All my life I have been a vivid dreamer. Through the different ages, of course, the contents of my dreams have been subject to partly significant changes, some of them (I assume) even of potential interest to scientists like that professor from Vienna. Some of my dreams are of a rather pleasant nature, but for strange reasons the nightmares seem to be the ones that are stuck in my memory. Those darker images of the night are also the ones that now and then develop into recurring ones...

I do hardly believe that there is anyone who might derive any kind of enjoyment from a nightmare. They are often disturbing, sometimes even upsetting and frightening. Some of them keep haunting you even during daylight, and the fears of your days enter your dreams again... and so on.

When I returned from Afghanistan, I had not only the dreams as such to deal with. An additional problem arose in the person of my new fellow lodger and the fact that I seemed to have developed the deplorable habit of crying out in my sleep.

Sherlock Holmes is an exceptionally light sleeper - given the times he surrenders to sleep at all. During the first months of our acquaintance I recall several incidents, especially in the small hours of the morning, when I would wake up in my bed, sweat-soaked and with a moisture on my face that could or could not be sweat as well. And I would hear a knock on my door and Holmes' voice.

"Doctor? Are you quite all right?"

All I could do was hastily assure him that I was fine, and then he would withdraw again, leaving me to my afterthoughts as well as my now additional embarrassment. But he never once mentioned those occurrences to me afterwards, and I was thankful for that. During the first year the amount of those particular nightmares diminished gradually, though they would never leave me completely. But they became slightly less frightening, and I somehow managed to not rouse my friend from his sleep anymore.

One time we were on a case together, which required us to spend the night outside Baker Street, sharing a guest room in our client's house. There was only one large double bed, and while I was falling asleep, Holmes was still sitting upright on his side of the bed, contemplating - I assume - the particulars of the case.

The dream came again. I already knew it well from previous times, and it was always more or less the same. I was lying in the darkness, somewhere, and there was danger all around me. I never knew exactly what the danger was about, who or what was threatening me, but the tension, sometimes even terror, was so undeniable that I hardly gave any thoughts to its origins. I also had the distinct feeling that I was not alone, that there were other people around me, waiting in the darkness for a so far unnamed evil... for what I did not know. Sometimes I could hear muffled sobbing or gasping or whispering, but I could never make out any face or understand what it was all about.

At some point of the dream, when it all seemed hardly bearable anymore, I would always stretch out my hand in desperate search for comfort. And then I would find a second, a strange hand, grasping mine. Again, I would never know whose hand it was, or why it would have such a soothing effect on me. But at that point the dream would always end and I would wake up, still breathing a bit heavily... and all I would feel was an immense relief...

The dream ended, just as it was supposed to be. Behind still closed eyes I gradually returned to reality, and so I did not understand at once what was so different this time. All I know was that the feeling of comfort was more intense than usual, and lasting longer, transgressing the boundaries of the dream and reaching out into my real life.

It was not completely dark, as a faint light was shining through my closed eyelids. In an instinctive endeavour to make out the source of that light I turned my head and opened my eyes - only to look directly into the eyes of my friend, who was sitting beside me just as before... only that now one of his hands was holding mine, our fingers entwined... The room was not lit very brightly, and thus I remain unsure if I have actually seen him blushing. I myself was entirely at a loss how to react... and so I did nothing, hardly daring to move any muscle.

I do not know how long we stayed like this... but finally Sherlock Holmes rested his head against the wooden headboard of the bed, his gaze fixed again into infinity... his mind, according to all appearances, back on the problems of the current case. And so I did what I was accustomed to do: I simply followed his lead, tilting my head back into my usual sleeping position.

After some time, I drifted back into sleep. Everything was as supposed to be - with one excemption: Neither one of us had cared to withdraw his hand. And I spent the rest of the night without any further dreams to haunt me...