Editorial note ~ There is official art work being done for the dream tower that will replace this so I borrowed this from a free distribution site. Author not known.
The Young Dream Vigilante
The dream was different this time. He could feel it immediately. It was sharper, more in focus somehow. That made sense this was the first cocktail Max had made since understanding the true base DNA code. Before he went too deeply into the real dream space, not the half way space he used during the day, he logged the time with Chameleon, always a reminder that the outside world passed much faster than it did in the dreaming void, 12:45am. He was becoming more tuned to the idea there must be others out here doing the same thing, on this world or others. He couldn’t be the only person with this ability and it was clear from the dreams he peered into from outside that people had many different levels of actual dreaming structure.
Jay’s dreams always started in the same place, His tower built for him, by him, to store information and allow him entry to wherever he wanted to go in what was becoming a limitless land of possibilities. He had built the tower over many years, always adding to it and modifying it, it was more of a home to him than anywhere else in the world. When he was very young and in hospital, scared and alone he had retreated here and built at first a simple Memory tower to try to remember what was happening to him.
He constructed the tower from very old rock and when looked at from afar it resembled a very old fortress. It was always raining in most of the spaces as the sound of rain had always soothed Jay, and he liked the rain itself. When his dreams were at their worst as a child he had insisted on having heavy rain and thunder soundtracks played in his bedroom.
Usually from here he took the long walk to the top, stopping in the rainforest or the snowy mountain hidden behind the wooden doors when he wanted. He had created whole worlds that were accessible through doorways on either side of the pathway. But there would be no time for playing today.
Through a self-imposed rule, he stood in the lobby of the tower, which he called the room of remembrance. It was a circular enclosure that spanned the pathway so he had to pass through it, and the room of remembrance was the only part he could access while awake. He glanced around at the pillars. It was modeled on a library he’d spent time at as a child, which itself had been designed to resemble Greek architecture. The atmosphere was of cool, clean colors and lines, very different from the rest of the general tower spaces. This is the room where he would assign a Dream Avatar. His regular avatar resembled him physically and wore a long, worn waxed weather cape with an attached hood he pulled up over his head.
It was in this room where he set icons for himself for things that he needed to remember, color-coded depending on the importance of the issue. The items jostled for his attention, pastel oval shapes floating in front of him in order of importance, with red ones in front. He flicked through them, assigned a red code to the invitation to the Unity event and the request from his parents, and ignored the others, which were unimportant now. The next time he was awake, he would need only to look down at his arm for the imaginary red wristbands in his mind’s eye that represented each item. Trial and error had taught him that he could access this room while awake, and use the armband method to make notes for his sleeping self too during the day.
He pressed on along the gently sloping hallway, eager to get to the summit. To the right, there was an endless forest behind a gilt door, he had created it with trees over half a mile high, soaring up majestically to create a vast green canopy above. Sun filtered through to a perfect amount, and many streams crisscrossed the soft leafy floor producing just the right amount of background water noise. If he wanted, he would add birds and bird song. At the end of the hallway leading up he came to a landing where four archways stood. The archways led off to different wings; Memory, Emotion, Desire, and Imagination stood open in a square around him, each wing had many depths, but today he moved toward a thin stone stairway in the middle of the square that rose vertically in a tight spiral. The summit was his destination tonight, and he hustled up the stairs, taking them two at a time, then got impatient and visualized the summit arriving immediately.
The plateau was the dream playground, where he would lie on the stone bed and raise his energy form up into the influx of subconscious. Back down in the memory wing, he kept what he thought of as the DNA Mod room, filed with notes and he would return to that room later tonight, but first he had to test out Max’s latest modification.
He stood at the summit. At a younger age Jay hadn’t understood his obsession with dreaming, he didn’t even realize until he noticed no one else was talking about dreaming the way he did that is wasn’t common. The fact that The Nest and ISEC had hidden his own DNA from him still blew his mind. But he knew for sure if Max’s mods worked now they had his real DNA template he could locate the people who knew answers, and go hunting.
It had taken some getting used to, over the years, the idea that he could consciously move around in the dream world that most people experienced without any awareness. Some of the doctors had called what he did “lucid dreaming,” which was accurate to the extent that he had trained himself to be alert during his dreams to avoid nightmares, but the term barely encompassed how much control he had learned to take.
