The next thing he saw was the walls of his room; or rather, their disappearance. Inexplicably, the walls were fading away, growing paler in color, then slowly seeming to separate, until nothing but a void was left where they had once been. Confused and scared, Christopher had looked around at other things in the room--his homework, his radio, his bed--the exact same thing was happening to all of them. What is going on here?, Christopher wondered, now thoroughly frightened.
It wasn't long before everything around him disappeared completely. Christopher looked around in consternation to see where he was. Not sure what was happening, he checked to make sure that he himself hadn't disappeared along with everything else. He felt himself and found that outwardly, he hadn't changed. He still had the same dirty blond hair and brown eyes, the same slightly freckled face. He was still there, he concluded, and then decided that the place he was in was nowhere. He seemed to be just floating around in oblivion, surrounded by empty space. He had a strange feeling, as if he was half asleep, but gradually becoming fully awake. Have I died?, he wondered.
Instead of receiving an answer to his question, he heard an unfamiliar male voice calling his name. "Christopher." Though he didn't recognize the voice, he recognized the emotions behind it; it sounded gentle and loving, as if it was concerned for Christopher's well-being. Soon a female voice, still unfamiliar, but sounding caring and kind, echoed the first one. "Christopher.", he heard. "Christopher, are you waking up"
"Waking up?", Christopher asked, the fact that he had spoken seeming to bring great joy to the two voices. "What do you mean? I'm not asleep. Where am I"
Suddenly, he found himself lying on something not entirely unlike a hospital bed. Two human figures stood above him; a man and a woman, the source of the two voices he had heard. The man had light brown hair, slightly balding, and a thick beard that matched in color. He looked to be in his mid-forties. The woman had shoulder-length blond hair, azure eyes, and appeared to be about the same age or a few years younger. Both smiled happily, overjoyed that Christopher was awake. Even with seeing what the two of them looked like, Christopher still didn't recognize either one.
He surveyed his surroundings further, beyond the unfamiliar couple. He was in a green-walled room in which several more people were walking all around, all wearing long, white robes and rushing about through several different doors which appeared to lead to various different places. The room he was in seemed to be part of a large building. Many people were carrying strange-looking tools or equipment. One of the people, an older man, stood right behind the couple, closely examining a device that looked reminiscent of a television screen. It was angled away from Christopher; he couldn't see what was on it.
"Where am I?", Christopher asked again. "What happened? How do you know my name"
The man with the brown hair stepped toward Christopher. He wore a robe that was a dark crimson hue. Christopher thought that everyone here--wherever here was--dressed very weirdly, until he noticed that he, too, was wearing a long robe, this one blue on one side and black on the other. For the umpteenth time, Christopher found himself craving to know what was happening.
"You've finally woken up.", the man said joyfully. "I'm glad to see you, son"
"Son?", Christopher repeated in surprise. "You're not my dad. I've never seen you before in my life"
Apparently somewhat offended by Christopher's rash comment, the woman, who seemed to be the man's wife, stepped forward. She wore a robe that was striped yellow and light green.
"Christopher, you know better than to say that to your father!", she scolded.
The older man who had been examining the foreign-looking machine now spoke up. "Now, keep in mind, he's just woken up. He may not remember"
"Remember WHAT?", Christopher questioned impatiently. Nobody paid him any attention.
"What are you saying doctor?", the woman asked the old man in the white robe. "Well, according to the readings, your son experienced excessive rapid eye movement during his sleep. That means"
"I am not her son!", Christopher protested, again to no avail.
The doctor continued, ignoring the interruption. "That means that he was dreaming for most of the time he was asleep. He may still be remembering things from whatever he dreamed about"
"What are you talking about?", Christopher asked desperately, this time almost yelling.
To his surprise and relief, the man who claimed to be his father finally answered him. "From what I understand, Christopher, this news may be a little hard for you. But let me explain. And please, no interruptions; that will only make it take longer. Agreed"
"Agreed.", Christopher replied, anxious but also fearful to hear what the man had to say.
