The side air-bag pushed me to the left and then the steering wheel bag punched me in the face and chest. My head slammed back into the headrest and that was all I really remembered for sometime. There were images that flickered like an old film and sounds that were faint one moment and blaring the next but nothing coherent just a jumbled montage of sensations.
Then things settled down and the noise and the images faded, replaced by a deep unyielding blackness. I was aware, but with the lack of any sensation I honestly thought I was dead, there was no sound, no sight, just this black… nothing.
“I’m sorry, but he appears to be in some kind of coma, he’s unresponsive to the tests but is breathing on his own so he is not brain dead. All we can hope is that it is a temporary condition and not a persistent vegetative state. I am a little concerned by the injury to his C7 vertebrae. It was damaged by the impact with the headrest but I am hopeful that it was mainly bruising as he has some control of bowel and bladder functions. Time will tell,” the brusque doctor slung his stethoscope around his neck, nodded and left the room leaving the weeping woman alone with the man in the bed.
The black void lasted an eternity, or so it seemed. Senses returned slowly. Sight first with scattered pinpricks of light coalescing from the darkness. Below me a patch of light was growing brighter, larger and I became aware of up and down and with it a realisation that I was flying, flying through space but descending towards a colourful orb! I knew I must be dreaming, weren’t flying and falling classic themes in dreams?
I realised I was rushing towards the orb yet felt no sensation of falling nor wind against my face. The orb grew brighter, larger, it seemed I must be travelling at great speed. On the far side of the orb another fiery bright orange one came into view. A sun warming the planet I was falling towards?
I felt amazed that my subconscious mind could generate such details and then project them in such a vivid way. I had never considered myself a dreamer, I rarely remembered a dream on waking, I just assumed that I did dream, without evidence one way or the other.
Below me the brightness began to resolve itself into sunlit clouds, white and pale grey shapes towards which I was moving at a faster and faster pace. I entered the clouds and my vision was curtailed by their vaporous forms which did nothing to impeded my progress. I stretched out my arms to the sides, wondering if it slowed my progress as I broke through the clouds. Far below me was a patchwork of greens, browns, greys and blues.
As I continued my flight or was it falling? I idly wondered if what I’d heard was true, that if one didn’t wake up before hitting the ground in a dream of falling your body died. I had no wish to find out the truth of that, but now it looked that I would, sooner rather than later. Unless of course I was already dead. What would happen then? Hitting the ground at terminal velocity was… going to be messy.
As I neared the ground my headlong plunge slowed for which I was thankful. The colours below resolved themselves into a tapestry of woods, fields and streams but the closer I got to the ground, the slower my descent became until I was barely moving, floating slowly towards the…
I frowned a little bewildered, the ground directly beneath me was covered in blue grass, while around the edges of the pasture or clearing were tall spreading forms that I supposed were trees. Tall green/grey trunks rose above the blue grass for some thirty feet then spread out in almost a prefect circle of equal length branches with black and grey leaves. Each tree’s canopy spread towards its neighbours without mingling with it. As I drifted down the last few feet towards the ‘grass’ I was amazed that my mind which I considered to be ordinary in the extreme capable of providing such detailed dream images.
My body was now vertical and I looked down and saw work boots enter the vegetation before touching down with a small jolt. I was clothed for outside work in blue jeans, paisley shirt and those boots. I looked around, taking stock of my surroundings. The blue grass which in the open area reached my knees, continued beneath the trees in a short carpet only a couple of inches high as if it had been mowed. No undergrowth marred the lawn beneath the trees whose trunks were bare of branches until the top.
A slight wind rustled the grass and carried the sound of a stream to me but there were no signs of life. No birds, animals, insects. Nothing moving except the tips of the grass and the leaves stirred by the breeze. I turned a full circle and saw nothing except grass and trees. This was more like it, this was what I would expect from my imagination. I winced as I felt a pain in my back and turned to look behind me and this strange vista wobbled and wavered and faded from sight.
The nurse finished cleaning and dressing the bedsores that had begun to form after ten days unmoving in the hospital bed, checked the monitors for any indications that the patient’s status had altered and left the room. At the nurses station she made notes on the computer for the doctor.
As the pain faded so sight returned and I was in a different place. Grass and trees were gone and in their place were drab brown and faded yellow dunes and rocky outcroppings. The sky was a cloudless pale amber with three moons of different sizes floating above the dunes and the tallest outcropping. I made my way slowly up the nearest dune, feet slipping in the fine grains of sand? Soil? Who knew?
