By Nigel Vear
It felt dark, but not uncomfortably so. Sometimes they dimmed the lights or pulled the curtains, but this felt different. He wasn’t sure about the darkness – it seemed much darker than normal, but maybe it was night-time; if so, perhaps he should try and sleep.
When he woke again or thought he woke, it was still dark. It could be he was dreaming – he knew he used to dream. He liked those times when he dreamt, he felt free, and he seemed to be able to do what he wanted. But this didn’t feel like a dream. Those felt slightly detached, as though he was observing himself and not always really part of the dream.
He liked dreams – he felt strong, and it was usually warm and light in his dreams. He often met other people there, sometimes they would talk to him, but he didn’t always seem to be able to talk to them. It never really mattered as the dreams continued whether he spoke or not. The dreams were good, especially the ones where he was outside in the warm sunshine. Perhaps if he slept, he would dream again. He would like to feel the warmth of the sun and the light.
The darkness felt good now – it wasn’t cold dark, but then it didn’t feel particularly warm either, but it was comforting.
He woke; it was still dark, but he could sense something. His clothes felt different, but then they often did after he woke up. He knew they changed his clothes when he was asleep and probably because he complained if they moved him when he was awake. He didn’t like it when they moved him. It was usually just as he was beginning to feel warm and soft and comfortable. The clothes they put on him were always cold and far too hard, but this felt different. The cloth felt soft, but the clothes felt different, somehow not quite lived in but better. Perhaps they had finally listened to him and had got some of his own clothes from home.
Home – he knew he had a home; it was where he lived, but he couldn’t remember where it was. They had asked him where he lived, and he told them it was warm and comfortable and there were trees. He liked the trees in the wood; it was his place. He had planted most of the trees himself and had watched them grow from small and delicate saplings to the beautiful, strong trees in the woods. He felt comfortable in the woods. It was quiet in a noisy sort of way.<2>
The trees constantly moved – the wind moved the trees, and the trees responded to the sunlight, but if you listened on a quiet, gentle day, the trees were still moving even at night.
He tried to move his arms and his hands, but they didn’t seem to work – maybe he was tired and should try sleeping again. Then, he felt something brush gently against his leg – at least it felt like his leg or where it should be, but he wasn’t sure. It was a soft touch, almost a caress. The sort of feeling he remembered from a long time ago. A gently soothing stroke that felt good and brought back pleasant memories – or were these dreams again.
He didn’t want to sleep, he liked this feeling, but it felt so peaceful and comfortable that he drifted slowly towards a dream. The gentle touch was still there, but it was harder to work out where it was now. There was a definite insistence to this caress, not just a simple, delicate touch but an unmistakable exploring and a much stronger feeling of purpose to the contact.
When he woke, the feeling of contact was still there. Only he didn’t just feel it on his leg. Instead, there was now a feeling of determination and a real sense of purpose – he was wanted.
The joining was a slow and restful time. He felt the warmth and the light coming and going in a regular and unrelenting way. The time of light was getting longer, and the feeling of warmth was extending throughout his body. But he couldn’t feel his body. He knew he had one, he had always had it, and he had grown used to the way it felt. It wasn’t as good as it had been, a few aches here and there, and he had been developing a growing sense of tiredness – he felt as if he should sleep again.
Later, when he woke, he knew something was different, he wasn’t sure what it was, but he felt as though he had a purpose. The sense of touch was still there, but it was inside him, part of him, and he was part of it. All of him felt alive and well and growing.<3>
He was more awake now and so much more aware – or was this still a dream? The warm breeze felt good; there was a gentle susurration in the grass all around him. He felt a rising strength in himself, but he also felt delicate, and it seemed as if part of him was standing and a part of him wasn’t.
That was odd – but in dreams, anything can happen.
The feeling of strength seemed to grow along with his awareness, he could feel the strength in his body growing. His feet felt cool and solid, but his arms and his fingers felt as though they were catching the light. The light was good, it was more than warmth. It felt nourishing – could you eat light? He knew he should be hungry; they hadn’t brought him any food for a long time now. But the light was good, and he didn’t feel hungry.
