Unfamiliar Ceiling

Hmmm, this isn't the ceiling I carefully memorized.

"Frodo woke and found himself lying in bed. At first he thought he had slept late, after a long unpleasant dream that still hovered on the edge of memory. Or perhaps he had been ill? But the ceiling looked strange; it was flat, and it had dark beams richly carved."
The Lord of the Rings, "Many Meetings"

When a character has been seriously injured or has overextended themselves, magically or physically and passes out, they will often be Asleep for Days after getting medical attention. When they do wake up, it will generally be a slow process with some blurriness and overly-bright lights. Bonus points if the first thing the character sees is a love-interest's face. The character will often ask:
  • Where they are
  • What happened
  • How long they've been unconscious
  • If they're dead/in heaven.

The more heroic ones also have a tendency to try to get out of bed or sit up, and then either fall over or get pushed down by an angry medic (or loved one). This is often played for comedy.

Oh yes, and they will usually be shirtless if male. In the more modest ones, this will result in an amusing attempt to cover themselves, which will somehow culminate in falling over. Often the setup for a I Found You Like This. May involve a Hospital Surprise.

A kinder, gentler subtrope of Waking Up Elsewhere.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach: Happens a lot to several characters, but most notably Ichigo.
  • Gintama: Yamazaki references Evangelion and specifically says "unfamiliar ceiling" after waking up in the hospital from food poisoning.
  • In Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka gets two of these moments in the aftermath of his gut shot injury. San has moved him into safety underneath a tree by the forest lake, so the first thing he sees on waking up is the crown of the tree. He tries to get up but falls back because he is too weak. The next time he wakes up is in a bed of leaves in San's cave.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is quite a subversion, even though it is the Trope Namer: Shinji eventually starts getting annoyed by the sight of the ceiling of NERV sickbay, as it is becoming too familiar to him.
  • Cowboy Bebop: Spike, a few times — most notably at the end of the fifth episode, where he had a near death experience complete with seeing his life flash before his eyes, and although he doesn't ask he is promptly informed by Faye that he's been asleep for three days. Sort of bonus points: the last thing he sees in his dreams/coma visions is his lover Julia singing a song as she cares for him, he then wakes up to Faye singing that same song. (Although according to Spike, Faye is singing it off key).
  • In Episode 9 of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, Teana wakes up in the infirmary after being shot down by Nanoha, and is shocked to find that it's already 9 at night; according to Shamal, her taking this long to wake up was a result of not getting much sleep.
  • Happens twice in Claymore, the first being when Raki travels through the desert trying to look for Clare only to pass out from exhaustion and lack of water, so Clare brings him to an inn at a nearby town. The second happens to Clare, when she narrowly escapes being killed by Ophelia after Ilena saves her - but after she had an arm and a hand cut off - and she passes out from over-expending her energy to reattach her hand. Clare wakes up in Ilena's house in her secluded valley.
  • After being rescued by the Skull Knight during the Eclipse, Guts wakes up to an unfamiliar cave ceiling, which turns out to be Godo's mine (which was previously inhabited by elves, so evil spirits attracted to his brand can't follow him) in Berserk.
  • Suzaku in the second episode of Code Geass. After being shot right in his... father's pocket watch, he wakes up to Lloyd and Cecile, who promptly hand him the keys to the Super Prototype Lancelot. (Shirtless? Check.)
  • Saiyuki: Hakkai's first conscious impression of Gojyo was the sight of the other man hovering over him as he woke up.
  • Happens to Ginko in a second-season episode of Mushishi, after passing out on a snowy mountain and being found by a man from a nearby village.
  • Subverted in Vampire Hunter D, with Leila waking up in the road after D bound her wound. Weirdly averted in the first movie — Doris wakes up in her house after being rescued — she was unconscious or in a trance for the entire rescue, so she should have no idea how she got there—but the first thing she does is asks if D is okay.

