Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America


He landed softly in a field of wheat. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but this vista of ripening wheat rippling in waves as it bowed to the wind. The sky above was untarnished blue, deep, limitless, without a hint of cloud.

He turned in a circle, searching for an anomaly, some change in the landscape to head for. There was nothing, just the endless wheat to the horizon, a featureless expanse of green and gold beneath that impossibly blue sky. This was going to be difficult.

But at least it wasn't flying. He hated that; his natural fear of heights always made him uneasy when forced to fly. Even this vast field without landmarks was preferable, unusual as it was. He turned again, knowing that time would provide him with something to aim for.

The house was just behind him, less than a hundred yards away. Little more than a shack, it's sun-dried timbers and blank, dark windows spoke of emptiness, a long-abandoned shell of a home. Without a thought of how he could have missed it before, he took a step towards the house and found himself at the front door.

The door handle was a bright, highly-polished brass fancy, all whorls and spirals, its backplate a gleaming design of intertwining dragons. He reached for it and, as his hand curled around the handle, the door vaporized and he was inside the house.

It was a ballroom. An acre of shining, smooth floor stretched out before him and on both sides, marble pillars lined the walls and supported an ornate ceiling high above. All was illuminated by crystal chandeliers, sparkling in the light of a thousand candles. At the far side of the room, a grand marble staircase ascended, then split into two and bent right and left as it spiraled upwards.

The room was empty and, as he began the walk across to the staircase, his footsteps echoed through the hall. He realized that these were the first sounds he'd heard since arrival and, at the same instant, became aware of a huge presence that loomed behind and followed him. But he kept walking, knowing that there would be nothing to see if he turned around. When he began to ascend the stairs, the presence faded behind him, as though forbidden to leave the ballroom.

Halfway up, the stairs changed and became wooden. They creaked at his step and the bannisters closed in until he was able to hold on to both as he continued to climb. At the top he emerged on to a landing, a narrow place with corridors leading off to left and right. The light was dim but here and there down the passageways shafts of sunlight streamed through open doorways, creating bright pools like streetlights at night.

Allowing instinct to guide him, he turned left and set off down the passage, glancing into each room as he passed. They were empty, bare of furniture and decoration, timbered spaces lit by dust-flecked rays of light through the shuttered windows. It was not until he reached the last room that he found what he was looking for.

The room was like all the others except that a man stood in the center, gazing at a closed door in one wall. The new arrival waited a moment and then spoke quietly.


The man in the room turned slowly to look at his visitor.

"You're not supposed to be here."

"But I am." The man stepped forward to enter the room. "Look at my face; you know me."

Martin's forehead creased as he tried to remember. "Dr Venning?" he asked.

"Yes, but you can call me Norman. I'm here to help you, Martin, but there are things you need to know first. You know that you are dreaming?"

Martin turned to gaze at the closed door again. "Dreaming?"

"Yes, dreaming. You have dreamed this dream every night for two months and now you're in IDT."

Martin glanced at him. "IDT?"

"Interactive Dream Therapy," said Norman. "You've been troubled by these repeated dreams and came to me for help. With IDT technology, I can be with you in the dream and find out what's causing them."

"Oh," said Martin.

"So you know you're dreaming? Think now, it's very important."

Martin smiled. "If I'm dreaming, I could wake up."

"No, don't do that. We need to solve this problem."

"I could make you disappear."

"Actually, you can't," replied Norman. "I am not part of your dream and you have no control over me. You're welcome to try."

Martin remained frozen where he was but around the two of them the room suddenly dissolved and they were standing in the wheatfield. A brief pause ensued as Martin saw that his visitor had not disappeared, then the scenery changed with bewildering rapidity; a seashore, a mountaintop, a city street. Still the doctor stood impassively as the world went mad and abruptly they were back in the room.

"Okay, so I'm dreaming and you're in it but not of it," said Martin. "How does that help me?"

"Well, I believe the problem is the door," said Norman, indicating the closed door in front of them. "It's locked, isn't it?"

Martin nodded. "Yes, locked, always locked."

"Let me try," said Norman. He stepped forward and turned the handle but the door refused to open. Fair enough, he thought; we go to plan B.

Turning back to Martin, he nodded. "Yes, locked, just as you said. But we can still enter."

"You have a key?" asked Martin.

"In a manner of speaking. Here, take my hand."

As Martin grasped his hand, the doctor moved forward and walked through the door, dragging the other after him. "It's a dream, Martin," he explained, "Anything can happen."

But Martin was not listening. His eyes wide, he was staring at the room they had entered. In one corner was a bed and upon it lay someone sleeping. They both knew instantly that it was Martin, another Martin, asleep and dreaming. As they tried to understand the implications, an alarm clock appeared from nowhere and rent the silence with its jangling cry.

