“That which is dreamed can never be lost, can never be undreamed.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Wake
The Dream Screen
All his life, Sam could never remember his dreams – he would wake up with a vague feeling of frustration and discontent, but whatever was causing it would fade so fast he could never get his mind around it. For the last month, however, he had been having the same… or rather similar… dreams and they haunted him all day long. The dreams were especially bothering him because in the dream he was lying in his own bed, just like he was in real life. That made the line between dream and reality blurred and Sam was afraid that he would lose track on which side he was on.
When he was a child his parents had insisted he sleep on his back, arms at his sides, under a smoothly made sheet and comforter. They would pop into his room several times a night and if he had turned on his side or mussed his covers, they would wake him, berate him, and make him set everything back as it was.
“If you are to be organized and follow the rules while you are awake, you must follow them while you are asleep,” they would tell him.
And the training worked. For a half-century he slept on his back, with his arms at his sides, without tossing or turning.
But now, in his dream, he was on his side, with one hand extended holding a wireless track ball. In front of his face, glowing in the dark, was a screen – a tablet of some sort – with the internet on it. He couldn’t see what was holding the tablet up, but it stayed steady, almost filling his field of vision. He could use the trackball and its buttons to move around the internet, but he didn’t seem to be able to decide what to watch – his hands did if for him.
He told his grief counselor about the dreams.
“Is it disturbing to you?”
“Not during the dream itself. It bothers me when I wake up.”
“I don’t like not being under control. And now, I’ve been waking up in the same position, with my arm out, cradling an unseen object.”
“Why does that bother you.”
“It is so unorganized.”
His grief counselor was a doctor and he gave Sam a prescription to take before bed. Sam was certain that it was some sort of a placebo, but he took it anyway. It didn’t help.
When his counselor asked him what appeared on the screen, Sam obscured the reality and gave a deceitful answer.
In truth, the screen was showing, forcing him to choose, a very specific set of scenes. The screen was replaying moments from his life, some short, some longer. Some of these scenes were events in his past that he thought about often, but most were episodes that he didn’t consciously remember, until the dream screen showed them to him, and he they would arise from the depths of his memory, suddenly clear as day.
He remembered all these scenes after he woke. Even the ones he had previously forgotten, became a big part of his life, anew.
Sam finally decided to open up to his counselor. “Are these disturbing scenes, fearsome events, that you have subdued in your memory?” his grief counselor asked.
“No, quite the opposite. They are the little golden moments of my life. The happiest times. Most are not any big deal – as a matter of fact, when they happened I usually didn’t even understand their importance. It wasn’t until later, or even until the dream-screen brings them back, that I realize how happy and meaningful they are.”
“Well, Sam,” his grief counselor said, “I think your subconscious is simply bringing back the best memories of your past to give you some relief from the awful terror of the present. Maybe it is reminding you that things were better once, and maybe, they can be again.”
Sam nodded his head. He was being polite – he knew the grief counselor was wrong.
As time went by, Sam became used to the dreams. He bought an expensive pillow designed for people that slept on their sides so he would be less sore when he woke up. Sam began to sleep longer and longer until his day was made up of sleeping with only a quick meal and other necessities that he rushed through in order to lay back down and enter the world of his dream-screen as quickly as he could.
Sam was amazed at how many wonderful, tiny things had happened during his life. He knew that his supply had ended, however, there would be no new ones. Eventually, the scenes began to repeat. He realized he was watching something the dream screen had showed him before.
The second… and third… times through the memories were not as happy, they somehow faded with each showing. That was when Sam realized that his time was growing short.