Story — Dreamscape Chapter 10

After quite a bit of sweat, sleepless nights, and untold amounts of arguments, the initial steps in achieving groundbreaking discovery had been accomplished. The completed product of the Dreamscape machine sat upon the steel table in the middle of the Stones’ office, nearly a year after its original conception, with enough buttons and screens to qualify as an aircraft module, though the purpose of the numerous controls were vastly different. It was sleek in design, but having a limited pool of resources, it would by no means pass as anything more than a prototype. The screens, in truth, were touchpad devices fitted into mounts on the machine, and there were still quite a lot of wires coiling around the thing. Douglas had still yet to purchase some tubing to more properly secure the cords to the machine. This wasn’t essential for the functionality of the device, of course. It would simply make the device more convenient to operate with and around.

All things considered, though, it had been finished. Preliminary tests had been run the night before, to make sure all the individual parts of the machine were operating correctly. By the time they had finished these tests, however, the sky had heralded the sun’s approach, and they were all too exhausted to continue, despite their excitement to get started.

After quite a bit of sweat, sleepless nights, and untold amounts of arguments, the initial steps in achieving groundbreaking discovery had been accomplished. The completed product of the Dreamscape machine sat upon the steel table in the middle of the Stones’ office, nearly a year after its original conception, with enough buttons and screens to qualify as an aircraft module, though the purpose of the numerous controls were vastly different. It was sleek in design, but having a limited pool of resources, it would by no means pass as anything more than a prototype. The screens, in truth, were touch pad devices fitted into mounts on the machine, and there were still quite a lot of wires coiling around the thing. Douglas had still yet to purchase some tubing to more properly secure the cords to the machine. This wasn’t essential for the functionality of the device, of course. It would simply make the device more convenient to operate with and around.
All things considered, though, it had been finished. Preliminary tests had been run the night before, to make sure all the individual parts of the machine were operating correctly. By the time they had finished these tests, however, the sky had heralded the sun’s approach, and they were all too exhausted to continue, despite their excitement to get started.

So it was that they came into the office with the Dreamscape sitting there as it had been the night before, fully prepared to go out on its first field test. Of course, they couldn’t simply go out and test it on some random person on the street (though they probably could have gotten away with it, provided that random person happened to also be asleep). Instead, they had to devise a plan in order to conduct the experiment by more ethical means: they would perform the first test on Douglas. In fact, he had volunteered, stating that Maya and Andrew should have the honors of being the first ones to use it. On his part, it meant staying in the office and dozing off, while the other two had to configure everything properly before jumping in. To Andrew, It didn’t seem very fair at all. He and Maya hadn’t gotten very much sleep as a result of it, while Douglas would be doing his part in the making of history by sleeping, which he was so heroically doing now by snoring faintly in his corner of the room, one of the extra chairs used as a foot rest. To add on to all of that, Maya concluded that forcibly ‘joining’ another’s dream wouldn’t quite count as sleeping, because one would need to be fully cognizant in order to be able to accomplish anything. Using the Dreamscape would instill a sort of “subconscious teleportation”, as she had put it. This meant that you wouldn’t feel any more rested after coming out of another’s dream.

One of the most handy properties of the Dreamscape was that the device itself didn’t need to be attached to both parties involved, but merely the person using the Dreamscape. This was primarily because the machine was intended to remotely detect the signals in the brain that indicated when one was having a nightmare.

By coincidence, one of the monitors was flashing on and off now, stating that those very signals were occurring nearby.
Apparently, Douglas was having a nightmare right now.

They had done research and looked at several studies. Statistically speaking, adults have far less nightmares than younger people, but of course it did happen. It was possible for the Dreamscape to insert its user into somebody that wasn’t having a nightmare, but it demanded far more preparation, since it wasn’t the intended purpose of the machine. Still, they had planned it because they simply wanted to see if the device worked at all, and hadn’t expected to actually use it for real.

“What do we do?” Maya asked.

“I’m not sure,” Andrew replied, staring at the monitor, watching it blink.

“Maybe we should wake him up and try again tomorrow,” she reasoned.

“Why? There’s nothing to risk. Good dream or bad we find out if it works.”

“I prefer to conduct experiments with as many controlled variables as possible.”

“Maya, it doesn’t do us any good if we know it works on normal dreams. That’s not why we made it. We’ll have to make this leap of faith down the road anyway. It will tell us more about what we need to work on if we just do this now.”

She pondered this for a moment. “Alright. But I’m coming, too.”

“You’re what? How? Why? We only have the one headband.” Andrew held up the blindfold connected by a few wires to the machine.

“It shouldn’t need to stay on you. The Dreamscape doesn’t do anything more than alter state of mind when you go to sleep. Once you use it, somebody else can take the headband off you and put it on themselves.”

