Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head? Albus Dumbledore:
Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?
A character is unconscious and near-death, and has an abnormally realistic dream. The world may be completely different from our own, but the kicker is that what you do in the dreamworld is critical to whether you wake up in the real world.
This can be a result of magic, divine intervention, or purely symbolic of their struggle to remain alive, but it will rarely be addressed since it's more fun to leave it up to the audience as to whether it was real or not. Having this be the premise of a story or sequence allows writers to have the benefits of a Dream Sequence
or All Just a Dream
story (it doesn't have to impact any other characters or the world in general, it can be much weirder than usual, and it can explore the character's mind in a more visible way) while avoiding the problem of the sequence seeming to not matter since it didn't really happen- if the character has to make an effort in the dream world to wake up, then the effort really does make a difference.
Compare Journey to the Center of the Mind
, Vision Quest
, Talking in Your Dreams
. Adventure may possibly happen naked
. See also Lotus-Eater Machine
, Schrödinger's Butterfly
. For the fictional video game version, see Win to Exit
. See also All Just a Dream
and (for the unwinnable
version) Dying Dream
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Near the end of I"s, Ichitaka is knocked into a coma. In it, he relives his school days from earlier in the series with Iori, only with the knowledge of the future. He's awoken by Iori through The Power of Love.
- In Hekikai No Aion Seine is put into a Lotus-Eater Machine by one of the mermaids. In there she revives her happy years with Simon. Tatsuya then has to go into her dreams to wake her up, but if he suffers something that could kill him, he would die in real life.
- Action Force, the UK version of G.I. Joe. Lady Jaye is badly wounded by Destro and falls into a coma. She experiences a vision quest in order to regain wakefullness and mobility.
- Tellos is all about this and an attempted bodyjacking at the same time.
- Joe the Barbarian is about a diabetic boy going through a serious hypoglycaemic attack who, as he struggles through his house to get to his emergency fizzy drink before he passes out and dies, hallucinates a grand fantasy psychodrama.
- The whole plot of the movie Monkeybone.
- In Awake, while Clatyon's doctors plot his death unaware that he can hear them, Clayton can do nothing but relive his memories that led up to this point, scrutinizing every detail to try to understand what's going on. After the transplant "fails" while he remains hooked to the bypass machine, everything in his dream world grows dimmer and dimmer, until finally fading to pitch black.
- Almost all of Wristcutters: A Love Story takes place in hipster comaland and the protagonists can only get back to the waking world via the magic wormhole in the car's footwell (Zia) and also by the People In Charge helping (Mikal)
- Older than Television: In The Poor Little Rich Girl, said poor little rich girl (played by Mary Pickford) gets overdosed with a sleeping potion and then has a fantastical coma dream. She ends up meeting The Grim Reaper, who offers her "eternal sleep", but a sprightly fairy who seems to be the Reaper's Good Counterpart lures her back to the side of life.
- The hero's rescue and escape at the end of Brazil turns out to be a fantasy he's retreated into after going catatonic in the torture chamber.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry Potter suffers a temporary case of death and has a chat with Dumbledore in the afterlife.
- The entire plot of Catherine Webb's Mirror Dreams depends on this trope. Renna is a dreamer, a coma patient. This allows her to exist in the dream-world for much longer than normal dreamers, and also makes her more "real" in that world. In the end her choice (and the actions of the protagonist) allows her to die, save the world (both of them) and preserve her own existence.
- Jayfeather in Warrior Cats has the ability to enter into other cats dreams. During the events of the third arc, a cat named Poppyfrost falls deathly ill, so he has to enter her mind so that he can find her and bring her back to reality.
- In The Avatars Trilogy, Diana has to go through the underworlds of the various mythologies in order to wake up.
- The whole plot of If I Stay is about teenager Mia Hall made comatose by a car accident, wandering in Comaland, deciding whether to live or go to the great beyond.
Live Action Television
- In Angel : Faith and Angelus dream of Angel and Angelus' past after Faith takes Orpheus and feeds herself to Angelus. Faith has to choose to keep fighting in order to live.
