Where am I? ... it’s dark, too dark here ... I’m so cold ... what is this place? ... It’s narrow, small ... I can’t move ... I can’t take a step ... Air ... there is no air! ... I can't breathe ... It’s ... it’s a wooden chest ... a kind of coffin! Oh my God, I’ve been buried! But I’m alive! They buried me alive! ... It doesn’t ... it doesn’t open ... nothing moves ... Help! Help ... help ... -
He woke up with a cry, upset, dripping with cold sweat. As his breathing returned to normal he realized he was at home in his bed. He looked at the alarm clock: four o’clock. -Five- he thought, -it's the fifth time I have the same dream, the same nightmare.
He went to the bathroom. Given the time, he certainly would not have been able to go back to sleep. As he bathed his face with cold water he looked in the mirror. - Five times and always the same dream, the same scene, the same words ... What does it mean? ... It must be stress, I work too much and I sleep badly. I’ll have to decide to go to the doctor, it’s not normal -
He tried not to admit it to himself, but there was something about that dream that was so realistic that it would freeze his blood. But like all dreams, this too dispersed, fragmented and melted in the traffic of the centre, the data on the PC monitor, faxes and e-mails. In the moments when he thought about it, he felt, however, that the story was not over at all and that the strange nightmare would repeat itself.
From that night on he decided to keep a notebook on the bedside, to write down every detail of the dream in case it still occurred. And sometime later, the dream returned changed in appearance but not in the substance: he was in the open countryside and the light of a morning sun he saw a stranger dressed in black crossing a meadow. The stranger walked in silence but his every gesture, his every step expressed a painful heaviness, an overwhelming sadness.
He could not see his face but something indefinable in his whole person made him familiar. When he arrived near a large oak tree, the stranger placed flowers on the grass, lay down and after resting the flowers on his chest, he took a mortuary pose.
At that point the strange haze around that face disappeared ... and it was like looking in the mirror! The mysterious look-alike murmured in a feeble voice some words among which it was only clear "help me ... please". Then he closed his eyes and expired...
He awoke. The alarm clock said five-thirty. He remembered every detail and after taking note of it he began to reflect on it. He didn’t know the place, assuming it existed, but a dead man with his face asking for help ... He worked too hard. He had always told himself that too much work would end up killing him. That dream had to be a kind of warning, the advice to unplug it a bit. And to do it as soon as possible.
He put some stuff in a bag, went to the station, bought a mileage ticket and got on the first train that came within range, without even knowing where he would arrive. Accustomed as he was to have to plan everything, he thought that the best way to break the rhythm was to know nothing and to take that strange improvised vacation as it would come.
There weren’t many people in his carriage and the rhythmic beating of the train on the rails rocked him to such an extent that he dozed off. And he dreamed. He was on the train and from the window, he saw the stranger in black in the distance in the middle of a meadow near a large oak tree, and he looked in his direction as if somehow he was calling and waiting for him.
The whistle of the train inside a tunnel woke him, he rubbed his eyes and looked out into the light of the newly-risen sun. A large green lawn with a huge oak tree in the centre ran past him.
He thought he was still dreaming, blinked several times to make sure he was awake.
The train abruptly began to slow down, there was a small station nearby. Mechanically, like an automaton, to not to give himself time to think whether what he was doing was stupid or not, he got off the train and went towards that lawn. For some reason, something had called him to that place, that meadow, next to the big oak tree. He didn’t want to know anything else. He didn’t want to believe anything else.
He knelt by the big tree, threw away his jacket and began to remove at first fistfuls of soil, then handfuls, wider and wider, deeper and deeper, as in a trance. He smeared his hands, his arms, his face, drops of sweat began to fall from his forehead into the hole that was spreading under him.
Suddenly he stopped. The edge of a wooden crate protruded from the ground, the homemade kind of staff done with planks, nails and hammer. With difficulty, he unearthed it. He was almost certain of the content and, trembling, tried to open it. The rusty nails inside the rotten wood did not last long and the morning light illuminated a skeleton in a black suit: the handle of a stiletto, perhaps an old letter opener, stood out between the ribs, where once the heart had to be. A strange sadness made him extract the rusty blade from those poor remains.
He returned to the station, dirty with soil and cleaned himself up with the water from the fountain he found on the porch. Seeing him in that condition, the stationmaster asked him if he needed help. “Send a priest and an undertaker to the big oak tree over there in the big meadow,” he replied. The stationmaster did not understand, it was clear from his expression, but he said equally that he would.
The conductor woke him up from the deep sleep he had sunk into. He was on the train and from the window, he could see the landscape running away. He wondered if he had dreamed of everything for the umpteenth time.
Out of the corner of his eye, for a moment, he seemed to see, far away, running back in the middle of the countryside, under a big oak tree, a figure in black waiving with his hand raised.
He stood at once to open the window, but, getting up, something stung him in the thigh. Slowly, with a trembling hand, he pulled an old rusty letter opener out of his pants pocket.
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