No Sleep Tonight: The Lucid Nightmares of a Dream Journal

“Inside: A Journal of Dreams” by Andy Campbell and Judi Alston provides a chilling glimpse into the nature of madness, the implications of our dreams, and the ways in which reality is perceived. In short: it has the power to convince you that you’ve gone mad. A work of digital fiction from the web series, “Inside: A Journal of Dreams” is an interactive, immersive experience that finds readers dissecting an increasingly disturbing dream diary.

A web-based page run on Flash, “A Journal of Dreams” became increasingly complex as I travelled around the website. Upon opening the project, I was presented with a strange looking diary, an ominous, archaic symbol of a sun-like entity on the cover page.

elit pic one journal

From the get-go, I was uncomfortable, with droney music creating a haunting atmosphere. Headphones in, I dared to dive into the strange diary. I found that clicking on specific, highlighted words brought about new sequences of words and images. The diary appears to be a dream journal, with 80 pages of text forming a narrative that progresses throughout the story. The diary is dated, starting on September 13th.

elit pic first page journal

By the end, the journal’s author is so insane that he seems to be unable to tell what day it is. It seems like Campbell and Alston were inspired by the ways in which dream and memory can become connected, often warping reality in potentially horrifying ways. Clicking on the word “dream” on the first page of the diary took me to a particularly scary segway in which Rorschach inkblot patterns melded into black and white footage as the word “poltergeist” morphed around the screen; terrifying stuff. Spinning white orbs that reminded me of a solar-system also appear on the page, creating a dreamlike state that intensifies as the piece progresses. Campbell and Alston have given readers many options and ways to manipulate the diary on the screen. I could go page-by-page, or choose the “browse” option in which a side profile of the book appeared, giving the ability to jump to pages throughout the dream journal.

elit pic two journal

I was also given the option to invert, zoom, and rotate the diary as I read it, an ability that quickly became necessary.

elit pic three journal

I’m not positive that there is an exact order in which this is to be digested and I’m interested in the way that chronology plays into the perception of this work.

The writing is all quite poetic and we get some sense of the narrator though their memory, with references to actions and people illuminating some sort of personal struggle. The narrator seems lonely, on the fringes of reality as dreams infect their memory with undesirable thoughts, things better left repressed. The narrator refers to a woman consistently, a person whose existence stirs painful memories. Perhaps a lost love? Regardless, the effect is there. I found myself feeling quite hopeless and very disoriented while I read.

As the work progresses, the psyche of the writer begins to break down, with strange squiggles drawn between ambiguous words, bits of leaves and ideas scattered across pages, and muddled placement of blocks of text.

elit pic four journal

Black and white film morphed behind many pages of text, their effect adding dimensions to the imagery present in the work, evoking a dream-like feeling which suited the music and writing perfectly. Pictures were also present on some pages, images of seashells and odd drawings which tied into the dream-sequences.

Hidden, seemingly scratched out pieces of text also appeared frequently, making the rotating and other page-manipulation tools essential. I found myself drawn to finding these hidden words, taking joy in solving a puzzle that I well knew was unsolvable. Many pages had random letters swirling around on them, similar to the orbs on the first page. Different fonts also played a large role in telling the story, allowing for separation of thoughts within the ambiguous entries.

I’d recommend experiencing “Inside: A Journal of Dreams” if you enjoy being a bit creeped out, if you enjoy having to grapple with what you are reading. This is a memorable, creative piece of writing that might just sneak into your head as you try to fall asleep in a dark room.

Check out “Inside: A Journal of Dreams” here:

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