"Christopher, I am your father, Benjamin." He gestured to the woman. "This is Amanda, your mother. We may not be the parents you remember, but we are your true parents, that is a fact. Now, about seven months ago, we were on vacation at a place called Purple Canyon. Do you remember that"
Bewildered, Christopher shook his head.
"I was afraid you wouldn't.", the old doctor said sadly.
The man called Benjamin continued. "While we were exploring the depths of Purple Canyon, you slipped and fell from seven feet above ground. I ran to try to catch you, and so did your mother. Unfortunately, we were not quick enough, and you bumped your head on the ground with full impact. Though you suffered an extremely severe concussion, you were very lucky; by rights, you should have died. Do you remember any of that"
"No.", Christopher said, wishing that he did.
"After that, of course, we did the natural thing." Christopher's mother now picked up the story. "We took your unconscious body to the doctor. Our suspicions were confirmed; we learned that you were very badly hurt, but still alive. You have been in a coma ever since then." "Wait a second.", said Christopher in disbelief. "You mean that I've been asleep for seven months"
"That's right.", the doctor said. "I knew that memory loss, which you seem to have, would be a likely side effect when you awoke. You probably remember things from your dream as if it was reality. But don't worry; now that you're awake again, the memories of your old life should come back to you pretty quickly"
"So you're saying that my whole life has been just a dream?", Christopher inquired. Maybe that's why everyone looks strange, he thought. It's really my dream that was strange, and this is a normal world.
"Your whole life?", his father repeated. "Well, uh, how much time do you remember in this dream of yours"
"Before I woke up,", Christopher said, "I was sitting on my bed, doing some homework and listening to music. I was in a world of which I remembered years of"
"Years?", his mother asked in shock.
"About fifteen of them.", Christopher said. "Do you mean to say that all of those years were just a dream"
An awkward silence overtook the conversation. Everyone feared that what had just been implied was true, but none of them wanted to admit it.
"I don't know what that homework thing you mentioned is, son.", said his father. "It must be something we don't have in this world. But your dream does sound like a strange one. Why do you think you dreamed about a whole different life"
"I have no idea.", Christopher answered. "I didn't even know I was dreaming"
"And you don't remember anything about your real life"
"If this is my real life, then no I don't.", said Christopher.
"Oh, dear.", said the doctor. "This is terrible! I've never seen anything like this before"
Frantic, his father Benjamin ran to the doctor. "Can you help him? Is there anything you can do"
"Please help him!", his mother added, on the verge of tears. "You've got to"
"I'm afraid I can't do anything.", the doctor said. "Nor can anyone else here; it's beyond our qualifications. But there are specialists, psychiatrists, scientists who are experts on the human mind. There may be hope for him"
"Benjamin, what should we do?", his mother asked.
"I don't know.", Benjamin replied uncertainly. "We've got to do something to help him"
"Am I going to be okay?", Chris asked, the unnerving impact of realizing that all fifteen years of his life had been nothing but a dream now fully dawning on him.
"I can recommend a few good specialists.", the doctor said. "I'm sure someone will be able to help him. They may be able to get him back to normal within the month"
"Thank goodness!", his mother exclaimed joyfully.
"If you'd come with me to my office, Benjamin, I'm sure I can point you in the right direction and at least help you out a little bit.", the doctor continued.
"All right.", Benjamin agreed. Turning to his wife, he said, "You stay here with Christopher. I'm going to go see what we can do." To Christopher, he added, "I know this must seem very strange to you, more so than I can comprehend. But trust me, everything will be okay"
"I hope so.", Christopher answered.
"I know so.", his father lied, not as sure of the solution as he was trying to sound. The two men walked off together, leaving Christopher to stay with the mother he had never remembered knowing.
"Your father is right.", she said. "Everything will come back to you. With today's technology, they can make everything seem true again"
"Yes, I know.", Christopher said, trying to sound calm despite his internal fear and despair. "I hope it's soon, because right now I'm very confused. I hardly know anything about this world"
"I know you must be bewildered.", his mother said, trying to sound comforting. "But I can explain whatever you're not sure about"
"Thank you.", said Christopher, wondering where to start. He had so many questions that he wanted to ask; he knew it would take weeks, months even, to get all the answers he needed outside of whatever special treatment was being planned for him.
