To his left he can see his reflection in the glass window of an electrical goods store, and he is drawn towards it. He moves over, slowly, carefully. His eyes are white, his skin ragged and his face splattered with blood and veins.
A television in the front window of the store clicks on. He can see his bedroom, where he is lying facing the screen. He blinks again. He is back on his bed. He looks down at his clothing and it is drenched in blood, the frozen woman’s blood, the woman he has just consumed.
He awakens on my ward. He looks down at his hospital clothes and the blood is still there. He blinks three times more and the blood disappears. He collapses backwards, exhausted.
Subject A explained the above with even more detail and consideration than his first dream, and he was clearly far more concerned by this one than the last. He became rambling and incoherent, convinced that his dreams were forming a narrative; he was dragged under the bed by a Zombie, and now, seemingly, he is a Zombie. He said I couldn’t understand what he had been involved in and the misery he had endured to reach this point. He said that he wanted his wife to decide his future, no-one else. He said she had decided that he should experience what she had as punishment for what he did to her.
I had to work extremely hard to convince him that the dream world cannot influence our existence. I pained to explain to him that his wife dearly missed him and he had done the right thing when the Blood Turned, or else he may not have been here at all. But despite my protestations I noted that Subject A was not convinced and I felt that, if left alone for too long, his ability to distinguish between dreams and reality could gradually diminish.
I was gravely concerned, but my demeanour worsened significantly when I moved onto Subject B’s quarters and she recited, with precision, what Subject A had just told me. Her dream had changed, too. And it was…. the same. Not similar, the same, in every conceivable facet of its description. Once again, my suspicion and cynicism arose, although this was quite different from before. It was one thing checking patient histories to assess if they had ever met, but they had been in my facility the entire time. There was no opportunity to fabricate another story, that is, unless this was another part of their wider game.
I returned Subject B to his room and demanded an update from my staff. They confirmed with absolute certainty that the patients had at no point came into any contact while in the hospital and, furthermore, they were close to completing their own background checks. They were extremely confident that there would never have been an occasion where the three subjects had been in London together, let alone could have known about each other and came together for such an elaborate, and largely meaningless, hoax.
I was forced to chide them into digging as deeply as possible for any link, no matter how tenuous, because the alternative was altogether unfathomable. Occam’s Razor may be a philosophical principle but I was forced to heed its warning here and attempt to rule out all other possible outcomes. Because what was I left with? I was confident that we would find a link somewhere and we could prosecute these time-wasters.
That afternoon, Subject C recited the same story, perfectly.
Over the next three days all three subjects reported this new dream to me, their faces becoming more drawn as they attempted to avoid sleep altogether. They feared the dream itself, what it portrayed them to be and how they were forced to endure that scene on such a regular basis. My regular consultations were, in the main, constructed to allow me to be observant of their behavioural patterns and attempt to extract as much information about them as I possibly could.
All the while, my team continued to verify what they were relaying to me in our sessions, and were unable to find any correlation between the three of them that could endorse my cynicism about what I was being told.
We continued with our sessions unabated and, to rule out even the most outlandish explanation, I moved to introduce the controversial concept of lucid dreaming. To the uninitiated, lucid dreaming involves applying techniques to allow one to become aware that what the mind is experiencing is a dream, and therefore be able to influence one’s actions within the confines of the dreamscape, mimicking real life. Research in this field has grown significantly in the years since the Blood Turned, because I believe that humans are suffering from acute nightmares more than ever before, even those that wouldn’t necessarily fit the model for a PZSD sufferer. It is still regarded by many as spurious pseudo-science, but I believe that lucid dreaming hands control of the dream environment back into the hands of the beholder. I decided to proceed with all three subjects to assess if they could influence their actions and, hopefully, relieve the terrible ordeal that they were suffering every time they closed their eyes.
I utilised the findings of one of my colleagues, Dr Kristin Banks, who had achieved success experimenting with the state of consciousness experienced by a dreamer, and being able to determine whether the subject could lucid dream. This was done by attaching a small vibrating device under the skin just behind the neck of the patient, which is then in turn connected to a modified oscilloscope. When the device is attached and the patient is dreaming normally, i.e. not in a lucid state, the oscilloscope represents a solid line bisecting the screen in half. Dr Banks believes that when such a device is attached to a patient that has been conditioned to lucid dream, then the reading on the oscilloscope sits a notch above the normal dream state, as if visually representing a higher state of consciousness. She has published numerous works on how to present the mind with visual aids to easily identify their dreams; time is unquantifiable on any clock, everyday objects may be a different colour from normal, and letters cannot form words that are legible to us because the part of the brain used to read is inactive or out of use when dreaming. These are cues that are relatively easy to draw upon.
The reason why I felt we could achieve rapid results was because the three patients in question, if they were indeed telling the truth, had such detailed descriptions of the same recurring dream that, in theory, the visual cues should be easier to identify. I visited all three of them in their rooms and provided advice on the topic, asking them to attempt to train their minds. They were shattered in every sense of the word, and so were keen to co-operate.
It was at this point that I began to discount the theory that this situation was anything other than genuine. The subjects had absolutely no reason to suspect that I might ask them to identify something from their dream to use with such specificity as we required in this test, but all three of them noted that, when lying on the floor, they could glance to their left and see a poster of a famous film that was immediately recognisable, but that the font with the film’s name was totally garbled to them and that this was their ‘in’ to being able to control their actions. The film was so very particular, the cue so unique, that I began to become totally absorbed by what I couldn’t begin to comprehend. These three subjects appeared to be experiencing synchronised dreaming.