I knew from the moons my imagination had painted in the sky that this was meant to be another world. That planet in the first Star Wars film? I couldn’t remember its name but it was sandy with lots of moons and two suns wasn’t it? When I reached the top of the dune, I saw two suns sitting on the horizon and felt a smile cross my lips as I watched the suns drop below the distant dunes, the sky darkening. Sinking to my knees I watched the suns set and the stars appear as another moon, small and close raced across the sky.
With the night the temperature fell and I waited for my imagination to provide me with a warm jacket and perhaps a fire. I was also feeling hungry and thought my mind could do with some lessons in generating a comfortable dream. Then the world blurred and faded from view.
“We need to turn him to really combat those sores nurse, but his neck injury precludes that. Hmmm, those sores don’t look good. I’m going to prescribe more antibiotics.”
When my vision cleared again, I found myself atop a rocky islet surrounded by grey/green waves that broke gently on the rock below me. As I looked around there was nothing but water, no land in view. A darkness spread across the distant horizon but the sky above was a clear turquoise with an emerald green sun. I blinked at that, an emerald sun?
When I looked down, what I assumed was a storm approaching was closer and seemed to be moving at speed. I wished again that my mind was better at dreaming as I didn’t fancy standing on this rock while a storm broke about me. I watched the oncoming darkness with apprehension which after a two or three minutes turned to horror. It was not a storm headed towards me but a wave. A wave of incredible height that filled the horizon. A faint sound grew into a rumbling roar as tonnes of water headed towards me, towering high into the sky. I closed my eyes and whispered a prayer that my mind would decide to end this dream before the wave arrived. When I opened them the wave filled the sky, white foam sliding down its green depths from the crest, the rock beneath my feet shuddering.
“These are not responding as I had hoped,” the doctor looked up from prodding the sores on the man’s legs and buttocks.
“Inject three ml of Amoxycillin please nurse, and repeat in six hours,” he told the nurse.
As the prick of pain came in my arm the wall of water wavered and vanished. When the world grew clear again, I found myself in a small clearing in a hot, steaming and very noisy jungle. Trees and bushes all around the opening grew close together in a tangle of thick second growth jungle.
Each plant trying to deprive its neighbours of space and light had yellow bark, white leaves with green veins and the predominant colours of any flowers were indigo and purple. Iridescent insects flitted across the clearing in various shapes, sizes and colours. They in turn were caught by or evaded what at first I thought were small birds. That was until one flying close to a bush was snapped out of the air by a chicken sized reptile that had been perched unnoticed on a low branch. It hung twitching from the beak like mouth and I saw that it too was a reptile with flaps of skin stretching from front to rear legs rather like a flying fox. Two pairs of eyes watched from under sparse stiff white feathers protruding from its head. Like the plants, the skin of the creatures was a mottled white with stripes of green and when the chicken sized reptile moved back on the branch it blended into the foliage seamlessly.
The noise was incredible, shrieks, hoots, screams, whirring and buzzing wings assaulted my ears and again I was amazed at the fecundity of my imagination. Then abruptly the noise ceased and a profound silence fell over the clearing and surrounding jungle. There was the sound of snapping branches to my left and when I turned towards the sound, the head of a much larger reptile with a crest of green and white feathers was watching me with two pairs of cold calculating eyes.
Those eyes set forward on the sides of the scaled mottled green head, broad snout filled with wicked looking teeth, were watching me with an unblinking gaze. Then a filmy eyelid slid briefly across the eyes and I took a deep breath and wished I hadn’t as for the first time my dreaming mind provided me with olfactory input. The creature opened its mouth wide in a toothy grin and a pair of small forearms parted the foliage. I’d seen Jurassic Park and thought that it was likely that this was a velociraptor though I didn’t remember them having four eyes. Something my imagination conjured up I supposed.
The reptile stepped slowly forward and I suddenly felt a frisson of fear trickle down my spine. Time slowed and I was seeing the world with amazing clarity, in fact all of my senses seemed heightened to a degree I had never before experienced. I began to doubt that I was in fact dreaming, began to consider that somehow in some way I was actually here, physically stood here in a jungle clearing facing a vicious predator. That I was not dreaming but travelling in some manner from place to place, world to world, that each time I was there, physically, actually there.
