Pete was using his virtual reality device to explore a moon of Jupiter when a notification popped up on his display: “Dream Recorder is now here. Record your dreams. Limited availability. Touch here to learn more!” He moved his finger over the box and tapped.
The Dream Recorder was the most anticipated tech gadget of the year. It recorded your dreams while you slept, using a small electrode attached to your skull. Brainwaves were wirelessly sent to a special device and then analyzed to create a video segment that could be played on the dreamer’s VR unit. The playback was grainy and lacking in color, but it gave realistic depictions of dreams.
The first people to buy the Dream Recorder were those who had trouble remembering their dreams. Finally, they could see what their dreams were made of. Pete decided to buy the Dream Recorder for a different reason: he had too many dreams.
Every night, Pete had at least three dreams. After he turned 40, they became even more elaborate. Most people had dreams consisting of people they knew or places they had been to, but Pete had dreams of worlds and ideas he had never been exposed to. He tried to talk to other people about dreams, but could find no one who had his same dream pattern. Whenever he went to bed, he braced himself for what was essentially watching a new movie, with original characters and invented places. He even had a dream that seemed to predict a real-life event.
Pete was walking on the sidewalk when a beautiful young woman in a car tried to mow him down. He ran into the woods to get away from her, but her car was like a tank, tearing down trees to get at him. Pete reached a stone wall with no way to escape. He was certain he would die. Then the woman stopped the car right before he was crushed, got out, and reached her hand out to him.
Three weeks later, Pete absent-mindedly tried to cross the street without looking both ways. A woman to his right yelled “Watch out!” and pulled him back onto the sidewalk as he felt a speeding car nip against his pant leg. He looked at her and she was indeed beautiful. Startled, he didn’t even speak a word before she crossed the street and disappeared. He was distraught for the rest of the month, not because he almost died but because he didn’t make vocalizations to her.
Pete then tried to write down his dreams with a pen and notepad upon waking, but they took too long to write out, and he only clearly remembered the last dream of the bunch. The Dream Recorder was a perfect gadget for him.
On his first night with the recorder, he placed the wireless electrode on his head, leaving the receiver nearby. He went to sleep and after a few hours of continuous sleep he began his usual insomniac routine of unconsciously waking several times and trying to sleep again until his alarm would finally ring. He looked at the display on the receiver. “2 Dreams Recorded.” Excited, Pete plugged the receiver into his VR unit and hit play.
First dream. Brightly lit room. Long rectangle table. A man wearing a gold crown sitting at one end while a woman also wearing a crown on the other. People at the table wearing elaborate robes and jewelry. Careful mannerisms. A feast set on the table. “Would you like some more wine,” someone asks Pete. His goblet is filled and a toast is made.
Second dream. Country diner. Old waitress walks up to his table with a pot of steaming coffee. She begins pouring it into his mug but doesn’t stop. It starts overflowing. Pete instinctively hunches backwards to not get burned, but when the liquid falls on his legs, it’s cold. The waitress smiles at him.
The two dreams took only four minutes to play. Pete took off the VR unit and started to analyze them. Both dreams had a pouring component in them. What did that mean? This was the first time Pete was able to consider the connection between dreams he had in the same night. He wondered if the pouring signified someone giving him something that he may or may not want. He would be given a gift, perhaps. He played the dreams again, and noticed a detail he missed earlier. In the background of both dreams was a man nodding his head up and down as the pouring was taking place. Pete made a mental note to accept whatever was given to him in the upcoming weeks, even if it didn’t seem favorable at first.
Pete would usually jump into the shower after waking, but watching his dreams and then thinking about them took almost half an hour. He would be late for work. Only a week went by before he became so obsessed with analyzing his dreams after waking that he couldn’t leave the house. Within one month he lost his job, with no interest in getting another one.
Top floor of huge apartment building. Window view of a great metropolis. The loud city is too quiet. The lights in the room are flickering on and off. He looks at the peephole and sees alien figures covered in cloaks, going from room to room. He locks the door, grabs a knife, and hides behind the couch. A slight tap at his door. They insert a wand into the keyhole. A gas starts entering. Suddenly he is on his back, paralyzed. He can see, but can’t move or talk. Three aliens stand above him. They bend down over him to pick him up.
