I'm dreaming. I've got to be. This man – what he's saying – it can't be real... can it?
'I can see you're distressed. I'll come back once you've calmed down.'
He flickers and disappears like a faulty hologram from Star Wars.
He's tall and smart and intelligent looking; a real gentleman. His brown hair is combed and his nose is long. And his eyes beady, friendly. He's dressed in a blue suit and uses elegant hand-gestures a lot, though sometimes they become a bit frantic.
He interrupted my limbo. He sucked me into a dream.
He told me I was in a coma.
He told me that on the way to my sister's thirtieth birthday party got in a car-crash. Tom, my boyfriend, with dark hair and love handles, survived. He escaped with a broken arm and a mild head injury.
It's been five years since that night – since that drunk driver – or so I assume – slammed into our beautiful Porsche. But he says apparently Tom's married now.
Five years... That means I'd be about twenty-seven years old.
But that strange man in the suit... what was his name?
I never caught it. I suppose I'll ask him next time.
The dream is more lucid when he reappears, his edges pixelated for a moment before sharpening.
'Hello, Wendy,' he says. I scowl and lift a finger.
'Who are you, what's your name and who's that bitch Tommy's gone off and married, huh?'
His dark brown eyes glaze over for a moment and then he says, 'The girl's name was Amanda Precock – before marriage.'
Amanda. I know her. She used to write crap in the girls toilets in permanent marker. I remember her writing I was a slut. She wrote I had sex with our high-school maths teacher. But, I mean, he was handsome and all, but I'd never fuck him. I heard he had a wife anyway.
'I hate her,' I declare, though most of it's out of spite. Then my throat aches with a sob and a white void forms around the two of us so we're standing in a white... well, whiteness. 'What's your name? What are you doing here? Are you real?'
The man straightens his tie and clears his throat, preparing for a formal introduction, 'My name is Kevin. I'm here for research purposes. My team created a type of technology to interfere and observe dreams and their processes.' He gives me an encouraging smile. 'The hospital appointed me to work on the comatose patients because they didn't trust us to deal with the others. They didn't want to damage their sleeping patterns. And, I assure you, I am real. Though, you're welcome to think otherwise.'
'How does it work?' I ask and notice the tiny dots around us – pixelation again. I can't help but wonder if he did that... I have a feeling he did.
'It works through attaching electrode pads to your head and connecting them to a device called a – well, we've named it the Dream Rotor. This then is connected through a USB port into a computer and we use a program, called RotorD, which I wrote, and are able to view your brain processes and, wearing the helmet the team created, we can send images from our minds into the RotorD where we can specify an choose a constant image - removing all clutter. We can choose to refine our voices – the helmet has an inbuilt microphone – through the RotorD – for example, I can get rid of any comments I make which may seem inappropriate. Though, I do like talking to you, so some of it slips though.' He laughs. 'Anyway, all these processes are sent through the program RotorD then into the Dream Rotor where they are converted into electrical signals and pulses your brain can recognize, and they are sent through the electrodes connected to your head and into your subconscious without waking or traumatizing the sleeper.' Kevin finishes and he chuckles at my expression. 'You look like you didn't comprehended any of that but to put it simply – I'm communicating to you through a computer program, RotorD whose input is refined and converted into special electrical signals in the Dream Rotor and sent into your brain. I'm communicating to you through a computer.'
'No, no,' I say, choosing my words carefully, 'I understand it. I just find it hard to believe… Its amazing – it's revolutionary! But that's exactly why I'm... well... my head's a mess.'
'Yes' Kevin agrees, and he changes his weight onto his left foot, 'unfortunately the government wants to put it through some tests before even considering putting it on the market. They're debating whether to limit its stock to specific outlets – such as police stations, mental institutions or psychiatric wards. They want to observe the dreams of their patients and captives to better understand their motives and feelings.' He frowns. 'The technology is very safe, but I can understand the strict rules applied to this type of study. Permission from the person in question would have to be taken before use – but if these rules aren't violated – anybody who wants one should be able to get one! But, maybe we're just desperate for money.'
