The strangest thing happened to young Thomas Walker. Starting at the age of 19, he would occasionally, just occasionally wake up in a different place than he went to bed. The first time wasn’t such a surprise. He woke up in his chair in a desk. The fact that he’d been up late working and had a dream that he’d been working at his desk let him write it off as either having half-woken up or possibly sleep-walked his way there.
The second time was less easy to explain. Fortunately the night had been cold and he was wearing sock and pyjamas to keep warm. He’d been dreaming about having soup with long-forgotten monsters from children’s stories. Jenny Green-teeth and redcap and all sorts of other bogies and boggarts from the better class of fairy tale. When he woke, he found he was at the local soup kitchen, eating a hearty chicken soup and holding a piece of bread in his left hand- much the same as he would have done had he been eating at home.
The people around him weren’t surprised of course as the patrons of the establishment were used to unexpected appearances of things and people who turned out, very often, to not have been there at all. The volunteers didn’t notice either. They were used to people showing up in all manner of dress and coming out of the “ether” as it were in the middle of meals. It was the sort of thing they hoped for and their greatest chance of a “Road to Damascus” moment as the head volunteer referred to it.
She was a large foolish woman named Prudence, whose headstrong nature and enormous girth had garnered her the fear of her subordinates as well as the large copper ladle she used to dish out the soup. Unfortunately, as there had been no bright light and of course, young Thomas was not persecuting Christians either. In all, Prudence was about as good at noticing strange occurrences as she was at theology and analogy. In other words, not great.
Thomas sat there in the soup kitchen, muzzily eating his soup and trying to make sense of the world around him. Now he saw that Jenny Green-Teeth was merely a homeless woman with stringy hair (and greenish yellow teeth), while redcap was a Vietnam Veteran who had been an adviser to the Vietnamese troops. His beard and teeth were stained with nicotine and his breath reeked of cheap liquor, but he was an amiable sort of fellow and the soup was surprisingly hearty.
The trouble began when he tried to leave. The volunteers stopped him, saying that as he’d had their soup, he would have to stay for the sermon and sing-song and would he like to accept Jesus as his personal savior.
Thomas tried to explain that No, in fact he already had a personal trainer, a guy at the local gym named Chip, or Dash or something with broad shoulders, a tight waist and teeth that were altogether too white and too straight. He then went on to explain that he would rather have had Vanessa, who was a bit too pretty, even though she tanned too much and persisted in wearing white shorts, which somehow never ended up looking less than freshly laundered and bleached, despite a major feature of her job being to get relative strangers to sweat and grunt and move heavy bits of iron about.
It was at this point that Thomas realized he’d been rambling and he shuffled off obediently to the gymnasium in the room next to the cafeteria they were eating in and glumly wished for home.
Glum was a good word for it. Sort of a mix of Grim and Humdrum that was being helped by the torrent of rain outside. It was, in fact, a dark and stormy night. He smiled to himself as the minister or preacher or reverend took the podium do deliver his message of good news or possibly brimstone to the stoned, sobering, or sometimes insane members of his flock.
The minister was not a cruel man, but what he lacked in basic intelligence, he more than made up for in religious fervor. He was built, Thomas noted with a yawn, rather like a quail egg balanced on top of a duck egg. He giggled inwardly to note that there were some splotchy birthmarks on the deacon or whatever he was that did rather look like a quail egg.
Fortunately, the pastor was not good at public speaking. He was a dull speaker. So dull in fact, that in later years researchers would attempt to see what combination of words, affect and intonation were used that had such a profound effect, and whether they could use them to help cure some of the more hopeless insomniacs in their care.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t get accurate results as none of the researchers had been able to watch the speaker or the footage of the speaker without falling asleep in very short order.
This however would help our young Thomas walker, who shortly fell asleep and being quite scared and homesick was able to travel home and awoke in his own bed.
He would have written the whole thing off as just a very strange dream, were he not still holding one of the religious pamphlets given to him by the volunteers who wouldn’t let him leave. He looked down and saw with some surprise that the address of the soup kitchen was in Chicago, Illinois! How could that be? That was almost 15 hour drive from his home in Denver, Colorado. It made no sense.
Somehow though, he got the idea that maybe it wasn’t impossible, just very, very unlikely. He remembered having read in a book one time that “The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks. How often have you been presented with an apparently rational explanation of something that works in all respects other than one, which is just that it is hopelessly improbable? Your instinct is to say, ‘Yes, but he or she simply wouldn’t do that.”
Thomas decided that this must just be one of those things that must’ve happened. For otherwise, the other unlikely explanation is that someone he knew had written to this organization, gotten a pamphlet mailed to them, broken into his house, stuffed it into his hand and caused him to dream about this particular subject. That simply wouldn’t happen, especially since Bill was away at college. Also, the bit about the causing him to dream of that exact place.
It would bear investigating. In the meantime, he resolved to go to bed fully dressed, with his wallet, passport, money, shoes and a jacket. After all, who knows where he would dream of next, or how difficult it would be to get back home afterward!