    Comic Books 
  • Peacemaker waking up after ripping a scarab out of his back with a broken bit of armor. Also stands up, then falls down, and is funny.
  • Red Robin: After dealing with Ra's al Ghul's plan to kill Bruce's loved ones and passing out mid fall Tim wakes up in the Batcave's medical area, stripped out of his costume for his injuries to be tended to, and jerks upright before being reassured about where he is. He then asks how long he's been out after being shown the newest headline claiming that he is engaged to Tam Fox.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: During their first night sleeping in their new home in Avalon Shinji can not help to think his and Asuka's bedroom’s ceiling is "another unfamiliar ceiling".
    Sleep did eventually overtake him, but Shinji knew he’d laid there for at least a couple of hours in the dark, staring at the sky out the windows, or at yet another unfamiliar ceiling.
  • In Between Minds, a Half-Life X Portal fanfiction, the first chapter begins with Chell waking up to see the ceiling panels in the Extended Relaxation Center. She soon figures out how to escape.
  • Scar Tissue: Lampshaded in chapter 1. At the beginning Shinji did not recognize the hospital's ceiling. But after so many months and fights he has got so familiarized with it that he is sick of seeing it: "Uhhg… This ceiling again…"
  • Doing It Right This Time can't resist lampshading this one either:
    Shinji stared up at the ceiling. It was as far from unfamiliar as a ceiling could possibly be, which would have been vaguely reassuring if it hadn't been the ceiling he had last seen shortly before getting That Letter and starting down the slow but inexorable path to... Well, whatever the hell had happened.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: In the last scene, Shinji wakes up, stares at the ceiling above him and realizes that he doesn't recognize it. Rei informs him that they're on board of a warship.
    The darkness slowly resolved itself into light and blurry shapes, and Shinji realized he had opened his eyes. He lay on his back, staring at a ceiling he didn't know, hearing the gentle, rhythmic sound of his own breathing. His mind was blank, and it seemed as though his body was made out of lead. He was warm, covered in a thick white blanket and lying on something soft and surrounded by walls on three sides like a kind of bunk.
  • Thousand Shinji: In chapter 14, when Shinji wakes up after being in a coma for one month, he notes that he's seeing an unfamiliar ceiling:
    His eyes fluttering open to see an unfamiliar ceiling, Shinji feels the rough texture of the hospital sheets first before he notices the sticky coldness of the sensor pads across his body and the uncomfortable pressure of the IV line in the crook of his arm. He also notes the abrasive coarseness of the straps about his wrists, ankles, and across his thighs and chest.
  • In The One I Love Is this happens to Shinji so many times that, at one point, he has the feeling that he's seeing unfamiliar ceilings the whole time.
    The bed was comfortable, but I barely managed to get any sleep. I had spent most of the night staring at this new unfamiliar ceiling.
  • In fact, it might be easier to list the Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfics that don't use, lampshade and/or play with this trope.

    Films — Animated 
  • Played in Mulan, as one scene gives the general impression of this, although no indication is given of how much time has passed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In each Back to the Future film, Marty wakes up with his mother (or great grandmother) ministering to him.
  • When Neo awakes in The Matrix after been ejected from the Matrix, he looks up to see the unfamiliar faces of Trinity and Morpheus and asks if he is dead.
  • Barbarella: Our heroine wakes up after getting knocked out and thinks she's dead. Not surprisingly, since the first person she sees is Pygar the angel (or ornithanthrope).
  • At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers wakes up in a recovery room in New York City after landing the Valkyrie in the ice. However, he soon learns that he's been asleep for nearly 70 years in the ice after escaping from the recovery room.
  • In Unknown (2011), the hero wakes up at the hospital after been Asleep for Days. The ambient sounds are muffled at first and the camera mimics his eyes slowly opening and adjusting to the brightness of the room.
  • In The Best Years of Our Lives, Fred ends up going home with the Stephenson family because he's drunk, and because he hasn't been able to find his wife. Peggy ends up putting him in her room, and when he wakes up, he not only has no idea where he is, he doesn't remember who Peggy is at first.
  • In The Lost Weekend, the hero awakes at the alcoholic ward after a Staircase Tumble, wondering where exactly he is. The first thing he sees is the unfamiliar ceiling.
  • Happens to Chekov in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home after he has a near-fatal fall and McCoy, Kirk, and Gillian infiltrate the 20th-century hospital to administer 23rd-century care. Though he comes to in the operating room enough to give name and rank, he doesn't seem to regain full awareness until he's being frantically wheeled away from the pursuing guards and sees the fluorescent lights zoom by.

The trope is played with in this joke:
  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner, they retire for the night, and go to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and nudges his faithful friend. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see." "I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes" replies Watson. "And what do you deduce from that?" Watson ponders for a minute. "Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe. What does it tell you, Holmes?" Holmes is silent for a moment. "Watson, you idiot!" he says. "Someone has stolen our bloody tent!"

