Twas the night before Christmas and 7-year-old little Salvador Dali was in his favourite place: deep in the psychic vastness of his unconscious mind. He swam through dreams with prodigious ease, and his dreams were nothing like that of his friends, whose tended to revolve around petty matters like toys and sibling squabbles and candy canes. Oh no – to compare little Salvador’s dreams with those of others his age was like comparing the collision of two ancient neutron stars with that of two glass marbles. His dreams were fuelled by such a combustion of imagination that he frequently woke up to find himself in a monochromatic, ashen world, a world through which he would stumble dazedly, searching for some portal which would take him back to the cornucopia of his dreams, in which he could again soar..
In the dead of this night, little Salvador woke suddenly upon hearing a loud noise. he sat upright, eyes taking a moment to adjust to the pitch dark. There seemed nothing out of place, everything was as expected. His school uniform still hung on the cupboard door, his father’s silver pocketwatch still lay on his bedside cabinet, his books on the artwork of DaVinci still splayed haphazardly across his desk. Dangling above his desk was a cardboard solar system which spun gently, the lunar rays cast planetary shadows onto the wall, they thrummed with a silent, cosmic intensity. He put his head back on his pillow and willed himself hungrily back to his other world, his surreality, and consciousness again dissolved like melting butter. then, mere milliseconds before he tipped back into the land of Freud, there came a clear but gentle tap… tap… tap… at the window.
Salva slowly turned over to face the window, eyes still feigned shut. he could see the faint swaying outlines of the vines which clambered over the house… perhaps one of the tendrils was tapping the window as it wafted in the wind. He frowned, closed his eyes, and once again began to drift away. seconds later… tap… tap… tap… only this time it was different. quicker, more urgent, and somehow, less natural. His heart fluttered now, but little Salva was not easily spooked, for the vibrant ferocity of his dreams was matched by the horror of his nightmares. He untucked himself and crawled over to the window on all fours. The tapping had stopped, but he could still see the blurred shape of a thick vine, which moved with oddly jerky movements. He got hold of the corner of the curtain and pulled it open just a sliver…
“OH DIOS MIO!!!” he cried,
stumbling backwards and pulling the curtains off the rail. There, almost filling the entire frame of his window, was the face of a gigantic swan. Salva crawled backwards over his bed frantically, falling forcefully onto the floor on the other side, the moon’s dazzling light tracking him like a prison spotlight. The great swan peered down at him curiously, as though observing a misshapen cygnet in a fit of frenzy.
After a long minute, still rasping, he peeked over his bed. The swan was no longer there. He stared at the window wide-eyed. and long moments passed. soon, when he had convinced himself the swan must have been but the shadow of a dream seeping into reality, a slender hand appeared, reaching slowly from beneath the window ledge. It was normal-sized – which brought some strange relief – and it was clearly a woman’s hand, but it seemed somwhat ghostly, unearthly. it radiated a faint glow, seemed almost translucent. Then, with no effort at all, the hand pushed on little Salvador’s locked window, and it swung open wide. He started, and before he even had a chance to react a flurry of snow swept into his room, coating his bed and his face. Squinting into the blizzard, little Salvador saw the woman was beckoning him, then she vanished from view into the white night.
Out of sheer wonder, or perhaps sheer madness, he instinctively ran towards the open window to follow the woman. He looked out the window frantically, searching the shadows of his snow-covered garden below. but no-one was there. He leaned out further, trying to look beneath the jutting roof edge. then suddenly he felt something grip the back of his pajamas and in one quick motion he was hauled up and out of his window like a lost pup and dropped onto the back of the great swan who perched on his roof. Before he could utter a yelp, the swan began hopping across the rooftops with its giant webbed feet, before spreading its wings like the almighty sails of the Argo and soaring off into the night sky. Soon the snow-caked rooftops of the sleeping city of Figueres were barely visible, so small they seemed almost Lilliputian, the street lamps nothing more than a swarm of distant fireflies.
