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‘As I Stand There in My Dream’
The Dream Snake by Robert E. Howard

Formerly published as ‘Then I Awake,’ with revisions

Reading from The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, 2008, Del Ray, NY, pages 29-34, originally published in Weird Tales, February 1928

Men sit together on a “wide veranda,” looking out over “broad shadowy lawns” toward “the dim mountains that frame the eastern skyline” as night falls and a hot southern haze rises from the land. One gets the feeling of a boarding house for men. The scene is murky and atmospheric. The story of the dream snake is not.

Faming is a man there, sitting on his chair, starting wildly about as he tells his friends of the terrible dream that had haunted him since “babyhood.” Faming is known to be unimaginative and fears that his behavior will cause him to be locked up as a “lunatic” rather than have him judged eccentric.

The tale he then tells is of a reoccurring dream that he was a white man lording it over some “hindoo servant” on an African plantation, and of a hideous monster that stalked him through those dreams.

The Dream Snake is a story of racial guilt and vengeance for ancestral wrongs down through Time and across Space, and is central to Howard’s obsession with racial memory. Strangely, for a Howard tale, there is no hero, just Faming, a haunted dreamer who steps forward as the narrator of his own nightmare. Interestingly, when the anonymous narrator describes Faming’s disturbing recollection, it sounds much like a modern blurb about Howard’s writing:

“…his words fairly leaped at us.”

I cannot know, but do suspect, that in The Dream Snake and the tormented person of Faming, the reader is treated to a glimpse of Robert E. Howard’s dreamscape, before the introduction of the heroic element which usually arced like a smoldering ember through his haunted story settings.

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