This was a concept I wrote two years ago, probably after watching Inception, and inspired by an analogy I read, I think by C.S. Lewis.

Frank closed his eyes. He didn’t want to—his wife always complained when he did this. It wasn’t the closing of the eyes she minded so much as when he closed them—while he was at the dinner table, in mid-sentence, while riding the lawn mower once. That had ended badly. The tractor, as Frank learned later, had continued straight ahead, through a fence, across a field, and then, eventually, into a tree. When he came to himself his wife was kneeling beside him, screaming hysterically. Sirens wailed in the distance. Tears glistening in her eyes as she hugged Frank closely, saying angrily, “Don’t you ever scare me like that again!”

The ambulance had come and gone, but the episodes hadn’t. Frank noticed that they were occurring more frequently now. “I think you need to see a doctor about this,” said his wife one day, pursing her lips and leaning forward in bed, resting one arm thoughtfully under her chin.

“It’s, it’s all right,” said Frank. “The spells don’t last long, and I really don’t mind.”

“Well, all I know is that you’ve begun to behave very strangely,” said Margaret. “It’s as if you don’t care about anything. You forget the groceries and leave them in the buggy in the parking lot at Walmart—I love you, dear, but I really don’t understand what’s happening to you. What do you feel when you have one of those spells—episodes?”

“I really don’t remember,” said Frank. “In fact, I can’t remember even having these spells. You know I’m unconscious, and I can never account for what happens to me while I’m out.”

Just then, Frank woke up. He was in a white-walled room with black and white checkered tiles on the floor. Frank was wearing a well-tailored gray suit and a bright red tie. His hair was long and matted, shading his brow from the pulsing fluorescent light above his head.

Frank passed a hand over his eyes. “Computer,” he said at last, “It is 9 o’clock right now, November 28th, 1983, and I have been here for over 30 years. I don’t know what’s going on. My life doesn’t make sense, but my dreams do. I don’t understand why I’m in this prison—if it’s a prison—and I don’t know who I am here, but I do know who and where I am in the world of my dream. The dream is continuous—it makes sense, but my life here does not—it is static. In fact, I don’t recall ever receiving food since I arrived here…”

Frank’s stomach growled, but he wasn’t paying attention. In the polished white of the wall he could see his face reflected. “I don’t even remember how I got here,” he said.

Frank’s world didn’t make sense, but he had been becoming more certain for a while it must be the real one. In his dream he was never aware of the other world, but in this world—reality—he could remember and make sense of both worlds. So it was the only answer that seemed to fit. At least, he was becoming convinced.

The computer spoke in a loud voice, “Frank Davis, you must wake up now.”

It’s all a lie, Frank told himself.

“Wake up now…”

All a lie…

“Wake up…”

Don’t forget…

“Wake up…dear.”

Frank woke up. Margaret lay beside him, one hand on his chest. Seeing his eyes flutter open, she groaned and turned away. “You are so going to a doctor.”


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