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Things that go bump in the night
Jim Johnson

When Chris woke up he realised that it must all have been a dream, but unusually for him it wasn't one that he'd forget in a hurry. He could not open his eyes; the light was so bright in the room. His head hurt and his body was numb. What could cause symptoms such as these, he thought? Perhaps the after effects of a hard night's drinking? In this case though, it must have been an extremely heavy one. The trouble was he had no recollection of such an event taking place. He had forgotten bits of an evening before, due to excessive alcohol consumption, but never the entire session. He decided the only solution was to lie still and allow himself to doze off again, hopefully giving the mother of all hangovers the time to pass. Chris was uncomfortable though with the thought of going back to sleep, in case, as can often happen, the dream he'd awoken from resumed.

Chris hardly ever remembered dreams. Experts think that this is fairly normal - the human brain dreams a lot, the exact reasons for this are still not properly understood. But they do know that we usually only remember dreams when we wake up during a specific phase of sleep. The only one Chris ever remembered was a recurring dream; this was based on the bodysnatchers story and he initially found it quite disturbing. Friends and family would one by one become infected by an alien lifeform. Before long everyone he trusted was one of "them" and they joined together to hunt him down. He was getting used to that one as it happened fairly often. This dream however was entirely different.

It had started a bit like the opening credits to Doctor Who, a view down a long swirling tunnel. It differed though in that it was bright and golden, not a dark black void like the one on TV. Next he saw a baby at a christening. As the vicar touched the baby's head he could feel the cold water on his fingers, as if it was his head that the vicar was touching. The baby let out a scream at the top of his lungs, obviously upset by the cold sensation.

The church then faded from view and the baby with it. Next he was watching a young boy running; laughing so much that he was finding it difficult to catch his breath. But then he snagged his foot on a paving stone and came crashing down to the ground. He took the brunt of the fall with his outstretched hands, grazing the skin on his palms. It must have been at school because shortly after the fall someone rushed up to the boy and led him into a classroom. As they patched up his wounds and comforted him until his tears had subsided, Chris sensed the boy's feelings of relief as the pain and trauma died away.

Throughout the dream there was a soundtrack. It was the album Music, by Madonna. This was something of a coincidence as Chris had only just bought this record. What struck him as odd was that he was hearing tracks that he hadn't yet listened to. He hadn't got round to playing the whole album yet, knowing only the singles, but this dream seemed to be giving him the opportunity to hear his record collection in his sleep. Only once did he get a glimpse of the source of the music. It was coming from a car stereo in a smashed up Ford Fiesta. It must have been in an accident, its bonnet was crumpled and glass lay shattered over the road, reflecting the blue flashing light coming from what he assumed was an ambulance.

He saw more of the boy as he passed through his school days. He felt the nervous excitement muddled with awkwardness when the boy got his first kiss. He shared in the feelings of delight and pride when he scored his first goal for his football team. Then sensed his disappointment when he discovered that his A-level results were worse than he had hoped. Things like this Chris had experienced in his own lifetime but his memories of such incidents had become very hazy. It seemed that in this dream his brain had suddenly decided to go through the archives and replay some long forgotten moments of his past.

It was the end of the dream that he found most disturbing. He saw himself lying in an ambulance. No longer was he watching a boy that might have resembled himself when he was younger. This was definitely Chris, as he was now, but he was in a bad way. His body had a greyish hue; it was bruised and splashed with blood. He had tubes protruding from various veins in his body. Doctors busied themselves around him, concentrating their attention on a monitor that displayed his heart rate. "We're losing him, he's had a cardiac arrest" shouted one of them. Following this was a flurry of activity as they started resuscitation procedures, CPR then defibrillation. He saw a paramedic fix paddles to his chest and watched as his body jerked when the current was applied. Eventually one of the doctors straddled the stretcher and thumped Chris's chest shouting "Come on, breathe you bastard!"

That's when the dream ended. The point where he had woken up. Confused by the bright light and the pain in his head his initial thoughts were that he must have a severe hangover. But as he tried unsuccessfully to return to sleep he began to realise that this wasn't a plausible explanation. The numbness was fading fast and he started to feel the pain that his body was suffering. He began to open his eyes and saw a scene exactly like that in his dream, but this time he was lying down on a stretcher looking upwards. In his dream he had been viewing the scene and his own body from above. He recognised the man closest to him, it was the same person that had thumped his chest. They were starting to move now, the ambulance was driving away. He could just make out Madonna's version of American Pie fading quickly as they drove off, to be replaced by the wail of the siren.

© Jim Johnson 2001

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