By David K Scholes
I couldn’t recall ever having so many bad dreams.
I would wake up and find myself vividly remembering at least three nightmares each night. Even though I tried desperately to forget them. They had begun to haunt my days.
They were all duly recorded on my dream recorder. I had bought the contraption a while back because it was a new fad. To tap into a dream that you might have liked but couldn’t quite recall and enjoy it in full later. Either as a dream or a full fledged 3D video. Now though it was clearly redundant. There was nothing on it that wasn’t already seared into my mind. I left it turned on though. Just in case the dream recordings could help with any expert analysis of my problem.
The dreams were getting so bad that I had started to delay going to bed or going back to sleep if I woke up.
Desperate I started consulting dream therapists and dreamologists though the breakthrough came when I called in a dream recorder technician.
“Some of your more vivid dreams have been downloaded to the internet,” he said “it’s a common enough problem that we call, unsurprisingly, dream theft.”
“Ohh!” I responded. I’d heard of dream theft but was not exactly sure how that helped me.
“That’s not the real problem here though,” the technician continued “dream theft is pretty crude but what has also happened here is much more unusual. Much more sophisticated. Someone has been inputting dreams remotely to your recorder and then via the recorder you’ve been experiencing those dreams. In fact all of the very worst nightmares on this dream recorder have been input remotely. The weird alien landscapes, the otherwise unimaginable alternate realities, the hand to hand fighting in fantastic oversize alien urban landscapes. To mention a few."
“What can I do about it,” I asked.
“Simple,” the technician replied. “Stop using the dream recorder. Disconnect it. Better still get rid of it completely.”
I did turn the dream recorder off but something in me couldn’t quite throw it out. At least not yet.
The solution worked. At least for a while.
Then the dreams or I should say nightmares started again. At least I was remembering them vividly on awakening. I didn’t recall turning the dream recorder on but I saw that it was on and assumed it must have been me that did it accidentally. After all – I lived alone – who else could have done that?
The first night the dreams returned was not so bad and out of curiosity I left the dream recorder on for a few days. It got worse each day from there. Strangely the nightmares started to focus almost exclusively on combat scenarios. A lot of different mostly alien scenarios. Different worlds maybe even different dimensions and realities. They were weird enough to be that.
I was waking up fully remembering four or five nightmares each night. Then when I checked the dream recorder there were some other nightmares that I had not remembered. Was this remote input to my dream recorder that hadn’t reached my brain? I wondered or had I also dreamt these nightmares as well and not remembered them?
For hours on end during the day I found myself helplessly re-playing the nightmares that I could not remember. This second time around was worse than the first.
Though none of the nightmares broke me. I always managed came out on top by the end of the nightmare.
In the end I summoned the will to physically smash the dream recorder to smithereens before throwing it away in the trash.
That, I was sure, would be the end of that. Though there was a small part of me disappointed that I hadn’t gotten to the bottom of the matter.
It was quite some weeks later, just when I was starting to sleep a bit better, that I received the communication. It had come via a quaint medium that I had thought no longer existed. On a piece of paper inside another piece of paper physically delivered to my home. I believe they once used to be called letters.
It was both congratulations at my having passed rigorous testing and also an invitation to discuss possible future employment. From an organisation with the somewhat vague name of: Off World Defence Recruiting.
I had heard of the organisation in my final days as an Earth special forces soldier while on secondment to the Drorne military. Training their then new incubated soldier units.
My first thoughts were to rip the “letter” up and throw it away but I didn’t do that.
I was just curious enough to go and talk to these people. Maybe even give them a piece of my mind about the nightmares they imposed on me.
It occurred to me that maybe this was how they got people like myself back into combat again. Highly experienced operatives not that long retired. By piquing their curiosity while testing to see if they still had the nerve for off world combat.
Any way what could I lose from just going to talk to them?
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The author has written six collections of sci-fi short stories and two sci-fi novellas (all on Amazon). He has been a regular contributor to both the Antipodean SF and the Beam Me Up Pod Cast sci-fi sites and has also been published on a variety of other sci-fi sites. He is currently working on a new anthology of short sci-fi stories and also a “Human Hunter” series for the Beam Me Up Pod Cast site.