Dreams have long proven themselves a source of mystery and intrigue for humans. Everybody from Shamen to psychiatrists have offered people interpretations of dreams in attempts to divine the future, explain the past, or part the veils surrounding the sub-conscience. With objects, people, and events occurring in dreams not always taken at face value, no one is ever able to guarantee that what they “see” in your dream is exact. In the end, a person’s own feelings about the dream end up being the most accurate, and any genuine interpretation will act more to guide a person towards their own findings rather than offering predictions.
Of course, that’s never stopped anyone from claiming that they can predict the future based on what’s seen in a person’s dreams. Although oracular dreams have a long tradition among many cultures, it’s not something that has much credibility in modern times. While most of us believe that we can control our own destiny, the future remains a mystery that most of us would rather not explore. While some people might want to know the answer to questions like, “Will I be wealthy?”, nobody is really that keen on finding out when and where they die.
In Zoran Zivkovic’s novella Steps Through The Mist, published in the United States by AIO Publishers, the layers of mist that surround time are peeled back by the experiences of five women. With them Mr. Zivkovic asks if our fates are not as random as we think after all. For while they may not be governed by some great God who has planned our lives in advance, they could be determined by more than just our choices.
Five women experience what’s it like when the fabric breaks and they either step into, or are offered a glimpse of what it’s like, in the mists of time. Both the future and the actions that shape the future exist beyond this veil, and the experience leaves each woman rattled and her sense of self disturbed. When the line between dreams and reality breaks down, how do you judge what to believe and who to trust?
Each year, Miss. Emily has set her freshman class of girls the task of writing out their recent dreams as a first assignment. Experience has taught that each year there will be a few girls who will deliberately create outlandish tales to pass off as their dreams as they refuse to take the assignment seriously. This year is no exception, but most disturbing is the girl who comes to their defence and offers proof that they aren’t lying by claiming to have dreamt their dreams with them. She can not only recite their dreams, but in order to prove her abilities she also tells Miss Emily her dream. The girl claims that if she were to leave the classroom it would cease to exist, as it too is somebody else’s dream that she is visiting.
When we meet the next young woman, who is being held in a straitjacket in an asylum as she has recently attempted suicide, something about her story sounds familiar. It’s one of the dreams that the young woman in the first story claimed to have dreamt with one of her fellow students. This dream had been about a young woman in an asylum who after suffering a head injury discovered she could not only predict the future, but was actually responsible for selecting which of the many possible futures would occur. She doesn’t believe that any human should have that power, and wants to commit suicide in the hopes that with her out of the way, chance will again rule everybody’s life.
Subsequently we meet each of the remaining dreams that the girl claimed to have been in. A woman on a skiing holiday meets a mysterious man on the ski lift when it breaks down, who tells her he has been sent to observe which run she selects to take back down the mountain. It’s of vital importance she select the right one or calamity could occur. Yet he also says that she’s not to think about it, because if she does, that will interfere in what’s supposed to happen.
The third dream was of a fortune teller, who is confronted by somebody who knows his own future and has merely come to her for confirmation. She of course knows that everything about her art is a fraud, and gently tells him that the short life line on the palm of his hand means absolutely nothing. Needless to say, when he’s struck by a car outside and killed after leaving her parlour, she is taken by complete surprise.
Miss Emily’s dream had been of an old woman who takes her broken clock into the watchmakers to be repaired. She needs the comfort of the sound of its ticking in order to sleep at night. The watchmaker is able to repair the ticking mechanism, but the clock will no longer keep time. On her way home she finds herself enclosed by a heavy mist that prevents her from seeing barely a yard in front of her. While she can’t see, she can hear, and all around her she hears the sounds of people she has known throughout her life. She eventually hears the sounds of the incident that she now realizes shaped her whole life.
Zoran Zickovic’s writing is so straight forward that everything that happens in Steps Through The Mist seems perfectly natural in spite of the peculiar nature of the events. The characters appear every bit as normal and rational as you and me. Even the medium is just another person trying to make a living and the young woman in the asylum comes across as completely rational. It’s the depiction of normalcy, and the way it contrasts with the surreal nature of the events described in the book, that make it so disturbing.
Like all of Zickovic’s stories, Steps Through The Mist will leave you scratching your head about the nature of dreams, and what effect we may or may not have on our fates. Does it really matter whether we make a concentrated effort to change our futures, or will what comes about comes about no matter what? Reality is not as far removed from the world of our dreams as we like to think, and the future is always waiting for us no matter what we do.
Zoran Zicovic is a master storyteller and this is yet another example of an artist at the top of his game. With few words, deceptively simple situations, and characters who are drawn from everyday life, he is able to create situations more fantastic than most authors who rely on dragons, castles, and battles. Steps Through The Mist proves once again that reality can be even more fantastic than fantasy if looked at in the right way.