Within two years, Pete had such a vast collection of dreams that he was spending hours a week organizing them all. This was on top of the three hours a day he spent watching old dreams and analyzing them, trying to decode their meaning. He was beginning to substitute his dreams for real life.
A new version of the Dream Recorder allowed you to trade dreams with others. Every fantastical human experience was now being recorded and shared. Some dreams were free but others, particularly sex dreams that broke the laws of physics, were priced steeply. Pete bought the dream “Amsterdam on a flying mattress pre-Caliphate” for one Ameripeso. While Pete couldn’t control the bought dream, he was able to experience it as the dreamer did, evading buildings and waving at people below as he toured the city on the flying bed.
Soon came the dream engineers. They designed and programmed artificial dreams that fulfilled the needs of dreamers, though their work was generally seen as “inauthentic.” Real dreams were always prized above fake ones.
There was one particular dream which shook him the most. He watched it several times a week, trying to understand its meaning by picking apart little details. He thought this dream was the key to understanding his future.
A woman leads him through a quiet fishing village, grabbing his hand snugly. Her long hair, down to her lower back, swings back and forth. Her step is happy. She stops to say hi to the villagers. He tries to get a look at her beauty, but is unable to. She walks to the water. He says he doesn’t want to get wet. Her grip gets tighter as she pulls him into the water. He yells at her to stop but she doesn’t. Just before the water submerges him, she turns around. Her face is a skeleton, with worms and maggots crawling out of her eye sockets. He yells as she pulls him down, his lungs filling with water.
Pete wasn’t the only one getting addicted to the Dream Recorder. The heaviest users were spending more than half of their waking hours on it. Telling them that they were living their entire lives in a dream world had the same effect as telling a heroin addict that the drug was bad for them. While Pete mostly used dreams to understand himself and the future, most others used it because it was simply more enjoyable than normal life. This was especially the case when the VR units started to use body suits and olfactory simulators that blurred the line between what was real and not.
THE FIRST version of the Dream Recorder was released during a time when capitalism in the United States began to fail. Permanent unemployment hit 40%, mostly due to technological advances in robotics. Human labor was no longer needed to sustain society. In fact, people began to get in the way.
The elite were getting nervous about how to keep so many idle human beings occupied. They approached the problem using a variety of tactics: increased spying to identify potential threats to their rule, depopulation in the form of childhood “vaccines” and cultural programs that preached the innumerable benefits of sterile lifestyles like homosexuality and trassexuality, and welfare for companies that produced and distributed mind-numbing entertainment.
When the American government saw how useful the Dream Recorder was, they poured money into a front company run by a college student named David Steinberg to create the Dream Pod. Many journalists lavished praise on Steinberg with a dorm-to-riches storyline without knowing that the government was behind his success.
The Dream Pod had three major features. The first was a full sensory suite. Smells, touches, kisses, slaps, punches, and even sex could now be reliably simulated in a way that a home version of the Dream Recorder could not. The second feature of the Dream Pod was providing biological nourishment through two IV lines. One pumped a saline solution for hydration and the other a slurry of insect protein and fructose syrup that was fortified with all essential vitamins and minerals. Lastly, urine and bowel exit tubes were provided so the dreamer could excrete waste while he was dreaming.
Steinberg started to offer a day package where users would be plugged into the pod for eight hours. During that time, they could access not only the company’s entire library of archived dreams but the libraries of other users who made their dreams available on Dream Pod’s network for a small royalty fee. In spite of this massive collection, dreamers complained of boredom towards the end of their “charge.”
To solve the problem, Steinberg came up with the idea of the Dream Stay, where hotel guests at major chains could stay for free as long as their dreams could be harvested with an electrode. Within one year, Steinberg had over three million dreams powered with an algorithm that auto-played dreams for its customers depending on their biometric responses and psychological profiles. Instead of being bored at the end of an 8-hour charge, customers were now demanding weekend stays of 48 continuous hours. Steinberg obliged and created dozens of dream centers throughout America that were converted from unused factory and warehouse space.
