(The final draft of this is posted here.)
I close my eyes and soon appear on the other side as my projected self. This is just a test run; I need to see if my new DreamCatcher can produce a satisfactory result.
Hovering hundreds of feet above a vast and desolate ocean, I summon two gigantic monsters. Two reptilian bipedal beasts—magnitudes larger than any creature to ever roam the Earth—slowly rise from the sea. Foamy tidal waves ripple outward as their emergence displaces water. The top halves now above the surface, the monsters begin fighting. Each blow from their massive arms sends seismic waves that bend space. I pull the boundaries of the sea up around us until we are in a giant air pocket within a sphere of water. The space between the two monsters gets more corrupted with each exchange of attacks until a pitch black hole appears amidst the distorted space. The walls of water rapidly condense inwards, disintegrating the monsters and propelling me into the hole.
I wake up and pull the cord from the Cerebral Interface (CI) port on the back of my head. Excitedly, I hurry over to the DreamCatcher and output it to my wall monitor. A holographic display appears in front of me, allowing control of the “camera”. The video starts playing and it appears exactly as it did in my head. I briefly fiddle with the camera angles then save the result.
“Everyone’s gonna fucking love this,” I say with a smirk.
I upload it to oTube (the Omnis video-sharing service) with the title “Sea battle dream” and get back in bed for some real sleep.
I awaken the following morning, greeted by the pale light of the sun’s rays penetrating the smoggy sky. I roll over and notice that the yellow indicator on my bedside dock is flashing.
I wonder how many people saw my video.
Tapping the only button on the plastic device, the display is projected in front of me.
“Analytics for last oTube upload,” I command.
Astonished, I see that my video already has 40,000 views and over a thousand people are watching it at this moment. There’s no way this just happened organically.
“Show me referral data.”
The data shows that there was a huge spike in views 2 hours ago, with almost all of them originating from a link posted on oNiT (Omnis’s aggregator site for user-generated links and content). The post title: “Impossible DreamCatcher video”. People in the comments section are baffled. Many are skeptical of the true origin of the video, with some thinking that it would turn out to be a surprise marketing campaign for a movie. Amused, I press the button again and the display disappears.
I walk a few feet to the other side of my micro-apartment and take a bottle of NutriLent from the box. Drinking the dense beverage, I ponder the state of humanity and wonder how my existence even matters. Since society replaced almost all jobs with automation, scarcity has become a thing of the past. The government provides all of the jobless with a fixed income, housing, and NutriLent (an ambiguously formulated total meal replacement). I was born shortly after this plan came into place and often wonder why humans continue this charade, as life without purpose seems like a waste of time.
I sit in my chair intending to play some video games, but when I project the computer’s display to my monitor, I notice that I got a message from someone with a gibberish username. It says:
Vis, I’ve been watching you. I know about your unique skill, and I know that you are tired of this world. If you want to get answers, meet me at the attached coordinates at 1PM.
How does this person know my name!? How are they “watching” me? I briefly try to convince myself that this is just some prank, but then I look up the coordinates and see that they point to the hyperloop station right around the corner from my building.
It’s 12:45. Hesitantly, I get dressed and leave.
I exit the door of my building and I’m greeted by the typical bleak cityscape that has enveloped me my whole life. Dwarfed by the surrounding skyscrapers that house the city’s inhabitants, I feel more like a useless bug than ever. Still, I struggle to contain my nervous excitement for the encounter ahead. I walk down the block and spot the hyperloop station. The electronic screen above it reassures passersby that Omnis has your back. I go into the station.
Entering the familiar building, I find myself surrounded by crowds of people and curved gray walls. A dozen or so pods are at the other end of the room, ready to zoom across the city at supersonic speeds. I barely stand there for ten seconds before I feel a hand tap my shoulder. I turn around, ready for anything. It’s a lady only a few years older than me, with flowing black hair and piercing eyes with differently colored irises; one green and one blue.
“We can’t talk safely here, so I need you to plug this communicator into your CI port,” she says.
“What!? I don’t even know you.”
“Yes, but I know you,” she replies, “and if you want to be more than just another digital zombie, you need to do this.” She brandishes a tiny dongle.
I reluctantly cooperate and plug it in to the port, where it hides behind my hair.
“My name is Sanja, by the way.”
I’m visibly startled as I heard that inside of my head.
“We can communicate telepathically through an encrypted channel now,” Sanja explains. “Just talk to me like you normally would, just without using your mouth,” she says with a smirk eerily similar to my own.
“Will do,” I respond. “Now can you explain what’s going on?”
She starts walking towards the pods and I follow.
“So, Vis, you can control your dreams?”
“Yeah, how did you know?” I respond.
“I’m an Omnis intelligence agent. I was given orders to oversee you several months ago when you posted on oNiT about your dreams. What you experience is referred to as ‘lucid dreaming’. During REM sleep, you’re able to control everything in your dreams. This has always been a rare trait; however, almost no one born since universal automation is able to do it.”
“Why?” I ask.
Sanja steps into the leftmost pod and I follow. We sit down at the closet two seats.
“Because humanity is being coddled into a primitive state. The struggle used to be an integral part of the human experience; it was only through pain and hardship that people learned to channel their creativity and lead meaningful lives,” she explains. “The disappearance of lucid dreaming is just a byproduct of the atrophy of our brains. This whole thing was Omnis’s plan all along; a sedated populace is the perfect situation for them to assume total control.”
The pod lurches forward. The g-force’s effect on my body combined with this shocking revelation makes me feel dizzy. Our conversation pauses for a few moments.
“So why did you contact me?” I hesitantly resume.
“I guess you could say I’m a double agent,” she says. “I’ve been collecting intel from inside Omnis with the hope that I could figure out how to save mankind. If everything continues this way, creativity and critical thinking will completely die out. I could sense your discontent since I started monitoring you.”
“I’m not completely sure how to fix all of this,” Sanja continued, “but I know that lucid dreaming has something to do with it since Omnis puts such a high priority on monitoring anyone who experiences it.”
The pod comes to a stop. We get out of our seats and exit into the station. It looks identical to the last one, but everything just seems different since Sanja told me the truth. How could Omnis knowingly destroy mankind’s reason to exist? How could I have been this blind? I’m so impassioned that I can’t help but blurt out loud. “I’ll help!”
My face gets red and Sanja laughs before she too responds audibly.
“Then let’s go to my place. We have a lot of work to do.”