In a courtroom, defendant Adam Grant sits and listens as the jury returns a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Adam stands up on the judge's order, and the judge tells him that he'll be executed by electrocution. Adam starts laughing and then yells "No!", saying that he won't die again. He charges at the judge and the bailiffs drag him away. Adam begs DA Henry Ritchie that the whole thing is Adam's nightmare and if they kill him, they'll all die. He tells city newspaper editor Paul Carson to convince Ritchie that he's prosecuting everyone in the world and to tell the DA before it's too late.
Later in his cell, Adam lies on his bunk and holds his ears to block out Coley playing the harmonica. Adam finally yells at Coley to stop, and Coley apologizes. The prisoner says that he got Coley out of a bad movie he once saw, just like everyone else in his dream. Another prisoner, Jiggs, tells Adam not to think about it. A third prisoner, Phillips, is staring off into space and begging his mother not to let them hurt him. Jiggs says that Philipps is an animal now, and Adam tells Jiggs that it's different for him. He tells Jiggs the entire experience of going to the execution room, reciting it all from memory.
At home, Ritchie's wife Carol checks the steaks in the oven, then answers the door. It's Carson, who is clearly drunk. Carol lets him in and Carson tells Ritchie that the fact he's drunk has nothing to do with what he's feeling. He pours himself a drink and talks about how he's going to die. Ritchie says that it isn't funny, and Carson says that it's a comment on his life. He invites Ritchie and Carol to drink in honor of his death, and Ritchie tells him to shut up. Carson says that there are a few minutes until Adam's execution, and Carol complains that they have to listen to Carson talk about the news behind the news. She goes to bed, saying that she lost her appetite for dinner, and says that the steak can come out in five minutes.
Carson tells Ritchie that he's scared, and admits that Adam's story is possible. Ritchie says that Adam is going to pay for murder and that's all that matters, and Carson figures that Ritchie believes just a little. He notes that Ritchie must think that his life can't be real, and Ritchie figures that everyone thinks that way. He suggests that Adam is trying to convince himself it isn't real because he's going to die. Carson begs Ritchie to talk to Adam because what he's saying makes sense, and the DA finally agrees.
In the prison, Adam tells Jiggs that he's expecting Ritchie to show up because he always does. Jiggs tells him the time, and Adam points out that they don't let death-row prisoners have watches because they could break the glass and kill themselves. Ritchie comes in and Adam tells him that the DA always comes but it isn't always Ritchie. Ritchie says that Adam's story won't do any good by then, and Adam says that he always explains. He says that once he dies, everyone dies because the "world" is his nightmare. Ritchie says that he can't accept it because it doesn't make logical sense. Adam says that it does, and points out that the prison wouldn't let Ritchie in to see Adam on the night of his execution. He points out that Ritchie knows nothing about Adam's history, and Adam mouths Ritchie's response.
Ritchie figures Adam isn't deliberately lying to him, and sets out to destroy Adam's story. He asks about everyone's parents, and Adam says that a dream builds its own world. People only sleep and dream because Adam dreams them that way. Ritchie asks Adam why he's scared, and Adam laughs and then says that he's stuck in a dream where he can't wake up. Every night he has the same dream, and it seems real when he's killed. The people get twisted around but the dream is the same. Adam starts ranting and the guard takes Ritchie out. The prisoner promises Ritchie that he'll dream him the same way if he lets Adam live, and says that he'll prove it by changing the meal in the oven at Ritchie's home.
Ritchie goes home and discovers that there's a pot roast in the oven, not steaks.
Jiggs tells Adam that if he tells his story to the governor, the governor might pardon him as a psycho. Adam says that the governor won't believe it, and offers to prove what he's saying is real. He talks about how everything is the way it should be. Adam was tried and sentenced in the same day, and Coley and Phillips act like movie-prisoners because that's Adam's impression of one. Jiggs doesn't believe Adam, and the clock ticks down to midnight.
Carol comes out to the living room, and Carson says that Adam will be executed in 15 more minutes. Carson wonders why prisoners are always executed at midnight, but neither he nor Ritchie know why. It happens because it happens in every movie that Adam ever saw, so that's what happens in his dream. Ritchie still doesn't believe it.
A priest comes to see Adam, and Adam says that there's no need to pray in a nightmare. Adam says that he's detached from reality, and wonders where the priest's face came from him. He realizes that the priest is Father Beamon, who died when Adam was 10. The priest confirms that his name is Beamon, and Adam talks about how a young priest who looked like Carson took the real Beamon's place. Adam wonders who Ritchie really is, and figures he was a schoolteacher or a friend of his father's.
The priest helps Adam over to the waiting guards, and they take him to the execution room. Jiggs mockingly yells that they can't do it to Adam because he's at home asleep, and it's time to wake up.
Carson asks Ritchie to get a stay of execution, insisting that Adam has a case for insanity. Ritchie refuses, and Carson says that maybe they're wrong about Adam and that's enough to show reasonable doubt. The DA finally gets the phone and calls the governor to get a stay.
Adam is put in the electric chair.
Ritchie begs the governor to give Adam a stay of execution. The governor agrees and calls the prison. The clock chimes midnight.
At the prison, the executioner pulls the switch as the phone rings.
Everything in Ritchie's home disappears, and then the home and people disappear.
Adam finds himself back in the courtroom, with Ritchie as his defense attorneys. "Jiggs" is the judge, and the jury foreman is Carson. The jury returns a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. Adam stands up on the judge's order, and the judge tells him that he'll be executed by electrocution. Beamon is the city editor, Adam starts laughing and then yells "No!", saying that he won't die again. He charges at the judge and the bailiffs drag him away.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 1, 2020