A few weeks ago I had a disturbing and yet intriguing experience. I was having a pretty typical nightmare—being chased by monsters, unable to get away, that old chestnut—when I suddenly woke up… but could still see the dream continuing on. I've heard of sleep paralysis and false awakening, and having experienced both can say this was completely different.
I normally forget dreams pretty quickly, but luckily I jotted down as much information as I could as soon as I woke up…
How the dream started
(Not that this has anything to do with what I experienced, but I still want to include all that I remembered.)
I was running around the city streets, in some sort of race/fun-run. We were running laps around the city and each lap was taking me over an hour to complete. After each lap for some reason I had to go into an apartment and rest. I was annoyed because the next lap I'd finish would be around lunch time, and the elevators would be busy. I woke up after resting for half an hour, and quickly went to take the elevator down to keep running. But everyone was looking at me strangely. I realised I was still wearing pyjamas, but I was already falling behind in the race from resting too long, so I couldn't afford the time to change.
Back on the streets, I was trying to run quickly but couldn't (I'm sure most people have had that dream before, where no matter how hard you try to run you just can't!). Everyone kept overtaking me but there wasn't anything I could do about it.
While I was running I had an overhead view of the city that looked like old Google Maps. It looked like New York City, lower Manhattan. I was talking to my wife (not on the phone, but telepathically). She was telling me to look at some building I was passing, but I couldn't look at it. It was a Russian embassy or consulate or something, and it was blurred out, like what Google Street View does (I'm dreaming far too much about Google products).
I kept running, and was coming back around to finish a lap, so needed to head up to the apartment again. But now I was running on road (with traffic no less), and was in the wrong lane. I had to cut across traffic, but I missed my exit anyway and had to u-turn.
I finally made it to the apartment, and started to head up…
Uneasiness sets in
I was in the elevator with some other people. One of them was an ex-colleague from almost sixteen years ago, but we didn't acknowledge each other. I was going up to level fourteen, she got out at six. The elevator kept going, and something started to feel a bit wrong, but I couldn't put my finger on what. The doors opened at twelve, and for some reason I got off there.
The corridor was dimly lit, and while it wasn't dirty, it looked dated and old-fashioned. Pale apricot and burnt orange. I couldn't remember the apartment number I was supposed to go to (presumably to rest, but I think the running part of the dream was well and truly over). I knew it was an even number, but I was feeling lost. I was looking at the apartment numbers on the doors, and saw 1208, which seemed right. So I opened the door.
It was a big, empty apartment. Tiled floor. All the lights were out, and the light from the hallway quickly vanished into darkness. I could hear music and people talking, but off in the distance, like they were in a back room with the door closed. As the door opened further, a chime-bell rang, like those in small shops to alert the clerk someone has entered. I hear them call out wondering who is there. I shout an apology, close the door, and start to walk away quickly.
Someone came out of the apartment to see who was there. A girl. She looks the other way down the hall first, so I can't see her face, but I know I don't want her to see me, so I hide behind a pillar. Thankfully, she goes back inside.
I see another door: 1206. This door looks old and shabby, with peeling faded paint. It says "class" below the number, which is weird. I open the door, and it's a small janitorial closet.
And so begins the terror…
The nightmare begins
Inside the room/closet/cupboard is a school-boy, standing in a mop-bucket, wrapped in a plastic shower curtain covering his face and upper body. Just standing there. Motionless. Completely inanimate. He's wearing private school maroon uniform with gold trim, but it looks dirty and disheveled. I felt my body go cold, and my stomach start churning.
I could tell it was from a Korean urban legend (in the dream, anyway. I'm sure there are equally terrifying Korean stories in real life). I knew I had to get away before he woke up. I tried to backtrack as quickly as I could, but it was too late. He jerked into life, and threw the shower curtain off of him. He had a long matted fridge obscuring most of his face, but I could see his face was scarred with deep scratches that looked like old knife-slice wounds.
As I tried to retreat down the hallway, he came out of the room to chase me, but in a jerky, non-fluid motion, like a bad attempt to portray a zombie. He was swiping at me, trying to claw at my face.
And then I woke up.
Just a dream. It's over. Right?
I woke up in a sweat, I could still feel chills from being terrified. I knew I really was awake. I could hear my wife breathing next to me. I could feel my new watch slightly irritating my wrist, as I got used to wearing a watch at night (sleep tracking, shame it doesn't have in built HRM!). I could feel gravity pulling me into the mattress, hear traffic outside, and all that stuff that you just don't feel in a dream.
And then, as I started to open my eyes to think about what I'd just dreamt, I saw the hallway. I saw the school-boy/zombie/monster closing in on me. But I still saw my bedroom. It wasn't like I was hallucinating actually being in the hallway, or having the sensation of actually being in the dream again. I could just see it. It was like there was something projecting a faint image of the dream sequence in front of me. The image was about fist-sized if held out at arm's length, and the "playback" seemed grainy and stuttering along at about 10fps, and no sound. Almost like looking at Fry playing the holophonor from Futurama.
It took me by surprise. I tried to see the image better, so closed my eyes. But alas, it vanished! I opened my eyes slightly, and it reappeared. Opening my eyes fully, I lost it in the relative brightness of the room. So keeping my eyes half open, I could see it best. I could see the boy swiping at me from my perspective (the me in the dream). Then "camera angle" changed and now I could see myself. But it didn't look exactly like me, like I was older and had a heavily weathered face, or wearing a poorly fitting rubber mask. I was mouthing something. Help me! Don't! Whatever it was, I could only guess. Even though it was my mind making all this stuff up, I didn't know what I was saying.
It cut back to the boy, getting closer, still swiping at me. Back to me. Back to him. I tried to "direct" the dream, but I couldn't.
After what seemed like a minute, maybe two, the dream started fading and eventually disappeared to nothing.
What does it all mean?
I have never experienced anything like this before, nor since. I've had sleep paralysis before which is pretty terrifying while it's happening, this wasn't terrifying once I had actually woken up. I felt uneasy, but more curious than anything.
I didn't find any similar experiences while researching (and by "research" I mean I ventured to page two of Google search results). Working on the basis that a lot of brain activity occurs during certain stages of sleep, and that some part(s) of the brain try to make sense of this activity, a dream is the result. Going with this, it seems like after I suddenly woke, whatever brain activity was resulting in that dream, or whatever process was responsible for generating the dream based on some such activity, was continuing. So I continued to experience the dream. Maybe whatever jolts your brain back to reality when you awaken didn't function properly this time.
I have no idea if that's even remotely plausible, or if it even means anything. But whatever the reason, I hope that it's not indicative of a deeper problem!