The number of dreams in the Dream Pod collection increased logarithmically, and with that came demands for even longer charges in the Pod. The first man to stay charged for one continuous week made international news and even got to meet the President of the United States, Muhammad Rodriguez, who said that the dreamer was a hero to the country and served as a shining beacon of what America stands for. As President Rodriguez praised the Dream Pod publicly, he privately pushed Steinberg into developing infinite stays. Steinberg didn’t need to be convinced by the government—the people were demanding it themselves.
Charging money for Dream Pod access became an unsustainable model because customers tended to get addicted to the pod and not maintain consistent employment. They racked up huge invoices with Steinberg. The problem was solved through a special program where your pod charge was free if you agreed to have a government-sponsored public service dream (PSD) inserted into your dream rotation once per hour. The only catch is that you didn’t know which dream was the PSD.
A handful of anti-pod protesters argued that this was a diabolical means of brainwashing the masses, but those masses didn’t seem to care, and there was no way to prove that weird dreams where a dreamer was on his knees and begged for mercy from a uniformed police officer was actually a PSD. Free was a powerful draw, and within twenty years of the PSD program release, over 50% of the population were active customers on the plan.
Sitting in a classroom with other adults. The chairs and desks are too small. The alphabet is above the blackboard in bold type. He’s wearing a necklace, and hanging from it is a pacifier. ‘What did I tell you!’ the teacher yelled, scolding a naked adult. ‘We know best, so you must rest.’ The adult began crying, and he begged the teacher to return to his desk. ‘You know best, so I will rest,’ he said.
Pete was now in his late 60’s. He was on the quarterly pod plan, where he stayed plugged in for three months nonstop, and during that time there was no reliable way for him to tell whether he was getting a programmed dream or a genuine dream produced by his own brain. The quarterly plan required unplugging for a two week break period, and during that time Pete felt immediate pain and discomfort to any real world problem, disturbance, or even opinion that didn’t fully match his own. Even normal conversations with people became unbearable. He would use his outdated Dream Recorder for most of the days on his break until he could be plugged back in.
Dreamers like Pete could no longer live independently outside of the pod. Even if he could afford real food, his stomach couldn’t digest it without vomiting it all back up, so he manually fed himself with a bag of pod slurry. His body became emaciated and weak; he couldn’t walk up stairs without holding onto the railing. Steinberg rushed to implement the permanent hookup, not so much to make more money, but because millions of Americans were becoming incapable of living real life, and would die unless they found a way to plug in or get cheap slurry.
Pete was one of the first dreamers to be permanently hooked up. He arrived to the pod wearing pajamas. Before slipping into his new home, he was presented with a contract saying that he would never be unplugged, and when he died, he’d be cremated and used as fertilizer for the slurry crops. With the little strength he had left, Pete signed and slipped into his new home, anxious for the attendant to turn on the switch.
Thirty years after the Dream Recorder was first introduced, seventy percent of the American population were permanent dreamers. The awake were composed of the technocratic class, blue color workers who methodically demolished empty metropolises, the anti-dreamers who lived in rural areas, and the ruling elite.
A big squeeze was put on the anti-dreamers to get plugged in. Jail had been abolished in favor of the pod and new laws declared that in the case of martial law, when the country was threatened by terrorists, citizens must be plugged in for their own safety as long as the threat remained. With over 25,000 pod centers, it would have been futile to shut the system down, and even if that happened, dreamers would revolt with whatever strength they had left to turn the pod centers back on. One anti-dreamer commented how pod centers resembled server farms of the early 21st century.
Pete survived for two years in his permanent pod before his body started to give way. Sensing his imminent death, the pod played the heaven dream of him walking towards a beautiful bright light to the sound of harp music before his body was flushed into an acid vat. The pod was then cleaned and readied for a new dreamer to be plugged in.
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