by Greg Mazurkiewicz
This is it, he thought, this is it. As he bounded frantically up the basement stairs, he tripped on the top step and went sprawling across the kitchen floor.
“Eureka!” he shouted as he bounced to his feet.
“You what?” she replied. Her calm monotone sounded like music to his ears.
“My invention,” he boomed. “I’ve finished it.”
“What?” she repeated, as she turned from the stove toward him.
“My invention,” he repeated, “the one I’ve been working on my entire life. I’ve invented a machine that can turn dreams into reality.”
“You what?’’ she blurted, suddenly paying attention to what he was saying.
He continued unabated: “The average adult sleeps seven to eight hours a day. That’s up to a third of the day. Therefore, people sleep away as much as one-third of their life. So what good is that time? You can try getting away with less sleep, naturally, but that taxes your health, and sleep deprivation can reduce your efficiency.
“So I invented my machine. A machine that will make dreams real. So that whatever a person does in his dreams will actually happen. Now, sleep can be productive. You can use it for something instead of just wasting time.”
“Did you use a lot of glue to put this thing together?” she asked. “I think you may be hallucinating.”
‘’Go ahead and scoff,’’ he said. “Great inventors often have to struggle to gain attention for their ideas... Charles Babbage, Nikola Tesla, Guglielmo Marconi...”
“Macaroni, who collaborated with Cheese?” she quipped.
“Oh, give me a break.”
“You’re my husband,” she responded. “I’m entitled to be skeptical.”
“Well I’m going to go test my machine,” he said, a little deflated.
“Sweet dreams,” she replied as he disappeared down the stairs.
Ralph Weatherby had been working on this project for many years, even before he started as a professor of bioengineering and biomechanics at Loral University in Bay City. He enjoyed teaching, but his real devotion was inventing. With his fertile mind and early mechanical interest, he had been developing all sorts of work-saving and time-saving gadgets from youth to middle-age.
But he was a small-time inventor, and that was what rankled him. Always small-time. Never anything significant. However, he strived to apply his bioengineering training to attain what he believed was the ultimate time-saving invention. Now he had the big one and he wasn’t going to let it get away.
With his machine ready and primed for operation, it was time to test it. Ralph decided he would test it himself. Immediately. Hooking the electrodes to his body, he headed for the couch. Although he was still trembling with excitement, he was tired from the many hours he had put in finishing his invention and he soon fell asleep.
Suddenly, he appeared to be awake again. But he was no longer in his basement laboratory but on a street corner near his home. He shook his head. “I’m dreaming,” he said, “I know I’m dreaming. Yet this is all seems to be real.”
Just to make sure, he pinched himself lightly on the arm. “I’m real.” Then he stamped his foot on the sidewalk. “That’s real.” He opened the corner mailbox. “That’s real.” Still consumed with astonishment, he pinched himself harder.
He woke with a start. He was back in his laboratory on the couch. “This is fantastic,” he exclaimed. “Now people won’t have to wish they had more time to do things. What they can’t get done when they’re awake, they can do in their dreams.”
‘’Of course, whatever the person wants to get done, he’ll have to finish before he wakes or else he’ll be right back...”
The siren of an ambulance passing nearby jolted him into the realization that he was talking to the wall. But he didn’t care. His invention worked. As he removed the electrodes from his body, a smile flowed across his cheeks.
Ralph was still floating in the clouds when he came to dinner. His wife, Mimi, recognized the symptoms immediately. Another new invention.
Mimi never understood her husband’s passion for inventing. “I wish you showed as much passion for me as you do for your gadgets,” she once told him. But she was a forgiving wife, and she generally left him alone with his “toys.”
From his unusually ecstatic speech during dinner, Mimi could tell that this was an extra special toy. Then Ralph mentioned again what this invention was about, and this time she didn’t scoff. This time she began to question his sanity.
“Have you lost your marbles?” she said. “Nobody could do that. It’s impossible.”
Ralph decided not to press the issue with her. He quickly changed the subject. But he knew that his invention worked.
After the successful trial run, Ralph continued to test his machine. The first few tests worked out fine. However, he soon began to notice certain little quirks that were a bit bothersome.
For one thing, he couldn’t always recall what he had dreamed. Sometimes he would rise from his sleep without remembering a thing. On one of these occasions, he happened to go to sleep in a bad mood. Afterwards, Mimi wouldn’t speak to him for several days before he found out what he had done. He had dreamed that he had a big argument with her. He apologized profusely for his unusual, belligerent behavior.
Then one day a stranger came knocking at his door. When Ralph answered, the man strolled right in.
“Hi there, Ralph,” he said. “It was nice talking to you last night. You told me to drop by any time, so here I am!”
