Surely she was awake. Her eyes were open, she could move her body. The room wasn't dark anymore, yet it wasn't really light either. Her heart was pounding and fear was rushing through her veins. The man next to her wasn't who he was supposed to be. She didn't know him. A stranger, sleeping soundly as if he had always slept there.
She closed her eyes trying to grasp the reality. Surely she wasn't awake. This was a dream, something happening between the sleep and waking up. Breathe in counting five. Hold breath counting five. Breathe out counting five. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Calm down, it's a dream.
Opening her eyes again she looked around. Not only there was this stranger in her bed but everything else was wrong too. The room was strange, bigger than where she had gone to sleep. The furniture was different, only that red chair looked like the one in her home. Through the window she saw a strange view. Buildings she couldn't recognise. A restaurant, sign glowing colourful lights. A man and his dog.
She wanted to open the window and scream for help. Help, I don't know where I am. Help, I'm stuck in a dream! As if he had heard her thoughts, he woke up, and looked at her.
His voice was sleepy and soft. He looked at her with pure concern.
"Where am I?"
He sighed. Slowly, half asleep, he reached to her and pulled her back to bed. His touch was gentle but steady. He had dealt with her anxiety, her woken dreams before. Nothing new here.
"Go back to sleep, baby. You are dreaming."
She settled down next to him. Surely this was a dream. A dream feeling real. One of those where she thought she had woken up, until something proved she was still asleep. Not the first time. There were nights she would have series of dreams like that, waking up again and again. And somehow this was different. Unlike those other dreams. More straightforward. More here.
She laid on her side breathing slowly in, holding her breath and breathing slowly out. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Everything would be right. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. This wasn't real.
She kept her eyes closed now, afraid of seeing what was around her. The sounds, feelings and scents took over. She smelled the spices from the restaurant. The skin and hair of this man next to her. She felt the softness of the sheets, more expensive than those she was used to. The apartment, the whole building, sounded unfamiliar. Somewhere there were people having sex. They moaned rhythmically. The man next to her was sound asleep, breathing deep. She didn't know that breathing. She couldn't hear the fridge, humming, buzzing, clicking as it always did. Every familiar sound, feeling and smell was gone.
Don't think about it. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. This is a dream. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Wake up, wake up!
What did they say? There are multiple worlds. Had she slipped to the wrong one? She imagined herself, the other her, who usually slept in this bed. Going through this in her apartment. Had she been pulled back to bed? No, not likely. She would be pacing around, sitting on the floor, counting to five. He, who was there in that apartment, was worried and annoyed. She, the other her, was upset and frantic. He wasn't great at dealing with those moments. But then again, who was? Not this man here, the same who brushed her question aside before falling back to sleep.
She was letting her imagination take the lead. Not good in this situation. She had to be reasonable. She was home where she was supposed to be. Not in a strange apartment in a strange building, strange place, strange world. That just couldn't be.
There, between the thoughts, she drifted back to sleep. She dreamt about other lives, people she hadn't met, places she hadn't seen. It was all a dream. It had been all a dream. The sheets became familiar, the scent of spices faded away, his breathing sounded the way she knew. The fridge hummed, buzzed and clicked again. Surely it had been a dream.