Adrian was running again. From both sides of the path he could feel the heat of burning rock, and with each step he could see that he was just out of reach of the hands that tried to grab at his feet. If he slowed down or lost his footing then they would have him. Fear gripped his heart with every footfall as he dared not to look behind him in order to see what was coming. And then it happened. Adrian tripped and fell. He screamed as unseen hands clamped around his legs and began to pull him down, and as he looked up through blurred vision caused by heat and sweat he could just make out someone walking towards him, and with one final scream, Adrian woke up.
For as long a he could remember Adrian had been suffering from bad dreams. They ranged from mildly unpleasant to violent nightmares and it was a result of these nocturnal torturing that he now found himself sitting in the waiting room of the offices of ‘Sweet Dreams Inc’ with a clipboard in one hand a pen in the other. ‘Pleasant Dreams’ was the heading of the questionnaire he was now filling in before his consultation with the president of Sweet Dreams Inc, Ms. Alicia D’Ville, and pleasant dreams was all that he longed for. The price had been a bit of a put off at the start to be honest, but he had to do something to rid himself of this constant torture. He had become painfully thin having been wracked by the demons that visited his unconscious mind night after night, and been unable to hold down a job for the past five years as he never seemed to have the energy to put a real effort into his work – he was just so tired all the time. The questionnaire was long but simple enough and only took fifteen minutes to finish, and having completed it he took it over to the young woman at reception. She was sleek, sexy and judging by the size of her mainframe housings, very man made. It was as if someone was pointing out the very obvious male joke of where intelligent women supposedly kept their brains – from his field of view Adrian figured that she must have been a genius.
‘Thank you Mr. Moorehouse, please take a seat and Ms D’Ville will be with you shortly’ she smiled a digital smile, one that had been calculated to be warm, inviting and comforting at the same time of which Adrian returned as he took his seat once more. He picked up one of the promotional magazines that had been left on the small table in front of him and read all about the groundbreaking technology that Sweet Dreams Inc had developed to ensure that their clients get the best nights sleep possible and rid them of their nightmares – forever. Adrian was so lost in his thoughts of a possible life without the nightmares that he didn’t hear the receptionist walk over to him and started slightly at her voice.
‘If you are ready Mr. Moorehouse, Ms. D’Ville will see you now’
‘Oh, Thank you Miss -?’
‘You may call me Alexis Mr. Moorehouse’
‘Thank you Alexis’
As he was being escorted to the main office of the infamous Ms D’Ville Adrian felt the need to engage in conversation with the android.
‘So tell me Alexis, do machines dream?’
‘Only of electric sheep sir’ replied Alexis as she carried on leading the way without turning to face Adrian. He got the distinct feeling that he was being mocked in some way. He smiled to himself.
‘Was that a joke?’ he said and added a small laugh at the end just to convey an air of light heartiness. He felt awkward in her presence – he knew she wasn’t real, but it didn’t seem to matter. Alexis stopped at the main door that led to Ms D’Villes office and turned to Adrian and opened the door for him.
‘I was not programmed with a sense of humour that I am aware of sir’ she said, and winked at him as he went in. ‘Good luck’ she added.
‘Mr. Moorehouse – or may I call you Adrian?’ came the greeting from Ms Alicia D’Ville, CEO of Sweet Dreams Inc and creator of the revolutionary new treatment for dream anxiety disorder. She stood from behind her desk and walked across the room with her hand held out in order to shake his. Adrian looked back at the retreating Alexis and then back to Ms D’Ville.
‘I know’ she said at his questioning look ‘please excuse my narcissism – but I find I can bounce ideas around better if I have a like mind to do so, and what better like mind than your own, don’t you agree?’