"Why is everyone dressed in robes like that?", he asked. "Is that normal here"
"It's a worldwide custom.", his mother said. "We always dress like this. Is that not how it was in your dream"
"No, not at all.", Christopher replied. "In the world I remember, we would all look very strange in clothes like these"
"That's probably true for a lot of things in this real world.", she said. "What else would you like to know"
"The green walls.", said Christopher. "Are they normal too"
"For a hospital such as this one, yes.", his mother replied.
They kept talking for quite some time. Naturally, Christopher had lots of questions. From his mothers answers, he learned that he lived on the planet Qwimpuk, in the city of Grell-Nad. He learned of some common pastimes for boys his age; reading and playing in snow, which fell all year, were high on the list. He learned that cheese was very popular and that many common foods were made from it; it was probably eaten at least twice a day. School, his mother told him, was held four days a week for five hours a day, but she said that Christopher wouldn't have to go until he regained his memory; it would only complicate things if he did. Of course Christopher still had a thousand unanswered questions still yearning to be answered, and had as of yet only scratched the surface. But he was glad that they were making some progress.
"Some of the things that I remember from my dream are actually the same in real life.", Christopher said. "Like, we speak the same language, which is good because I wouldn't want to have to learn a whole new language in addition to all my old memories. And the names, too. All the names I've heard so far--yours, Dad's, all of them--were normal names in my dream. Why are some things the same"
"I don't know.", his mother said. "I don't know much about dreams or how the mind works. I guess part of the dream had to be based on reality, don't you think"
Christopher shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine."
Benjamin had found a highly recommended mind expert and had arranged for Christopher to meet him in two days. The medical hospital wouldn't keep Christopher with them, since he was physically fine and only mentally damaged, so Christopher's parents too him home.
"Wow.", said Christopher, admiring the fantastic vehicle he was in. It was like a horse-drawn carriage, apparently made of wood or some similar material. It had two large wheels, and seats in the back, where Christopher sat. There was a window to his right so he could see the whole city. The one thing that stood out, however, was that the two horses pulling the cart had wings, and were flying seven feet above ground. "There are flying horses"
"That's redundant, Christopher.", his father corrected. "All horses fly. Was it not so in your dream"
"No.", said Christopher. "None of the horses had wings, except for in fictional stories." He paused, then added somewhat sorrowfully, "I guess my whole life was a fictional story"
His mother gave him a sympathetic look. "It'll be okay in a few days, Christopher.", she said. "The doctors and special experts can help you. You'll be all right"
He was silent for a moment, then decided to change the subject and resume his questioning of the strange new world. "So you don't have electricity or anything like that to power the cars"
"I don't know of these things you speak of.", his father said. "And what is a car"
"Uh, never mind.", said Christopher. "It's not that important." Christopher wondered how the television-like device he had seen at the hospital had functioned if electricity didn't exist. He would find out eventually, he decided, when he regained all his memories.
Two days later, Christopher met with a team of experts--psychologists, mental scientists, and other such people--who tried to help cure his severe amnesia. There were five of them in all; three men and two women. One by one, they each introduced themselves, but Christopher was too dually perplexed and excited to remember any of their names; he couldn't wait to remember all the answers to his myriad questions.
"Tell me, Christopher.", asked a woman with short black hair. "What was it like in this dream of yours"
"I think you're going to have to be a little bit more specific.", Christopher said. "There were so many things. There were fifteen years of it--at least, it seemed like that--so I had plenty of time to learn about it"
"Were you happy in there?", she continued.
