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Synopsis

Plagued by nightmares, ever since an attack that left him scarred for life as a boy, Edward Morrison's only solace was computers. This obsession, over years in isolation, made him the most famous VR game designer in the world.

Success gave Edward the chance to build a Dream Simulator for controlling nightmares, but when his boss demands the machine ahead of schedule, strange events start blurring the lines of reality.

In a race against time, they must awaken a comatose subject from the mysterious anomaly that threatens to bring Edward's most horrifying nightmare to life.

CHAPTER 1 — DAYDREAMING

 

And then it was dark.

The electromagnetic ripples jolted through his body in a cascade of perfume-like orgasms. Intentional fireworks deployed in a test signal pattern by the hypoxia induced state of self-preservation. His mind, utterly desperate to maintain control of its body, felt as though it had discovered the portal to another dimension; and in a sense this was true, for Eddie Morrison was drowning.

Surrounded by darkness precipitating into a cold turbulent blue, the light rays were scattered through ocean water and focused beyond his adolescent retina, creating a nightmarish blurred reality. It was enough to notice his arms wildly thrashing about as they grew numb and desperate.

Then suddenly, a new symphonic movement exploded at high tempo. Sound waves of vibrating air molecules jostled past escaping fluid to bang a distress signal on his tiny eardrums. Eddie’s head bobbed in and out of the water between gasps of salty choked confusion.

None of the horror compared, however, to the excruciating terror that wrapped itself around his leg. A thousand microscopic barbed daggers of venomous rage sent sharp reminders coursing through his paralyzed body that it was not yet dead.

He froze in muted agony and sank below the surface, looking downward at the unwitting monster that threatened his existence. Bubbles of fear danced violently from his mouth, until a spasm inhaled sheer panic and was quickly placated by a loss of will in the consuming void.

 

Or was it the sound?

Something reminded him about the sound; that droning innocuous warning that the garbage chute was re-aligning. It was almost like screaming under water…

Nope. It was definitely the garbage chute.

“Damnit.” Edward snapped back to reality as the LED indicated its default setting. He reached out to press the organics button, and an incessant tone underscored metallic reverberations that emanated from several stories below.

“Daydreaming, again?”

The voice reminded him of someone else and Edward wondered if his mind intentionally played tricks, or was it just delayed realization -like when you buy a white car and suddenly notice all the other white cars out there?

Edward glanced over his shoulder to find Cura smiling at him. She was an empathetic and friendly neighbor from down the hall, who always had a way of making Edward feel uncomfortable.

“Oh hey, Cura. No, it’s just this new system. I always forget.”

The machine chimed and Edward spun back with relief to stuff his garbage bag into the mouth of the chute. He could sense Cura’s eyes studying him, trying to wake up whatever inner light she imagined was buried deep inside his subconscious.

Why wouldn’t she just leave him alone?

He turned back and forced a smile, “Sorry about that! I’m sure you probably have a client waiting for you.”

Cura blocked the entrance of the garbage room and Edward anxiously contemplated the best way to get past her without appearing rude.

Her smile was warm and sincere, “As much as I’d love to, I’m not qualified to see patients in my home office yet. But you’re welcome to come by any time.”

Edward had seen it a million times before, on a million different people, and knew all too well that façade of teeth and lips concealed darker truths more often than not.

“Thanks, but—”

“Pro bono, of course.” She interrupted, “We could discuss that recurring dream you keep having. Is that what you were just thinking about?” 

Edward shook his head, “That wasn’t a dream. I was just…” He struggled to recall the moments prior to Cura arriving and considered the possibility he really was daydreaming.

“No pressure.” She insisted, “Just thought I’d put it out there! I would really love to help, but truthfully, the hours also count towards my psychiatry license.”

And there it was.

He almost sneered, “Oh, well good luck, but I’m designing something to control the problem.”

Never let your guard down for one second.

Truth be told, Edward actually loved it when people had selfish intentions. It reminded him of something he learned at a young age:

You can’t trust anyone, except yourself.

Cura pushed past him to unload her waste, and then look up at him, wiping her hands clean, “You know Edward, sometimes it’s better to loosen the reigns than hold on too tight.”

“I’ll keep that in mind!” He lied, and waved with haste as he wheeled back down the hall.

About the author

Andrew Palmer grew up in Oakville, Ontario. He graduated from computer engineering and joined the Directors Guild of Canada to work in TV & Film production. His interests are in science fiction and politics, with some of his favourite storytellers including Robert Heinlein and Issac Asimov. view profile

Published on August 01, 2020

Published by

30000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

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