The doctor's glance switched rapidly from one Martin to the other. "No, wait, don't wake up yet! I need to get out first..."

But it was too late. The doctor was instantly alone in the room. "Blast," he thought. "Trapped until the idiot goes to sleep again. What a waste of a day."

He stepped forward and sat on the bed. On the pillow lay a notebook with something scrawled across the page. He picked it up and read: Which is the dream, which reality?

Outside, just beyond the door they had entered, an enormous presence loomed. Waiting, just waiting.

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I am full of speculation, suspicion and questions. I mean, I am confused. Which is the dream and which reality?! Norman is trapped until Martin falls asleep again, but if Martin cannot open the door, how will he get out? Which is the dream and who is the dreamer? What is that presence that looms outside? For some reason I think if I knew that I might have all the answers. It makes me wonder who has really trapped Norman...and why the title is Nemesis. Could it be that the dream was planted in Martin's head to make him seek help from Norman so that the presence could trap Norman? hmmmm....

Aside from being really perplexed, I thought it was a great story. The beginning is beautifully written but very mysterious. Even with the clues I was surprised that it was a dream. I will be thinking about this one for a long while. Maybe some other commenter will come and explain it all to me.
Date Added: 30/11/2005

Yeah, very intriguing...
Date Added: 30/11/2005

Gone Away
I'm still trying to work it out myself, Twelve. ;) There are a few layers to it and several possible answers to your questions. I can tell you this, however: the presence belongs to Norman...
Date Added: 30/11/2005

Gone Away
Ain't it just, Mad? :D
Date Added: 30/11/2005

Wow, I often dream of doorways. . .gave me a little jolt when I read that - LOL

Beautiful and mysterious as always, Clive. Will there be more?
Date Added: 30/11/2005

Gone Away
Thank you, Marti, I'm glad you appreciated it. As regards more: more short stories, I hope so; more stories on dreams, I really don't know... :) Unless you mean more of this particular story, in which case the answer is no. I like to leave things for the reader to play with and this one has plenty, I think. :D
Date Added: 30/11/2005

Christopher Trottier
You are a very good writer.
Date Added: 30/11/2005

Gone Away
Thanks, Christopher - very kind of you to say so. :)
Date Added: 30/11/2005

I've got it all worked out. For the answers I accept PayPal.

I can hear Clive thinking, "In your dreams Paul."

Thanks once again Clive. This one is tops.
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Gone Away
And thank you, Paul. But, there are answers...? :D
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Clive, this is a very intriguing story, and very well written. I think the whole dream belongs to Norman. He manufactured Martin so he could get into the room. Norman has the recurring dream, each time changing certain elements, in a desparate attempt to both confront and evade the looming presence.
Date Added: 02/12/2005

My brain is buzzing with the possibilities this story offers. This is an absolutely excellent story!
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Stargazer has an interesting theory. However, I was thinking that the presence was not part of Martin's dream but entered the dream with Norman as it followed him. I agree with Wontar, it makes my brain buzz.
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Gone Away
Ah, very clever, Stargazer. You may even be right! It is not how I imagined it but who is to say that I have the only answer? :)
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Gone Away
Thank you, Wontar. That's my job - to get brains buzzing!
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Gone Away
And you may be right as well, Twelve. As I said before, the presence does belong to Norman. In fact, the way I see it, the presence is the only part of the dream that is Norman's.
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Of course there's enormous presence....its xmas dammit. I hope its a spaceship....or a ray gun!.

Liked that one Gone. I thought at first you were doing a pisstake of the start of superman, all that fields of wheat and scared of flight stuff. Being stuck in someone elses head till they sleep again man thats rough.....unless of course hes not real either...
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Gone Away
It may not be as simple as Norman thinks, Keef. For a start, Martin doesn't know how to get through the door to rescue Norman. But what guarantee is there that Martin will dream that particular dream again, now that he knows what's behind the door?

As for the presence, is it there perhaps to ensure that Norman cannot do his walking through doors trick again? ;)
Date Added: 02/12/2005

One of my favourite things that you have written. I guessed it was a dream pretty early because it has a dreamy feel to it.
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Gone Away
Thank you, Boogie. You must know how I think if you guessed it was a dream that early! Actually, that's a great compliment and I do appreciate it. :)
Date Added: 02/12/2005

Clive, I love how you begin this, the imagery of the wheat fields, the expansiveness of the dream itself as it leads from the field to the house and finally to the inner-sanctum of your mind. Such as it is with dreams--especially those that are recurring--rich in symbolism that keeps us preoccupied to no end in search of interpretation. Scot
Date Added: 03/12/2005

Gone Away
Thank you, Scot. I always appreciate your comments as they come from one who writes so well. It is interesting that you said "your mind"; you are quite right, of course - there are elements in this story that originate in my own dreams... ;)
Date Added: 03/12/2005

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