I'm working on a new novel, tentatively named 'In the Face of Angels', about Henry, a 50 year old nurse. He has a talented dream-life, perhaps in compensation for a somewhat shy and hen-pecked life. Of late, his dreams have become more physical. He wakes, and remnants of his dream still exist in his bedroom. One particularly unpleasant morning he loses his job, gets mugged, finds his wife in bed with a man other than himself, and is ejected from his house. He gains refuge in a boarding house, and that night, during a strongly physical dream, he (or at least his soul) is able to travel into Purgatory. Adventures ensue. I have twenty-three draft chapters completed.

The novel opens with:

The blankets of Henry’s childhood had always welcomed him and wrapped in a fertile dream life he grew moonflower-shy, but by night, he opened on exotic lands and that talent for nocturnal adventure had flourished in his adult years; thus, on the evening of his fiftieth birthday, he eagerly sought his bed at 9:00, tired from an ache in his lower back and a touch of depression.
An hour later, he woke as she passed over his head. Showing no interest in him, she floated on through the wall, her light ebbed and vanished, and with the wonderful symmetry of her face fresh in his mind, Henry thought himself a small angel, drifting across the sky, holding her tiny hand.
When he’d asked about a party, Petula had reasonably said that nobody would come out on a frigid Tuesday night in early March. Fifty is a good age for a man to be thinking of death. In sanguine moments, there’s hope of another fifty years, but there’s no shortage of counter-examples, the friend of a co-worker who dropped inexplicably in the best of health while brushing his teeth. It’s hard to know what exertion might precipitate that last strangled breath, falling and striking your face on the sink, breaking your neck. He visualized himself on the bathroom floor, the toothbrush rammed up his throat, his bowels evacuated. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, Petula wrinkling her nose at his soiled bottom.
Not seeing what he saw, he could understand her past hostility and he wouldn’t bother her about the angel. Shutting his eyes, he sought again the strand between the continent of his waking and the oceans of his sleep.
It was nearly midnight when Petula slipped into bed. Still his birthday and with their last lovemaking almost beyond remembrance, he relinquished his palace and drowsily spooned against her. Baby Bee came to lie between them, an insubstantial third of their embrace. Henry supported her warm spirit, as he never had in the incubator where she’d lain her lifetime’s long ten hours. Petula fidgeted away. No sister for Bee today. Henry’s butterfly of regret vanished before the typhoon of his reviving dream. His regrets always did, for he was a man whose triple-axel mastery of dreams had allowed him to transcend the aches of his existence.
It was 12:45 when Henry released his escapade and opened an eye to note the glowing bedside clock. Petula snuffled at her side of the bed. She had snagged the bedclothes around herself leaving him only the edge of a sheet and his back bound tight with cold. He pulled steadily upward on the sheet, pincering between thumb and palm of each hand, but Petula’s lock wouldn’t break, and not wanting to wake her, he gave up, lay on his back and allowed himself to drift below the folds of intentional dreaming into the thick black hold of deep sleep.
When he woke again, he snapped to alertness with his heart pounding in a casket-stiff body. He knew that silent figures clustered in the dark-shaded room near the door. Sluiced with adrenaline he wrenched from bed. “Petula!” he shouted as he twisted the lamp-switch. “There,” he wailed, jabbing a quavering finger, but at nothing, for they had already receded into the wall.
A pillow smacked his shoulders. Petula flopped on the bed, groaning. “Switch it off, for God’s sake.” She turned her back to the light, exhaled in practiced exasperation and pulled the blankets over herself. Her breath settled into a gripy rattle as Henry crouched, an uneasy sentinel, the blood-beat slowly receding from his ears.
If Petula were awake she’d chide him with her commonsense, but he knew they were real, that he was alert and dreamless when he saw them. They had never hurt him, but he couldn’t stop reacting like a dumpster-cat, and aroused, but with no reason to approach the lifeless wall, he stood clenched in the grip of his guardian stance confused by his lack of functioning in the cold bedroom among the barely perceived lumps of furniture. The ratcheting from the bed, the room’s only sound, disquieted as an unseen rattlesnake and disturbed old memories of passion and treachery. Not his, but from a biography he’d read in his mid-teens of freethinking Bertrand Russell who’d taken his kind hosts’ daughter to share his bed. And a snake amongst them the parents must have thought him. Henry couldn’t approve of a guest’s incivility, but he envied the long-dead man his full life. His own superiority came to no more than existing, a status that would soon enough pass. Watching in the dead of night produced lonely, gloomy thoughts.
He had read Russell to persuade himself of what he already knew, that there was no God. But the influx of night creatures, a deluge in the past few months, had sapped that foundation. In the face of angels, or of demons, atheism is absurd.
