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Unfamiliar Ceiling

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"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 & Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Trope Namer, features Shinji regaining consciousness in a NERV medical ward, in an episode titled "An Unfamiliar Ceiling". This goes on to happen many times throughout the series, to the point that the ceiling actually begins to become familiar to Shinji, much to his annoyance.
  • Saiyuki: Hakkai's first conscious impression of Gojyo is the sight of the other man hovering over him as he wakes up.
  • In Re:Zero, Subaru tends to wake up in a location he's been to some time before he's died. Since it is more of a "save Point" than a healing factor, he's never actually woken up in a morgue.
  • Cowboy Bebop: It happens to 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Blue Beetle: 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.
  • Robin Series: Tim Drake wakes up after having nearly drowned and watches as the concerned people over him slowly come into focus, before realizing he's in the cave of the monster that grabbed him along with its other victims.
  • Superman:
    • In Who Took the Super out of Superman?, Clark Kent gets struck by a speeding car while his powers are blocked off, and loses consciousness. When he wakes up he's lying on a hospital bed, and two doctors are hovering over him. As his blurry vision is clearing, Clark asks: "What's going on here...? Who are you... Where am I—?"
    • In Red Daughter of Krypton, Bleez manages to flee from Atrocitus and makes it back to the Red Lanterns' headquarters before collapsing. When she wakes up, she's lying on a bed in the Kaalvar's medical bay.

    Fan Works 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Many Harry Potter fan fics feature Harry waking up in recuperation, usually in the Hogwarts hospital wing, after some kind of perilous injury. He's been hospitalized so many times in canon and the fan fics that in some of them he asks, "How long was I out this time?"
  • Just an Unorthodox Thief
    • Sakura wakes up in the church after recovering from having the crest worms taken out of her. She thinks she dreamed the night before until Risei confirms that Assassin brought her there.
    • Waver wakes up in a hideout while recovering from having his arm blown off. Rider explains where they are and why.
  • A Breach of Trust: Waking up after his first night at Reigen's place leaves Mob bewildered by the softness of his bedding before he realises where he is.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl wakes up in her old room in the Legion of Super-Heroes headquarters after recovering from her life-threatening injuries gotten during her fight to the death with Satan Girl. She wonders briefly where she is before recognizing the place.
  • A Prize For Three Empires: After her brutal battle with Kree gladiator Iva Kann, Carol Danvers wakes up in the infirmary from a Shi'ar starship where her body is recovering from her injuries.


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.
  • Emerald Prince: This happens to Julien in the beginning, when he's been Kidnapped by the Call. He wakes up in a bath, so, yes, he's shirtless.
  • 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.
    • Happens to Shadwell, who wakes up and thinks he's having an out-of-body experience because he sees his own body from above. After a few panicked seconds of trying to swim back to it, he comes to his senses enough to wonder why Madame Tracy has a mirror on her ceiling.
  • Guards! Guards!, where it happens to Captain Vimes.
  • Happens 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 Harry Potter series.
  • 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.
  • 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.
The page quote is from the first book, when Frodo receives medical attention in Rivendell after an incident with a poisoned knife. He doesn't remember what happened because he wasn't fully conscious for a quarter of the journey.
  • 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.
  • Lampshaded in The Stars Are Ours, an Andre Norton novel: Dard Nordis wakes up and immediately asks "Where is here?" The attending human praises him for coming up with an alternative to "Where am I?"

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Awaken: After Piras passes out upon being rescued by the Athena the reader gets a first person perspective of the med-bay ceiling coming into focus for him before it hops to normal perspective and he starts to ask where he is and is quickly reminded of his situation by the crew.

    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.

    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.


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