  • Paradise Rot: Basically the only way Kyle wakes up in the whole book. Usually comes with a Apocalypse Now reference.
  • A Brother's Price:
    • Ren is a bit confused when she wakes up after her first night at the Whistler home, until her brain boots up enough that she remembers why she's where she is.
    • Near the end of the book Jerin panics a little. His memory of the last night is fuzzy since he almost drowned and got knocked about after going over that Inevitable Waterfall, but soon he recognizes it as his cousin Dail's room.
  • The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya combines this with Timey-Wimey Ball. Kyon wakes up after experiencing being stabbed by Asakura, but by the time he wakes up, the past has been rewritten so that he fell down a set of stairs and hit his head.
  • Happens to Harry Dresden enough that when he's there for Ramirez after a particularly daunting fight, he internal monologues that the reversal took its time.
  • Good Omens: Newt wakes up after a car crash and realizes he can't be in his own room because there are no model planes hanging from the ceiling.
  • Guards! Guards!!, where it happens to Captain Vimes.
  • Happened in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, with Harry waking up in the hospital ward after defeating Quirrell. He asks Dumbledore what happened to him. In fact this happens to various characters rather frequently.
  • In the Hurog duology, there is a variant where the person waking up immediately knows where she is, and compliments the main character on the beautiful room. It is not clear whether she pretended to be asleep until she was sure she was safe, though.
  • The Lord of the Rings does this several times — once in the first book, a few times in the third.
  • In the Percy Jackson and the Olympians book Battle of the Labyrinth, Percy is blown out of Mount St. Helens and loses consciousness as he's plummeting back to Earth. When he wakes up, he's on Ogygia, being tended to by Calypso. He is conscious for a few moments before passing out again. When he finally comes to, he finds himself sleeping on a fine bed in a geodesic cave.
  • In the story "Time and Again" by H. Beam Piper, the protagonist wakes up in his old room in his childhood home... also in his childhood body, thirty years prior to being knocked out.
  • A Wizard of Earthsea: Turns up surprisingly little, given Ged spends an absurd amount of time being generally passed out. This specific trope only occurs once, at Osskil.
  • Most of Tamora Pierce's heroines do this at least once. Per book.
  • Gently spoofed in one Andre Norton novel: A character wakes up and immediately asks "Where is here?" The attending human praises him for coming up with an alternative to "Where am I?"
  • Julien in the beginning of Emerald Prince, when he's been Kidnapped by the Call. He wakes up in a bath, so, yes, he's shirtless.
  • In the Illuminatus! series novel The Widow's Son, lead character Sigismundo Celine is consigned to the Bastille. He ends up under a heavy security regimen after escaping and being recaptured, effectively confined to his cell where he has ample opportunity to memorise all the details of his room. One day he wakes up after a deeper sleep than normal to realise he is on the ceiling and looking down at his room - the floor has become his new ceiling. Gravity has semingly reversed itself in the night. But he looks carefully and sees small inconsistencies in placement and arrangement of furniture. He also realises the window has suddenly been boarded over. He deduces he has been drugged and moved to an elaborate hoax set-up.

    Live Action Television 
  • The X-Files: It happens twice to Agent Mulder in "Anasazi".
    • He gets really sick after he's been systematically drugged and after he sort of witnessed his father's murder. He manages to get to his partner's apartment because his own place became too dangerous. When he wakes up alone in his underpants at Agent Scully's, he doesn't quite recollect where he is.
    • Later in the same episode, Scully intentionally shoots his shoulder to stop him from killing his father's murderer. He's been put out to let the drugs wore off and they have driven for two days to New Mexico. He wakes up at Albert Hosteen's, their new ally and a translator from Navajo code. Obviously he wonders what happened and he thanks Scully for taking care of him.

    Video Games 
  • In the first Golden Sun, during the Inevitable Tournament, dying in battle makes you wake up in the infirmary, surrounded by your friends, who will then inform you that you were just dreaming. Then you have to restart the tournament from the beginning. And if you win... you wake up in the infirmary, surrounded by your friends, who will then inform you that you won.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: This happens to The Warden after the slaughter at Ostagar, right down to the questions and the shirtlessness.
  • Implied in Myst. After completing each Age, the player is sent back to the Library, looking up at the ceiling. It may well be unfamiliar the first time, as many players may not have thought to look up.
  • In Persona 3, after awakening to his Persona, the protagonist is Asleep for Days and wakes up in Tatsumi Memorial Hospital.
  • During the introduction to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Big Boss (Or, at least, the person assigned to impersonate Big Boss) wakes up from a years-long coma to find himself in a military hospital in Cyprus.
  • In Full Throttle you black out after an accident with your motorbike and wake up at Maureen's place. She tells you that she took care of you and that she fixed your bike.

    Web Comics 
  • In Girl Genius, when Gil wakes up in Mama Gkika's, he assumes he's been out of action for days when it's only been a few hours.
  • In Kid Radd, Radd, after taking some infected code, wakes up in the Moderators' infirmary, initially believing that he's in hell before he opens his eyes.
  • In General Protection Fault, Fooker comes to in the hospital several days after getting kicked in the groin by Ki and passing out from that and the amount of alcohol in his system.
  • In WTF Comics, Annashi says the tropes name in a bit of a Shout-Out to Neon Genesis Evangelion in the first panel here.
  • After Blade Bunny is badly injured, her first words are to wonder why heaven is so poorly decorated. Needless to say she's not dead.
  • In Godslave, after Edith is knocked out by Turner, she spends a moment staring blankly at the museum library ceiling and wondering where she is.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has Aang waking up six weeks after getting struck by lightning, in a fire nation ship, and panicking.
  • Regular Show has a slightly more comedic variant in the episode "Marvolo the Wizard." After Pops panics and runs into a wall, he groggily comes to, and asks Skips if he's back home. A similar scene occurs near the end of the episode.

    Web Original 
  • Sahmad has one in BIONICLE, where he is told he has been asleep for 750 years. However, it turns out to be All Just a Dream.
  • Red vs. Blue: Recreation: Subverted/played for laughs when Donut keeps passing out and coming to, and each time he's told strange stories about what has been happening while he was asleep, which makes him wonder and ask how long he's been out. Turns out he's only been out for a few minutes, and the stories sound strange because it's Caboose who's been telling him the news.