When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.
This enigmatic short story, considered to be the shortest one ever written, has inspired many a doctoral thesis!
Mario Vargas Llosa, the master Peruvian storyteller, uses the story as an illustration in some of his Letters to a Young Novelist. Here is an extract from the letter titled Levels of Reality.
What is the point of view in terms of level of reality in this story? You’ll agree that the narrative is situated in the plane of the fantastic, since in the real world you and I inhabit, it is improbable that prehistoric animals that appeared in our dreams–or in our nightmares–would turn up as an objective reality, and that we should encounter them in the flesh at the foot of our beds when we opened our eyes. It’s clear, then, that the level of reality of the narrative is an imaginary or fantastic reality. Is the narrator (omniscient and impersonal) situated on the same plane? I’d venture to say that he is not, that he establishes himself instead on a real or realist plane–in other words, one that is essentially opposite and contrary to that of the narrative. How do I know this? By the tiniest but most unmistakable of indications, a signal or hint that the careful narrator gives the reader as he tells his pared-clown tale: the adverb still. The word doesn’t just define an objective temporal circumstance, indicating a miraculous occurrence (the passage of the dinosaur from a dreamworld to objective reality). It is also a call to attention, a display of surprise or astonishment at the remarkable event. Monterroso’s still is flanked by invisible exclamation points and implicitly urges us to be surprised by the amazing thing that has happened. (“Notice, all of you, what is going on: the dinosaur is still there, when it’s obvious that it shouldn’t be, since in true reality things like this don’t happen; they are only possible in a fantastic reality.”) This is how we know the narrator is narrating from an objective reality; if he weren’t, he wouldn’t induce us through the knowing use of an amphibious adverb to take note of the transition of the dinosaur from dream to life, from the imaginary to the tangible.