***Please excuse this breaking the fourth wall interruption, but from this point forward, the main character chooses to speak in present tense. At this point of the story, we can assume that Eran knows as much information about the future (or the past, in previous chapters) as you do. But the future is as unpredictable as dreams are and for suspension-of-disbelief reading pleasure, we decided to furthermore change the tense for other clarification issues that may result in the next 1,000 or so words. Thank you, and once again, we excuse the interruption. Please go back to enjoying the story.***
My vision blurs into an unforgiving black hole of darkness, not now! I'm at the door handle of the room, and my wife needs me more than ever. End this dream now before it dissolves into a further nightmare.
I tune out the droning hum of the lights. I need to be anywhere but here. Perhaps if I were to focus purely on the room, I could phase out of the blackouts.
"I'm sorry, ma'am," a cold, voice yields hardly any sympathy as if bumbling on like a robot. "But I'm afraid that in a few minutes it'll be too late."
Let me return to the house, and I'll reach my wife in time. I plead, although no words escape my lips. Then again, they never had in these blackouts.
"Could I please have a few minutes?" she asks, voice barely rising above a whisper.
I assume that the man gives a positive response, because a warm hand grasps mine in a desperate attempt to rouse my muscles into motion.
"Sweetheart, I'm afraid that we don't have much time," she tries her best to disguise tears, but even I can sense them streaming down her cheeks now. "I love you, and I don't know if you can hear me, but I have always loved you. I just wanted to make sure you knew that."
Before I can hear more, my vision fades and bright lights pierce my eyes.
Back to reality.
Or a dream. I can never be too sure anymore. Who knows how one could ever tell the difference? Besides, like humans and apes, dreams and life share common behaviors. They both plunge us into our greatest weaknesses, yet they offer up our greatest joys and aspirations.
My hand anxiously grips the handle as I swing the door open. Heaven knows how much time I have left before one of us dies. Perhaps it is already too late.
A shimmer of bright light and a pair of warm eyes beam in my direction. I would recognize the Mediterranean ocean blue from a mile away.
A smile evolves onto her face from the previously bewildered expression. Without another moment to lose, I bolt towards her and encircle her in my arms. With precious slow-motion moments of perfection, we both don't say anything.
Then she speaks up, "Oh Eran," she croons, "it's a shame that you're poor at solving puzzles. Discovering the answer to this one might have saved your life."
I release her in a moment of confusion, expecting her dark expression to morph into an amused one as if she had just told a humorous joke.
"Hon," I begin, whirling around to see who had taken my wife captive inside the room. Where was the man with the stone cold voice? "We need to get out of here, before whoever trapped you returns."
"Oh Eran," she lets out an unnatural sort of laugh, "I'm perfectly fine. In fact, I'm by your bedside in St. Edna's hospital forty minutes away from home. No, Eran. It is not I who is in trouble, but you."
I stand paralyzed for a moment trying to digest half the words that she just threw at me. When did I go a hospital?
"I don't understand," I manage.
"I figured you wouldn't," she throws a disdainful tuft of hair in my direction. "Like always, I have to solve your puzzles for you, don't I, Eran?
"Let's start at the very beginning," she mocks, humming a tune from Sound of Music. "In the very beginning of your adventure in the house, you acknowledged that you had a rather irrational heart for adventure which lead to further injury in your occupation, am I correct?"
How could she know all this? I never spoke these words aloud, it just crossed my train of thought.
"Yes," I whisper, but before I can ask for further details, she threw up a hand.
"All will be revealed in time," she explains and continues. "That detail contains high importance to various points of the story. But we'll get to that later. Now then you reached the poem at the door, and you grew very surprised that Isaac said that you had written it. Of course, the house had created Eran, and other characters to lead you on several rabbit trails when deciphering this mystery, but he often gave certain details a little too early…
"We had wanted to lead you to this room eventually, but because of Isaac's rashness, we had to send an earthquake his way in order to remind him to slow the pace down a little. Of course, we couldn't immediately get you into the fourth door. I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase, 'A house divided against itself will fall'?" she sort of phrases it like a rhetorical question, but I nodded in response.
"Good," she nodded approvingly, "of course, you don't have to answer these questions, Eran. I already know the answers. Anyway, your house is divided into two halves. The half that wants you to live and the half that wants to kill you. People such as Isaac and the man with the gun wanted you dead, but the other half of the house such as the man that you just killed and the poem on the door wanted you to live. That's why the poem warned you against the fourth knock, because it knew that here is your greatest weakness, and where the house will fall."
"You," I answered automatically, "but what about the mystery? What was I supposed to solve? You're throwing in all these details, but they're not entirely connecting, sweetheart."
She waved a hand up and down impatiently and continued as if the interruptions hadn't happened.
"But the other part of the house knew that you have a tendency of irrational impulsivity that would lead you to this room no matter what. Of course, certain characters grew impatient because they wanted you dead, but eventually you wound up in here.
"Which leads me back to my first point. How your impulsivity got you here. I don't just mean to this room, but inside the house in general. Due to your overconfident skills in your driving and rather dangerous speed on the road, you assumed the role of texting while driving on the way to one of your expeditions. Given that it was an ordinary day, you didn't spot any rarities in this logic. It came naturally.
"But you hadn't expected the alarming text in which your wife sent you about her positive pregnancy test. Distracted from the road, you proceeded to gape at it for several precious moments. When you glanced up, it had already grown too late, and with a flash of bright lights, you earned yourself a one way ticket inside the unsolvable mystery of the house.
She pauses for a moment letting the information sink in.
"Somniatis comatose," she recites as if she is impersonation the Oxford dictionary, "a state in which the patient is unresponsive to stimuli and regresses into a dream state until he or she regresses further into a vegetative state resulting in death…
"You're in a comma now," she says simply, "that explains all of the blackouts. Your wife is waiting by your bedside, and they're about to take you off life support any minute now."
Suddenly the world falls into place, and logic pulses in my veins. But I am already too late. Life is such a precious gift, and there are no do-overs. Why had I not realized any of this before?
"Eran," the impersonation of my wife says, for the first time with a slight hint of compassion, "you should have stuck your shoe in the door."
To my horror, I spin around and watch the door slowly close shut.
The medical condition of somniatis comatose does not exist. I created it out of that really odd author's muse in the back of my brain. Although, I did use several sources for research into comatose and dreams (you'll find these under the work's cited section). Those sources have helped me significantly, because I don't know if any of you have seen my science grade lately, but needless to say I could never offer as much medical insight as these websites have. While I have never experienced a coma, I do imagine its effect produce scary results that I may not have been able to cover in this novella.