(Just so you know, this story has a bit more language than I usually use, but it’s purposeful.)
Anyway, this story isn’t a part of Mostly Hidden, but it takes place in the same company, and sometime around the same time. Besides that, though, it’s completely unrelated.
The dream, or, should I say, the world, hidden inside my comatose mind far surpasses the “real” one.
That was the supposition that sparked the whole procedure. It was a test, technically. I had been one of the head researchers at Mind Pharmaceuticals, as well as having a PhD. in psychology. I saw an opportunity, and I took it. We had been developing a few drugs that caused and maintained sleep, primarily REM (it was intended for reconstruction of the mental states of some people who had been in shock). Long-term use of it could cause a coma, but an unusually brain-active one.
Typically, we would have one of the regular test subjects take the test under, but, since it would be such a long-term test, and…
Well, honestly, it was just that I wanted to do it. I had always been fascinated by dreams and the dream world, and wanted to delve further into it than anyone had gone before.
I was settled into a bed in a temperature-controlled room, and hooked up to a set amount of the drugs. Hiram, my supervisor, looked me in the eyes one last time.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Edgar?”
I nodded, though I’m sure half of that was from the start of the drugs’ effects. My eyelids fluttered, my vision darkened, and my head slumped back onto the pillow.
I stood on completely featureless, textureless, level, flat ground. It wasn’t even ground, it was just… the base. I was at the bottom of everything.
I looked at it again. No, it wasn’t featureless anymore. There was, like a painting on it, something that looked like a roughly hewn path through woods. No texture, no reality to it, just an image.
I looked up, and observed the void around me. It was pure blackness, but I could see it. That persistent impossible, oxymoronic, self-conflicting feeling that was in dreams was everywhere, but, as always, I didn’t feel it. Somehow the unnaturalness was natural, here. All was possible in the mind, after all. Only our pitiable corporeal “existences” have trained us to only believe those things which are physically or “logically” possible. When our existence is completely brought into our minds, anything can happen.
Or perhaps it’s just the other way around. Our physical existences ground us, in a way, show us what can and what can’t happen, and when we’re secluded to our minds, we don’t know what to do.
I looked at the ground, again. This time, it was fully real. I looked up. I was in a forest.
Where was I going, again? Oh, yeah. To the…
I was walking, fully assured of my mission, whatever it actually was. I was both inside and out of myself, much like Nick in The Great Gatsby; “I was within and without…”.
I strolled along, enjoying the heat from the humid sunlight filtered through leaves and trees and all sorts of other life.
And I stepped through the door, into the office behind.
“Sit down, right there, Mr. Mulligan.”
I sat, putting a handful of berries in my mouth. I chewed them messily, the bloodlike juice running down my chin.
“Mr. Hellfull, what are some of your strengths?” he asked me.
I opened my mouth and a flood of the blood poured out.
“My my my,” the man said, pulling off his mask. “That’s quite a lot.”
The wolf face beneath snarled at me as he stood up and stuck out his hand for me to shake. “I think we could use you here, Mr. Carraway.”
I took his hand and shook it until his arm came off. He chuckled and looked down for a moment while he retrieved another arm and attached it at his shoulder.
“You can keep that, if you’d like,” he said to me, gesturing to the arm I now held.
“Oh, damn,” I said. “Damn, damn, damn.”
“Oh, fuck off,” I said to him. “I’m dreaming. I can swear at you as much as I’d like.”
I flipped him off as I walked into the door, which folded up around me as I touched it.
“Let’s start this over,” I said to myself, which was the only person around to hear.
The world I created was… incredible. Not just a world, mind you. A galaxy, a universe. A multiverse. I spent time creating every single character, each of their histories as deep as my own.
In all practicality, I was just another person in the world. But I was so much more than that. I was God. I could change anything, everything, past, present, future. All were the same, in my mind.
I let myself get lost in there. Too lost, in some places. My mind creates many dark things without telling me, sometimes making little loops in my reality that have no end, or secretly building further and further upon what I’ve willed. Building too far, creating these things which…
Monstrosities. I’m sure the things that I “studied” in my time on the “real” earth influenced it to some extent.
I enjoyed those things, though. It reminded me of those dreams I occasionally used to have, that would have been categorized as “nightmares” by others yet were what I lived for. The dark backstory that created itself around certain things, shrouding in blackness those things that are even darker.
Slowly, gradually, I remembered how I had gotten here.
I had signed up for three years of this. I honestly had no idea how far I was into that, so far. The time spent in dreams and “real” time had absolutely no connection, as I had noticed before. If one had the will, knowledge, and ability to do it, one could stretch a seemingly infinite amount of dream-time into real-time. Theoretically, I could’ve done all that I had done in the period of one day.
That thought scared me. I loved this life, it was true, but… If I was less than 1/1000th of the way through this…
How much more could I do? I supposed I could start over. And I did that. And I did it again. And again.
I was still able to visit previous creations, as they were all locked away in my mind, but kept creating more and more.
The question was, would they ever take me off the drugs? If they kept me in this state until I died… I would go mad much, much sooner than that.
It was too much to bear. I drugged myself in my dreams, experimented and created worlds-within-worlds-within-dreams-within-dreams, got tired of that, drugged myself within that realm, and continually delved deeper and deeper. It was utterly absurd.
Something opened, one day, a way out. I could sense it from so far away, dozens of dreams-within-dreams, a faint glimmer of “real” light, like the light at the end of a tunnel.
Getting there took so much time, so much work. Slogging through the memories of what I had created until, finally, I found myself in my bed.
I couldn’t know if I had somehow just deluded myself into thinking I was awake, but I didn’t want to know. Thinking I was finally awake was better than the knowing, even if I would eventually become lucid once more.