– To sleep, perchance to dream of Orson Welles, and know the storm is coming... 



This is the 12th part of The NEXT THRILLING CHAPTER.



The conceit that the narrator is recounting (or trying to recall) a serial he’s been dreaming about allowed for a degree of looseness and inconsistency in the plotting. It also invites the collaboration of the viewer, because the story, fragmentary and plagued by misdirection, must be imaginatively pieced together. The reward is liberation from the stupefied apathy to which habituees of narrative—addicts all—submit themselves.

     Nevertheless, it’s a conceit that had its own dangers. Did you ever wake from a dream while dreaming, and keep on dreaming, all the while supposing (in the dream) that you were awake?

     Dreams of this sort are not uncommon. Nor is it uncommon these days for people to dream they’re watching a screen, and following a story. On this occasion, I was watching a movie serial at the same time I was right in the middle of it, while it was happening. I was a spectator, but also one of the characters. Though I knew what was about to happen, I couldn’t do anything to change it. It wasn’t very pleasant.

     When I woke up, I wrote the part of the script that begins about two and a half minutes into the chapter.



There’s a kind of binary thinking that can be very limiting. Some people, for instance, take a dismissive view of our dreams. They insist that to suppose dreams have any meaning is mere superstition, so they’re not worth thinking about.

     And yet, this insistence is not simply a judgement, but a decision that dismisses a common human experience as lacking importance: waking from a dream, we are troubled by it.

     Let me be more precise: whenever this happens, it’s not we who are troubled, but somebody—a particular human individual. Even if the dream is objectively nonsensical and its content may be dismissed as the confused residual recollection of unregulated neural activity, the sense of unease belongs to the emotional economy of that individual.

     Anyway, this is my excuse for paying attention to some of my dreams. If not meaningful in themselves, they serve as a private gateway to my fears and failings and uncertainties. When I consult the oracle of dreams, I’m answering the injunction: “Know thyself.”

     Though, I have to admit, I’m making rather slow headway.

     So this morning I saw a couple of people in the dream I had as I was waking up. One I knew was Orson Welles, the other, I thought, was his wife. I don’t know how good the resemblance to Welles was, but I didn’t recognize the woman at all. Both were very old, in poor health, and deeply unhappy—she because she had been betrayed, he because the breach he’d caused by betraying her was irreperable.

     How did I know? I had the opportunity to observe them closely, and was evidently (in the dream) very perceptive. I sat down between them in a row of cinema seats, and they were so miserable I wanted to comfort them, bring them together if I could. But words failed me. They were irreconcilable. She would neither speak to him, nor listen; he knew there was nothing he could say. All I could do was take the hand of the woman on my left, and then acknowledge, with as much sympathy and respect as I could muster, the man on my right, as if I might somehow form a bridge between them.

     But the situation was hopeless.



Now, sometimes when an artist or writer appears in a dream, I get confused, because I find myself involved in a personal encounter that’s absurd and unrewarding. I talk to them as if I know them, and, as I’m talking, come to realise that, really, I don’t. They look at me, puzzled. Under their embarrassed gaze, I become acutely self-conscious. I haven’t yet discovered they also are mere images.

     But this wasn’t one of those dreams. I wasn’t meeting or talking to Orson Welles. I was watching a performance.

     At breakfast, I thought about another occasion when Welles appeared in one of my dreams. It was no more a personal encounter than this one. When I’m awake, if I think about Welles, it’s as the director of several films I’ve loved or admired. In my dreams, however, he is first and foremost an actor, but also (as he was in life) something of a showman and a trickster. This offered me a key to the interpretation of the dream:

     Welles, whose promising career was all but overwhelmed by failed or half-realized projects and work-for-hire, represents, in this tableau, POLITICS. He sits on my right, filled with regret, but powerless, now, to repair the situation. On my left, ailing and betrayed, and unconsolable, sits TRUTH. She is without hope. Only misery and death lie ahead.

     What were we sitting down in our seats to watch? My attention was almost entirely occupied by these two figures. I don’t recall even being aware of a screen. Perhaps we were settling down to watch The Tragedy of History, as it played out in front of us.



Does this “interpretation” represent the “meaning” of the dream? I don’t believe I can insist that it does. Last night, I knew the notes and/or commentary for this section needed to be written. Some of it was in my mind, and that’s where I start this morning. What occasioned the show of misery I witnessed in my dream I don’t know. I find the interpretation neat, and satisfying—but I’m not convinced. It’s likely no more than an invention, provoked by recollection of the dream.

     The earlier part of the script for this chapter is a satire on interpretations invented to masquerade as evidence. My awareness that the Qanon hoax was gaining traction in the right-wing ecosystem—not least because Donald Trump was unwilling, as the 2020 election approached, to alienate anyone who might vote for him—was one of the foundations of the serial. Clues and coded references may be detected throughout, many keyed to the fact that Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet: 


     The serial, obviously, has 17 chapters.


     The subtextual presence of Q is announced in Chapter 3 by the introduction of Larry Cohn—a disguised reference to Larry Cohen, who directed (among other things) Q – The Winged Serpent. (For those who might have otherwise supposed this no more than coincidence, the subtitle of that movie supplies the title of the serial at this point.)



