It happened the first time during a childhood fever. I woke up distraught at a new and disturbing feeling that overwhelmed me as I laid in bed sweating. What was going on? The dim night light shone on picture frames, shelves and dressers. Each of their rectangular forms appeared gigantic and minuscule at the same time.
This was one of several nauseous days and nights home from school, and I'd already started taking antibiotics to treat the infection along with NSAID fever reducers. My dad is a pharmacist, and basically plays the role of family doctor. I went to wake him up for my nighlty dose, and some possible remedy for this new symptom.
As I moved between the bedroom and kitchen where the medicine cabinet was, I could have been an ant making a journey through the grand canyon. Simultaneously, I could have been a towering giant tramping over city blocks with each step. The hallways felt like immense caverns and narrow tunnels at the same time. Their walls seemed to be both uncomfortably distant and close. How confusing! I didn't know what was going on.
Dad and I met in the kitchen, where he poured out out some antibiotic syrup and Tylenol tablets. When I reached for the plastic tumbler of pink liquid, this weird perception applied to my hands at the ends of my outstretched arms. They could have held houses or semi trailers in their massive fingers. Simultaneously, they appeared tiny and spindly, fine enough to tease apart individual threads in my cotton pajamas.
My dad looked like a giant and an mouse at the same time. I imagined him massive enough to prune the tops of stately hundred-foot tall weeping willows in our neighbor's yard, or miniscule enough to be carried away in a sparrow's beak. He focused on the physical symptoms like high fever and being able to eat enough. I tried to explain what I was seeing all around me, maybe he would recognize what was happening and had some other treatment. However, complaining about seeing too many "geometric shapes" and "weird rectangles" in things like picture frames and desks. This didn't quite express the idea.
"What do you mean by 'geometric shapes?'"
"All the picture frames and furniture make weird lines! I don't feel good about it!"
"That's OK, frames and furniture are rectangular. Is that what's bothering you?"
"No! They're making extra strange shapes!"
"How? Are you seeing other objects?"
"No, but the frames are just too big! And too small! And I am too! And so are you!"
"I'm not sure what you mean. Don't worry, the medicine I gave you should help out, maybe you're just tired. Try to get some rest, you'll feel better."
The rest helped, and the feeling didn't recur through the rest of that flu. However it would return later on, outside of any illness. It's been years since my last fever, but the feeling will recur at night unpredictably. At peaceful times right before falling asleep, I feel as if I'm shrinking and growing at the same time. The dim outlines of objects in the darkened room begin change in the same way as if the walls are both closing in and expanding. I imagine that simultaneously, I could be sleeping in a colossal cathedral or cloistered coffin. The feeling never arises during the day but only at night.
The first time it was alarming, but now I look forwards to this relaxing of proportion and perception. It's like playing with objects by seeing them in a new way. Imagining a small picture frame as large enough to play a basketball game or isolate a single bacterium gives a creative release to my typical daytime perspective.
The feeling persists even when I close one eye, to prevent normal depth perception. There is a certain feeling that objects out there have a tangible size, if I would need my arms or only fingers to embrace them. The feeling fades if I focus on it too closely, making it a kind of rare treat. I imagine that it's related to linear perspective or binocular disparity in binocular vision. Maybe something fried in my brain that night that controls how my eyes sample the world. Now, I am more grateful than fearful for the feeling whenever it returns at restful times.