By Sammie Oliver

Mikhail awoke in the darkness of his room to the sound of quiet voices swimming around him. His eyes moved about the room searching for familiarity, searching for the source of the disembodied speakers. He tried to move his arms to rub the sand from his big green eyes, but discovered that he had no control over his body, unable to manoeuvre his long clumsy limbs. He closed his eyes to embrace sleep once more however, was prevented by the utterances becoming louder and denser, talking over each other forming a sea of noise, no longer filling the air, only emanating from one point, amplified by the silence of the night.

The whispers drew his attentive gaze to a grey light illuminating from his wall, which formed the outline of a rectangular space. Involuntarily, his head swivelled towards the glow, he stared at it intensely until the light revealed a door. At which the voices quietened down, becoming clearer and more concise. Mikhail could now hear what they were saying to him, “follow, follow,” one said. “Dream, dream, do you” “dream” “follow” “do you” “do you” “follow” “dream” “black and white” “follow” “do you” “dream” “dream” “do you dream in black and white?” With that question they suddenly fall silent, disappearing into the night. Mikhail’s body began to move without his mental commands; it operated on its own, as if someone was using him as a puppet. He watched on, trapped within his mind, locked inside his own body. He stood up, walked towards the glowing doorway, his hand twisted the handle and his legs stepped through to the other side.

Mikhail stepped out into a monochrome landscape, like a painting. The world around him was coloured only in shades of black, grey and white. As he regained mastery over his limbs Mikhail spun around to get back through the door only to find that it was locked from the other side. The door was the only thing that was a different colour in this strange reality, it stood out, made from old cracked brown wood with a faded gold spherical handle. The door defying gravity stood on its own in the middle of the scene, no walls no room, it seemed to lead to nowhere, and yet it had led Mikhail to this place. A piece of paper hung from the door handle by a loop of string. Mikhail took it and unfolded the paper. It was a note formed out of letters from magazines, it read: dO yoU dReaM in BLacK anD wHIte?
As Mikhail looked up from the note the brown wooden door disappeared, leaving him trapped.

Mikhail looked around him like a curious yet wary child. He was in the middle of a single lane gravel road that appeared to be never-ending in either direction. Surrounding the road on both sides were completely straight and uniformly tall, thick pine and poplar trees, appearing dark grey in colour in the monochrome light. The trees were too alike, each one identical to the next, down to the minute details, seeming to have been cloned or copy-and-pasted into the picturesque landscape. The sky looked the same, light silver in colour with puffy and pearly clouds, their pattern was repeated over and over in all parts of the visible heavens. As he began to explore, Mikhail noticed that there were no animals, not one single bee, not a single bird not a single badger, nothing, however there were noises. The landscape was surreal, and so was the soundscape. The hubbub emanating around him reminded Mikhail of a ‘woodland scenes’ soundtrack on a white noise CD. It was all out of place, birds chirping, bugs buzzing, the distant ripple of a flowing creek, swooshing of wind amongst dead still trees, the loud crackling of a campfire and the homogenous croaking of toads. It was unnerving and abstract. Nothing belonged, none of this was right!

As Mikhail walked along the road, it seemed as though he was walking without moving, treading on the one spot repeatedly, on a loop of the same scene. Everything was similar, the sounds, the sights. He was unsure if he had been walking for eternity or not been walking at all. It felt like he’d been walking for minutes, for days. Time didn’t seem to pass in this world. The sun stayed in the one spot, the sky didn’t change nor did the light, and there were no visual cues to indicate that he had gone anywhere.

Mikhail sat down in the middle of the road, his heart felt as though it was being compressed in his chest. He was unsure if it was exhaustion or anxiety from the suffocating feeling he got from being trapped in this seemingly digitally created reality. He picked up a rock from in front of him. The rocks were the only things that weren’t indistinguishable from each other; they were small flat jet ovoids, randomly placed along the road. But even this randomness was structured. This seemed just as fake as the rest of the bizarre scene. Mikhail threw the rock in front of him, watching it fly forward, and then land behind him. He picked it up and threw it forwards again, and it landed behind him once more.

As Mikhail picked up the rock, for possibly the third, maybe the tenth time, he was not certain anymore. As he stood up he was met face to face by a beautiful majestic stag, whose large antlers were a web of branches from an old dead tree. The deer, out of place in the scenery stared at him calm and curiously, its hot breath resembling light mist from its nostrils. Mikhail looked the stag in its hollow black and white eyes, slowly and cautiously he placed the rock back down on the road, and reached out to touch the live animal in front of him. Surprisingly to him, it did not spook nor attack, but let him pat its beastly self.

“Hello boy” Mikhail said softly, his voice echoed metallically through the landscape, without stirring a thing.

The deer was silent, speaking only with its eyes. Then it broke its intense stare away from Mikhail, turned its head and started walking towards the tree line, slowly enough for Mikhail to follow. Mikhail was led through a gap in the identical trees into the dense woodlands. They walked down a dangerous trail created by animals; animals that didn’t seem to exist, they past flowers, black berry bushes and plants of many types, each in differing shades of ebony and alabaster. The trees were dense and the sky was barely visible, but still patches of light shone through the branches overhead. Branches which didn’t move, branches that housed no birds or insects. Inside the woods, it was a totally different forest than from the outside, it was as though he had jumped into a completely new scene.

The deer led him deeper and deeper, until he came to a clearing where a small stream resided. Its water was clear grey, its rocks noir, it gurgled loudly despite the water remaining still. He could hear crickets, crickets that were hidden from sight and reality also it seemed. Mikhail looked up at the sky, it had changed, now it was darker and appeared to be dawn, though the time of day was hard to determine in a monochrome and surreal landscape. As he turned around the deer had disappeared, faded away into nothingness. So had the path that he’d followed, it had blended into the background. He was alone once more, trapped in the eerie, sinister landscape, no sense of direction, surrounded by a maze of trees, lost, dazed, and confused.

Mikhail fell to his knees and screamed at the top of his lungs, yet he could barely be heard. There wasn’t any echo, it had been absorbed, buffered by the surroundings, like a silencer on a gun. After his screaming the din around him suddenly increased in volume, from the road, in the forest, at the creek. They all went on at once, blending together getting louder and louder, until Mikhail couldn’t handle it. Then they suddenly stopped. Everywhere around him was utterly devoid of sound.

“Follow,” a whisper broke the silence, “Follow.”
Mikhail tried to pin-point the location of the whisper
“Follow,” it repeated, “Follow.”
He followed the noise towards the stream and stepped in. The water rose to his knees without a ripple or a splash, it remained absolutely still.
Mikhail couldn’t feel the water, it wasn’t cold nor did it move around his legs. It seemed non-existent, as though he was standing on dry land.

“Do you,” asked another whisper, which was joined by a chorus, “Follow” “Dream” “Do you” “Follow” “Do you” “Dream”
“Do you dream in black and white?” the last one asked.

A trapdoor opened beneath Mikhail’s feet.