     Also, if you watched Chapter 3 closely, you might have wondered, who’s the cat in the hat who makes an appearance at 6:56? And, of course, when you thought, Cat in the Hat, you’d immediately have thought of Dr. Seuss. The author of the Dr. Seuss books was one Ted Geisel, and if we examine the name THEODOR S. GEISEL (20,8,5,15,4,15,18 / 19 / 7,5,9,19,5,12) numerologically, we find that it yields:


20 + 8 + 5 +15 + 4 + 15 + 18  /  19  /  7 + 5 + 9 + 19 + 5 + 12 


which equals:


85  /  19 /  57




8 + 5  /  1+ 9  /  5 + 7 


which equals:


13  /  10  /  12


10, being the perfect Pythagorean number, need not be further reduced (1 + 0) until the last stage, so:


1 + 3  /  10  /  1 + 2


which equals:


4  /  10  /  3


which, of course, gives the result 4 + 10 + 3 = 17


(And, as I said above, the character in the striped hat appears at 6:56, which produces another recurrence of 17, by means of 6 + 5 + 6.)



     The deep numerological foundations of the serial may evade the uninitiated, but another example ought to illustrate its pervasive influence:

     The eleventh chapter is “The Storm is Coming”, an apocalyptic watchword meaningful to adherents of Q. Above the title, the production company, “AOA Publicity Associates” yields two further 17s—1 + 15 + 1 for AOA, and 16 + 1 for the PA of “Publicity Associates”.

     Also, below the title, the certificate of meteorological authenticity has the number 23327


2 + 3 + 3 + 2 + 7 = 17.


The same number, 23327, may be seen in the background of a shot that runs from 3:34 until 3:40 during the chapter:


3 + 3 + 4 + 3 + 4 + 0 = 17.


Is there even the least possibility this is merely accidental? 


     Other recurrences of 17 rely not on numerology, but on allusion. For instance, in Chapter 6, the alert viewer will detect references to an old tv series, The Prisoner. Its theme was the resistance of the individual to coercive social programming, and it ran for 17 episodes.


     In Chapter 7 we read of “the dread High Cuckoo, dedicated to crippling the forces of law that might restrain him from seizing absolute power.” It’s pretty much what you’d expect a villain to do, but this is one of the sillier names he’s given. Of course, “High Cuckoo” is an allusion to haiku, a Japanese poetic form: 


Japanese poem

of seventeen syllables

– compressed; a snapshot.


     In Chapter 12, Jerry’s last thoughts form a haiku.


     And, since that brings us back again to Chapter 12, I might as well point out that the part of the script earlier described as a satire on fraudulent or deceptive interpretations runs from 1:04 to 2:28


1 + 0 + 4 +2 + 2 + 8 = 17


It is conceivable that these apparently random details could be meaningfully organized with such precision by a merely human intellect? Plainly, these subliminal cues have been predetermined by a higher power.



If, on the other hand, much of the above strikes you as incomprehensible and pointless nonsense, you have my sympathy. I tend to think, however, that it’s not so much incomprehensible as meaningless—but it does have a point: many people embrace nonsense if it can be used to support what they believe.

     For instance, the posts by Q presented not a coherent and falsifiable body of evidence, but an endlessly malleable set of clues. Conviction is given to prophetic outcomes which answer to the needs of the believer.

     As in other cases of pathological commitment to a prophetic framework, the work of decoding clues—or of giving assent to the decoding of clues—constitutes a parallel (which is not entirely a helpless caricature) of rational procedure. Every decoding is a provisional hypothesis, about which its inventor becomes excited because they hope it may demonstrate the accuracy of their belief. When the hypothesis proves false, it’s hardly worth thinking about. It was only a false trail.

     Anyone trying to invent something, or make something work, or understand something, is likely to construct and discard hypotheses. That one way to do something doesn’t work isn’t proof it can’t be done. Stubbornness in the effort of discovery is considered admirable in the history of science—at least, when it results in success.

     But discovery, invention, the development of procedures, the extension of understanding are evolutionary processes; and some efforts involve people backing the wrong horse. If everyone had the knack of backing the right horse, there’d be no big winners.

     The development of systems of belief is also subject to evolutionary development. Whether a belief is taken up by large numbers is dependent not entirely on the practical demonstration of its accuracy, but on the extent to which it answers the needs of those who believe it.

     Many who have succumbed to the fascination of Q are evidently overwhelmed by the complexity of the world, and are seduced by the illusion that an answer to their confusion is at hand. The framework of Q, paradoxically, provides no certainty, only a route map for the attainment of a final certainty: keep watching for clues, keep trying to decode them. It is, essentially, a prophetic fingertrap: the promise is the only answer they’ll get. Having been offered certainty, they must “earn” it by placing their faith in solutions that, at best, lead to nothing certain, at worst, result in disappointment and frustration. This increases the anxiety that led them in the first place to place their faith in this promise of a solution: 


     A man falls into a trap, and can’t climb out.

     When a second man appears at the edge of the pit, the first asks for assistance. The second man throws him a spade.

     “Dig,” he tells him, “and keep digging. That way lies the light of day. That way lies freedom.”