I dreamed I was in a city which was neither NYC, the city I've dreamt about most frequently since before it was my home for a while, nor the city I've dreamt about 2nd most frequently, another former home, Knoxville, Tennessee. I'm not sure whether my dream ever specified the identity of the city. As usual in my dreams, the dream city was significantly different from any actual city known to me.
This was a big city. Its sidewalks were thronging with great crowds of people like those in many parts of Paris, and like Paris, most of its buildings were not particularly tall by contemporary skyscraper standards. Unlike real-life Paris, much of its construction had a very new, even plastic-y feel. I didn't see any of the grand Neoclassical buildings which abound in central Paris. I didn't see the Eiffel tower either, but that doesn't mean that this wasn't supposed to be Paris, because the real-life Eiffel Tower was a great disappointment and bore to me.
I and a dozen or so young adults who didn't remind me of anyone I know in real life were rushing around the city in an activity which was hard to classify: it wasn't clear whether we were engaged in a game, a search, or some other activity, or a blend of several sorts of activities. Many things were unclear, such as whether we all could be considered one team or if we were competing against each other; and, if we were competing, whether the competition was friendly or lethal or somewhere in between. It felt much more serious than, say, a scavenger hunt, although I didn't know whether the seriousness was because we were deeply absorbed in the activity in purely an aesthetic way, or because we were prepared to do each other some kind of financial or even physical harm, or for some other reason still. I began to suspect that whatever real seriousness was involved here might be hidden from all one dozen or so of us. That we might be pawns in some game we didn't see.
The difficulty in classifying our activity reminded me of my idea of the Glasperlenspiel (glass bead game) in Hermann Hesse' novel of the same name. I don't know how accurate my conception of that game is, because I've still never gotten more than a couple of dozen pages deep into the novel.
There were maps of neighborhoods semi-affixed to structures in the sidewalks about the size of pool tables. We navigated by these maps, rushing from map to map. Someone could easily have ripped these maps away from the tables: each map was pasted or stapled down in only a few places. But no one in our group ripped away any of the maps. On the contrary, despite being in a great hurry, sometimes one of us would stop to try to fasten a map more securely to its table if it seemed to be coming loose. We had no maps of the entire city, so we had to rush from one of these neighborhood maps to the next.
Some of the regions of the city through which we rushed felt quite rural, like certain parts of Queens or Berlin: a house isolated here and there in a woods, a smell only of woods and not of city.
After a while I started to feel like discussing what we were doing with the others, asking them whether perhaps we weren't exerting ourselves either completely senselessly, or only for the benefit of someone else who might not have had our best interests at heart. (I feel very much the same a lot of the time in waking life, by the way. A LOT of the time.) But before I got around to raising the topic, I woke up.