Rubashov had been arrested an hour earlier: the knock on his door woke him from his dream. He’d been dreaming—as he often did—that he was being arrested by three men hammering on the door dressed in the costume of the German Dictatorship. In the dream, they stood by his bed panting before someone upstairs pulled a plug and water whooshed through the pipes.
In this scene, the border between dreams and reality is entirely blurred. In many ways, Rubashov’s repeated dreams suggest that, on some level, he expects or fears that these dreams will become reality, though the authorities involved are not the same.
The hammering had continued on the door but Rubashov couldn’t wake up: in the dream, as usual, he tried to put on his clothes but was frozen. Finally he’s awakened when he’s slammed over the ear with a pistol butt. Usually, at this point, he’d wake up from the dream and feel dizzily that the real world was a dream. This time, though, awakened feeling free and safe, looking up at the print of the Party leader, No. 1, hanging over his bed. But now the hammering continued.
Rubashov awakens from his first dream feeling as though he’s escaped from danger. However, just as we’re introduced to the leader of the Party, Rubashov also recognizes that what he had thought he had left behind in his sleep isn’t, in fact, only a dream.