- Covert Affairs
- When Annie is shot in the middle of season three, she experiences a series of odd dreams while in a coma. She is given a polygraph test by her sister and Joan, who both question her loyalties, she has a conversation with the woman who shot her, and she encounters a seeing Auggie, whom she slow dances with and even kisses, leaving no doubts as to how real-life Annie feels about her handler.
- Played with in Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes, though in different ways. Alex's 1981 is not Sam's 1973.
- After being diagnosed with a brain tumor on Bones , Booth lies in a coma for several days, during which time Brennan sits by his hospital bed reading aloud the book she's writing. Booth imagines an alternate life in which he and Brennan are married and expecting a child. He's confused and disappointed when he awakens.
- On My Name Is Earl, Earl spends the second half of the third season in a coma, during which he dreams he's in an old sitcom like the ones he used to watch as a child.
- The MacGyver episode "Passages" had Mac put in a coma by assassins. He found himself on a cruise ship piloted by a guy claiming to be Anubis where he managed to talk one last time to his dead parents and just deceased grandfather before escaping.
- The Sopranos: After getting shot by a delirious Uncle Junior, Tony spends a few episodes in a coma dream sequence. He was in a distant city, where he'd accidentally switched his wallet and briefcase with a man named Kevin Finnerty, and everyone else thinks he actually is this man. Curiously, in this dream, Tony's heavy New Jersey accent drops significantly and his posture is better.
- One episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had Bashir trying to fix the titular space station (a representation of his own damaged mind) with the help of several of the senior officers (representations of various bits of his subconscious personality) while a weird psychic alien (a representation of the damage the real alien inflicted on his mind) tried to tear it apart.
- In one episode of Star Trek: ST:TNG Deanna has to enter her comatose mother's mind.
- In Criminal Minds, after Agent Elle Greenaway is shot by the Serial Killer of the week she is left unconscious and bleeding to death. Throughout the remainder of the episode while emergency workers attempt to resuscitate her, she is in a dream version of the BAU jet, where she is visited by her police officer father who died when she was a child. During their conversation Elle's father tells her that the decisions she makes in the plane will make the difference as to whether she lives or dies in real life.
- In The Drew Carey Show, Drew once had to choose his real life over his idyllic-for-him coma life (he would have died if he'd stayed.)
- In Power Rangers Dino Thunder, Tommy had to do unmorphed battle with his past Ranger identities. After proving his will to live, he woke up, his powers restored and with a new Super Mode.
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith spends most of one episode having semi-lucid dreams as she struggles to awaken from her coma.
- On another episode, a comatose young boy gets the entire cast into this trope as his dreams begin to infect the real world.
- In an episode of So Weird, Fi is somehow able to communicate with a young woman who has been comatose for several years. In the woman's dream, she's still a little girl, and she's lost in an unpopulated version of her hometown and can't find her way home. Based on her descriptions of her surroundings and her family's corroborating details, Fi is able to put together a map of the town as it was back when the girl first fell into her coma and uses it to guide her back to her house. Finally home again, the girl walks through her front door and wakes up back in the real world.
- An episode of Mysterious Ways involves a woman named Paloma waking up from a 16-year coma, completely healthy, and describing an island where she and other people in comas from the same hospital lived together. It's not completely clear if their actions on the island determine whether they wake up, but Paloma is able to re-enter the coma world and bring out a little girl so there has to be some controllable mechanism of escape involved.
- In the mid-season finale of Supernatural season seven, most of the episode takes place inside of Bobby Singer's head as he fights for his life after receiving a bullet to the head.
- House is shot and enters a coma hallucination in which the man who shot him shares his hospital room during recovery. He wills himself out of his coma through sheer Genre Savvy.
- The Odyssey: the central premise of the series. An 11-year-old boy falls from a tree house, ends up in coma and dreams about a Crapsack World with no adults.
- CSI: NY: In "Near Death", Mac is shot in the back and left, well, near death. While he is being operated on, he journeys through a limbo that looks like the crime lab where he meets and has conversations with his friends (and his dead wife).
