Glass of Water

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A master dreamsmith faces a mental block but finds inspiration in a competitor's work.

Submitted: December 25, 2011

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Submitted: December 25, 2011



John Carver no longer dreamed. Each night he fell asleep and each morning opened his eyes. He would rise from bed, shower, and dress himself. With a sip of coffee, John would sit at his work table and furrow his brows. He cracked his knuckles, stretched his neck, and arranged his notes and sketches. He intently picked up a drafting tool but it remained in the air until he set it down with a low sigh at the end of the day. He watched the day's missed messages on his holophone as he ate his dinner. In bed, sleep came quickly enough, but the morning even quicker.

This lack of dreaming was a problem for John more than it would be for you and me. I personally don't remember my dreams, so it's not an issue for me. Some discount them as  a disparate reality. To John, it was a practical problem. John was a dream-smith by trade. Somnists and self-proclaimed "dreamoisseurs" would not think twice to take the gravirocket from the Moon or even distant Mars to purchase an authentic Carver dream seed. The commission waiting list for personalized dream seeds bordered on eternity. His somnartisanry was unparalleled.

Carver's dream seeds were a revolutionary technology. Each smooth black ceramic case enclosed a complex constellation of micro-fused holophones, psy-amplifiers, and cortical stimulators. It was just heavy enough to be pleasant in one's palm. Dream seeds allowed the recording, manipulation, and sharing of dreams. Hundreds commented on the peculiar satisfaction they received from 'holding a dream' in their hands. I once heard a young couple praise the master himself with just these words. John asked them if they had any children.

His dreams, once reworked and polished, allowed the viewer to experience, and more crucially, remember, a reverie more real than reality. Carver's patented somno-stimulus  technology ensured each dream seed's user a positive and pleasurable dream sequence. These fantasies automatically adjusted to each user's psyche so that no two dreams produced by a Carver dream seeds were alike. Counterfeiters and imitators produced dream seeds with no interactivity, and, dangerously, no guarantee of positive exposure. In a Carver dream sequence, sounds were louder - or softer. Bespectacled viewers found their eyesight sterling. Odors were more fragrant and tastes more delicious. Never before had textures and pressures been more acutely enjoyed than by dreaming enhanced with Carver's dream seeds.  

But he stopped dreaming. Try as he might, the dreams would not come. He once described to me a night's sleep as a sort of blink. If it wasn't light when he opened his eyes he wouldn't believe himself to actually have fallen asleep. His daily recording sessions bore no fruit, only frustration. He drifted about his studio in a dreamless daze.

Carver may have ceased to dream, but his audience had not. The halted production sent authentic dream seed prices soaring. There were shocking reports arriving on the holo-press of burglars breaking into apartments and searching for these valuable Carver seeds. One case especially piqued the public. A prominent Carver seed collector was murdered in his stately home, and his seed library was ransacked. Public outcry was minimal; he had refused to sell or share a single dream seed.

Dream seeds continued to attract attention. An armored freighter with the last shipment of Carver dream seeds disappeared mysteriously. Half-way between the New York auction house and the Brazilian estate of Emanuel Sialez, a plantation owner of less than sterling scruples.The pilot maintained communication until flying over the Bermuda Triangle before radio contact was cut. Tracking devices on the craft ceased to function. The pilot's family was alternately and repeatedly questioned, threatened, and bribed, but not necessarily in that order. They wisely said nothing.  The media made much of this disappearance: "Who took it? Where? Why?" were the headlines appearing on holo-presses all across the globes. There's nothing so interesting as a good heist, so long as you aren't the one being robbed, I always say.

It was around this time that another somniartisan, the Greek Papydurous Neonetis, began to make a name for himself amongst dreamoisseurs as being as fine as Carver, or as some proposed, even greater. Granted, he had not produced as many dream seeds as Carver, but he was still young, his advocates declared. Many experts proclaimed these dream seeds were brighter and more brilliant, their colors more vivid and their somno-stimuli even more potent. His critics, as they are wont to do, doubted their originality.  Those who asserted the Neonatiseeds, as they were becoming known, bore a definite resemblance in dream composition, thematic form, and sensitive treatment to Carver's own dream seeds, especially those lost on their way to Brazil over the Caribbean. Ultimately, with the dream seed manifesto lost in transit along with the seeds themselves, no one could trace their origin.  

Admittedly Neonetiseeds offered a more pleasing hyper-reality than Carver's, but they seemed derivative and and familiar. They rehashed old plots: the hero struggled under the vicissitudes of capricious Fate or an unrelenting Nature. Neonatis pitted man against other men or his society, man against woman, and even against himself. In time, Papydurous developed greater variations in his dreams, experimenting with supernatural  and paranormal story elements. His favorite medium was a bizarre story mode he referred to as "fictional science." I must confess that it never attracted me.

I was curious what the old master thought of this upstart. I admit, my concerns were not purely sentimental, but rather mostly mercenary. Prices for Neonatiseeds were still relatively low. The verdict was still out whether they were as fine as the old works. On speculation, I had purchased as many existing Neonatiseeds as I could locate. To achieve returns on my speculation, however, I needed these fickle critics to decide in my favor. I needed a trusted stamp of approval. Social bias is curiously double edged, but if you swing it right, there's no need to get cut, I always say.

It worked for our distant ancestors in the grasslands and jungles, and it would work for me. Let's say you see a fellow monkey drinking from a spring in the ground. If you are an especially cautious and perspicacious monkey, you might refrain from drinking until you are sure of the other monkey's well-being. Then when you see that monkey again drinking from the same spring, you may be thirsty enough, and you may be sure enough that the spring won't poison you.

While I balk at likening the great and illustrious John Carver to a monkey, the analogy stands. Arriving at his studio, I found him diligently laboring on an empty recording. His brows unfurrowed as he tolerated my distraction.

"What have we here?" as I showed him the Neonatiseed.

He settled into a comfortable reclining chair. Thus relaxed, he played  the Neonatiseed. I watched with satisfaction a smile peek from his beard like a timid child.

"You know," he said after a long moment's consideration, "I have never found another's work to contain more merit or offer greater pleasure than my own. This is not a boast, it is a simple statement. But I know now why I could no longer dream. I had no reason. I could not produce anything greater than what I had created, because I had created the greatest thing I could conceive. This man, Papydurous Neonatis, has created something yet greater. I can see my own work in his, but it is still his. Now I, myself, must work!"

Pouring a glass of water, he set to dreaming.


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