He lay down on the stone bed, the single item he had created on this plateau, and calmed his breathing and stated to raise his energy state up into the influx layer. He noticed a small black bird fluttering off to one side of his peripheral vision, and then his elevation took him too high to track it. This was where the concentration started, and he knew that back on the bed in Kate’s POD, his physical body would be starting to show signs of exertion. Once he was in the upper stream and he was stable, he opened his mind and started to search for some structure somewhere, something that indicated someone was in a real dream, he focused on Marcus, he had been spying on for many years watching the dreams of his father’s boss slip past him in endless remorse. But with the news from Max he was going for answers. This would be the real test, could he find answers for Abby at last. He recognised and located Marcus who seemed to be in a real dream not a loop, maybe he was napping. Peoples dream signatures seems different tonight, richer in some ways. Like he could tell more about the situation of the dream instinctively. He realized this because this was a live dream not a loop and he wouldn’t have known immediately before tonight. At first, he could make out nothing, then he realised it was very dark, but he could see things moving. He pushed in closer, to the point where he would always get rejected if he tried to enter the scene. The vision beyond the swirl cleared a little and Jay seemed to be staring into a cave. All the loop dreams of Marcus he had ever witnessed were of him doing bad things in his working life, not the mastermind by any means, but when his superiors called him to run an errand to deliver sensitive information that could blow up the Nest’s image or “Make sure people didn’t get home safely tonight”, Marcus was always the middle man, the firewall between the corruption and the low lives, the plausible deniability. Jay always sense that Marcus knew he was being played and above all else resented this. Jay could see lots of movement now but couldn’t figure out what it was and so with a deep breath and wincing be pushed into the swirl that marked the boundary of Marcus’s personal space. At first, he thought he had been expelled as there was chaos in front of him and all around but the familiar feeling of the dream void ripping at his concentration never came. He gingerly opened his eyes and was rewarded with a terrifying vision of thousands of black wings flapping all around him. He screamed and reached behind himself in panic but found only emptiness and he fell, expecting to smack his head on the ground but his stomach lurched telling him he was in free fall. He opened his eyes, relieved for a nano second that he had escaped the Hitchcock drama but panic returned immediately as he realised he was skimming down in free fall next to a cliff or rock face and in about thirty seconds a shimmering hard rock surface was going to be his end. He closed his eyes bracing for impact, wishing for Marcus to wake up. He had no idea what death in someone else’s dream would do to you, but he knew how bad if felt in your own dreams, but death or impact never came, just a voice.
“How did you get in here?” Sullen and deep but not angry. Jay opened his eyes, to find a Marcus sitting on the stone ground that would have meant his certain death had he been allowed to smash into it. Marcus had managed to suspend him in thin air just a few feet from the surface. It was his dream, he guessed. Marcus’s dream ability was clearly strong and he found himself finally feeling some relief that others could do what he did too, but this was different. Marcus was in control in ways but not in other ways, it seemed halfway towards what Jay could do.
“It’s a long story.” Jay began, not even sure if he was going to be able to speak.
“I have some time, and as far as I know, not mine, your father’s or anyone’s black box recorder can record dreams yet.” As Marcus spoke Jay tried to turn to stand.
“Where are we?” Jay asked.
“This place?” He said looking around uninterestedly. “Some place I’ve been coming to since I was a kid. I sort of made it but I am not sure how.” He made a gesture with his hand and Jay spun in the air and unceremoniously dropped to the floor. The actual pain he felt surprised him.
“You can control your dreams too?” Jay asked.
“Too many questions.” Marcus snarled this time, annoyed. Jay knew from experience that dreams we’re very personal things, if someone had just turned up in his tower unannounced he would be furious, he decided to tread carefully.
“My dream, and you’re the gate crasher. I’ve seen you hovering around outside my dreams for years. What’s changed now, why the intrusion?”
“Ok, well good point really. I’ve been trying to figure out for many years what happened to Abby’s parents and I figured you may know. So, I was trying to look in your dreams.” He felt anything other than being honest now seemed pointless really.
“Ahh, Pretty Abby.” He said sneering at Jay in an inappropriate
way and Jay went to protest.
“Don’t worry. Your sordid little secret is safe with me. Despite what you see in my dreams sometimes I am not a bad person Jay.” He waved his hands and the scene cleared, what appeared before him made Jay’s heart freeze although this time in anticipation. Before him stood a man with the white drone. It was one of the men and the one of the drones from the accident scene and Abby was with them, asleep on the sofa. Marcus was sitting behind a desk, so he assumed this was Marcus’s office.
