I have a terrible affliction. Sometimes my legs simply cease to function. When in the throes of an attack, the muscles may still be tensed but the limbs themselves are immovable dead weight. With superhuman effort, I can occasionally latch the palms of my hands onto the top of a knee, give it a good tug, and somehow swivel my body forward a foot or so. But apart from that, I am completely paralysed. I find myself welded to the spot, knees bent like an athlete at the starting blocks, unable to beat the gravity that ties me to my place. Try as I might, I cannot push forward.
It becomes particularly tough when I try to run. All the energy I expend in trying to make that first step seems to anchor me to the ground with even more force. My body is tensed and going nowhere. It's a nasty, debilitating condition that has afflicted me for years. And there is no cure.
It would be hugely depressing, except none of the above is true. Or to be more precise, none of this affects my waking life. But it happens a lot in my dreams - and has done over many years. It became so realistic that for a long time I was actually convinced that I had such a condition in my waking life. Rather than just being the stuff of dreams, I would go about my daily business convinced that at any random moment I could be stricken once more.
Last night I had another dream in which my legs refused to work. This time, however, I came prepared with the subconscious wisdom that this kind of thing only happens to me when I dream. A man came to my assistance as I lay immobile on soft, black tarmac near a junction, unable to walk to the pavement next to me. I was almost there - but needed his help to make that last physical step.
I said to my dream rescuer: "I used to think this kind of thing happened in real life, you know. Then I came to realise that it only happened in my dreams."
He looked at me quizzically and I thought about it a little more. "But now I can see that it DOES happen in real life too, right?"
He nodded his agreement and helped me limp to the path. Some time after that, I woke up. Confused.