There is a state between awake and asleep that can be so enlightening: sometimes wonderful, at other times quite scary, cast adrift on the choppy sea of my imagination. I drank too much rosé at wine circle last night and woke up at dawn (circa 0430) with a bulging bladder. Some time between snuggling back into bed on return from the bathroom and when I eventually arose to make Maeve’s coffee at 0615, I borrowed a pair of my ex-boss’s trousers and bought a large motorcycle (it may have been a Guzzi Le Mans but I’m not sure). Thereafter, I took up panning for gold in North Wales. It’s a lot to cope with before breakfast.
“Nevermore” quoth the raven, trying hard not to resemble a writing desk. The Hatter regards him with mistrust. I can feel myself drifting off to sleep again. My eyes are swimming; I can feel my energy ebbing away. Alice is talking about riddles, or maybe in riddles. I don’t care: I’m so tired.
There’s a burning sensation on my nose and I’m jerked into wakefulness again. Hatter is leaning over me with his teapot and there is a steaming puddle before me. “Why, Hatter? You must realise that hurts. You do, don’t you? Why are you such a loony?” Hatter doesn’t answer but looks pained.
“I’ve seen a grin” says Hare. Everyone looks at him in askance. “Over there” he offers, by way of explanation, and vaguely waves a paw towards the cottage. Heads are turned, to follow his wave, but no grin is apparent. “I only mention it because where there’s a grin there may be a cat. I know you don’t like cats.”
“I like cats” says Alice. The raven looks troubled.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”
“Depends what you mean by “fairest”, Luv. Some folk mean “blonde” when they say “fair”. Others mean “just” or “sporting” or “egalitarian”.”
“You’re a magic mirror: I’m consulting you about beauty. Am I not the most gorgeous creature in the world?”
“I think “creature” is a mistake, to be honest, Luv. This is difficult enough without getting non-species specific.”
“All right! Am I the most beautiful woman in the world then?”
“Of course you are.”
“Why “of course”?”
“You own me. I’ve made a judgement that you want to be the most beautiful. Therefore, you are the most beautiful.”
“But am I REALLY the most beautiful?”
“Well, I think so, of course, but these things are very subjective.”
“That’s not good enough. I want you to tell me that I’m REALLY the most beautiful.”
“You’re REALLY the most beautiful.”
“But would you still say that if I didn’t own you?”
“But would you still say that if someone else owned you?”
“But wouldn’t she, your new owner, I mean, wouldn’t she want you to say that she was the most beautiful?”
“So what would you say then?”
“Look Luv, I’m doing my best here. My job is to please. I don’t know what my new owner looks like. Isn’t it enough that you’re the most beautiful owner I know?”
“Am I not the only owner you know?”
“Well, strictly speaking, yes, but I think you’re beautiful.”
“What’s the point in having a magic mirror, if I can’t get a straight answer?”
“With respect Luv, you don’t want a straight answer.”
I’m naked but I’m still hidden behind the half open door. Everyone else in the office is carrying on with their work regardless: they haven’t seen me. Somehow, I’ve got to get across the office and out the front door, so I can get home for some clothes, without anyone seeing me. My pal Jimmy is at his desk. If I can attract his attention without alerting anyone else, maybe he can help.
“Psst Jimmy!” Jimmy is still staring at his screen.
“Jimmy” I try a little louder. Carole looks over at me.
“Rob. Why are you hiding behind that door?” Now everyone is looking my way. Cynthia is laughing. “Are you naked in the office again?”
“No” I say, holding the door tightly against me.
“You are, aren’t you?” Carole is out of her seat and walking towards me. Cynthia and Sally follow her. I back out of the threshold, close the door behind me and hold on tight to the handle. They’re banging on the door and shouting variously “Come out” and “You’re disgusting” and “We’re coming to get you.”
Then someone starts to force the handle down. I’m fighting to hold it up but still it turns inexorably.
“No, no” I shout “no, no, no….”
“Rob wake up, you’re dreaming, wake up, it’s just a nightmare” I’m in bed and Maeve is kneeling beside me, shaking me by the shoulders “This is just a dream: you’re alright” she soothes.
“Oh God, that was horrible” I say and start to describe my dream to her, but she gently puts her finger to my lips to silence me.
“Shhhh” she says “you’re in a good dream now, forget about all that.” I laugh.
“I’m not dreaming now.”
“Yes, of course you are. This isn’t real. You just relax for a while and think about where you might have left your clothes.” Her words slap me out of any relax.
“What do you mean? That makes no sense.”
“It makes perfect sense. You went to work fully dressed but now you’re naked, so where are your clothes?”
“No, this is bullshit. I must be dreaming. I’ll wake up in a bit and everything will be fine.”
“Well, maybe, but you tried that once and look what happened.”