“What?” Ralph abruptly replied. The fact that Ralph’s mouth was hanging as wide open as the Grand Canyon didn’t stop the stranger from jabbering away. Eventually, in the course of his monologue, the stranger mentioned how they had met the previous night in a bar.
But I was testing my machine, Ralph thought. I must have dreamed my meeting with this man. And what a dream it must have been. I wish I was dreaming now, so I could wake up and he’d be gone.
Unfortunately, the stranger was better at putting people to sleep than waking them up. Two hours and half a bottle of Jack Daniels later, he finally left.
These instances disturbed Ralph, but he blamed it on himself. My memory is just bad, he thought. I must try harder to remember. And I must focus and concentrate on having more productive dreams.
Before long, though, an even more disturbing incident occurred. In one of his dreams Ralph met an extremely beautiful young woman. And somehow they found themselves at a wild party. One thing led to another, as it usually does, and they ended up locked in a long embrace in the corner.
The guilt was incredible.
Oh my God, cheating on my wife in my dreams, he thought. I’ve got to control myself. I don’t know what came over me. My wife is good looking. But this woman is stunning. I just couldn’t help myself. I’ve dreamt about sex before, but this time it was real – and with another woman. I could get into a lot of trouble. Especially if I don’t remember about it.
Ralph had a similar dream two days later, but fortunately it was with the same woman. The field hadn’t increased.
I’ve dreamt about a girl like this since I was a teenager, he thought. And now the girl of my dreams is real. But I’m married. And happily married too. But she’s just so... perfect.
The problem of the dream girl was soon solved by the introduction of a new friend. In the next dream Ralph had about her, he met her boyfriend.
Seated in a restaurant with the young woman, Ralph found himself being clutched from behind and he felt the crush of a large fist in his mouth. The fellow then introduced himself, grabbed his girlfriend, and left.
Ralph awoke with a swollen lip.
So I can get hurt in my dreams, too, he mused. I’ll have to be careful about that. And I’ll have to avoid that woman from now on.
But the distracting dreams continued to crop up periodically. Ralph didn’t want to use his dream hours frivolously, but he couldn’t completely control them. And what was worse, he sometimes had rather strange dreams. And these were the hardest to remember.
One time he woke up to discover that he was wearing his clothes inside out and had turned everything in the basement upside down. It took some slick talking to Mimi to explain his new arrangement for the washer and dryer.
Ralph toiled frantically on his machine to try to fine-tune it and work out these bugs. And he tried to focus his dreams through mental imagery and visualization techniques. But neither of these hoped-for solutions helped. He kept on having the weird dreams.
But Ralph refused to give up.
Somehow I’ll find a way to control my dreams, he vowed. If I can’t get rid of these damned nuisances, my machine will be useless. And I won’t let that happen.
On the thirteenth day of testing his machine, however, Ralph ran into a major problem. A nightmare.
He began his sleep that day with another strange dream in which he was wandering around a ghost town engulfed in an eerie mist. His dream was in black-and-white and it looked like a small town from the 1950s.
Rod Serling would love this place, he thought.
Feeling apprehensive about being in such a situation, Ralph decided to sit this dream out. But, quite unexpectedly, a group of red-white-and-blue people came charging toward him, carrying apple pies and baseballs and brandishing Coney dogs, with obvious intent to do mischief.
Ralph sprang to his feet and began running. Before he knew it, he had run over the edge of a cliff. This has happened to me before, he thought. I’ve had this nightmare before. I suddenly find myself falling and then I wake up, breathing heavily and all shook up. I always wake up during the fall. I never hit the ground. The shock of falling always wakes...
He woke up groggy with a terrible headache. He was in a small room, flat on his back in bed. Somebody next to him behind a curtain on his left was complaining about the food. His wife was sitting on his right.
“Where am I?” he said.
“You’re in the hospital,” said Mimi. “For some reason you were in the rock quarry. You must have fallen over the edge. You broke both your legs, and you have a concussion and various other bumps and bruises. You could have killed yourself!”
“It was a nightmare and I was being chased,” he tried to explain. “I had been watching an old war movie so the red-white-and-blue people on the attack must be related to that. The Coney dog I had for lunch must not have sat well in my stomach and that triggered it.”
“What are you talking about?” said Mimi. “Does this have something to do with that stupid dream machine of yours?”
“It’s not stupid,” Ralph protested. “I’m just working out some glitches. I’ll fix it.”
“It’s going to fix you,” Mimi intoned. And just then a nurse entered the room.
“I’m here for your blood transfusion,” the nurse said, baring her teeth in a broad smile that revealed vampire fangs.
This nightmare is still going on, Ralph thought, as he vowed to stop watching late night TV movies and struggled mightily to wake up.
Copyright © 2010 by Greg Mazurkiewicz