It doesn't seem to have any obvious meaning that I can discern, but it's been nagging at me all day, to the point where I keep getting little scenes from it taking over my head for a second or two. So, given that some of you out there understand this kind of thing better than I, I'm going to lay it out for anyone who's interested. Anyone who isn't, and finds dreams not worth thinking about, is free to skip.
It was night time (in my dream), but I'm not sure how I knew that; I think I relied on circumstantial evidence. I was in a large, completely unfamiliar building. I only ever saw the interior, but it was no place that I recognised. I think the best guess if I had to put a name to how it seemed was "student hall of residence", but it seemed far vaster than that. There were many rooms connected with corridors, with lots of, maybe hundreds of, people, asleep there; some rolled in blankets, some in sleeping bags, either on the floor or on just about any other horizontal surface they could find. There was that kind of dim but intrusive light that I associate with nights in hospital; everywhere was lit with buzzing, flickering weak fluorescent lights, and I couldn't find any way of turning them off. I was wandering through the rooms, all of which were similar, each holding maybe ten or fifteen people, and I was definitely looking for something or someone, but I didn't know what or whom. It felt very tense, uneasy, and though I didn't know what caused the tension, I knew it was something to do with all these people lying asleep everywhere. Nobody was sleeping soundly; they shouldn't have been there if all had been OK, and nor should I.
Then I wandered into a room, and someone looked up from a couch across the room and started waving to attract my attention. I didn't recognise them in the dim light, but as I got closer I realised that it was a friend of mine. I picked my way through the sleepers, making sure that I didn't tread on anyone, and when I reached his couch he was in a really irritable mood with me. It was clear that he'd been waiting for me for some considerable time. All I could say in my defence was that the time-zone difference made things difficult. He wanted me to read to him so that he could fall asleep, but I hadn't been able to bring any books with me, as I explained to him; he saw that that wasn't unreasonable, so he asked me to read my skin to him instead.
He moved over on his couch so that I could sit down, and I began to peel my skin away, starting with the back of my left hand, and reading out what was written on it to him, keeping my voice low so that I didn't disturb any of the sleepers. Oddly, there wasn't any blood or muscle beneath my skin, just more and more layers of something like vellum, all written on, but that didn't surprise me in the least, just as his request had seemed quite ordinary and sensible. I can't remember what it was that I was reading to him, except that it was quite familiar to me, just as you might read a favourite book to a child at bedtime. I have a feeling that it was a very long poem, and some of it was illustrated, but I don't recall anything beyond that.
I kept reading for quite a long time, though the light didn't change, and nobody apart from us seemed to be awake. Then I noticed that he'd been carefully rolling up the strips of skin into neat scrolls, and I asked him why he was doing that, but I can't remember the answer; yet again, though, it seemed entirely reasonable. Then, when I'd reached what seemed like a reasonable stopping point, maybe the end of a chapter or something like that, he stopped me and lifted up the blankets for me to get under, because he said that I ought to stay with him until I'd become illegible again.
That's the point at which I woke up, and I really wanted to get back into that dream because I knew I'd left something important undone or unsaid, but I couldn't find it again.
If that makes any sense to anyone, I'd be delighted to know what it suggests to them. Because I'm flummoxed.