The time of the light, he knew it was daylight now, grew longer and the periods of dark were shorter. He didn’t feel the urge to sleep so much now; he felt an urgency to grow and a need for the light, but not sleep. He still couldn’t see, but he felt as though he knew where everything was. He felt connected and part of the whole.
The whole what? The feeling of being part of the whole was almost overwhelming now – it was good, he knew it was good, and what he had always wanted, but what was it? The warmth and the sunlight were helping to make him feel well and rested; his feet felt a little damp, but the rest of him felt as though it could reach up and capture all the warmth and the light around him.
These were lazy days; he knew they were days, but they all seemed to run together. Sometimes it was warm and dry and dusty, but occasionally the rain washed over him, which felt good – cool and refreshing. After the rain, there was a clean freshness, and everything felt so alive. All around, he could feel the surge as everything around him seemed to feel the need to grow as much as it could. The sunlight, warmth, and rain made him feel ready for anything.<4>
But then there was a day with a disturbance. He didn’t know what was happening, but there seemed to be people, people near him. He could sense the people but not see them; he knew these were people, but he wasn’t sure what they were doing. The small creatures that had set up home with him had gone noticeably quiet. There was the odd chirp from a young bird, but the older ones quickly shushed that, and the furry animals had all stopped feeding and moving.
Apart from the disturbance, the day turned into another gentle summer day. The disturbance ended, and the people went away again. The small creatures slowly emerged from wherever they had been hiding, the older ones were still scolding the young, but they were soon settling back into their normal routines. The sunshine warmed him and made him feel sleepy. Not the deep sleep of the cold and the dark, but a slow lazy nap in the summer sun.
When he woke, there was a difference. He felt it, he wasn’t sure what it was, but something he felt had changed. The sun was getting lower, but it wasn’t dark yet. He reached out and tentatively felt around him, he wasn’t sure what it was he was looking for, but it was something new. He felt the same, perhaps a little different, but then most days, he did seem to change a little. The animals on the ground had found loose soil to explore, and the birds were busy checking for anything to eat.
Then as he stretched and felt his way, he came across something familiar, it was cloth. He hadn’t felt cloth for some time now. His own clothes just didn’t seem to be there anymore. He wasn’t sure why, but he wasn’t cold, and the clothes no longer felt important. This was new, though, not quite as soft as he remembered but it almost felt lived in.
Almost unconsciously, he carried on gently teasing his way through the cloth then, and it was a shock, he realised it was another person. Had they put someone else in his room – that seemed odd they hadn’t done that before. He withdrew when he found what he was feeling, but there was no reaction to his touch. Perhaps the other person was sleeping, he would meet them when they were awake, and he was.<5>
There was another day of disturbance and another. On the days when there was a disturbance but always in distinct parts of the woods, he would try to reach out. If it was close, he could spread out and gently make contact, but often it took him some time to make contact and find out who had arrived. It felt good to meet all these new people; they didn’t speak or say much and were often asleep, but he liked the quiet it let him listen to the trees and the birds and the animals.
They generally all got along once they had made contact. There were those who were a little quiet to start with, others were lost and confused, but most of them soon settled into this new way of being themselves. They didn’t meet, at least not in the conventional sense, but they all seemed to be aware of each other and what the others were thinking. The newcomers all felt a little different; some felt prickly, some were strong, some were smooth or slender, but all had a feeling of life and growth.
People arrived in ones and twos throughout the year but always with a little disturbance and more people who left soon after. The disturbances soon seemed to fill the woods, or at least to take place all over it. Never too close, but also never so far away that between them they couldn’t make contact. There was no organisation to this, just whoever was closest or could reach out and touch the new person.
Eventually, the disturbances seemed to stop, and no more new people arrived. However, the small creatures and birds were still there, they seemed happier now with fewer comings and goings, and that was good – it was peaceful again.
Later in the year, it began to get cooler, and the light didn’t seem to last as long. It wasn’t dark in the way it had been before, but he was beginning to feel the urge to move back down into the safety of the dark again. Perhaps it would soon be time to sleep again, but not just yet still one last thing to do.