“You know them? What happened?” Jay asked feeling a mix of anger, confusion and distrust all at the same time. But before Marcus could speak, the whole scene shimmered, wobbled and popped, something must have disturbed Marcus as Jay was left floating in the influx layer but still in control.
Jay was elated that the mods had finally worked and all their hard work had paid off, but he wanted more and felt anger that Marcus had disappeared. He steeled his emotions and tried to calm himself. Tonight, all the hard work had paid off, Jay’s mind was racing. His DNA had been hidden, they had proved that now, and in doing so proved AIs lie. Whoever it was that did not want him to know about the fault Max had found in his DNA had been keeping secrets for a very long time. Someone else, somehow had gone to great lengths to bury the missing DNA codes in another dream, a loop planted there by someone. What was so extraordinary was the lengths the NEST & ISEC had gone to hide it, right back to killing Abby’s father just to ensure no one found out about the instabilities in early fusion hoppers. Tonight’s attack, Jay reasoned, would have happened eventually. Max, digging around and getting so close, set off not just sleeping bots, but had alerted the NEST directly and they had come running, hard. He was struggling to come to terms with many things right now, but one major one was how deep the AI deception of infallible honesty went, and back to the question of Chameleon. The white drone was real and in Marcus’s office and as Jay had suspected all along, in the centre of all of it was Marcus himself. Yet on who’s side was yet to be clear.
His mind found his tower and he made his way toward it, visualizing the stone bed, happy with how easy this was. Just before he felt the normal familiar pull toward his tower, something froze in his mind. His tower was gone.
Distantly he could feel his physical heart begin to hammer, but he couldn’t make his mind go back to his body. Trapped, he tried not to panic.
Alone in the void, surrounded by blackness he twisted around, trying to see where he was. Even the dreams had disappeared. Wherever he was, he had never been here before and he felt very alone. He opened his mind to the void, but nothing came. Just when he was sure his heart was going to explode, a thin light in the rough shape of a door appeared next to him, and a man stepped through. He mouthed a word that looked like “Belkin.”
That was when he woke up with his face stinging. Jay was sitting up in bed, and Abby was standing next to it, shaking her hand, she had slapped him hard.
“What the hell was going on in there?” she said. “I woke up because you were grabbing at me.
He opened his arms and she came to him. Her hair smelled of strawberries and her body was warm from sleep. Blinking and rubbing his eyes with his free hand, he made sure that he was awake. “I’m the one who’s sorry,” he said. Was Max’s modification to blame, or had his dream been interfered with somehow?
“Did I hurt you?” he asked.
“No,” she said, her voice muffled. “What happened, Jay?”
“I, well, I never, I mean, not since I built the first version of my tower,” he said. “Wait, let me explain.” He took a breath. From above he heard a sound, and he told himself that it was just someone in the building flushing a toilet. He had unlocked something thrilling & powerful, something primal.
“I always come back through the tower at the end of a dream,” he said.
She nodded, her head resting on his chest. “I know.”
“Well, this was different, I was trapped in there. If you hadn’t brought me back by slapping me, I am convinced I would still be in there. There was a man, trying to tell me his name and not just to be polite. Belkin I think it was.” He kissed the top of her head, grateful that his face was stinging. It was a long while before she stirred.
“I’ll get you some water,” she said, and crawled out from his arms. He couldn’t tell if she was upset with him, or if she was upset for him. He couldn’t tell her about Marcus, the deception of how far that had gone was too deep to bring out right now. Especially with no answers.
“Thanks.” he said, and cradled his head in his hands, checking the time it was 4am, he had no idea how that amount of time had passed. It seemed like thirty minutes in the void.
From the kitchen came the creak of a cabinet door, and then the hiss of running water.
Abby came back holding a plastic cup and offered it to him. He gulped down the water and closed his eyes as his heart rate slowed.
Jay chewed on the lip of the glass while staring at the blank wall. Since he was a kid, his mind had felt like a broken jigsaw puzzle. He could always see the beautiful picture and the potential it had but try as he might the pieces just didn’t fit together. Now he was starting to realize that some of the pieces had been missing and the picture was starting to form.