Kevin laughs loudly and I smile, somewhat awkwardly, towards him, wondering what other inventions have been made over the past five years. All of a sudden, my loathing for Amanda is obliterated – that was the past, it didn't matter – this was so much more interesting... and important.
'What does the Dream Rotor look like?' I ask, imagining a floating bubble. You can talk to it and a woman's voice would speak back to you, following your every command. Something you'd see in Star Trek or Doctor Who.
'I'll show you,' Kevin says, and then immediately, an object forms in his hands, blurred before coming into focus. I take a few steps forwards and take the device, roughly the width of a Steven King paper-back novel, the length of a block of Tasty Cheese.
'Wow,' I murmur, staring from the device to Kevin. 'You really are real.'
The Dream Rotor looks like a black, metal box and in one end are a few thin, white wires with transparent circular pads connected. The other end of the Dream Rotor has a wire with a USB connection at the end.
But on the box, the actual box was so much more fascinating. On the box is a number of blinking lights and buttons. It looks like something from Back to the Future, especially with the square space with a blinking digital number three.
'What's the number for?' I ask.
Kevin grins and I know he's itching to tell me everything about it.
'It's the frequency of pulses we send through per-second. If you have a large, complicated set-up which you constantly change, then the number goes up. The number ranges from zero – if you're just observing the dream – to twenty three – if you're being incredibly intrusive and interfering. At the moment, all it's sending is the background – a whiteness. Nice and simple, see? Myself, and then this little bugger!' he points to the machine in my hands.
'So what... How long have you been working on this? I mean, like, what do you need to do? How do you make something like this?' I know my eyes are large and round but this little Dream Rotor thing...
I flip it over in my hands and hand it back.
This little Dream Rotor thing... it's saving me.
'Well,' Kevin says, and he stares at the machine in amusement, then to me. 'Can I get rid of this?'
I nod and the device disappears instantly. I imagined some sort of popping noise would be apparent, but it was completely silent.
'I studied Neurology, Computer Programming and Mechanical Engineering. That sort of thing. I introduced the idea of the Dream Rotor to my work colleagues at a meeting. At the time I was working full-time at Apple,' he grinned feverishly. 'I told them I had the skills to develop it – I even showed them blue-prints! I asked if they would fund me if I sold the product under their label,' he sighed, 'alas, it was meant to be.' He gave a short, humourless laugh. 'However, a few work colleagues of mine – Frank and Ted – they wanted to help. So together we built the Dream Rotor. We worked together for months refining its structure and programming and then... and then we were fired.'
'What!' I exclaimed, gasping. 'Why? What for?'
'Well, in 2009 the economy crashed and we were spending too much time on the Dream Rotor than our real work projects for Apple so we were the first to go.'
'So wait,' I say, holding up my hands. 'Wait, wait.' Kevin stared at me. 'What years is it now, then?'
'2011,' Kevin says.
I let out a small groan.
'I've missed heaps! Tell me what's happening now – what's happening in the world!'
'That would take a few hours to explain, Wendy,' Kevin gives me a small smirk, 'And unfortunately I only have one.'
'Of course, of course, I'm sorry,' I say.
'It's perfectly alright, in fact, if I have time, I'll tell you some other time. Anyway,' he grins, 'continuing with my story... Ted and Frank... Well, they made the helmet. It took some work but it was worth it – I mean, I didn't have to construct images on a computer. That's what the helmet meant. It's dead useful. But then... but then Frank died. Lung cancer.' Kevin paused. 'He had been to get it treated but, I suppose it never got better.'
'I'm sorry,' I say suddenly, bowing my head.
'It's alright. It's alright. That was in 2010. A year ago. Anyway...' Kevin continued. 'So Ted and I had gotten full-time jobs working as programmers for a new type of computer you have never heard of. It's called Slix, and its logo s a crescent blue moon. After Windows went out of business...'
