“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
-William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Last week a reader asked me what inspired my book, Rachel and the Mighty Arm that Built Egypt. I answered her privately, but here I will share publicly with more detail. The answer might sound cliché, but… it was a dream.
I had a dream about aliens transporting humans to their planet as a labor force. I can still see it vividly in my head. Dark craggy cliffs with a beautiful glass building set into its side. The building reminded me of a hothouse. The glass was tinted a soft blue. Everything was transparent—the roof, the doors, the second floor, and the stairs leading up to it.
The aliens had transported more than people. They had also transported our crops. That was why they needed us as a labor force. We were meant to tend the crops.
In the dream I felt oppressed and hopeless, but I was accepting my fate as slave to my alien masters. This all might sound benign, but the dream was terrifying. I experienced this feeling of time lapsing—like I had been on the planet for many days. My alien masters informed me and two other humans that there would be a new addition to the planet—they were transporting animals, too. We tried to ask them what animals they were transporting and warn them that some animals would be dangerous. Our alien masters paid us no mind. One dismissed us with a wave of his hand and they all retired to their castle without allowing us to speak further on the subject. Their castle was far removed from the glass house on the mountain cliff.
In a short amount of time we watched as portals opened all over the sky and familiar animals fell out onto the ground. We stood in front of the glass building, on the edge of the cliff, and saw a shark plummet to the ground, dripping water, tail flailing. Far in the distance we saw cheetahs and tigers emerge from portals. Wild boars and bears as well.
My two human friends and I screamed for people to run and hide. We yelled, “They’re dangerous! Get inside!” But the regular citizens of the planet (not the masters)—beings that looked human, but were from this foreign planet—did not understand. We watched as citizens of this strange planet got attacked by boars, pounced on by tigers, and mauled by bears. We tried barricading the doors to the glass building, but we could not stop the animals. It was horrifying.
This dream lit the flame of an idea, but the book ended up being something very different. I think that’s the cool thing about imagination. Sometimes we think we’re going to go one place, but we end up somewhere else entirely.