He retrieved his pillow, turned off the light and burrowed under the bedcovers that had been loosened by Petula’s exertions. The weight held him in a bulky shroud, and his legs shivered with the formicating illusion that insects seethed among his leg hairs. He lay uselessly awake until after 3:08, which was the last time he consulted his clock before sleep alternated with his crankily turning in bed like a rusted screw. He rose at his regular six o’clock, tired and fog-brained, the barometer of his mind fallen as if before an impending storm. After showering in the dark, standing in a fetal curl under the flogging hot water, he vigorously dried with a rough towel, one that he’d rescued from the clothesline on Saturday just before the blizzard. His thoughts followed their accustomed channel, comparing his own hardihood to Petula’s insistence that her towels go through the clothes dryer to come out fluffy, and he was ashamed, as he invariably was, of his macho posing and of his pitiful self-censorship. He had the firmness of a wilted tulip. What did he lack that he was so floppy, always vacillating and full of repetitive pretentions? He forced a suppressed cough to see if he was coming down with a cold but couldn’t decide if his throat felt raspy.
He dressed in the dark by the hall linen closet where he kept his work clothes for the day, which saved Petula from any light showing under her door. The previous week had verged on light at this time, but daylight saving time had thrown him back to a darker and more womb-like start to his day. The nearness of the passageway walls he found comforting in much the way a snowfall blanks out the world. What joy, he remembered, to be a boy burrowed beneath a tangled bush amid the thick quiet snow falling beyond him, making him its secret center. He’d be so still that sparrows roosted on his branches.
With his oatmeal finished, Henry was at the kitchen sink cleaning up by the illumination of the streetlight when Petula came down stairs and flipped the kitchen light on. She yawned furiously. “Waking me every night is tiresome,” she said. “See someone at the hospital. A psychiatrist or get some sleeping pills.” Blinking at her, he nodded as a man would who was being argued from his one gift.
When he’d brushed his teeth and received a peck on the cheek, he left for his seven o’clock shift at Stonewall Jackson Hospital. The muffled hornet-whine of the hospital’s Life-Guard helicopter rose above the town and turned south. Shifting fog scattered his headlight beams. BeeBee giggled seeing the flowing forms, like billowy dresses. The world echoed his unsettled mood. The hiding and revealing fog brought to his mind a childhood park and the cave-like hollow within a dome-shaped bush where he’d found a shiny dime on the bare dirt. Then two more shiny dimes on the two following days. The thrill had not left him in forty-three years, that the world knew him and cared.
Too often, Henry’s mind returned to that sanctum, warmed, but the impenetrable riddle of the shrine kept him from the circle by the fire, his scornful side conjuring a skulking man behind a tree imprinting magic in a young psyche, and that hidden watcher marred his deep story, as though a honeybee had barbed itself. Incredulity, however, had never pierced to the core of his belief and the shadowed man, whether creator or destroyer, had remained to the margins of his childhood mystery.
It was doubly annoying that his regular parking spot was taken, he thought by Linda Loon, the radiologist, as the doctors had their own privileged parking area. The spot certainly wasn’t his but he had enjoyed parking there for five years. He damped his petulance and circled the lot, at each vacant parking spot fretting over its absent user’s rights, which, together with his irritation, engineered his removal to the auxiliary gravel parking area. He visualized a blow coming on and toppling a pine tree onto Dr. Loon’s unoccupied car, and her consternation. He felt better, having thought of even an unlikely reason for his relegation. Childish, he knew, but nothing he could prevent. “What am I missing?” he thought, as if he’d been assembled with some piece of his brain empty that was full in others.
If nothing else, a peaceful moment cocooned by the fog would soothe his ill humor before he started work. He let the window down and shivered deliciously from the chill damp air, remembering a girl on the street of his early childhood who’d raised her skirt and shared a glimpse of her parts. Mysteriously she had a penis, which couldn’t be right, but his mind said so, inarguably. He’d butted against the memory before and shaken nothing from it. He remained certain of its truth, and its falsity, and felt that it was one among many memories with gaps and inexplicabilities, that his was an alien scene of perpetual cloud that lay between brilliant sunshine and a world where myths were told of that golden orb. He had always known flashes of déjà vu, in the midst of events had often sensed that he’d dreamt the scene before, which was bewildering to a rational and non-religious man. If his past knew his future, and he was sure it did, then his freedom was an illusion.
Vaguely, he had been aware of a drumming among the trees, faster than a heartbeat, hurrying his thoughts along, and with less than two minutes before he had to clock in he couldn’t bash his head any more against knotty problems.
With the speed of a derecho and the whirring of powerful wings, a body slammed against a pine tree five feet from his car window. Henry jolted against his seatbelt. With a diabolic “wuk wuk” laugh alternating with a faster “waa waa waa,” as of a wailing baby in the grip of a demon, a massive pileated woodpecker hopped into view around the trunk. Henry pushed back against his seat, daunted by the wild apparition clacking with gripping talons. His finger crept over the window button and he watched more calmly as the red-crested creature manically pounded the tree.
Henry had always avoided introspection of the digging, harrowing kind, but simple things, much like an infant’s wad of paper, could loose a pandemonium of thoughts in a tumble of chaotic shreds, and this bird was a harbinger, he was sure, but he lacked the time to think about it.
He depressed the button, an eye, yellow and black-masked, paired with his own, his window lurched into motion, and the bird vaulted into the mist. As Henry left the car, there was a hint of daylight. He crunched along the path batting at fog-beaded strands of morning webs that threatened to entangle him.