a world that isn’t here.

“I’m walking alone in the forest—not the thick, ominous forest that Hansel and Gretel got lost in, but more of a brightish, lightweight sort of forest. It’s a nice, warm afternoon, and I’m walking along without a care in the world. So then, up ahead, I see this little house. It’s got a chimney and a little porch, and gingham-check curtains in the windows. It’s friendly looking. I knock on the door and say, ‘Hello.’ There’s no answer. I try knocking again a little harder and the door opens by itself. It wasn’t completely closed, you see. I walk in yelling, ‘Hello! Is anybody home? I’m coming in!’

“It’s just a one-room cottage. Very simply built. It has a little kitchen, beds, and a dining area. There’s a woodstove in the middle, and dinner for four has been neatly set out on the table. Steam is rising from the dishes. But there’s nobody inside. It’s as if they were all set to start eating when something strange happened—like, a monster showed up or something, and everybody ran out. But the chairs are not in disarray. Everything is peaceful and almost strangely ordinary. There just aren’t any people there.

“So anyhow, I sit in one of the chairs and wait for the family that lives there to come back. That’s what I’m supposed to do: just wait for them to come home. I don’t know why I’m supposed to. I mean, it’s a dream, so not everything is clearly explained. Maybe I want them to tell me the way home, or maybe I have to get something: that kind of thing. So I’m just sitting there, waiting for them to come home, but no matter how long I wait, nobody comes. The meal is still steaming. I look at the hot food and get tremendously hungry. But just because I’m starved, I have no right to touch the food on the table without them there. It would be natural to think that, don’t you think?

“But soon the sun goes down. The cottage grows dark inside. The surrounding forest gets deeper and deeper. I want to turn the light on, but I don’t know how. I start to feel uneasy. Then at some point I realize something strange: the amount of steam rising from the food hasn’t decreased at all. Hours have gone by, but it’s still nice and hot. Then I start to think that something odd is going on. Something is wrong. That’s where the dream ends.

“Would you like to know what the scariest part of the dream is? It’s that I might be the monster. The possibility struck me once. Wasn’t it because they had seen me approaching that the people had abandoned their dinner and run out of the house? And as long as I stayed there, they couldn’t come back. In spite of that, I had to keep sitting in the cottage, waiting for them to come home. The thought of that is what scares me so much.

—”1q84″ 1:24