The Dream of REDMAN

The story for REDMAN came to me in a dream that lasted all of about fifteen minutes. That includes the time I lay in bed trying to recall what I had just dreamed. That was at about two a.m. I got up and typed up as much as I could remember. Three hours later I had the original outline for REDMAN. I didn't elaborate on what was in the dream, although I did give placeholder names to a couple of characters just to make it easier to keep track of them.

After I had processed the storyline and accepted the bizarre way it came to me, I thought back to what might have inspired the dream.

DREAM 1—March 26, 2016

The dream began with me looking at the dust jacket of a novel named Red Man. The cover drawing was set in the interior of a mud-and-stick domed hut. Grass baskets and dried herbs hung from the ceiling and walls. Rolled carpets were stacked in the background. A red blanket woven with a Navajo-like pattern was spread over the center of the hard dirt floor. Curled up on the blanket was a very large Native American man with a rugged, weather-worn facelong and ratted black hair. Seated on a wooden chair next to the man was a younger dark-skinned man in a light-colored jacket taking notes on a laptop computer.

From this spare scene, I had all the elements I needed to unravel the mystery of REDMAN.

I recorded the details of that brief dream sequence in a transcript I typed up that morning. The original, unedited transcript follows. At the end of these paragraphs, I'll explain the events that I later realized had inspired the dream. Then I'll fast-forward three months to the follow-up dream that filled the gaping holes in the plot.

Red Man

Transcribed the morning of March 26, 2016

SCENE 1: Kitchen of a brownstone townhouse in Brookfield Park, Illinos

Married professional couple Brenda and Robert, in their late 30s grabbing breakfast.

Robert is a forensics criminologist teaching at Northwestern who is pioneering a hypno-forensics method for criminal investigations. Bren is an environmental lawyer preparing for a fact-finding tour of Eastern Europe for a UN committee. Bren is also pregnant with the couple's first child.

Robert suggests Bren take her sister, Patsy, along on the trip. Patsy lives in Prescott with her successful land-developer husband, Archie, who is facing murder charges for the death of his office assistant and mistress. Robert and Bren argue about how Patsy is foolish for sticking with Archie, despite the evidence against him. Patsy says she believes her husband's claim of innocence. Neither Bren nor Robert trusts Archie, who went from a blasting laborer to become wealthy Arizona businessman. Bren and Patsy are the daughters of the former governor of the state, and Bren and Robert also argue about how good a man he was, despite his Republican leadership and their liberal leaning.

Larry, Bren's family lawyer, arrives at their townhouse in a surprise visit. In Gucci-perfect attire, he pleads with Robert to come to Arizona to exonerate Archie, who claims the only witness at the crime scene was a burly Indian laborer who was injured in the explosion that destroyed the mobile office Archie's secretary was in. The injury left the Indian with no memory of the incident.

Bren tells Robert he should go, but Robert says he can't because he's ready to start trial runs of his hypno-forensics technique.

SCENE 2: Northwestern campus

Robert is called into the university president's office and is told that funding for the criminology department is being cut off mainly because of the controversial research in hypno-forensics. Law-enforcement politicians want to use the technique for more prosecutions, if it works. The Democrat governor and major liberal school donors see it as a tool for racial profiling and cause for wrongful prosecution. Robert argues the technique isn't a camera. Memory conforms to predisposed beliefs. The technique has to be used carefully. Pres agrees and says that's why he's placing Robert on a three-month sabbatical over the summer months. Start a new research project, but drop hypno-forensics research.

SCENE 3: Brookfield brownstone

Brenda is packing to travel. She and Robert discuss their decision for him to go to Arizona with his research assistant, Mark, to see if he can help Archie, and to further his research, despite warning from the university president. The couple takes off for their flights from O'Hare.

SCENE 4: Prescott estate of Archie, who is under house arrest during pre-trial hearings. Larry is advising in the conversation.

Archie protests his innocence in the murder, although he admits to an affair with his office assistant. Patsy is supportive, but only partly dismissive of the affair. Archie and Larry explain that the Indian laborer at the site is the only witness, and he returned to the reservation. They warn that he is a rough character with a past that would discredit his testimony, even if he could recall what happened. They send Robert and Mark to the reservation to meet with the Indian, Zacchaeus Redman.

SCENE 5: Prescott hotel room

Robert and Mark discuss the research technique and their strategy for approaching Redman. Mark seems to be coming on to Robert.

SCENE 6: Reservation chief's office

Robert drives up to a shabby office where he meets with the tribal chief. The chief explains that Redman has been in trouble repeatedly since he was a boy. He is currently locked up in the tribal jail for double involuntary manslaughter after a recent bar fight. The chief gives permission for Robert to meet with Z, the name Redman goes by.

SCENE 7: Jail meeting area

Z is a stoic mountain of a man in his mid-50s, but he looks older. Z says little but insists he has no memory after the explosion, although he wants no part in helping acquit a rich white man. He leaves the meeting.

SCENE 8: A simple adobe cottage, the home of Z's grandmother and tribal spirit adviser (She's a recurring character in the story.)

Robert was directed by the prison guard to meet with Gramma to get Z to cooperate. She tells Robert Z is a family disgrace and describes his numerous crimes, including more than one murder he was never convicted of. Her greatest disappointment is that he didn't use his spiritual gift for the good of the community.