‘I guess’ said Adrian weakly’
‘Please, please come in and sit down. Can I get you a drink? Tea, Coffee, something stronger maybe? ‘
Adrian was still reeling a little at the apparent need of Ms D’Ville to clone herself anamatronically so to speak that he declined the offer of refreshments, although he could have really used a stiff drink about now. Ms D’Ville pulled her chair from behind her desk and sat opposite Adrian, and as she adjusted herself to a more comfortable position he took the time to appraise her somewhat. She was short and a little plump. Not overweight but heavier than what you would expect from most women in power these days. The media usually sets the guidelines for the physical structure of most businesswomen as being tall, fit people who habitually seem to power dress in order to compete in a predominantly male dominated world. Ms D’Ville seemed to conform to no such stereotype. Her red curly hair stopped just past her shoulders and was complemented by bright green eyes that shone out as if backlit from within her skull. Around her waist was a red silk-like corset that endeavoured to create a waist that she did not normally have whilst pushing up two other part that she most definitely did have, with the previously suggested cleavage demanding the attention of a terrible fall for all those that dared to come too close. The Corset strained at creaked with every movement Ms D’Ville made as it struggled to contain the very things that it had been designed to show off. Her skirt was another story, and a very short one at that. She crossed her legs thus creating a whole new challenge for the alleged skirt.
‘Now’ she smiled ‘how can I help you today?’ Adrian composed himself.
‘I have been plagued by bad dreams for as long as I can remember. Some of them are just the usual, you know, falling and the like, but more often than not they are full-blown nightmares’
‘You poor thing’ said Ms D’Ville as she tilted her head to one side in sympathy, and reaching forward she placed her hand on his knee. ‘Please continue’ she said with a smile. Adrian endeavoured to continue whilst all the time having Ms. D’Villes comforting hand strongly in the forefront of his mind.
‘I am getting to the stage where I am afraid to sleep. It is as if something is in here with me’ he tapped the side of his head as if to add illustration to his last comment. Ms. D’Ville removed her hand and reached over to her desk picking up a pen and a notepad. ‘Do you mind if I take notes? She asked ‘Feel free’ ‘I’m old school’ she said and held up the pen as if producing evidence for her defence ‘contrary to you know who’ she smiled whilst gesturing her head towards the door and the outer office that contained her cybernetic doppelgänger. Adrian smiled back as he felt himself warming to this strangely over the top woman.
‘So, the ‘someone else’ in your dreams with you? Do you think it is someone you may know?’ Adrian thought about this
‘Well now you mention it she does seem familiar’ ‘She?’
‘Actually – yes, it does seem to be a feeling of a woman’
‘Could you tell me what she looks like?’
‘No, as I said, it is more of feeling rather than an actual person. Almost’ he added as a re-think ‘as if she is watching what is happening rather than taking part, does that make sense?’ Ms. D’Ville stood up and repositioned herself on the edge of her desk. She looked deep in thought for a while as if trying to put pieces of a puzzle together. She turned to Adrian with a concerned look on her face.
‘Is everything okay?’ he asked
‘I have heard this before’ she said ‘the feeling of a person looking in at your dreams’
Adrian raised his eyebrows ‘you have? Is that good’
‘I am sorry to say that it’s not. The nightmares that seem to have an outside viewer are known as intrusive dreams’
‘I see’ said Adrian – who didn’t ‘and is that bad?’
Ms D’Ville removed herself from the corner of her desk and adjusted the skirt that did not deserve the name. ‘Well’ she said ‘the treatment we offer is designed to suppress the nightmare and to create an air of calm so that our clients can get a good nights sleep. We install a false day with memories designed to fool the brain into believing that it has had a great day which in turn creates endorphins leading to’ she gestured towards the logo that adored the wall behind her desk ‘Sweet Dreams’
Adrian looked at the logo and then back to Ms D’Ville. She really was very captivating he thought. She had a way, almost of jangling your senses like the sound of breaking glass. Shocking, but pleasing at the same time. ‘I am guessing by the tone of your voice that this is something that will not work with someone who has the ‘Intrusive Dreams’ that you mentioned’
‘I am afraid not. You see the false memory is always overwritten by this third person and the only way we can counteract this it is to have a second memory implanted which contradicts the first’ Adrian sat for a while in silence ‘So you can’t help me’ he said softly. It was a statement rather than a question. Alicia D’Ville walked behind Adrian and put her hands on his shoulders.
