I paused. I wasn't really sure anymore if I had dreams or perhaps it was just the definition of what a dream was had changed for me and no longer fit the common perception.
"I guess doc, I dream about things that need to be done, to better the real world," I said.
He looked at me through his thick-rimmed glasses and asked, "Are you successful in your attempts?"
I smiled. "I don't know, but I learn from my mistakes, even though I don't make many" I said, pulling back my coat to reveal a set of arsenal that could rival a small fort. As I unsheathed my guns the familiar sounds of their quick brushes with fabric zipped past my ears and my arms were pointed and firing even before the sounds finished their final hiss. He was a quick kill, too quick, no fun in that. I walked over to his body and kicked it a few times. Yep, he was dead. I sat in his lap and lit a cigarette, blowing out pink butterflies that swirled around my head.
"You know doc, I almost wish you were still here. I'll miss our talks," I told his corpse. It wasn't a lie. I had gotten quite close to him lately. Most people dream of fanciful things, other worlds, indescribable sceneries, things that don't exist anywhere but in dreams. But doc, he dreamed of being shrink, had a classic Freudian mustache and beard, even dreamt up the long traditional shrink couch with warn-in burgundy leather and classic school diploma hanging above it on the wall. I had scoped him out for a while. I was wondering when his weird fantasies would appear. Waiting for him to visit candy-land or alien worlds, dress like a woman, or have sex with strange creatures. I waited for the day he dreamt of being a hero, a zombie-killer or a marine, confrontation of any sort to make my job easier. But he never did anything except go to his office and dole out fake prescriptions and advice to dreamt up strangers, to even me. So I began to visit him there, spoke to him about various things in my life, and tried to pry his secrets as I was told. He always gave a good opinion on my next steps, even when they involved things he did not understand. He never gave much up on himself. Maybe he was a shrink in real life, maybe. Now he was dead. He would not wake up tomorrow, would not dream anymore, would not practice psychoanalysis or water his constantly dying dream fern. Why did he not dream you pre-watered little plant?
I sat there and contemplated a way to kill without such violence. I had tried this many times before. It was always dangerous in the dream world, you could never let your guard down. The history of the world's most horrible ideas intermingled with the beautiful ones. There were no poisons in this dreamland, no silent deaths. It was always guns or swords or other close contact violence. Of the times where I attempted to explain my missions, or offer help, it always went poorly. Usually the person would counterattack with their own dreamt up weapons or run for their lives, and I would have to hunt for them or wait until they fell asleep again to take them out. Oh well, I guess it's better to have it be quick than to be hunted or die scared. I looked at the doc's fern. Of course it needed water. I figured I could do this last thing for him, so I grabbed his green plastic watering can and poured it into the planter. As I watered the plant I stared at its wilting leaves, written in the tiniest veins were the words Project Goodnight Puzzles. How did he know about this?
I awoke with a jolt. What the hell? The searing pain in my eyes told me I was awake. I saw light for only about 4-5 hours a day now, most of which was spent writing reports for the agency and having one hot meal. The rest of my time was spent sleeping or dreaming. That was my job, to dream. I had been recruited during my doctorate program to do some work for the government, intelligence work they said. As a student, I focused my studies on Carl Jung and his theory of the collective unconscious. My theses agreed that we were really all connected to this world of the collective unconscious, that our history lay there and even more, the possibility of discovering the secrets to the world and everything in it. I theorized that we could learn to control it and explore and gain knowledge from it. But to do this we would need to enter it through that unconscious state and the easiest way was through our dreams. That's when they recruited me and I began the work on Project Goodnight Puzzles.
At first it was innocent. We experimented with drugs to extend our hours of sleep. We worked with coma patients, attempting to delve into their minds through the dream state, but dreaming and sleeping are not the same thing. It seemed sleep was easy to come by, but dreams, dreams were unique. It is important to understand that the unconcious was not where dreams lay but is an active world of its own. It's a "reservoir of the experiences of our species." The library of the history of mankind's imagination and spirituality and possibly beyond those realms of understanding. Just like any book you had to read the scenery and develop an understanding of the dream world. It took 4 years. Eventually we made contact with our first coma patient, a middle aged man, a father. I spoke to him about his family who waited by his bedside for the day he would wake up. We spoke quite a bit about random things at first. He believed I was part of his dream. I told him he had been in a coma for 5 years and told him his family was doing well. I would deliver messages back and forth from the real world to the dream state. One day he realized I was speaking the truth. That was when the project turned. The man tried again and again to awaken from the coma to no avail. Eventually, he attacked me, telling me I had caused all of his strife and worry and that he no longer had happy thoughts or dreams. He came at me with a knife, slashed at my face and arms. I attacked him back. The battle ensued and eventually I was the only one who walked away. When I woke up I was the only one who knew what had transpired. The man, the father, he never woke up from his coma, never woke up again.
After the coma patients we figured we could manipulate anyone in the dream state, and we do. I work strictly on intelligence gathering and follow their orders on everything else. So the story continues, and I've managed to become a mercenary of sorts. It started with bad guys who were clearly bad guys. And now, after the doc, I am not sure who are the bad guys are, or why I continue to believe I am doing some sort of greater good. But now the questions plague me, doc, how did you know about the project, and who else knows? My job just got a lot harder.