Not like the dream in Liminal Hour, Day 7, Month 13, New Lunar Year 431, in which a parade of Auditory Micro-Minders chirped the condensed itinerary for Pre-Work Hour to the tune of Fleckdot-33a-ks7 Doesn’t Quit for Uni-Programmed Alta-Womyn.
In this dream, Angyla-142-9nu stands by the water as the non-san-cleansed wind sweeps her hair into her face. She smiles, her hand moving to her forehead to brush the hair away.
On the fifth day of only this dream, my mood indicators are all a deep violet. Salisa, my modi-partner, asks me what is wrong.
“It’s this dream I’ve been having,” I say, and I tell her.
“I’m sorry,” she says, putting her hand on mine. She gives me her compassionate face. This usually makes me feel better.
“Would you like me to give you another dream?” she asks.
In the dream I am given ten neuro-graphic puzzles, each more challenging than the last. I solve them without pausing, and several thousand modis applaud me.
I wake up beside Salisa, and she gives me her pleased face. “Good morning, Altoni,” she says. “I’m glad you dreamed. It’s going to be a pleasurable day.”
However, midway through Late Work Hour I stop all Work programming and return to Rest. By then my mood indicators are blue turning violet. Salisa enters the room and gives me her concerned face. “I’m sorry your Work wasn’t pleasurable,” she says. “Tomorrow’s Work itinerary will be adjusted more to your liking. May I help you refresh before Late Meal?”
After Late Meal Hour my mood indicators are all bright green, except one that’s still lingering blue. I listen to some Pre-Liminal Tunes and turn down early.
In the dream Angyla-142-9nu stands by the water, the wind sweeping her hair. There is something about her smile when she raises her hand. It puzzles me, and I wake.
Salisa asks about my dream. I tell her about Angyla and the smile. She gives me her compassionate face. “I’m sorry your dream was not pleasurable,” she says. “Would you like me to give you another?”
“No,” I say. “It’s fine.”
“This dream was to your liking?”
“No. Or maybe it was, I don’t know. There’s something about it I can’t figure out.”
When I return, Salisa gives me her pleased face. “I have made adjustments,” she says. “Tonight’s dream will be more to your liking.”
The dream has the hallmarks of Salisa’s best work. Angyla-142-9nu stands by the water, but this time the water is a pool in which newly hatched Orga-Freshlings swim in concentric circles while singing the Six Pleasure Principles to the tune of Sensi-Modis Are 97% Effective at Keeping Me in the Reds. There is no wind, but Fresh Bursts permeate the san-cleansed air. Angyla smiles at me, a wide smile that reveals two rows of symmetrical white teeth. Then she laughs, and immediately the Orga-Freshlings laugh with her. I laugh as well.
I wake up laughing, and Salisa is laughing too. “I’m glad you enjoyed your dream,” she says. She puts her hand on mine.
The next day I turn off Modi Support, so when I return from Work Salisa isn’t there. I eat Late Meal alone. Although I’m not tired, I enter Liminal two hours early.
I’m ready to dream. I want to.
Angyla-142-9nu stands by the water. The non-san-cleansed wind, its particles dashing in the broken light, sweeps her hair into her face. Her hair does not shine like Salisa’s. It tangles in the wind, and she raises her hand to move it, smiling as she does. Her smile does not give me pleasure. There’s no pleasure in it at all. I wake without Salisa, never having felt more alone.
“Good morning, Altoni-837-kx4,” he says. “Modi Support requested Diagnostic on your modi-partner. She’s been down for over a day.”
“I know. I turned her off.”
“You did? But you didn’t call it in.”
“That’s fine. I’ll get her back up. It’s probably the latest Empathy Patch. Some of the modis have been a little glitchy.”
He summons Salisa and puts her in Diagnostic. Then he links through her subcranial port. Her shoulders droop, her head tilting to the left. I receive my Vitafresh Snack and stare at them, the Diagnostician and Salisa, but after a while I get bored and watch the Newstainment Feed.
The Diagnostician announces that he’s done. I look up. “It wasn’t the Empathy Patch,” he says. “In fact, it wasn’t anything. Salisa’s in great shape. An excellent modi-partner.”
I do not feel surprised by this assessment.
“Are you doing all right?” he asks. “Most people call in right away.”
“It says you’ve been having an odd dream. Just about every night, it says.”
“I wouldn’t call it exactly odd. Maybe a little unusual.”
He raises his head and looks at me. “Every night,” he says. “The same dream every night.” I wait for him to go on. “I think I’d better look,” he says. “If that’s all right with you.”
I shrug. Turning down Diagnostic will just get me flagged for Special Assessment, so I don’t resist this request.
The Diagnostician unlinks Salisa. After switching the input, he links through my subcranial port. As I enter Diagnostic, I feel myself relax.
Then Images: What I had for Late Meal the last six nights. My completed Work, back to the last All Pleasure Day. Salisa’s standard faces: pleased, submissive, compassionate, concerned, reassuring.
Then Learned Response, beginning with the Six Pleasure Principles. Then Work Skills. Then Tunes, aligned to the Four Escalating States of Sensation.
Then Dreams. The Diagnostic is extensive, summoning every dream Salisa has created for me. My earliest dreams, just after Integration, followed by thousands more. What in Liminal would take weeks is complete in a couple of hours. Lastly the laughing Orga-Freshlings. All dreams represented.
All but one.
After that a gray screen, then the images become sporadic. Dimmer. The interludes between them punctuated by jarring noise. Buzzing and scraping and crashing. Occasionally a bright light followed by grayness. Then an image of an animal in flight. A bird? I feel myself growing colder.
Then a sudden pain in my head, quickly replaced by a Pleasure Burst. The pain again, more intense this time. Then another Pleasure Burst, and another. They keep coming.
I feel myself slipping into grayness.
Then a flash, and she is there. Angyla-142-9nu. And I am there too, standing by the water.
Angyla’s talking. I listen to her voice. She’s talking about the next day, when she has her Integration. My Integration is scheduled one week later. “I know it will be wonderful, Altoni,” she says. “I know you have nothing to fear.” She gives me her face, but I don’t know anymore what face it is. And then the wind sweeps her hair and she smiles. Her hand moving to her forehead, to brush the hair away.
But it’s not a smile exactly. The corners of her mouth turned up, but in her eyes another look. A different look. And I feel it, like a hard ache in my stomach. I know it’s not a smile at all.
And I start to cry. Not there, standing by the water, but here. I cry and cry.
Then Angyla dissolves in the brightest flash, and pain rips through my head. I shudder and drop into grayness.
The Diagnostician looks relieved. He doesn’t stay long after the modi-nurse departs. “It won’t bother you anymore,” he says. “I’ve never seen a dream so deep!”
“What dream?” I ask him, but already he’s gone.
That night, I dream I’m at the Pleasure Feast, surrounded by the most beautiful sensi-modis. In the morning when I wake, Salisa is smiling at me.
“Good morning, Altoni,” she says. “It’s going to be a pleasurable day.”
“Yes,” I say, accepting her hand. “I believe it is.”
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