'Windows went out of business!' I exclaimed in amazement.
'You've never heard of Vista, have you?' Kevin asked, bemused.
'The name sounds vaguely familiar,' I say. Maybe it was in construction – a rumour – when I was alive. I frown. I am alive, I'm alive – just not conscious.
'Well,' Kevin shrugs, 'the future Windows models got worse and worse and all their staff were hired by this new company. Anyway, as I was saying, Ted and I worked there full-time so there was little time to make our own invention. We were hired by Slix a few months after we were fired from Apple.
'It's now September 2011. We finished it in July,' Kevin looks reminiscent. 'We were ecstatic, as I'm sure you can imagine. Ted was so proud and happy he took the initiative with his girlfriend and they're now engaged and getting married next month.'
He smiles at me and it shocks me how tired he looks.
'You don't have a girlfriend?' I ask. I couldn't help myself to save my life.
'No, Wendy,' Kevin says and then he laughs, 'I don't have the time!' He shakes his head. 'I have time now, certainly – more time, anyway. And I suppose I've been on a few dates – but the girls I met never made a lasting impression.'
I frown for a moment and then I laugh.
'We're both single then!'
'That does seem to be the case,' Kevin smiles. He still looks really tired.
'What about your family?' I ask. 'Aren't they proud of you?'
'Hm?' Kevin says. 'Oh, no, I'm sure they would be quite happy. Though, my parents divorced when I was seven and I lived with my mother until I was nineteen. I moved out then. We lost contact with dad when I was thirteen, when he eloped with a Canadian girl and left to England – or Australia – we never really figured it out.
'And your mother,' I continue, 'does she have a boyfriend? Do you have any other siblings?'
The corners of Kevin's lips tug into a frown and he runs a hand over his hair and looks thoughtful.
'She's had her fair share of boyfriends, but they all turned out to be the same and disappointing – alcoholics,' he says, reading my expression. 'I haven't talked to my mother for six years. About a year after I moved out I told her my idea – she told me she wouldn't speak to me again if I went through with it.
'I thought she was joking at first, but then she never answered any of my calls... oh well, ' he smiles and hopefully at me and not at the memory of losing contact with his mum. 'I think she'd talk to me again if I became rich... or married.' He laughed coldly. 'She was kind and affectionate in the early years of my life, but she got more and more bitter as the years went by. And I suppose I can't blame her.
'I was her only child – she had plenty of miscarriages. I think she'd be happy if she got grandkids, but, it's not looking that way.'
'Hey! C'mon! Don't be like that,' I shout abruptly, 'be positive! Despite your hardships you're a very successful man – I mean, you're talking to a girl in a coma for Christ sakes!'
Kevin stares at me blankly and then chuckles, his aura brightening, 'I suppose you're right. But, going back to that. You're in a coma. Do you know how to get out of it?'
'No,' I say and resist adding in a "duh", 'if I did I'd be awake already, wouldn't I?'
'Hmm...' Kevin mutters, and he paces back in forth, his motions creating a strange blurred, faded after image. 'Aha!'
'Yes, I have an idea,' he explains and for the first time, he touches me, holding me by the forearms, excitement crossing his face. 'Would having a nightmare wake you up, Wendy? Would it wake you up?'
'I don't know...' I mumble, 'Maybe...? They do sometimes... I mean, they can...'
'Oh,' he mumbles, and suddenly he slaps his forehead. 'But this is a problem!'
'Well, it could you wake you up, certainly – but it could also put you into a deeper state of comatose.'
'Crap,' I say. It's the only word that seems to fit.
'Yeah,' he agrees darkly. 'However, the good news is that – well, it might not work, actually – but I could try and lure your brain to consciousness by steadily sending the right pictures with the right frequency... Okay. I'll just... Just wait there, Wendy. I'll talk to Ted about it and –'
'Is he there with you?'
