390: Nightmares

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Well, *I* think I'm real. Look at me. Look at my face. Cut me and I'll bleed. What more do you want? Please don't go.
Title text: Well, *I* think I'm real. Look at me. Look at my face. Cut me and I'll bleed. What more do you want? Please don't go.


This comic shows Cueball's plight with nightmares. Since he's gotten used to normal nightmares, his subconscious has begun giving him dreams where he sees his dream characters imploring him to not wake up, lest they perish, as they only exist in his dream. The horror comes from the idea that by the simple, everyday action of waking up, Cueball would be extinguishing a life. This would also necessitate that Cueball is conscious when he is asleep, a type of vivid dream known as a lucid dream.

The title text continues this theme, with Megan claiming that she is really real (presumably in response to the allegation that she isn't real, and merely a dream character), and begging Cueball to stay with her.


[Caption above the panel:]
When I got used to the regular nightmares, my subconscious got creative.
[Megan is standing with her hand on Cueball's shoulder.]
Megan: Please don't wake up. I don't want to die.


  • This is the first comic posted on a Leap Day (February 29), which fell on a Friday in 2008.
    • It was the first leap year after xkcd began in 2005.
    • The two next years with leap day also had an xkcd release:
    • 1023: Late-Night PBS was released on a Wednesday in 2012.
      • Interestingly enough this also has a theme about strange dreams.
    • The third leap day after xkcd began again fell on a Monday in 2016 and 1649: Pipelines was released then.
    • If the current M-W-F schedule continues and Randall does not make a special comic by deviating from the schedule, the next such comic will not happen before 2036 when the leap day once more falls on a Friday.
    • Interesting to note that the first three leap years after xkcd began (in just over 10 years) all fell on a release day, then followed by a break of 20 years.
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Why would Megan be one of Cueball’s loved ones? Maybe she is just a girl in his dream, who only exists in there, therefore she would cease to exist (die), as soon as Cueball wakes up. That’s why she begs Cueball the way she does, IMHO. I just don’t get the feeling (there is nothing indicating it in the text), that she is/was a loved one in that dream. (not a native English-speaker, sorry if gibberish at times) 13:44, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

As stated on Megan’s page on the explain xkcd wiki she often appears as a couple with Cueball. So it would make sense to assume she was a loved one. However, your interpretation works just as well. If the dream has lasted long enough for him to become attached to her, she doesn’t have to be a loved one. 19:07, 8 May 2014 (UTC)

I did remove this from the explain:

'Cut me and I’ll bleed’ is possibly a reference to Shylock’s 'I am a Jew’ monologue in The Merchant of Venice, in which he argues that Jews ought to be treated equally to Christians.

I also could cite Martin Luther King and many more… This doesn’t explain this comic as well. --Dgbrt (talk) 20:04, 25 May 2014 (UTC)

Martin Luther King was probably also quoting Shakespeare though162.158.122.96 17:40, 1 December 2018 (UTC)

Considering how puzzlingly dim-witted people are IRL, one has to wonder if one is the avatar of a human in a game of bad sims. Can we "wake up" to escape? —Kazvorpal (talk) 16:12, 11 November 2019 (UTC)

Why are we so certain it's Cueball's nightmare? Seems to be more nightmare-ish, if it's Megan who is dreaming, but thinks — within a dream — that she is a character in Cueball's dream.