- The whole story of The Human Equation by Ayreon, where an amnesiac man in a coma speaks with anthropomorphic representations of his own emotions and lives back key moments of his life in order to understand how he ended up in a coma in the first place, fix things in his life, and try to become a better man.
- The album Deloused in the Comatorium by The Mars Volta focuses on the protagonist entering into a week long coma after attempting suicide with a mixture of morphine and rat poison.
- Could have happened in Len Kagamine's New Millennium series (Voca Loid).
- Near the end of Fable II, your character has one of these after Lucien shoots you in the face (again!). Your character is apparently safe at home with your sister Rose... which is a pretty good clue something isn't right, since Rose is the proverbial dead older sister.
- The Magicant sequence in Earthbound is a fantasy landscape made up mostly of Ness' memories.
- Both Max Payne games have Max in the nightmare world at certain points.
- The entirety of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a collective dream of both Link and the Wind Fish.
- The world of Eternal Sonata and everything in it is the dream of Chopin, who is on his death bed and having a fever dream.
- In Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters Ratchet ends up in a surreal hallucinatory dreamworld at one point. Interestingly you can collect ammo in the dream that carries over to the real world.
- Sanitarium not only has the protagonist navigate a surrealistic world, but has them piece together real events basing on recurring symbolic elements.
- Driver: San Francisco has the city of San Francisco itself as the Comaland, hand waving the protagonist's ability to teleport between cars.
- The Scarecrow sequences in Batman: Arkham Asylum probably qualify.
- In Drawn to Life, the entire Raposa world is all just a coma dream. Maybe.
- In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Desmond Miles' mind has been so traumatized by the events of Brotherhood's ending and the Bleeding Effect that he went into shock, after which he was put back into an Animus - through which he'll have to "explore" his, Ezio's, and Altair's remaining memories and piece back together his fractured consciousness if he's to awaken.
- Desmond also needs to find a synch-nexus buried within those memories - a single moment that connects him and both his ancestors. This will provide the catalyst for the repartitioning and will allow Desmond to wake up.
- In the Slender Mansion map of Slender, the main character is in a coma due to "Slender Sickness" from being stalked by the slender man. He is being chased through a house in his mind as he collects mementos. If the player fails to collect the mementos in time, is caught by the slender man, or can't escape the dark house, the main character dies in the "real world."
- Roadkill's ending in Twisted Metal II has him insisting that the entire tournament isn't real and his wish is to "wake up:". He's absolutely right: He awakens in a hospital and a doctor (Calypso) tells him he's the only one of the 25 people involved in a massive accident to awaken from their coma, and the camera zooms out to show all the other combatants still unconscious.
- The Hospital Ending of Silent Hill: Homecoming has Alex awaken screaming during Electroshock Therapy in an insane asylum.
- The entirety of Labyrinthine Dreams occurs while the protagonist is deathly ill.
- In Erfworld, Parson Gotti considers the idea that his trip to Erfworld is just a coma-induced hallucination. There's evidence both for and against this theory.
- In the "Inner Peace Through Superior Firepower" prequel series, an enemy sets her garden of magical drugs on fire, flooding the hex with toxic gasses that induce a Mushroom Samba. Jillian must try to hunt down the fleeing enemy while in a drugged dream.
- The unfinished Webcomic Edolic Fringe.
- Looking for Group has a variation: Richard is banished by magic, and endures a trial of his soul. Unfortunately for him, it's a Kangaroo Court of lesser demons where he has no defence and his crimes are betraying his alignment of Chaotic Evil.
- Futurama: In the episode The Sting, Leela has a strange experience when where Fry dies from being stung by an alien bee and she has strange dreams and hallucinations about him being alive. Turns out it was all a dream induced by the venom, because SHE was stung as well (he was perfectly OK.)
- In the ThunderCats (2011) "Trials of Lion-O" arc, the Spirit Stone forces young hero Lion-O to undertake a Vision Quest in a Mental World to prove his worth and overcome his personal issues, so that he might earn the right to be resurrected.
- Real life example: Artur Lundkvist wrote an entire book about his adventures in Comaland, called Journeys in Dream and Imagination.