Amidst the wearying darkness lurked the dream drenched in dreams: a dream within a dream within a dream; a surrealist Russian doll of dreams. Maybe there were even more layers swirling in the shadows, it was difficult to disentangle such a nebulous matrix, but at the core, if you focused all accessible energy on the centre, there was the bedroom window. The heavy curtains were drawn, nearly meeting, but not quite. Whilst most light was excluded from the room, a comforting twilight remained, enabling vague outlines of furniture to disturb the blank canvas. I was trying to make the curtains meet, to achieve the perfect closure and plunge all into total darkness. At least, I think that it was me. I caught a glimpse of what looked like my hand as it sought to force the curtain on the right just that little bit further across. Yet I also sensed my position, lying in bed. Physically reaching would not have been possible. But it was a dream, and that’s what dreams are like.
Attempts to coerce the right-side curtain further to the left were equally unsuccessful. The gap remained, a stubborn beacon, albeit it a feeble one. The hands persevered for some time, undeterred by repeated failure. Was I the force directing the hands? I cannot be sure. At one point, both hands drew the curtains further apart, revealing more of the view from the window. Curiously, I could now also hear sounds. The scene from the window made little sense as it fluctuated in confusing ways. It couldn’t be real. This was a dream, after all. At first, it seemed for all the world as if I was looking out from some submerged vessel, sinking, drowning. Occasionally, from amidst the watery haze, I caught glimpses of pastoral scenes, walks along the river side, vaguely familiar, drawn from genuine memories. Yet it was as if the house was moving along the riverbank, taking an impossible gentle stroll. The view shifted; the shimmering reflections changed. Then the images faded, and the submerged feeling returned. I could sense the immersive pressure of the water. I felt concern that the window might give way, panic kept at bay only by the understanding that this was surely a dream.
In the distance, there was music, reminiscent of the sound made by a musical box, but suggestive of two, perhaps even three. They collaged creating interweaving patterns, the remoteness lending an ethereal feel. And I could hear voices. Most prominently, I heard my wife’s voice from outside the window, again sounding distant. But it was her; I know that voice. Was she not lying beside me in the bed as usual? Her voice sounded unnatural, dispassionate, without inflection, robotic. I couldn’t make out the actual words, or my mind was stubbornly determined not to make them out. It was nevertheless soothing and reassuring. The tranquillity was disturbed by the sudden roar of a car approaching. The contrast was frightening, a clear and shocking break from the calmness, a threat snarling ever louder as it approached at rapid pace. I could feel a surge of anxiety rushing through me.
As if on cue, staged as part of a dramatic performance, the two curtains were swiftly pulled together once more. Light and sounds both faded, the noise was all gone, the car washed away as quickly as it appeared. The momentum of a more vigorous drawing action still failed to achieve closure of the gap. It lingered yet, in defiance of all determination and strategy that the hands could muster. Briefly, I caught a glimpse of recognisable tall hedges, branches from the neighbours’ trees swaying gently in the breeze, and the gloomy sandstone Victorian water tower lurking in the distance, sombre even amongst the wispy clouds and pale blue skies: a thin slice of reality in a disconcerting world. But it faded, and the river scenes returned, barely visible through the narrow opening.
The hands continued with their relentless task of striving to bridge the gap. Was I really so keen for it to be closed? Perhaps, but I didn’t feel in control of the hands, my hands. Some other force was involved; something unsettling, malevolent even. The scene drifted on, seemingly endless. Occasionally the curtains would be drawn a little further apart, allowing a clearer view and the return of the sounds, the car noise signalling the sudden closure attempt once more, but always to no avail, no matter how much force was applied. I began to sense that perhaps I was subconsciously trying to thwart the hands.
I couldn’t in any way quantify the time involved. Time became a meaningless concept amidst the hypnotic repeated patterns. But eventually things started to change. The multi-dream complex structure began to fragment and unravel. Before I realised what was happening, I was now directly dreaming the core dream, the perplexing window. I felt a peculiar shift in awareness. The view through the thin aperture became clearer and the room was not so dark. The pastoral scenes were gone. Was that still watery murk causing the shimmering blur? Everything looked whiter, brighter. I had control of my hands. I flexed my right hand in an attempt to clear an uncomfortable tingling and numbness. For the first time I could smell something in the dream: the faint whiff of disinfectants. I also sensed warmth. I could no longer hear the music, but my wife’s voice was getting clearer and stronger, less robotic. Gradually, I could make out that she was calling my name repeatedly.
Suddenly, the curtains were drawn so wide apart that they disintegrated and disappeared. I opened my eyes.
“Oh, thank goodness for that,” said my wife, emotion slightly distorting her words. “Are you alright?”
I found myself nodding, almost imperceptibly and gingerly, as I squinted to try and cajole my vision back to normality.
“You’re in hospital. You’ve been in a coma. You were hit by a car. It’s been ten days. We thought we’d lost you.”