The darkness of the house is an implicit order of silence on all who dwell within, and naturally every human, creature and object complies. It is the nature of the night that it instils an eerie quietness that expands to every corner of the house; my bedroom was no exception. It is not the usual silence one encounters in the realm of everyday life; it is stronger than the silence of solemn church reverence, or the stillness of a quiet street. It pounds at the eardrum until the sense dilates like a pupil; eager for stimulation, the ears reel sound in, rather than waiting for it to bite. Every soft tick of the neighbour's grandfather clock, formerly unnoticed against the noises of life, resonates into a boom once it reaches the mind. The monotonous drone of the refrigerator, usually overpowered by the bustle of daily life, now provides the harmonic accompaniment to this symphony of nightly sounds.
It is not only the aural environment that has a supernatural clarity at night; every fine visual detail in the room can be seen once the eyes have adapted. As I lay silent on my bed that night, I gaze calmly but intently at the ceiling; even the fine texture of ceiling paint cast flickering shadows from the moonlight. Despite the apparent night-time darkness, my eyes had acquired this unusual visual acuity for minor details of the room. Although dim and filtered by the blinds, the moonlight filled the room with a soft, pure white light. Strangely, the dimmer light of the moon revealed more detail than the harsh brightness of the sun.
It was with these sounds, and by this light, that I lay in bed before my night-time wander. I was not restless, but certainly sleepless -- breathing coolly, my mind devoid of thought but devoted instead to perception of my surrounds.
* * *
I was walking down a cul-de-sac, again only lit by the soft rays of the moon. Although the moonlight was now unfiltered, it still gave enough gentle illumination to clearly delineate the edges of each miniscule fragment of gravel on that road; my eyes had once again sharpened in their acuity. The entire street was deserted, except for a lone elderly gentleman figure a few houses down. He was a balding man, with a few silver wisps arranged like a half-hearted attempt of a comb-over with the remaining hair he had. Beyond this, and the aging evident from his wrinkled face, I remember nothing of his appearance, but only he radiated a surreal aura of wisdom, a warmth of his that I still feel occasionally. It is an agonising irony that despite my perfect senses in that cul-de-sac, I am forever unable to recall such details. Nonetheless, while such trivial details of the painting have been blurred by time, the masterpiece of the dream never fades.
I was eager to converse and draw out his secrets, for he seemed simply by the tone of his calling voice to be a rather strange character himself. As I approached him, his eyes glinted in the moonlight, and I noticed how extraordinarily large they were; these two glassy orbs with dilated pupils. Throughout our conversation, my mind began to wander and wonder if he was under the influence of some narcotic or hallucinogenic -- the widened pupils, the apparent expertise in the surreal, and the slow, firm voice -- but in the chaos of my thoughts, I then wondered if perhaps I was the one with an altered mind? The revelation felt curious and strange; one is never meant to realise a dream, when one is inside it. I felt a slight pang of anger at my own mind; my subconscious must be either a terrible or rebellious scriptwriter, as such official dream laws cannot be broken!
Nonetheless, my mind had fallen into this grave mistake and had given me this man in this moment, and this one chance to steal away the secrets of the man's soul, and to bring them to the world of the real. I am Promethus in temptation.
Although I questioned him for many hours on the surreal experiences of his life, the stars and moon stubbornly refused to move, and the sun never came any closer to rising. However, once I asked him directly about the most unreal moment of his life, the sun's rays suddenly began to struggle through the dark horizon. A smirk pulled itself across the man's face, as though the question tickled him -- indeed, as though he has been waiting for that question his entire life.
"What's your favourite number, son?"
His reply question caught me unawares; he had certainly not answered my own question, and it was such an off-track, unexpected question that it set my mind reeling. Before that time, I had never actually had a favourite number; it seemed like a preposterous notion to even have one. In this frame of moonlight and timelessness, however, nothing was foreign to my mind; I gave the question the careful thought it deserved, and firmly replied, "Forty-eight."
He tilted his head back slightly, just enough so that the full moon became a speck on his pupil, and said his final words slowly and deliberately in a broken meter: "My / good / friend. That number. Will be very important for you. Goodbye."
* * *
The alarm clock beeps. I jolt upright. Noises flood the house, the sunlight burns my pupils down to a tiny pinprick of a hole. The pressure from smothering my face against the pillow has left my vision blurred; I fumble blindly for the snooze, hammering my desk until I smash the button brutally. Amidst the noise and confusion, my mind gathers its flock of thoughts, now quickly scampering away in fear from the sudden burst of activity in the house. I can barely recall the dream, and the many words we exchanged seem irrelevant now, but I have never since been able to forget this night-time wander. It was, quite uniquely, my only time of perfect perception.
This is the story of how I discovered my favourite number. So far, it has won me one-and-a-half raffles.