Christopher shrugged, a gesture that, unbeknownst to him, was unfamiliar to the five doctors or anyone else on the planet Qwimpuk. "Some of the time, yeah. I had good days sometimes, and there were bad days too. And if you mean was I happy having it as a home, I never really thought about it, because that was the only home I knew"
The woman and a few of the others jotted some quick notes down on pieces of paper. Then a red-haired man with glasses continued the questionings. "Is it true, Christopher, that you don't remember anything about real life before you woke up two days ago"
"I thought that had already been established.", Christopher replied. "Isn't that why my parents hired you people"
"I know, I know, but I'm just trying to help.", the man explained. "Now, think back. Are you sure you can't remember anything"
Christopher thought back. He searched his brain thoroughly for almost two whole minutes. But to no avail; he still came up blank. "Nothing.", he replied regretfully.
"I see.", the man said. "But what is the earliest memory you have in the dream"
He thought some more, but not as long this time. "It was when I was really little, probably two or three. My parents--the ones I knew in the dream--and I, still lived in our old house that we moved out of when I was five. I remember there was this old, torn up teddy bear that I liked to play with all the time. I guess it was my favorite toy"
"Anything earlier than that?", asked another man after recording some notes.
Again Christopher searched his thoughts. "Nope.", he said.
The doctors were silent for a moment, then they continued with their questions. They showed Christopher a variety of objects, wondering if they had existed in his dream, and if not, if he would remember them. There were only a few that hadn't existed--minor kitchen appliances and other tools of various uses--yet Christopher still showed no positive results.
Some of the doctors told him facts they knew about the national landmark called Purple Canyon, the place where he had fallen and hit his head, starting the whole problem. They hoped to jog his memory with specific details of the place he had been right before he went into the coma. Their hopes were in vain; Christopher couldn't remember anything of his real life.
About a half hour later, the doctors ended Christopher's session. His mother came with the flying horse-drawn carriage to pick him up from the doctors' office. Once they had started on their way home, his mother asked, "Do you remember anything"
"No.", he replied. "Nothing. It's hopeless"
"That's not true, Christopher!", his mother assured him. "It'll take time, but you will remember. The doctor said you would be fine within the month"
"He said it was a possibility.", Christopher countered pessimistically. "I doubt it will actually happen"
"You're wrong, Christopher.", his mother said bluntly, struggling to hold back tears. "The doctors will be able to bring back your memory. Just wait; it'll be all right." Although she spoke as if it were definite, Amanda was just as unsure about the whole ordeal as her son was.
Over the next few weeks, Christopher continued to attend sessions with the doctors. After the third or fourth session, the doctors got the idea to ask Christopher's parents for some personal items of his--photographs of close friends or relatives, a favorite childhood toy, anything that might cure his horrible amnesia. Naturally, his parents had gladly obliged; unfortunately, nothing that the doctors showed Christopher was able to produce the desired result. No matter what they tried, Christopher couldn't remember anything that had happened before his coma.
One night, after about eleven sessions with the doctors had passed with still no progress, Christopher was preparing for bed as usual; that is, usual for this new world he had come to notice in the past few weeks. For Christopher, nothing seemed 'usual' anymore.
As Christopher was about to go to sleep, Benjamin came up to him. "Christopher.", he said. "I know these past few weeks have been extremely frustrating and difficult for you. I can't even comprehend what you must be going through. And I know it might seem hopeless at times, but trust me. The doctors know what they're doing; you will regain your memory"
Christopher nodded silently, not sure if he agreed with his father. Everything I've ever known is just a fantasy of my subconscious, a figment of my imagination, he thought. Is there really any hope for me?
In his mind, Christopher weighed the odds. He reevaluated the entire situation and asked himself which he would prefer: to live in an illusion but know everything about it, or to live in reality but know nothing at all of the way things really worked. Eventually he reached a stalemate; he wasn't sure what his honest answer would be. Christopher shrugged nonchalantly and dismissed the matter.
"Good night, father.", he said, heading towards his bed.
"Good night, Christopher.", Benjamin replied. "You'll remember soon enough"
Christopher paid no attention to the man's last statement; it was one that the man hopefully and routinely repeated to him several times each day. But Christopher wasn't thinking about that right now; he had suddenly gotten an idea. It was a crazy idea, or so it seemed at first. But then he thought about it again and realized that it would actually be quite possible. The question was, would he be willing to do it? Would he be brave enough? Did he even want to do it? Could he go through with it? Once again, he didn't know, but decided he'd better find something out incase he decided to go through with this bold endeavor.
