Bruce could not open his eyes. He willed his eyes to open, and nothing happened. He tried to lift his arm to rub his eyes, and nothing happened. He tried to shift position, with a similar lack of response. This refusal of his body to cooperate started a panic reaction. The panic made his will appear weaker, which increased the feeling of panic. Before it got out of control, Bruce forced himself to think “Breathe!”. Focusing on the word allowed him to gain control of the action, and soon he was able to take a deep, panic removing breath. He took another deep breath, and then another. Finally in control of his emotional state (if not yet his body), he allowed his focus to explore. The panic threatened to return when he realized that his body’s rigidity was not the only thing not as it should be. Before he lost control again, he took a firm hold on his emotions by shouting to himself “THINK!!”
Sliding back into a rational state, Bruce cataloged what he was sensing. He was standing outside, or so his bare feet and the cool moist breeze on his skin told him. He could not understand WHY he was standing outside, since the last thing he clearly remembered was falling asleep. At first all seemed silent, but as he focused on his hearing, he could hear the vaguest of whispers, as if multiple voices were mumbling at once as softly as they could. Bruce felt that if they only spoke a little louder he could detect what was being said, but try as he might he simply could not hear words. Whatever they were whispering sent a sense of unease rippling up his spine.
Now that his expectations were getting attuned to his apparent reality, he found his body responding to his will again. He forced himself from stiffness, shaking his arms and hands as he was finally able to open his eyes. Clarity did not return, as he had no idea where he was. Again struggling to stave off panic, Bruce looked around. He was surrounded by a dense mist, which did not allow him to see much beyond a few foot radius. There was an ambient light that made the mist glow a bit, but what the light source might be was not clear. The air moved slightly, causing the moist fog to swirl.
What was going on here? He should be in his bed, peacefully sleeping.
Not sure what to do next, Bruce tentatively said “Hello,” and then again, more firmly. The subtle whispering paused for a moment, leaving an even more eerie calm. Then suddenly it started up again, more rushed and slightly louder, as if his speaking had disturbed the owners of the voices. The swirling of the mist was more noticeable as well. Apparently speaking was not going to get him anywhere at the moment. The only other choice was to start walking, and see if he could figure out where he was. The lack of visibility made one direction as good as another, so Bruce simply walked in the direction he was already facing. This did not generate any change in the whispers, giving Bruce the sense that they approved of this choice of action.
He continued walking at a steady pace. The scenery did not noticeably change much. If it were not for the shifting currents of mist and his own muscle action he would not think he was moving at all. After an immeasurable period of time, the whispers raised to an excited babble, startling Bruce into stopping. That calmed them, but as soon as he tried stepping forward again, the excitement returned. He tried going in a different direction with the same result. Shifting direction a third time caused no reaction. Whatever this whispering was, it appeared to be guiding him somewhere. Bruce was not sure if the thought was comforting or not, but it was all he had for now. He continued walking, occasionally shifting directions as indicated by the whispers.
After another indeterminate period of time, shifts in the fog revealed a figure in the distance, approaching at a similar pace. Heartened by the idea that maybe some answers were about to be revealed, Bruce quickened his pace. The figure ahead did the same. Less heartened, Bruce slowed. So did the figure ahead. More cautiously, Bruce moved ahead again. The figure continued its approach as well. The mist did not allow any detail, but Bruce sensed that it was a man ahead, similar in size to himself. Bruce thought that maybe now was the time for speech.
Just as intent to open his mouth registered, reality shifted. For the barest moment, Bruce felt he was in two places at once. He still saw the misty surroundings; still felt the cool air and the hard ground beneath his feet, but at the same time he was lying in his bed, seeing through sleep filled, half-opened eyes the comfortable familiarity of his bedroom. It dawned on Bruce that he must be dreaming. In the next instant, that flash of seeming lucidity vanished, and Bruce was back in the mist filled nowhere, now still, with a shadowy figure standing mere feet away, apparently waiting for Bruce’s next move. Bruce’s surety vanished.
This WAS a dream, wasn’t it?
TO BE CONTINUED (MAYBE) …