it was he that sent us here. We have been withering away now for many a year, but why he chose this fate for us, that, dear boy, remains unclear. It seems he has forgotten all about Memoriam and all about us, but what does it matter when you are too sad to cause a fuss?’ I must find the king, the boy thought to himself. ‘Why have these people been sent here?’ He wondered, in silence. ‘I must find the king,’ he said, anchoring the thought in his memory so as not to forget. He found himself slowly walking backwards out of the House of Constant Sorrow as he began to awake once again...
The Fourth Day.
The boy awoke the next morning feeling strangely refreshed, like he hadnâ€™t dreamt of anything sad at all. He remembered his birthday once more and thinking back, he suddenly noticed that when he put his mind to it, he was able to remember his life very vividly; every little detail he had seen and every word he had heard. He remembered that it had been exactly 87 days since his birthday and when he picked any of these 87 days in his mind, he was able to remember the entire day and everything that had happened on that day. He remembered every question he was asked and what he had answered. He remembered everything he did and every meal he ate. He remembered everything that had made him happy and everything that made him sad and he suddenly realised he was remembering things he wished would have remained forgotten. It was terribly tiring to remember so many things and the day passed so slowly he thought that it might never end. He went to bed early that day and with a very heavy head indeed not feeling very much like a little boy at all. That night, for the final time, he fell into an especially deep sleep...
He started dreaming almost right away and what he dreamt was quite peculiar, indeed. Gone was the village and the foggy air; gone were the houses that used to be everywhere. Instead, he found himself approaching a most spectacular palace. It looked perfect and pristine, like no one ever forgot to repair or clean a single thing. There were crystal clear sounds in the air and not a cloud in the sky. Everything appeared as though it was in perfect harmony. At the gates of the palace the boy was met by a perfectly groomed guard wearing grey glasses and green gloves. The boy was stopped by the guard who looked at him and said, ‘ You have never passed these gates before. I remember all that have passed here and I will for evermore, but you have never passed through these gates before. And those that I do not know I turn away and they must go’. The boy looked up in surprise. While you might expect a guard to be stern and try to refuse you entry to where you want to go, the fact that this guard claimed to remember every last person that had tried to enter into the palace was baffling indeed. ‘Precisely sixty-six years ago, at a quarter past two, a boy approached me, but he was not you. His eyes were brown and his trousers blue; his bag was old but his hat was new, and if my memory is sure of one thing, it’s that you are not him and he is not you’. ‘I have never been here before, that is true’, the boy said to the guard. ‘I am not even sure where I am, but I have come to ask the king about a village. A forgotten village called Memoriam’.
‘A village that has been forgotten, you say? Why, that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. You seem to be remembering it just fine, by the way. I am starting to think you are absolutely absurd’. Did he really not know of the village? Was he hiding something, perhaps? Or had the guard himself perhaps forgotten something, after all? Be all that as it may, it seemed there was clearly no talking to the guard and the boy walked away, thinking maybe there was no way he would ever be able to enter the palace and see the king. But as he walked away, he remembered the guard’s words. ‘Those that I do not know, I turn away and they must go’. Could the guard’s memory be the key to get into the palace, after all? After a while, the boy turned around and walked back to the gate thinking surely if the guard remembers everyone, he must remember me and then he must let me pass. ‘Ah, it’s the little boy in search of his forgotten town. I remember you; I most surely do, because I remember everyone, once I’ve looked them up and down’, said the guard quite proudly. ‘I need to see the king. It is very urgent’, said the boy, quite confident that his trick was working. ‘Well, if that is so, you best hurry so as not to be late. If one thing is certain about urgent matters, it’s that they cannot wait’, said the guard as he dutifully opened the gate.
Once inside the palace, the king was easy to find, as though he were expecting the boy to show up and as though he had something to tell the boy. ‘Come in’, he heard a voice echo, as he found himself walking down a long hallway. ‘Come in, dear boy’, the voice rang again. The boy followed the voice and stepped into a large room with marble floors, long curtains and the biggest windows the boy had ever seen. At the end of the room sat the king on a large, golden throne. There was nobody else around. The two were alone. ‘Come closer’, said the king, who spoke in a deep, calm voice. ‘ You, dear boy, have brought a curious look with you. What is it I can do for you?’ ‘ Your majesty’, the boy began softly. ‘I have to come to ask you about Memoriam. The people there tell me you are the king who remembers everything, but yet you seem to have forgotten all about these people; they are living forgotten lives, your majesty, and can’t seem to remember correctly at all. What have you done to these people? And why are they living like this?’
‘I am the king of memory and dreams and I decide upon their roles’, said the king, ‘and I can tell you that what you entered were dreams: dreams of troubled souls’. ‘ You first met a man whose father left him many years ago. When he is awake all he can do is wish that it weren’t so. And now the only memory he has ever known is the memory of being left alone. He believes he cannot move on, but he hasn’t even tried because the only memory he has, has left him terrified. And so now the dream, which for him I bring, is that he cannot remember anything’. ‘And what about the married couple, Liz and Roy?’ asked the boy. ‘Are they truly happy? Why are they dreaming what they are dreaming?’ ‘They dream they are a happy couple, but it is not true happiness they feel’, said the king. ‘They haven’t been married in over twenty years, but this is something they conceal. They cannot accept that their true happiness together is now a memory of something that used to be. And so when they dream, it is up to me to try to get them to see and to feel that the happiness in the House of Constant Pleasure just isn’t real’. ‘And what about the House of Constant Sorrow? Why are these poor people always sad?’ asked the boy. ‘They are sad in dreams, dear boy, because all day long they refuse to see that people can also have a sad memory. They spend all their time trying to forget that sad things happen and pretend that things are always right. I ensure that they are visited by sadness night after night’. ‘I send these people to where they are when they dream, it is true’, the king went on, ‘but not because I want to, dear boy, but because it is the task that I am made to do, and it is this task that has brought you here, but this is where your journey ends, my dear. This dream is your story, but, dear boy, no matter what your dream contains, it is only when you wake up that you realise that memory...
...memory is all that remains.â€™