“But what if something goes wrong and we all need to be woken up?”

Maya pulled out her phone, doing something Andrew couldn’t see. After a minute she turned the screen to him, showing a timer for ten minutes.

“We get in, learn what this thing can do, and get back out. I’ll learn more from this test if I’m inside it and experiencing it first hand. My research says that Douglas probably won’t understand that he’s in a dream, even if we explain it to him. So we don’t tell him anything unless we feel we have to, okay?”

Andrew nodded. One of her best traits was that she was almost ruthless in getting what she wanted by covering all her bases. He had no substantial argument with which to refute her. “I’ll go in first.”

She smiled affably. “Ready to make some history?”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he chuckled. “We don’t even know if this heap of junk works!”

“It’ll work,” she said. There was a certainty in that statement that radiated an undebatable truth. She went to the Dreamscape, reading the monitors and pulling up one of the pens and notebooks she had kept nearby. Taking some notes, she flipped up some switches, then gestured for Andrew to take a seat.

They had originally planned to use the device at night, when people would be asleep anyway, but by nature of the machine it would naturally home in on nightmares. Without careful direction of which signals the device should be scanning for, it could, in theory, place the user in some random person’s dream down the street. But using it in broad daylight would make it a lot easier to control, since there would obviously be far fewer people asleep during that time.

Andrew sat down on the chair, relaxing himself as he prepared to fall asleep and dream somebody else’s dream. What a strange concept.

“Are you ready?” Maya asked, scanning both her notes and the data on the monitor to double check that everything was configured properly.

“Yeah,” Andrew replied, giving a thumbs up.

Maya paced around the table to where he was sitting and grabbed the headband. She placed it on his head, looking into his eyes as she smiled. “See you on the other side,” she winked as she pulled it over his field of view.

“And so, friends. Colleagues. Parents. Teachers. It is with a proud heart and a wide smile that I present to you our newest class of graduates!”

The crowd erupted into a cacophony of applause, cheers and whistles. Andrew sat in one of the rows of metal chairs in the open forum, every seat occupied by an audience member waiting for their loved one to appear on stage for their degree.
The grass beneath his chair was uneven, presenting the annoying feeling of the accidental rocking chair, where only three legs could stand on the ground simultaneously. He stood and pushed his way down the aisle, people scooting their legs in as much as possible to give him room.

Andrew couldn’t place it, but there was a strange air about the place. It was outdoors, with a portable stage. A few people stood on the stage, but nobody was coming on. Nobody was introducing any graduates, nor coming on or going off stage. It made him feel a bit tense that nothing was happening, especially with the ruckus of the audience dying out.

He escaped into the main aisle, looking around him. There were a few buildings about, and the event was in broad daylight. There were balloons and bouquets of flowers, but nothing was happening. The longer it went on, the more uncomfortable it made him. Where was Douglas?

As the thought came into his head, a small boy walked on stage. He was dressed in the gown of a graduate, but it was far too big for him, dragging across the floor as he went to the center. Reaching up on his tip toes, he pulled the mic out of the stand and brought it down to his level.

Suddenly, Andrew was grabbed firmly by the shoulders. A wave of panic shot through him as it occurred to him that this was supposed to be a nightmare. He spun around, expecting to see some sort of grotesque monster that would try to eat him.
Instead, he saw Maya, smiling mischievously at his alarm. She knew exactly what she was doing. “Stop fooling around,” he chided. “We aren’t here to have fun.”

“Oh, loosen up,” she replied. “You’re just mad because I scared you.”

“I wasn’t scared. I was surprised. There’s a difference.”

She rolled her eyes, still smiling. “So, where’s Douglas?”

“Hello, everyone,” a voice stated through the speakers. The small boy on stage was talking through the microphone. “My name is Douglas Stone.”

“Oh,” Maya responded with her brow furrowed. “He’s a child. I wonder what that means about his subconscious.”

“I’m not surprised in the least,” Andrew stated, smug. She punched him in the shoulder.

The crowd was hushed, waiting for Douglas to continue. He looked as though he was about to, but he was interrupted.

A blinding light shone from behind the crowd, casting shadows in front of Andrew and Maya. It was followed by a thunderous crash, and by the time the two of them turned around, they could see an enormous mushroom cloud in the distance, barely a few miles away. The shockwave of force hurtled through the campus, sending them off their feet and throwing people out of their chairs. Having fallen to the ground, Andrew couldn’t see what happened to Douglas. Even knowing it was simply a dream didn’t help. The sheer terror of having a nuclear bomb go off close enough to see shut off his rational thought. There was something that felt real about this dream.

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