I'm sitting at a familiar wooden table and wondering what happened to the walls that used to surround it. The last time I sat at this table it was indoors, inside my apartment, but as I look around, the only walls I see are those of tall, grey, monolithic buildings set several hundred feet away in any direction. I'm in some sort of enormous courtyard, the sky is a dull beige but the ground is composed of a single gigantic marble slab, bordered by terraced steps leading up to a walkway that runs parallel to the buildings.
There are people along the edge, walking in a dark and somber procession; as they walk, a trail of litter and debris forms in their wake, cluttering up the otherwise pristine area. I consider getting up to approach the group to admonish them for their carelessness, but I have no body and I cannot move, I can only watch. Staring closely, I recognize a few of the distant faces and one of them turns to me and smiles, a cheerfulness that is at odds with the grim clothing and funereal pace of his companions. Something comforting is said, but I don't hear it, I'm distracted by a faint metallic tinkling sound behind me; it sounds as if small, muted bells are approaching slowly from a distance. I can't turn around to look but that seems normal in my incorporeal state, not a cause for alarm.
A pale, slender hand reaches from behind and sets an empty wooden bowl on the table in front of me, and at this moment I discover that I have regained my body; my right hand is clutching a wooden spoon that is nearly as broad as a spatula and my stomach is crying out for food. I try to turn around, but I can't, I'm held fast in my seat and this upsets me-what use a body that cannot move?
After a moment of panic, I feel a hand rest itself on my shoulder.
Shhhh. It is going to be alright.
Alright? I'm not sure that I understand what is happening, but it is good to know that. A sense of enveloping calm wraps itself around me, a blanketing, benevolent mist and I am not at all surprised when an unseen voice asks me a series of questions in a mock-serious tone.
I already know the answers.
Will you be having porridge today, sir?
"No, thank you. Gruel will be fine."
Very well, then. Will you be taking bananas or dried apples with your gruel? And to drink?
"Oh, neither. I'll have rice cakes...and I'll take a glass of tap water with them, please."
The bells are laughing now.
Wake up, wake up.