The Cruellest Dream
I woke upon that glorious dawn to realise I'd dreamt it all. The warm sun streamed its rays divine through lace which billowed gently, dancing on a tender breeze that carried soothing song of birds to ease the soul and stir the heart, and grace the mind with noble thought and righteous approbation for every living soul and thing in God's creation. O, Life! O, Joy! O, Jubilation! For all was but a dream. And as awakening dawned, there shone the light of hope, replacing vile, putrescent darkness and horror and despair, and hideous memory bled away, paled by sun and air, and all was peace and only peace was there.
That is to say, it was a lovely day here in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, and what a relief to find it had all been a nightmare. The whole ambulance thing; just a ghastly dream peopled with freaks and mutants, grotesque characters in a sordid, twisted drama penned as I slept, for reason without fathom, by my subconscious mind. I shuddered at the memory of it, swung my feet to the floor, and padded across a luxuriant carpet towards the land of ablutions.
Washed and dressed, I took the morning post out to the verandah where breakfast awaited beneath a shady canopy, and though the sky was a perfection of azure, and the tour was a sell-out, and the album remained unassailably at number one, still I could not rid myself of the haunting aftertaste of those terrible images, their details popping unbidden with grim clarity into my consciousness, until I abandoned all hope of forgetting them and decided to attempt to expunge them by a process not of ignorance but of confrontation.
I stripped naked and floated in the pool, the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean sparkling in the bay below, the sun beating down upon my bronzed and toned physique, as I addressed the recollection of that frightful dream.
So then, an ambulanceman; what on earth could it mean? I mean, why a lowly ambulanceman? What the dickens did it signify? And those people in the dream, those aberrations, gargoyles to a man. Stan Tablets, was it? And Albert Harness. The names came back to me with a worrying ease. Bert Klaxon, Fred Ventricle, Nobby Harris. Like the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, yet still I felt I knew them. Could it be that . . .
And then my reverie was interrupted by the doorbell. Of course! Nicola and Simone! I'd quite forgotten the time. A ten o'clock appointment. A drive along the coast with the top down, a spot of lunch at Anatole's and then, well, that would be telling. O, Jesu joy of Man's desiring! Nicola and Simone. Such amusing company, so witty and good-natured, so accommodating. So youthful and tender, lissom and inventive, so adventurous and . . . well, so vibrant. Just the girls with whom to spend this perfect day.
And so eager to get started, keeping that slender finger on the bell, its insistent clanging seeming to fill my head, my whole body . . . I tried to swim to the side but seemed to get nowhere . . . like swimming through treacle . . . it was just like when you're . . . when it's just . . . when it's only . . .
Cursing every molecule in the Universe and a few more besides, I fumbled in the darkness of an icy winter's morning for the button on the alarm clock, the hands of which stood at a mocking half past five; and through the freezing gloom and the clouds of my own breath I could squintingly discern, hanging on the wardrobe door, a vertical row of silver buttons attached, I knew, to a tunic of the cheapest, roughest serge that ever was.