You wake up in the great hall but you haven’t been sleeping. “Where am I?“ you think, while sitting at a table with other knights. Your armor is hot. A slight breeze cools your sweat soaked head. Everything looks normal and wrong. The world looks like a painting or tapestry. The world looks just a little bit further away than it should be. Your vision feels framed in, like looking through a window.
“You are a knight of the realm,” you tell yourself. “You are seated at you place around the table,“ you reassure yourself. “These are your compatriots,” you remind yourself. “No,“ you rebel, “this place is wrong.” You look around and see things out of place. Shelves of books. How could there be so many books? The room is lighted but not by a fire or candles. Everyone is wearing armor but we are sitting down to eat. Your ale sits on a coaster. When were coasters invented?
“This is your king’s great hall,” you remind yourself. He has gathered many books from all over the lands. The light is from the sun reflected into the room by mirrors. It is midday and you have been sparing to keep your skills sharp, after a short lunch you and the other knights will return to the courtyard for more sparing. Slowly, then quickly, the last few years unspool into your mind. Meeting your king. Becoming a knight. Last week’s battle against the local bandits. The world tilts back closer to level. This is your king’s great hall. These are your fellow knights. You belong here.
But you remember not belonging here a second ago. A minute ago. Half an hour ago. An hour ago. It haunts you. That vague undefinable feeling that everything you know might not be so. This could be a dream, you think. You’ve had dreams like this before. Everything seems perfectly real, until you wake up and find yourself here. Here which no longer seems completely real. Could all those dreams have been dreams within this dream. Are you closer or farther from reality here?
You study the seams. Look for cracks in the lie. Can you trust your senses in a dream? Can you test a dream with reality tests devised in the dream? Reality tests work to separate dream from reality. But reality tests can only tell you if you are in a world where they work. If we accept the dream as real and construct reality tests around it, then the dream becomes our reality.
You decide to accept this place as real. You fight a dragon. Capture a local bandit leader. Quest for a drinking cup. Settle down and start a family. You can’t seem to wake into a more real world. Everything seems consistent and the minor inconsistencies are probably just your bad memory. You’ve been here long enough for the feeling to begin to fade. It becomes a faint whisper in your mind that you learn to ignore. Everything is perfectly normal again.
Then one day, you roll over in bed and fall off the sofa in your apartment.
Author’s note: This is the second version of this story I wrote. This version was written to add a more fantastical element and distance itself from my own experience. While I don’t hate it, I do prefer the first version that I wrote.