SCENE 10: Jail

Robert negotiates with Z to undergo the exam in exchange for clearing him of the murder charges. The charges are dropped because witnesses said the two strangers started the fight and no one could identify who shoved one of them into the bar to make it tip over and crush them. The terms for the sessions are that they take place in the spirit hut and the video tapes never leave the reservation.


Sessions with Z are depicted in real-time vignettes as memories of his past. Robert discovers that Z's many offenses have been justified, at least by moral standards. Between sessions Robert and Mark follow up clues and start to piece together the narrative.

Z killed a high school football rival in a vicious tackle; the white landlord who was going to evict Gramma mysteriously disappeared (Gramma never found out); Z was involved in either a break-in or a murder in his early 20s; Z was responsible for the death of the two strangers in the bar, but only after they threatened his life.

Many of the stories turn out to be true, but Robert and Archie find discrepancies between the events from his memory and Z's life experiences.


We discover that Archie was innocent of the murder. Z was hired by Daddy governor to plant the explosives and blow up the office. Z was told it was for the insurance. He didn't know the woman was in the office at the time. When he discovered she was in the building, he rushed in to rescue her but was knocked unconscious by the blast.

The governor actually wanted the assistant killed because she was about to testify that he had been supporting a right-wing presidential candidate who proposed building a wall along the Mexican border, and Gov and son-in-law were conspiring to make a fortune on the contract.

More than 20 years before, the governor had Z do "work" for him in some conspiratorial act that helped win him the governorship. Z was arrested, but the now-new governor had the charges dropped, and Z returned to the reservation. Gov recently contacted Z to hire on to the construction crew as a blaster so he could destroy the office. This was how Z could pay him back for getting him released.

During the hypno-forensics sessions, Z had been channeling the spirits of tribal members who had died due to environmental causes that resulted from Archie's land development practices and Gov waving regulations. Robert was made aware of their criminal actions and wrestled with what to do about it.


Z challenged Robert to abandon his white-man version of justice and live a life that is natural and right. Robert, a man of science, argues for civilization. But Robert, in a fit of passion, has a torrid affair with Mark. Robert is devastated and sends the assistant packing. Robert lies to Bren to save their marriage.

Z is the only innocent character in the story.

The story themes are broken promises, self-delusion, and naturalism. Everyone in the story is savage; only Redman proves to be the noble savage by being true to his savage nature.


I was blown away by the detail and coherence of this dream. I knew that the story had to have been dredged from the depths of my unconscious mind—but where? The events seemed so random. Then I started to reconstruct the dinner conversation with our neighbors the night before. Ah ha! The random topics we discussed wove themselves into this new storyline. Here are some of the topics from that conversation.

Our neighbors came over to get a first-look at the cover my partner, Damian Hart, had designed for his first novel, Fool to the World. (Thus, the dream starting with a book cover). I was browsing through my iPad and came across articles about the Native Americans protesting the Dakota pipeline that was destined to cross throuh their territory (the Native American theme). Then there we discussed the sheriff in Arizona accused of racial profiling (set in Arizona).

I made other associations with things that I hadn't even thought about for years and even decades. I remembered later that the house that I had placed in Brookfield, Illinois was actually a brownstone in neighboring Logan Park where I helped a friend build a recording studio in the basement. That was in the 1970s. I hadn't thought about him or the house for several years. The only connection I could come up with for the hypno-forensics device is a friend who works in computer forensics. I never figured out where the hypno- part came from, and I had to deduce what the machine did only after coming up with the name in the dream. Where the name Zacchaeus came from, I haven't a clue. The community he lived in reminded me of the Indian reservation in California where my uncle devoted much of his time working pro bono as a medical doctor. I was still in high school at the time.

The dream haunted me for a time, and I seriously considered starting to work on the novel. There were plot holes that seemed unfillable, so I basically laughed off the experience. That was until Zacchaeus returned in another dream three months later. This time he introduced me to his brother and explained how the hypno-forensics device came about and why it was important to the story. When it came to discovering the Latin meaning of hippocampus (I had to look it up), I was hooked—I just had to change the name of Z's brother from Little Horse to Sea Horse. The story was just about written by then.

DREAM 2—June 23, 2016
(as described in an email to my neighbor the next day)

… Red Man made another appearance in a dream last night. This time I found out how the hypno-forensics device works and why Robert developed it.

The dream started with Robert being introduced to Z's brother, Little Horse. Robert's assistant chuckles and says, under his breath, "Hippocampus." (Hippocampus actually means seahorse--not Little Horse, but this was a dream.) It turns out Robert's brother lost a limb to an IED in Afghanistan and DARPA experimented by giving him a prototype mind-controlled prosthetic arm. Robert was looking for a research topic, and he and his brother were messing around with the device to see if they could retrofit it to control a graphics program on a computer screen. They hooked up the device backward; the Marine brother immediately flashed back to the incident and an abstract display appeared on the screen. Robert used that as the basis for his PhD thesis and refined the technique to reverse the flow of memory so long-term memories would pass through the hippocampus and be delivered to the frontal cortex, where the mind-control device could translate them into images.

This description is embellished with some fact-checking I did this morning, so I can't attribute it entirely to the dream. But I wanted to capture my thoughts and share them with you, at the same time. I'm finding this kind of creepy.