"Dad, how far did you say I fell from?", Christopher asked his father.
"About seven feet, I think it was.", his father replied.
"That's a lot, isn't it?", said Christopher.
"Of course it is.", said Benjamin. "It's higher than any human being"
"I thought so"
Benjamin continued the conversation. "Seven feet is about as tall as..." He paused for a moment to think. "I know you wouldn't remember this yet, but have you seen that tree in our backyard, right outside the door"
Christopher nodded. "The one with bright green wood. I know which one you mean"
"That's about how high that tree is. You used to like to climb it when you were eight or nine, but I'm sure you're too big for it now. It wouldn't support your weight"
"Thanks.", Christopher said, ending the conversation. With that, he headed off to bed.
Christopher awoke again in the middle of the night. Normally he was annoyed at waking up earlier than he had to, but this time he had planned so purposely. He had decided to go through with the plan he had conceived.
He looked around him at the darkened room and thought about his life the past few weeks. Confused. Miserable. Unbelievable. Hopeless. Yes, this was what he wanted. He was going to do this.
"Goodbye, strange world.", he whispered almost silently, carefully and quietly getting out of his bed. "This will be the last time I see you"
Making sure to be quiet so Benjamin and Amanda wouldn't hear, Christopher pressed the button on the wall that opened his bedroom door. He cringed as the machinery moving the door made noise while shifting around, and fervently hoped it wouldn't be enough to wake them. Once the door was opened, he crept out of his room and towards the front door as silently as he could.
To his dismay, he heard some stirring in his parent's bedroom, and muffled voices as well. They were waking up, and they couldn't know about this! Spurred on by the desire to carry out his plan before he was caught, Christopher abandoned all caution and quietness and bolted through the door, into the yard.
"Christopher, is that you?", Benjamin's half-awake voice called. "What are you doing up"
He knew he had no time to lose; they could get up and find him at any second. Stumbling across the yard in the vision-obscuring darkness, he tried to make his way to the bright green tree.
"Christopher, what are you doing here?", he heard Amanda's voice call. Startled, he turned around to see that both of them had dragged themselves out of bed to see what their son was up to. Not good news for him.
"Go back to bed.", Benjamin told him. "You can play out here in the morning"
"No.", said Christopher. "I can't go back to bed. I can't stay here any longer!" He ran towards the tree and reached the trunk.
"But this is your home!", Amanda protested, her voice becoming shaky and trembling.
"I have never known this home.", Christopher replied. "I don't know where or what my real home is, but it's still somewhere inside of my head, and my only hope of sanity and happiness is to somehow find it again." He began climbing his way up the tree, towards the top branches. His heart started pounding faster; he knew he was almost to his goal, but that the consequences could be dire if it didn't work.
They were screaming, shouting now. "Christopher, come down! Don't do this!" Benjamin and Amanda frantically ran towards the tree, trying to catch their son and prevent him from harm before it was too late.
"There are doctors who can help you!", Benjamin shouted, on the verge of climbing up the tree himself to reach his son. "Come down"
"There are no doctors who can help me.", Christopher said, stubborn in his somewhat morbid views. "Not here, anyway." He paused, realizing that the moment was at hand. "Mother and father, Benjamin and Amanda, thank you for all you have done. I appreciate your efforts, but there is no other help for me now. Good bye"
Without hesitating for one more second, Christopher jumped off the branch he was on and plummeted towards the ground, making sure not to land on his feet. Amanda screamed, Benjamin ran to catch him; but to no avail.
Christopher landed on his head, which collided with the ground with a particularly painful "thump", and a most unpleasant sensation throughout his body. But it didn't last long; he soon blacked out and could feel nothing more. Nothing, that is, until the blackout cleared. And when it did, he found himself sitting on his bed and doing his homework, while music blared from the radio. It was all familiar, nothing was out of the ordinary. Everything was as it should be.