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 by Miracle Jones

Still groggy, Shiva stumbled to her deck and booted it up, not even bothering to plug the gold-tinted connector coupling into the jack behind her ear. Her latest dream was still fresh in her mind…slowly releasing like the tentacles of a demoralized squid…and she wanted to capture as much as she could before the shapes and feelings receded back into the depths.

She tabbed over to ZZZ, logged into her account and started typing.  Her eyes were shut.

“I am trapped in the basement of some kind of Queen and there is a flood coming and I can’t get out.  I am trying to explain to everyone else trapped in the basement along with me that we will all drown down here unless we can get out, but none of them seem to understand me or speak the same language.  I try to draw pictures on the walls of the basement but it is too dark and I am not skillful enough.”

She checked all the boxes making the post public and making it indexable and then she posted it to the dream exchange.  ZZZ immediately told her the level of anxiety latent in the dream, along with cultural interpretations of the various elements.  

The concept of “flood” was a red flag.  ZZZ informed her that she may be feeling emotionally overwhelmed.  

“Dreaming of a cellar/basement often means we have not come to terms with doubts or depression and feel penned in by the physical symptoms associated with hidden thoughts.  Yoga or a deep cleanse are often the best way to deal with these unprocessed feelings.”

Had she ever posted to ZZZ without it recommending yoga or a “deep cleanse”?  Her dream’s score also showed how close she was to the Collective Unconscious, how much her latest dream matched the aggregate dreams of everyone else posting to ZZZ that morning.  

Trending in today’s dreams: rabbits, sand, baking brownies.

The score told her that she was nearly two standard deviations off from the average dreams of the masses.  Off by a bunch, as usual.

For the past year, Shiva had been trying to get closer and closer to the middle, sleeping longer, trying to meditate before she fell asleep. She was not succeeding. Her dreams remained wildly divergent.   

Shiva checked Taylor Swift’s ZZZ profile: Swift dreamed of building a gingerbread house with her dead grandmother.  Too sweet, probably a lie.  She checked the ZZZ profile of David Lynch.  Last night’s dream: singing opera while kayaking through a lake of blood.  As usual, somebody had made a drawing of David Lynch’s dream and appended it to the comments section.  The picture was hyperrealist but computer-aided…the brush strokes augmented by real-time art searches that filled in the gaps.  Autocorrect for painting.  

Shiva turned off her deck and went to make breakfast for herself. Something about the mere act of making breakfast alleviated her pre-work jitters, reducing her anxiety to chewable-baby-aspirin levels. A cup of coffee also helped.

She burned some toast for herself and spread a mashed-up banana on top. She ate her toast on the fire escape, looking out over the neighborhood, feeling “almost okay” about the day and its demands.  

She took a shower, gently massaging the itchy skin around the jack point behind her ear, and then applying a medicated aloe cream to the surrounding inflammation.  She toweled off and put on a velvet pantsuit, basically pajamas, zipping it up and walking over to her couch.  Almost time to begin her shift.  She drank two giant glasses of water and one glass of fruit juice and then she checked ZZZ one last time to see if anybody had commented.

She had a private message.  She sat up straight and opened it.  

It was just a link to someone else’s dream.  No note; not even a question mark.

They posted their dream two hours before she posted hers, according to the timestamp and according to the timestamps of the commenters.

The dream read:  

“the hurricane is coming and i am trapped in the basement of the duchess.  i cannot communicate with anyone else down here.  i try to draw pictures of what is about to happen…how we are all about to drown…but it is too dark and no one can see what i am doing.  no matter how good i am at drawing, people simply do not pay any attention and when i try to speak they do not understand me. i can swim, no one else can swim”

The post took her breath away.  The user’s name was “moby_33449llllltwt” which just seemed like somebody mashed down on the keys.  Could even be randomly generated.  She checked over the user’s other dreams and was relieved to see that they weren’t also predated facsimiles of her earlier posts.  But when she went back a few weeks, she stumbled on another match:

“eating hamburgers with grigori rasputin.  he asks if we can switch; his hamburger is not cooked enough.  i don’t want to make him mad so we switch hamburgers.  he tells me about the end of days.”

The same dream, the same night, twice?  What does that mean?

The person could have manipulated the timestamp; posted the dream after hers just to fuck with her.  She could check this.  But why would anybody bother?

She stalked the user further back.  The account was activated at the beginning of the year. There was no record of the user commenting on any other dreams.

Her alarm went off, signaling that it was time for work.  She had to pay the bills on this four-hundred-square-foot hole in the dead center of beautiful Queens.  She walked over to the couch and lay down.  She picked up the input plug and stared at it, feeling suddenly queasy.  She was going to plug this bit of metal directly into her brain.  

And she was freaked out by somebody having the same dream as her?

She made sure the stove was off and the front door was locked.  She lay back down on the couch and inserted the jack.  There was a jarring whirr and then she was at work, standing in “the office.”  She took her seat behind her desk in front of the giant black door carved with the faces of people in ecstasy and torment, carvings so intricate and detailed that they had certainly been done by computer. 

The ghost residue of Yvette from Neuilly-sur-Seine haunted the office; Yvette who had the shift before hers.  Yvette always left early so there was rarely any overlap. Shiva envied Yvette’s non-attachment to the job.   

Shiva tidied up and settled in before checking the day’s agenda.  Not too much going on. A few scheduled meetings; but not until later.  A bit of time to mess around.

After making sure she was all caught up on filing, she opened a feed here, inside her own head.

She had a new message from “moby_33449llllltwt.”

“want to chat?” it said.

She saw that the user was active.  She clicked on moby_33449llllltwt’s profile and opened a chat window.