‘Mr. Moorehouse, I can indeed help you, but you have to agree to something rather unusual’ Adrian turned in his chair in order to face her. ‘Unusual in what way?’ he asked Ms D’Ville walked over to the door and after turning the lock made her way back to her desk. She reached underneath one of the drawers and felt for a small indentation by the lock. When she found it she pressed until she heard a faint click. A small panel opened up on the surface of the desk from which a blue box was pushed up from within. The box was removed and handed to Adrian. He looked up at Ms D’Ville who in turn gestured to the box. ‘Open it’ she said Adrian opened the box and saw inside a small glass tube of blue liquid.
‘It’s a little ‘Alice in Wonderland’ I know’ she smiled Adrian looked back at her with confusion on his face.
‘Eat me, Drink me? – only this time it is only drink me’
‘What does it do?’ Ms D’Ville went back to sitting on the edge of her desk and made herself comfortable.
‘Well’ she said ‘Where as, normally, we can introduce a false day into you mind, this little miracle removes the need for you to dream at all’ Adrian smiled and offered the drink back to Alicia.
‘I have had dream suppressants before and I am afraid that they do not work on me. For some reason the nightmares just break through’
Alicia put her hand up. ‘It’s not a suppressant Mr. Moorehouse; it is much, much more. It removes your need to sleep. You see we all need sleep in order for us to dream. This, as you know, lets us vent whatever stresses and strains that the day and indeed life throws at us. For you this is proving to be quite harmful as the day has no say on your dream as the intrusiveness proves’
Adrian looked closer at the liquid ‘so what you are saying is that, if I drink this I will never go to sleep again’ In response to Ms D’Villes eyebrows raising Adrian added, ‘so how do I get the rest I need?’ ‘You just have to rest – sit down and watch a movie, read a book, whatever you do to relax and lets face it your current REM state is not causing you to get any rest at all’
‘That’s true, I seem to wake up a lot more tired than when I went to bed’
‘Your body will use this time to get back the energy it needs. You may feel the need to eat more and you definitely need to keep yourself hydrated, but other than that there are no side effects that we know of. You will never dream again’ Adrian took a little time to think about and to examine the liquid again before he made his decision. ‘How much?’ he asked
‘Well’, said Ms D’Ville swinging herself down from her desk, ‘that’s the unusual thing I was talking about. You see; you will be the first to take it. We have done all the trials but we have never tested it on humans’
‘So I will be a guinea pig?’
‘Yep. So on that basis it’s a freebee. We will monitor you for the first year and after that it can be deemed safe for others who have your unique condition, so to speak’ Adrian smiled and went to open the stopper of the glass tube only to be stopped by Ms D’Ville placing her hand over the top.
‘First things first. I will have to get you to sign this small waver, you know just to say that if there are unforeseen side effects due to this being a trial and all, then you cannot sue us – or me come to think of it. It forms part of the basic contract that will state that you will never dream or sleep again’ Adrian stared at her for a few seconds as if lost in his own world. ‘I would like to say that I will sleep on it’ he said after a while ‘but quite frankly I don’t think I ever want to sleep again. Where do I sign?’
Adrian was running again. From both sides of the path he could feel the heat of burning rock and with each step he could see that he was just out of reach of the hands that tried to grab at his feet. If he slowed down or lost his footing then they would have him. Fear gripped his heart with every footfall as he dared not to look behind him in order to see what was coming. And then it happened. Adrian tripped and fell. He screamed as unseen hands clamped around his legs and began to pull him down and as he looked up through blurred vision caused by heat and sweat he could just make out someone walking towards him, and with a scream Adrian found that he could not wake up. The figure got closer and after a while came into focus. He gripped the ground, digging his fingers into the pathway in an attempt to keep the unseen hands from pulling him down. He strained to look up past the stiletto-clad feet in front of him and up into the face of the smiling Ms Alicia D’Ville. ‘You lied to me’ he screamed ‘I signed a contract that said I would never sleep again. I drank the potion, why can’t I wake up?’ As tears of frustration and pain ran down his cheeks, and as his fingers bleed and frayed against the attempts of his captors Ms D’Ville bent at the knees in order to get closer to him and to whisper in his ear. Her breath was sweet but it had the stench of death. ‘You are awake my lovely’ she purred, ‘this was never the dream’