The recliner was pushed so far back that its occupant’s head was lower than his feet. He gripped the armrests to keep from sliding off onto the floor.
“Are you sure you’re comfortable?” Dr. Holman sat in an adjacent chair, debating with himself whether to toss some of the couch cushions beneath Cyril’s head, lest he yielded to gravity.
“Perfectly fine, doctor, thank you,” Cyril adjusted his hands to get a better hold. He held his body rigid, looking straight up to the ceiling.
“You were telling me about your dream last night,” Holman slid his glasses down from his forehead, and jotted a few lines on his notepad.
“I was traveling through a tunnel,” Cyril said. “I wasn’t driving, it was more like I was a passenger in a car. Everything looked zoomed in, you know. Pinpoint focus in front of me, and blurry to the sides.”
‘Hmmm,” Holman scribbled furiously. “You say, you think you were a passenger and not the driver, not in control.”
“I don’t remember feeling ‘out of control,’ but rather just going along,” Cyril said. “The speed that we seemed to be moving was what was curious. When I woke up, I could remember the dream vividly. That was unusual too.”
“Was there anything else you remember about the dream?” Holman paused in his writing, sticking the eraser end of his pencil in his mouth. “Were you alone in the tunnel?”
“No,” Cyril said, shifting slightly. “There was a truck in front of us, and one of those illuminated traffic signs hung from the ceiling, that read ‘stay in lane’.”
“Did you perceive those things – the other vehicle and road sign – as obstacles to overcome?” Holman tapped his pencil in a rapid staccato on the edge of his notepad.
Cyril twisted his head toward Holman. From his perspective he was looking up at the doctor.
“I don’t remember in the dream feeling anxious or scared,” Cyril said. “When I woke up, I felt… well, I felt like I was in a tunnel with another car, and wondering why the sign didn’t read, ‘do not pass.’ Fewer letters, less ambiguous.”
“Hmmm…” Holman wrote more on his notepad, pausing occasionally to ponder his choice of words. “In your dream, did you want to pass the truck, knowing that it was forbidden?”
“‘Forbidden’ is a harsh word,” Cyril said, settling back into his unbending posture. “The only thing, I guess, I was left with was wondering where I was going. The tunnel seemed tp go on forever, there was no light showing the end.”
“Ah, ha,” Holman couldn’t keep the satisfaction out of his voice.
“Is that significant?” Cyril kept staring at the ceiling.
“Possibly,” Holman said, closing his notebook. “But, it’ll have to wait, our time is up. If you have this dream again, when you wake up, write down everything you remember.”
Downstairs, waiting in the taxi lane, Cyril studied the appointment card Dr. Holman’s receptionist gave him for the following week. When the next cab pulled up he got into the back seat.
“There’s road construction on the west side of town, I’ll have to take the Buckhead route out of town,” the cab driver said.
“That will take us through the marina tunnel,” Cyril looked out his passenger window, watching the buildings as they drove out of the city.
“Unless the construction detours a lot of cars, this way should be a little quicker than driving around the east side,” the driver said.
Entering the tunnel, Cyril sat straight against the back seat, hands on his thighs, tightly gripping his pants legs. He noticed a white truck ahead of them, and a lighted road sign above them.
“I’ve always wondered why those signs don’t just say, ‘do not pass’,” the driver said. “it’s shorter, and makes more sense.”
Cyril leaned to his left to get a better view down the tunnel, nearly falling over as the underground structure shook violently. A rush of dust blew passed the taxi, then the lights ahead of them flickered, going out one by one until the tunnel exit went dark.
“I wonder what Dr. Holman would make of this?” Cyril thought at the moment the tunnel collapsed.