It was dark in the dream. Perhaps it was night, or it took place in the cellar, or a room hung with black velvet curtains to keep the light out.
I (the dreamed I, the I of the nightmare) was trying to organize chemicals. It is necessary to have one’s chemicals organized if one is going to take some pictures using the wet plate collodion process. None of the containers were labeled, and everything was a clear liquid. So the I in the dream was trying to identify chemicals by scent – to tell the developer from the silver nitrate solution by smell.
Strangely, there was no collodion in the nightmare, at least not the part that I (the waking I, the I dreamed in my waking life) can recall. That is the only chemical used in wet plate collodion photography that I can identify by smell, because it contains ether, so it smells like the hospital smelled when when they took me there the time grandma (accidentally) poured boiling oil on my foot, or the time we took my little brother there because he swallowed grandma’s thyroid pills/stuck a raisin up his nose/got his hand caught between the chain and the gear of a combine/pierced his fingers with the wires that made the tinkling music inside a jack-in-the-box.
I could go on.
There I (the dreamed I of the nightmare) stood, in black velvet darkness, sniffing a variety of bottles, swirling the clear liquids inside, hopeless and frustrated.