The Dreamsuit's Set for Sleep
Dreamed 1992/7/12 by Chris Wayan
I was hitchhiking when this sleep researcher picked me up. We got to talking, and he learned I'm a dreamworker, so he showed me his great invention: the dreamsuit. A programmable suit and helmet that induces the type of brainwaves you need, whether sleeping, waking, or dreaming of various kinds. It's tough too, it protects you while you sleep... the house could burn down and you wouldn't even feel it. A cure for insomnia, narcolepsy, sleepwalking, recurrent nightmares, maybe even depression... the potential is vast.
I say "I'd love to try it out."
"I've been looking for volunteers. But I have to go out tonight. Better not try it alone, just in case something goes wrong. Why don't you crash in my spare room and then try it tomorrow?"
But after he leaves, I can't resist. I slip the suit on.
Normally you set it for a fixed number of hours: it has a timer, but I don't know how to use it. Barely learned how to input any commands at all. And so I punch in a code...
I wake up groggily at last, the next afternoon. Eyes crusted, blurry, bleary.
I can barely move my head. In my field of vision, I see ivy growing out of a tunnel; it's the roof of a carport or second floor of a parking lot; I see still cars in the darkness. The ivy is growing visibly! I can barely see, but the ivy seems to be rooted in the dark and growing out and up... groping for support... swallowing the structure. Spikes reach out toward me... but I'm behind glass.
Still half blind, I sit up and try to figure out what's wrong with me. So groggy. Can't think... try to puzzle out the suit-codes. The code currently operating seems to be 66900? All 6s, 9s, and 0s, with nonzero digits at front... the last three were the crucial ones.
I scramble the digits. 66009? Suddenly I feel less bleary! In fact, I'm awake and alert! Like hitting a light switch.
The doctor still won't be back for an hour or so. I must learn how this works!
I'm hungry and I want to watch TV instead of tinkering with code numbers, but I worry that I stumbled on the code for TV-watching or hunger, and now the damn suit's making THAT compulsive. Though I'm in danger, I can't control the urge to turn on the TV and start surfing it. This thing is too powerful.
Find a rock band I like. The Doctor only likes classical music, I recall. I wonder if the suit will dislike this and make me change the channel? Like Frankenstein, like monster.
Hey! That's us! Our story comes on MTV, as a rock video. All three of us--me, the doctor, and his robot butler, an elegant guy, unflappable for the best of reasons. It's pretty accurate to my surprise, except that instead of meeting while I'm hitching across the West, we met on the Orient Express as the train headed for Constantinople, back before it became Istanbul. The doctor and his servant are planning some scam. It's how they make their living; he was a bit of a snake-oil salesman back then. Well, I guess he still is. Damn suit.
The robot was different then, though; a tiny woman, back then. Don't know if she was a prototype for the butler or the butler himself before an upgrade and sex change.
She glances out of the TV screen and notices me watching. She calls a time out, the actors take five, and says "You're awake! Amazing! I've never heard of anyone waking up against the suit's programming--when you were wondering why you felt so lousy, you were really strong to wake up at all." She explains to me how the suit-codes work.
I feel better now about the grogginess: I had been taking it as a sign I'd misused my body somehow, or had ignored some emotional reluctance.
But it's just old programming. And now... I tap a code, and... yes. It's gone.
So how about yours?
The code numbers in the dream are course-codes in the San Francisco City College catalog. A class on making a living as a fine artist, that I was considering, has the code 66900. Is the dream warning me I'll find the business end of being an artist exhausting and meaningless?
The code I hit at random, 66009, that perked me up... isn't in the catalog. Damn! Some come close, but...
I did take that class in making a living as a fine artist. All the success stories and artists who visited class told us you must spend two-thirds of your time hustling (66%?); only one-third of it is left to actually make art. Discouraging...
But that dream wasn't just a career-warning. The advice that struck me was:
"Just because you feel bad or even do something badly doesn't prove you've failed. It may be a miracle you can do it at all! You can't judge... until you know the code behind the scene."
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