Mental Awakening

Cobblestone street
Publish Novellas 6 August 2023


A man who experiences recurring dreams and has a history of sleepwalking wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings that transport his mind on surreal journeys.

This bizzarre mental vision takes on new dimensions in a mysterious science fiction short story.

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Troubling Sunrise

As thick, eerie fog releases its grip on a dim and hazy summer morning, an insistent wristwatch alarm rouses Carl Murray. The moisture dripping from his face-down position is not spittle. It’s copious dew puddling on the hood of an ancient, rusted automobile. Raising his head in the carport, he looks around to reorientate himself as water runs down his clammy neck.

Shielding the fiery sunrise from dilated pupils, Carl staggers to a doorway in the distance. On the other side of the threshold is his apartment. He thinks to himself, ‘Apparently, chaining the door was unsuccessful,’ as if he’s crossed into a realm where the laws of reality have been twisted.

After latching the door, Carl washes his face, turns on the coffee maker, and then climbs beneath his worn, threadbare blanket. Moments after closing his eyes, he finds himself driving to a common intersection. A right turn lands him within an unfamiliar and disconcerting neighborhood, where the air is filled with a strange mix of damp earth and distant sea salt.

Carl exits his vehicle and crosses the street to enter the subterranean level of a building. When he ascends steps to the ground floor, the unfamiliar surroundings become even more bizarre, with the scent of old books and forgotten memories lingering in the air. Each floor of the building transports him to a different city, shrouded in an enigmatic, intoxicating atmosphere.

His heart racing, the echo of unsyncopated footsteps reveal that someone in relentless pursuit is gaining on him. Running back up and down the steps manifests another maze of confusion, each floor leading him deeper into the labyrinth of the unknown, with the aroma of damp stone and mystery thickening around him.

To escape the relentless pursuer, he exits the building onto a narrow one-way street, where he senses the fragrant bloom of flowers from a terrace above. His larynx constricts as he tries, without success, to shout for help, and a sense of desperation hangs in the air.

The long shadow from a backlit, ominous figure gets closer and finally envelops Carl as he presses his back against the cold, rough brick wall that pivots like a revolving door. On the other side awaits the familiar surroundings of home, but they now appear somehow altered, tinged with an inexplicable sense of foreboding.

“A mind-bending trip through surrealism…

By his count, Carl awakens for the second time today. Pouring himself a cup of coffee, he realizes that this was a mild episodic morning. As a chronic somnambulist, he often awakens miles away—in an open field, within someone else’s home, or behind the wheel of his car, with the lingering aroma of a distant campfire or the sea breeze in his mind.

This and recurring nightmares make it difficult to keep a job. So Carl, under the care of both a compassionate neurologist and empathetic psychologist, is on disability, and the scent of warm herbal tea permeates the cozy clinic where he seeks help.

Personal Journaling

It’s now time to begin his waking day. During Carl’s visit to his psychotherapist, Tamara, they explore the meaning of recurring dreams involving emotional and mental escape.

Dr. Tamara asks, “Is there someone with whom you’re having a conflict?”

“Not really. There aren’t many people in my life,” Carl responds, his voice tinged with uncertainty.

“Tell me about your recent somnambulism.”

“The dream is the same. No matter where I turn, there’s no way out.”

“Does the hopelessness follow your wakefulness?”

“That’s the odd thing. I appear to be calm throughout the day—if I can tell what a real day is,” Carl admits, his brow furrowing.

“Do your recurring dreams present anxiety in anticipation of going to sleep?”

“Not usually. The dreams of escape are intermittent. There might be months between occurrences, but when they come, they leave a haunting fragrance in my mind.”

“We talked about this in the past. My advice is to keep a journal. You can then review it during times when you have the dreams. It may reveal that they recur when you have big decisions to make in life.”

“Thanks doctor. I haven’t been writing anything down. So that’s something I need to do that may help uncover a pattern,” Carl agrees, the scent of calming lavender oil lingering in the room.

Harmful Destiny

Like many times before, Carl leaves with a resolve that he doesn’t fulfill. Even though he’s aware that alcohol can trigger unwanted events, after therapy, he goes to a sports bar for one drink that becomes a few. Back at home, he dozes off, enveloped by the faint aroma of the bar’s smoke and spilled beer that clings to his clothes.

Very lucid thoughts flood his mind during NREM, preceding deep sleep. He wants to get up and write them down, but fatigue paralyzes his muscles. Now during the REM phase, Carl finds himself driving down a familiar street before making a right turn into obscurity, the scent of gasoline and asphalt filling his senses.

As though performing a play he has rehearsed many times before, he doesn’t deviate from ingrained actions. Climbing the steps takes him to a new world where he becomes the subject of a pursuit, the smell of rain-soaked concrete mingling with the adrenaline coursing through his veins. This time, he hears his unimpeded shouts for help, but they echo into an empty void, leaving him feeling isolated and vulnerable.

Exerting pressure on the wall at the end of the alley does not provide a means of escape. The pursuer drapes a dark hood over his head and binds Carl’s wrists before leading him to the backseat of a vehicle. Again he makes audible cries for help, the scent of fear growing stronger in the confined space.

“Who are you? Where are you taking me?” Carl pleads, the aroma of leather and cold metal pervading him.

But there is no response. Finally, the automobile stops, and the door opens. His ears hark to surroundings, and there is only the noise of buzzards flying in the distance, their pungent scent filling the air. His ankles twist as feet sink into gravel alongside the sound of two additional pairs of footsteps, adding to the ominous atmosphere.

A large rusty door opens, and now the steps echo against the cold, damp concrete slab of a warehouse floor. The air is chilly, not from central air conditioning, but from a draft due to dilapidation, a musty smell mingling with the scent of decay.

The reverberating high-pitch of a sharp long blade fills the room when unsheathed. It then slices the restraints like a warm knife through butter, and the metallic scent of freshly cut metal fills the space. The shove from a hand lands Carl on a mattress. There, he removes the dark hood to find himself alone as the door shuts, leaving him surrounded by the faint scent of floral perfume.

Nothing like a warehouse, this room, decorated with the frills of a woman’s design, is also unfamiliar. Beneath his feet are hardwood floors that squeak as though a crawl space is underneath, and nostrils detect the scent of old wood.

Way Out

When his eyes fix on the door through which he entered, Carl runs to grasp the handle. Through the threshold is another room of the house with the same decorator’s furnishings, the aroma of vanilla and cinnamon making it feel warm and inviting.

Mental Awakening mystery

The delicious scent of coffee and humming of a female voice lure him into the kitchen. There he sees the back of a woman stepping out of view onto the service porch.

“Excuse me, Miss?” he shouts without response.

When he runs to catch up, no one is there! But a pot of hot coffee sends curls of steam from the counter, and the scent of freshly baked bread wafts through the air. Carl avoids distraction of the enticing aroma and heads through the service porch. Out the back door is an endless field of dead grass and emaciated trees, lacking the carp of a single bird.

Following the circumference of the house to the front yard leads him into the alley from which he was abducted, the scent of rain still hanging in the air. He retraces his steps to the backyard, but can no longer find a door anywhere on the wood frame rural house, only the faint scent of lavender oil hinting at the memories of the psychotherapy session. What awaits him as he ventures again around front, he wonders, surrounded by an air of trepidation.


Return twice weekly for miniseries. Any relation to actual persons or events is coincidental. Login provides the most immersive experience. About 3000 total words. Audio may include sound effects that alter reading time.

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