As they flew higher and further away from all traces of humanity, the world he had known just moments before seemed a distant memory, and little Salvador realised that his initial state of panic had now completely subsided, lost in a crashing tide of wonder and awe. The real world with all its logical and coherent decrees, its linearities and geometries slowly began to melt away…
High above them, where the moon once lay, there was now a perfectly formed egg which floated horizontally. It had a slender crack running through its centre, from which there dribbled a thick molten yolk. Far below there was a great checkerboard lake, the surface covered in thick ice checkered black and white. Here and there he saw soldiers scampering across the ice, slipping and sliding, as well as armoured knights, and horses which galloped with a speed and grace that eclipsed all the others he had ever seen. A few miles on they came upon a vast plain littered with windmills, only in place of their rotor blades were gigantic spinning butterflies; the dust from their luminescent wings billowed as they spun wildly, sending a shimmering mist into the sky. There were groves of snow-capped trees shaped like craniums, and great crystallised monoliths alongside building-sized baguettes which were buried deep into the earth. There were mechanical statues with clockwork hearts; and strange giant rubber faces which hobbled around on wooden crutches; and ghostly nomads who were somehow only perceivable in his peripheral vision. Everywhere he looked there were new wonders to behold, but the swan flew on.
As they passed over the next alpine peak Salva was met with a sight which filled him with such wonder that tears streamed from his eyes. A formation of reindeer towered high above the snowy fields, lolloping on spindly, elongated legs. Their enormous antlers groped for the stars like fuzzy cacti, and seemed to converge above their collective heads into some chestnut-coloured coral reef. Occasionally elfin sprites danced in and out of the ossiferous weave of antlers like baby-faced soldiers of a celestial anthill. then At the rear of the reindeer squadron there came a gigantic moose of the purest white with great crimson antlers. and cradled above its enormous head, resting in the antlers which were like godly open hands, there rested a golden throne of such splendour and opulence that the night faltered in its aura… there, seated in his bejeweled throne, was Papa Noel. His colossal white beard swirled like a nimbus, his red cheeks bloomed like rose apples, his cloak seemed made of purest gold. but what stood out most of all was his incredible mustache – at odds with his white beard it was jet black, and it swept out and upwards like two royal scimitars, swishing loudly as he turned his great head. As Salva gazed on him time seemed to melt, and then he saw Papa Noel glance down at his watch.. as he did it started to drool from his arm like fresh oven-baked brie.. it seemed that time was running out… then, As little Salva still gazed upon this resplendent figure, he suddenly felt the world shift on its axis. and the great troupe of reindeer began to stumble on their frail legs, dragging the arctic moose and the great throne with them. As they plummeted towards the ground, so too did the great swan upon which Salvador sat. he fell through the sky faster and faster, the ground coming closer and close, and he raised his arms, bracing himself for the cold white impact of the snow below…
Then he was back in his bed.
holding his bedcovers out like great wings.
It was a dream. Nothing more.
with this realisation he put his face in his covers and began to sob. He felt the covers dampening as he clutched them to his face.
then after a few moments he heard it.
Tap… tap… tap…
He lifted up his head and through the glaze of his tear-filled eyes he saw a woman standing at the end of his bed. She was smiling gently, glowing softly, her aura serene.
The woman reached into her pocket, though the motion was unusual, more like opening a chest of drawers. And she took out what looked like a simple thin piece of wood, the end of which was covered in the finest hair. It was a paintbrush. She placed it into his hands and he looked down at it. When he looked back up she was gone. He walked to the window and looked down on his garden, the he looked up in the hope he might see the great swan. But there was nothing.
He looked around at his dreary room, and his grey walls, and then again out of the window over the bleached landscape, and then he did something quite unexpected; something completely unconscious. He lifted the paintbrush, and he began to paint over all that he saw. He used no oils, no watercolours, he used only his imagination…
‘Thank you, my muse’ murmured little Salva, and he painted and painted and painted until eventually he fell into a deep, dreamless and harmonious sleep.
NB: The final image is Dali’s ‘Leda Atomica’ (1949). Also… MERRY XMAS!!! xxx