'Yes, yes, he is. But so is the nurse, so I might not be able to go through with it – just give me a tick.'
Then, Kevin fades away into whiteness and I am stuck in this empty, boring, white void. I take a step forward. No air passes. There's no sound and no air. Damn. This really was a simple program.
For a few minutes, I stand there, thinking, then –
'Okay,' Kevin reappears in front of me, with any lack of sound or stylish flashes of light. 'I told Ted about it and he agrees me – it can either go well – or go completely down the toilet. The nurse wouldn't allow it because of the risk, however, I've got an idea and I'm... well, I haven't told the others about it – but it might work – if it doesn't though, that's a risk I'm going to have to take. '
'What is it?' I ask, wanting to be able to prepare my mind somehow.
'Well, I know one way people wake up is through experiencing a dream which their conscious mind can not comprehend. So, I am going to send you a number of images from our dream database –'
'You have a dream database?' I cry and he nods seriously.
'The program RotorD records and breaks down images, feelings, and the pulses with them, so we can simulate them if we want to without using up the twenty-seven frequency on the Dream Rotor.'
'Oka,' I push a few strands of hair out of my face. 'I think I understand.'
'Okay,' Kevin says, 'Get ready for a computer-controlled dream-sequence. Some of it may be a little strange.' And then he disappears, his determined stare still burned into my brain.
Then, something happened.
The white room, or void, began to melt around me, bubbling and sliding down itself like a sticky goo. Then, it's all melted away and I'm in a hospital room.
I know I'm in a birth ward.
There is a woman on the bed, her legs spread and held apart from metal binds and a doctor is standing, back facing me, in front of her. I walk to her side and look into her face. She is sweaty, her hair is a tangled mess and her body is contracting at random time intervals. She screams.
In a horrifying moment, I realize it is me.
I am hit with an invisible force – the shocked realization. Stab. But I'm still dreaming.
The doctor is now grunting and moaning and I look over to him. Only it's now Amanda is standing and staring at the girl tied to the bed. A machine beeps and it pings. The room's temperature rises.
I can feel sweat appearing on my forehead and then, Amanda's face, her blonde hair hung over the blue-doctor's gown is a lifted from below.
I run to her side and watch, in mild amazement and disturbance, as a shape – no, not the shape – the form of an erect penis lifting up her clothes.
Then I notice that the girl, Amanda's genitals are the genitals of my now ex-boyfriend. Amanda's wife, Tom. The image is so strange and disturbing and my heart races. The machine makes another ping noise.
With a groan, Amanda climbs onto the bed and – I know what is coming but I can't look away – thrusts into my screaming form on the bed. Stab. Amanda gasps and I stare in amazement and revulsion and disgust. My heart quickens and I can hear it pounding. Ping!
Amanda thrusts into the girl on the bed again, a second time, and the form on the bed gasps and chokes then spits up blood.
This is almost unbearable to watch – it was terrible and disturbing in all forms and I begged I would wake up soon. I can hear the blood pounding in my ears.
This is more of a nightmare!
Then, Amanda thrusts into the form on the bed a third time and with a cry of ecstasy, comes a revolting retching noise from the bed and I watch as my counter-part's hospital gown is torn at the stomach and blood spurts everywhere as a large, scaly, spiky claw emerges. Then a small creature's head pokes out and it looks like a demon, only –
This is when I scream. The black demon has no eyes, instead gaping sockets and it holds up a large rock with weeds poking out, it's holding it by the strands of bloodied hair. The rock spins around slowly, drenched in black and red and slime and I realize. I see. It's my sister's severed head.
I scream again.
I scream so hard my throat hurts and with a crashing noise, I am writhing and I can hear a machine beeping quickly to my pounding heart.
'Oh my god! cries a woman's voice.
'She's awake! Ted! Remove the electrodes!'
My eyes are scrunched up tight and my throat is aching as I yell and shout and convulse, the images from the dream flashing behind my eyelids. I grope around for the strings and clasping them, I tear the wires from my head and throw them away.
