I yawn and shake myself awake. I'm vaguely aware of a white room; maybe it's clinical. A man's voice says something in another language, which I later decide is German. I climb out of my bunk bed.
Then I wake up, again.
This was, I think a recurring dream, but it's one that's always stuck with me, because I think it's a memory, buried deep in my subconscious, all snugly and warm. It's a pleasant memory somehow, which might date back to when I lived in Germany (as it was where I was born) for two years.
My mind's always done a very strange thing - maybe yours does too - of tricking my memory into thinking it's been preloaded with information. Often I'll dream something and be sure I've dreamed it before, but usually come to the conclusion that this isn't the case, as I remember the significant dreams of my childhood and adolescence.
So I may only have dreamed it once, but I remember being fascinated by it as a child. Many's the occasion I remember sitting in the back seat of the car as our dad drove us to the Lickey Hills or some other outing, and looking out of the window to see the House with the Red Door. Back then, notions of hidden memories were unchartered territory, but I Knew (in capitals no less) that if I found it, everything would be fine.
I don't remember being unhappy as a child, but I have, stored up, memories of emotion, and feeling (as they're often separate). I have very early memories, half-second glimpses of wonderful moments, cringemaking embarrassments and teary tantrums. I don't remember being unhappy, but I do remember feeling that, if the crimson door of that large white house could be opened, it would contain everything that would enchant the sensitive, odd little boy who wouldn't play with others.
The impression of the dream of the memory distorts with every year, but the heart-stoppingness of the chase for that house has never really left me. Maybe it's the closest thing this atheist will get to Heaven. Perhaps it's the cavern into which all the children of Hamlin were led to, and I'm the one left behind. Maybe I should stop being so sentimental (this on is almost certainly true), but maybe - and this is the really exciting bit - it's a real place.
I don't mean that I'll find God and Bill Hicks chatting together about sniffing Yul Brynner's noggin, or that some woman will address me as a Son of Adam and offer me some Turkish Delight (yuck), but that, maybe it'll unlock an even earlier memory than that I have of a trip to the reservoir with my mum, dad and brother, which is now also growing muddy.
But I suspect, like most things of this nature, the Chase is of infinitely greater value. If I ever went back to Munster and tried to track down this place - a challenge in itself as I obviously have no usable memory of the place - I'd doubtless find it torn down and replaced by a fashionable bank or stuffy old wine bar.
No. Better to have the dream, and keep grasping for it. For my heart to skip a beat whenever I see the House with the Red Door.
Now and again some houses fit the bill, and I always think: "maybe that's the one".
Perhaps one day I'll find it.
But I hope not.