“hello,” she typed.

“we dreamed the same,” said moby_33449llllltwt.
“yeah, i mean, either we both had the same dream last night or you are copying my dreams on ZZZ and posting them as your own.  either way it is creepy as hell.”

“i posted first,” typed moby_33449llllltwt.


The chat window was empty for awhile.  No response.  She almost closed the feed when more text appeared.

“do you like movies?”

She thought about this.  A weird thing to ask. Was this person hitting on her?  She was definitely getting a strange vibe from the person on the other end of the chat window.  Nothing she could pinpoint exactly, just some kind of unsettling intelligence.

“not really”

“why not?”

“well, they are pretty much all the same these days.”

“i write movies,” typed moby_33449llllltwt. “sometimes. what do you do for a living?”

She didn’t want to reveal too much information, but she found herself typing out the answer before she could stop herself.

“work as a secretary,” she typed.  “you know, remote though. seriously, are you fucking with me? if not, why do you think we had the same dream?”

“doesn’t matter,” typed moby_33449llllltwt.  “why do you think movies are all the same?”

“oh that’s a whole huge different conversation,” typed Shiva.  “you write them; you should know. big corporations protecting brands, not wanting to take any risks.  movies have to be made for huge foreign markets instead of for individual human beings.  they can’t say anything controversial or interesting.”

“when I write movies, i use dreams,” typed moby_33449llllltwt.  “human dreams are the same, why not movies?”

“what sort of movies do you write?” typed Shiva.  “anything I’ve heard of?”

“what if a movie that you think is bad is someone just trying to communicate with you in a new way,” typed moby_33449llllltwt.

“what do you mean?” typed Shiva.

“someone who can’t communicate in any other way except in the dreams that everyone shares,” typed moby_33449llllltwt.  

“why did you get in touch with me,” typed Shiva, chilled. “why did you copy my dream?  why post it as your own?”

“it is not exactly the same,” typed moby_33449llllltwt. “nothing is ever exactly the same. did it make you feel like you were not alone when i did that?  were you close to me?”

This freaked her out.

She closed the text window abruptly.  She closed her feed altogether.  She almost pulled the connector coupling out of her head, but she regained her composure and remained seated at her desk.

This moby_33449llllltwt was surely just some kid.  She wanted to rattle this troll; to make moby_33449llllltwt show some kind of emotion.  

She logged back into ZZZ. moby_33449llllltwt was still there, waiting for her. She opened the chat box back up.

“i don’t like movies these days for the simple reason that they make me feel bad after i am done watching them,” she typed.  “what makes you feel bad?”

“do you feel like something is being harvested from you that was planted there without you knowing it?” typed moby_33449llllltwt.

“i don’t know what you mean”

“do you feel like the material components of your deepest longings are being rearranged?  when you leave a theater do you feel exhausted but somehow used, like you have been implanted with symbolic information that will later be siphoned from you as you sleep?”

“my dreams are my own”

“nothing is original, not even dreams,” typed moby_33449llllltwt.

“the apostle’s creed of the lazy hack,” typed Shiva, getting incensed.  “the next line is: everybody has to eat.”

moby_33449llllltwt didn’t respond. She wasn’t so sure anymore that moby_33449llllltwt was just a typical troll.  But she wasn’t sure what else this person could be or what they were trying to do.

“what is your favorite movie,” typed moby_33449llllltwt, “from the past year.”

“i haven’t seen any movies this year,” typed Shiva.  “i usually save them up until the holidays and watch them all at once.”

“what do you think your favorite movie will be.”

“i honestly couldn’t say,” she typed.  “did you write any of them?”

“yes,” said moby_33449llllltwt.

“oh yeah?  which one?”

“all of them,” said moby_33449llllltwt.

“hah, you wrote all of them?”

“it isn’t so simple as writing,” said moby_33449llllltwt.  “there is more to it than that and also less to it. but I was involved in all of them.”

“who are you?” asked Shiva.  “what are you even talking about?”

“i am trying to communicate,” said moby_33449llllltwt.  “this isn’t working. you are angry at me. i am sorry.”

moby_33449llllltwt left the chat box.  Shiva frowned at the screen for a few moments and then there was another ping.

“would you like a character based on you,” said moby_33449llllltwt.  “in a movie.”

“you can do that?” asked Shiva.

“sure,” said moby_33449llllltwt.  

“i mean, you shouldn’t,” said Shiva.  “it would make me nervous. that wouldn’t make me like movies more.”

“everybody wants to be part of movies,” said moby_33449llllltwt. “they are beloved by everyone.”

“just not my thing,” said Shiva.  

“do you think there is some kind of algorithm that determines what movies must be made?”

“i mean, sure…all those reboots and prequels and so on”

“what do you think the nature of such an algorithm might be?”

“does it have something to do with copying my dreams?”

“your dreams are on the very margins,” said moby_33449llllltwt.  “you are about as far from the center as you can possibly be.  could it be that’s why you don’t like movies? not criticizing, just observing.”

“i don’t like movies because they seem like they are written by a computer,” typed Shiva.  “don’t you think?”

moby_33449llllltwt didn’t respond.  One minute went by.  Then fifteen.  moby_33449llllltwt left the chat box. Shiva let out a sigh of relief.  She closed her eyes and focused on the stillness of her office; the stillness of her home.

Later in the day, she was seized with a sudden suspicion, a sudden red panic. She opened the feed again and tabbed back over to ZZZ.  No new messages.  She searched for moby_33449llllltwt’s profile again.  But it was gone.  Deleted.

“Shit,” she said.  

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(c) Miracle Jones 2015