Lying flat, between bed sheets, I am just another layer of material. Stacked on steel and wood, the bed on the floor and the floor suspended a story above the ground, the lower layers of my world continue on toward the evolving edge of the universe. Above me as well are layers – ceiling, rooftop, clouds, and sky. They extend outward toward the center of the galaxy and beyond to untold strata of time and space.
I am pinioned here in the hypnagogic state between wakefulness and sleep. I can not move an eyelash. Morning light pressures my closed eyes and triggers energetic flashes within their liquid darkness. I wonder how many hours have passed since I surrendered to this paralysis of sleep.
Dawn and Mia have come up here to check on me and I have been aware of their presence. At times, I hear their voices filtering throughout the house. But when my active consciousness is separated from them by just a few feet – or mere inches when they touch me – I am not able to muster the force of will to respond in any noticeable way. Soon they will begin to worry that I am not waking up.
I have dreamed many times in these contiguous hours and just as many times I have reentered this place of trance. It has become a dark cave from which I can not escape. Each dream is a kind of tendril that streams out through the darkness – a conduit to an extended dimension of spacetime. Slipping out through these dream portals affords me opportunities to explore worlds of virtual experience.
Inevitably, full lucidity occurs. I am aware and conscious of the changing nature of this entranced state and yet I cannot actually wake up from it. I try moving my eyelids – just a little at first. I feel a flutter and the slightest sensation of separation between them. Methodically, I pursue this effort slowly at first until a little more sunlight enters. I see shifting aspects of the bedroom and catch a glimpse of one of our housecats, the sleek grey lady, named Pearl. Sitting in a beam of sunlight, she gazes at me with ever inscrutable eyes.
Ultimately though, I slip back toward sleep. The next iteration of this cycle brings me closer to the sensation of waking up into the so-called “real world.” Through partially open eyes I can read the bright-red digits of the clock on my nightstand. It is 11:07 a.m. Just before I slip back into unconsciousness, I note the visual configuration of numbers so that I will remember this moment for keeping time: a pair of upright strokes, followed by a four-bar rectangle, and a line over a diagonal slash.
I slip back toward sleep but focus my will to remain aware. With a shudder of intensity I manage to expand the space between my eyelids once again in order to take in the daylight. My vision moves to the clock and to my astonishment, it now reads 11: 55. Forty-eight minutes have passed in the actual blinking of my actual eyes!
Pearl remains statue-like and positioned in the same place she was three-quarters of an hour ago. The fact that I hear a feline speaking in a soft human voice that emanates from somewhere behind her eyes, is proof enough to me that I am still dreaming.
“Get up,” she says. “Move around. You don’t need to wake up.”
As if on her command, I feel empowered to move my body for the first time since I found myself trapped here between the sheets. Slowly, with deliberate effort, I manage to slide to the edge of the bed and attain a sitting position. My eyes, half-open, are suffused with the blue light of midday. My head echoes with sensations of imbalance, even vertigo. Once the shock of what I am doing passes, I proceed slowly down the hall and close the bathroom door behind me.
Back in bed, it occurs to me that this experience is not totally unique. I recall nights where I acted similarly – having had only hazy recollections of nighttime walks down the hallway and the sensation that I seemed to accomplish them without actually waking up.
I resolve to continue following doctor’s orders and rest. Pearl jumps on to the bed and curls up beside me. I am engulfed by the soft enfolding darkness of dreamless sleep.
Image: “I Heal Myself: Part One,” digital mashup of human neuron images and original drawing and painting by Tullio DeSantis, 2009.