I stared at the reptile as it took another step forward and remembered something from those films, these animals hunted in packs. I dared not look around but my gaze was drawn to its clawed feet, the middle toe of each foot bore an elongated sickle shaped claw used to rend and tear its prey. Swallowing down my fear I closed my eyes. I had no desire to see the strike I knew was coming.
“The sores are responding I see, are all of the other indicators stable? Good! Then all we can do is wait. Continue with the antibiotics and massaging the limbs every day please nurse.”
Hot, rancid smelling breath briefly touched my face, before it was replaced by a cold wind. Ice cold air, filled with stinging particles of ice or snow. I opened my eyes on a blizzard. All I could see, not that I could see far, was white. I squinted against the wind and put my hands under my armpits as I started violently shivering.
‘Come on brain, get me out of here, two minutes of this and I’ll be an icicle!’
It seemed my brain was either not listening or was already too frozen to respond as my situation remained unchanged except for the shivering grown more frantic. I looked around desperately as the feeling in my extremities and face started to go and the shivering lessened. I’d read enough stories set at the poles to know that wasn’t a good sign, it meant my body was shutting down. Then I felt fresh pain in my numb calves and once again the world around me faded.
The visits to these worlds -I was convinced that they were physical realities, not dreams- were becoming more frequent if shorter in duration. Over the next ten minutes or so I visited a similar number of worlds without knowingly returning to any I had seen before. As the pain in my legs moved to my arms, the transfers sped up until the worlds barely registered, flickering in front of me like the frames of a film. As the pain faded so did speed of the changes until at last I stood in warm sunlight in a high mountain pasture surrounded by snow capped peaks. The valley below was dark with evergreens while bright coloured flowers filled the pasture. The sky was a cloudless eggshell blue, the air crisp, clean, filled with the scents of flowers, grasses and pines. If I was not on Earth, my Earth, then it was the next best thing. Maybe even better than the Earth I knew with air so… fresh, unsullied by any of the contaminants I usually smelt or breathed. This was Earth as it was before man.
I took a breath of the cleanest air I had ever known and drew it deep into my lungs, held it there, savouring the taste, the feel of it and told my brain I was quite happy to stay here for a while. I lowered myself to the ground and sat cross legged, contemplating all that had befallen me since... the accident, I had a vague memory of being in an accident in my car then a period of darkness, flying through the dark… followed by different places, different worlds, dangers. Despite the warmth of the sun I shivered at how death seemed to have missed only by inches more than once.
The accident… it had to be the cause of… whatever this was, whatever was happening to me. If I was lying in a hospital somewhere how could I be sitting here in this meadow or have been in all those other places? Was this all down to medication? Was I dreaming that I wasn’t dreaming because I was full of drugs?
I rubbed my face with my hands, head aching from trying to work out what, why and how. All I knew was… I didn’t really know anything. I looked around the meadow smelling the scent of the flowers growing in profusion amongst the grass and hoped that whatever was making, allowing me to travel from world to world would let me stay here for awhile. For the first time in quite sometime I felt safe.
“Doctor Evans, room 212, immediately, room 212.”
“Get a resus unit in here now nurse, how the hell did his stats drop so fast? He was doing well earlier.”
“He’s asystole doctor.”
“5 of epi, nurse, continue CPR, where’s that resus unit?”
I felt something in my chest, a pull, something tugging at me and I stood up expecting to be whisked off to another world. I looked around at the mountains, the trees, grass, flowers and felt sad. This was a nice world, it didn’t matter if there was no one else here, I might be happy here even alone. I sighed wondering where I was going to end up next and closed my eyes as the tugging grew stronger.
“How long has he been down nurse?”
“Thirty minutes doctor.”
“Enough then. Time of death 16:39.”
“What happened doctor?”
“I can only guess without a post mortem but probably sepsis of some kind.”
The pull in my chest stopped and I opened my eyes to the warm sunlight, blue skies, white capped mountains and smiled. The far off pain, the tugging, the pull, I’d been feeling was gone and I felt free of… something. The sun was beginning its drop behind the peaks and I guessed it might be a good idea to find somewhere to shelter for the night. I stood and looked around. Beyond the trees below me first one then a second thin plume of smoke rose into the clear air. I headed down the slope of the pasture in the direction of the smoke. It seemed I might not be alone in this place after all, yet it filled me with pleasure not dread. Somehow I knew I would be welcomed, that I was… home.