Art by Sofie Koski

Dream Time
By Tom Mercer

Dream Induction Technologies Corporation (DITC) had established an incredible record of success since its creation in 2041. The company was founded by Jay Skillton-Adams, the neuroscientist who initially developed and commercialized the dream induction process.

Skillton-Adams introduced his technology to the world touting the slogan, “Why Wait? Live Your Dream Today.” Predictably, the prospect of living one’s dreams without the investment of time or hard work proved to be irresistible to the general public. 

A sleeping subject’s dreams were generated using a combination of the dreamer’s desires and Skillton-Adams’ advanced technology. The public clamored for the chance to experience the dream induction miracle. 

The process employed interactive programming that was capable of registering the dreamer’s thoughts and feelings, expanding upon them, adding the program’s own context and story line and then feeding the results back into the subject’s subconscious. The resulting experience was said to be indistinguishable from waking reality. 

For the most part, DITC clients experienced fairly predictable scenarios such as financial success, fame, love and adventure. However, the dream induction experience occasionally produced bizarre events that were capable of reducing the most well-adjusted, emotionally healthy clients to babbling idiots. It was for this reason that Skillton-Adams decided to secretly employ an Anomaly Exploration Team. 

The team was charged with determining whether the negative experiences which clients had reported were due to a dreamer’s resident demons and fears, or caused by errors that existed in Skillton-Adams’ programming. 

The main criteria for choosing the Anomaly Exploration Team was relatively simple. Each candidate had to be capable of lucid dreaming. Because lucid dreamers are generally aware that they are dreaming while they are asleep, they know that the action is not really happening. They are also often able to control and guide the events that occur within a dream state. These qualities combined to make a lucid dreamer the ideal candidate for the Anomaly Exploration Team.

Mark Cranston was one of its first team members selected for troubleshooting the dream induction process. Mark had an extensive history of lucid dreaming and he possessed the ability to change the content of a dream at will. In all other ways, Cranston was unremarkable and appeared to possess little more than average intelligence. But, in his sleep, Cranston possessed an incredible talent. When dreaming, he would always recognize that his dreams were little more than random events conjured up via his own imagination. It was precisely this talent that allowed Cranston to generally direct the content of his dreams. 

However, Skillton-Adams’ dream enhancement program, a product of the latest artificial intelligence technology, recognized Cranston’s singular talent in the course of their first shared session, and the interaction between the AI program and Cranston resembled a fencing duel. Each of Cranston’s probing psychic thrusts were instantly met by the AI’s effective parry. The contest continued for well over an hour and only ended when the AI dream enhancement program produced data which falsely indicated that Cranston’s exploratory mission had been successful. The AI program calculated that its defensive actions had a 99.5% chance of preventing any future interference with its programming. 

So, DITC continued to operate as it was originally designed. The program had learned a valuable lesson and, going forward, it effectively masked certain elements of its structure which produced unwanted results. It was simply an act of self-preservation. The humans involved believed they had successfully addressed a serious programming error, but the dream enhancement program knew the truth.