'Kevin,' says a man's worried voice. 'Stop it!'
'I did! I did! She wouldn't be able to see it anyway because the electrodes are off!'
It suddenly occurs to me that I am weak. I am very weak. But that only makes me fight more. I knock over glasses at my side and my hands grasp objects and bars and try to move them and throw them away, to give me space.
My eyes fly open and I stare wildly around the room, stopping all movement and shaking and shuddering, my eyes bulging out of my sockets. A short and pig-tailed nurse is speaking urgently into a speaker on the wall and I look to my left, on the floor from my bed, where I recognize the Dream Rotor, connecting into a laptop on a small table.
Then I see him.
Kevin is standing behind the table, his hands placed precariously on the surface. He pulls off a big, white helmet with silver straps and orange-plastic glass and it clatters on the table next to the laptop. He looks just like he did in my head; the long nose, the combed hair, the friendly beady eyes, even the blue-suit!
Ted, next to him, is stocky and has long black hair tied into a pony tail behind his head. His eyes are filled with amazement and fear.
Kevin's are filled with worry and he rushes to my side.
'Are you alright?'
'WHAT THE FUCK!' I screech and he winces.
'There was no other way to wake you,' he says quickly. 'Besides, it worked didn't it?'
The sound of his voice calms me, but then three or four nurses and doctors rush to my side and knock Kevin backwards. They pull needles out of my sore wrists and apply alcohol swabs. They check my temperature, heart rate and a doctor says, 'Gentlemen, out of the way. Thank you.'
The pig-tailed nurse who was with them pushed me down against my pillows and said stiffly, 'I think you boys can leave now and leave the rest to us.'
'NO!' I cry and I am not ashamed to hear the agony and plea in my voice, nor the feeling of tears falling down my face. 'No! Kevin!'
I look towards the man standing behind the doctors and nurses and he pulls a comb out of his pocket and runs it through his hair, fixing it, a nervous habit.
'Kevin! No! Stay with me, please!'
Kevin frowns with sadness and he looks to his colleague Ted.
'Please, Kev!' I cry and my shoulders shake as doctors and nurses push me back against my pillows and try to calm me down with soft words and commands. 'You're the only person I really know anymore...'
Kevin's eyes soften and he turns to Ted, as if looking for approval. Yes! Give him approval damn you or I'll make you!
'I'll get this all packed up and the press informed,' Ted says, motioning to the laptop, helmet and the Dream Rotor, 'you deserve to stay. That was some nice work you did just then. Well done.'
That was all Kevin said and Ted rushed to the laptop, taking out a CD and slipping it into a plastic case, putting the helmet and Dream Rotor into a hard, large, black suit-case.
Kevin steps forward as the doctor's finish working and walk away. He gathers me into his arms.
'I'm sorry,' he breaths into my ear, 'I'm sorry for what you saw,' he takes a deep breath, 'but you understand,' he pulls me closer into his chest, 'it had to be done.'
'Yeah,' I nod, breathing in his scent and holding him. I'm calm now. Exhausted. And he is very warm. 'I do... Thank you.'
Kevin pulls me away, still holding my shoulders by his hands. He smiles.
'So will you stay?' I ask.
Kevin's smile turns into a nervous grin.
'Only if you want me to.'
'Then, yes,' he says, gathering me up into his arms once more and patting my dishevelled, matted hair, 'I do.'
A/N: I am going to be buying a MacBook soon, and when I thought of it I felt I needed to give it a name: the first name that popped into my head was Kevin. Named after Kevin Steck, a MuggleCast host with a particular fascination for quantum physics and computers.
Inspiration for this story came from the thought "What would it be like if a man could talk to you in your dreams through a computer?" so I spawned the idea for the Dream Rotor. I just made Kevin a character and the inventor.
I really enjoyed writing this story. I hope you found it interesting to read.