The Ant and the Cube

When Dr. Klein breaks the glass to reach in and unlock the window, Cliff is in another world.

Cliff's World: floating, I can see colors like you never seen when you're awake. They are spinning in a cube, and for a moment I hang in the open space watching it pull one side through the other and then it slips down again through the top. It has more dimensions than I can understand. This is Shaina's dream. I see her on the other side, she is watching the cube. Not at all like a zombie. She floats quickly, then stomps her foot on the grass that appears beneath just in time. Has a tantrum, then abruptly stops and watches the cube.

Did you know about the ant on the wire? Say it's a wire strung between two telephone poles. If the ant walks in a straight line towards the other pole and it will make it there. If, however, it starts tracing a path parallel to the pole it will walk indefinitely, never reaching the end, never knowing that it's going in circles. Because the ant is so small, and its world which is the wire is curved, right? The miles it travels are not flat but curled up in the shape of the world.

I wanted you to know because I am thinking of killing Shaina. But something feels wrong. Is this thought wrong? Is it the feeling? I can't tell, so I am going to keep moving. I move towards her. And then I--------------------------------------->


Dr. Klein, bleeding from the hand, moves through Cliff's house. The living room, the clean kitchen, bathroom -- he is not there. "Where is he?" He pauses, scratches his head. It hurts. So does his arm, he thinks. That's when notices a trap door mostly covered by a rug. He lifts it -- the rug is glued to the door -- and goes downstairs. Cliff lying in a room lit by computer screens. The dream machine is attached to his head, and the computers are displaying squiggly functions of things moving in value against time. Dr. Klein pauses. The next move is an important one. What will it be, what will it be--

He yanks the tube out of Cliff's mouth and every machine fills the room with a solid white light as Cliff sits up screaming and then is flung back against the floor, a little faster than people can usually fall.


The next morning, Shaina wakes up, turns off her alarm, and makes it through a day of work without anyone saying anything.

(exercise #1)

We stood in the center of the room and Jen drew a circle around us in chalk. What were our habits, what were our peculiarities -- whatever made us who we are went inside. Outside went everything else.

Q: What went outside?


I named every body part for her, kneeling as I was on one knee, hurting vaguely. "This one, this one, that one!" Each time I said the name to the best of my ability. Funny bone was funny. So were toes, pinky, and earlobe. Clavicle, neck, head -- nothing funny about that.


Jen said, "Remember when we were in college? You tried to kiss me."

"I remember. The kiss failed."

"But I remembered it."

"Well, that's something."

"It is."

We put it in the circle.


Where does that favorite writer of yours lead to? I mean, in the sequence. Who did you find because of him?

It's like a great mystery up, hurry up before the case is closed.



You should know Lauren when she was a little girl. Let's try: see her in the backyard, going through her father's garden. She's asking: is this one ripe? is this one? about the tomatoes. This is all on video. Her father is kind of humoring her, paying attention to the new camera and its colors, kind of not sure what to say to his daughter who wants to know what everything is. Later you can find her going from tree to tree, collecting cattle-pillars that become gypsy moths. Her father says, they eat the garden. So she inspects every tree, takes every one she can find, and puts them in a plastic fishbowl. Then she fills it with water. Somehow she seems both to know and not know that she's drowning them. She moves away to the next thing.


That Famous Bump-and-Go Action

Dr. Klein stepped out of the train at Penn Station, in the middle of Manhattan on an afternoon when 30 million people were going places, seated, or talking nearby. He hurried toward the subway uptown.

"Oh! Watch where you're going you asshole--"

"I'm sorry I--"

"You spilled coffee all over me."

Raina had coffee spreading warmly across her white shirt. In her hand was a coffee cup. She held her elbows up and arms out to the side.

"You're going to pay for this."

"Look," Dr. Klein said. He had stopped. "Look, I can pay whatever, but I'm in a hurry. Take my card and send me the cleaning bill."

"No, you're going to pay me right now. This was a brand new shirt. Brand new."

"You have to trust me. Take it." He thrust the card into Raina's hand and walked off towards the platform.


Raina went into the magazine shop.

"Can I get some napkins?"

"They over there."

She took a handful and blotted herself uselessly.


Raina's Dream

George and I are floating in a big empty room. "Don't be afraid," he keeps saying. But I don't feel afraid, so I get mad at him but when I try to talk nothing comes out. Like I lost my voice. He looks at me and his eyes get a little bigger. It's weird. "Raina, my grandmother died." I'm sad now, and I forget where we are and float over to him to try and hold him, but the closer I get it's like the wind from my movement pushes him away. "It's okay George," I'm saying, but his body is shrinking and his eyes keep getting bigger. Suddenly he's a little boy, with great big eyes, and he's running around in a circle. We are in my parents' house. He's running around and saying, No NO No NO NO NO and I'm trying to hush him. My mother walks in and she's got a apron on with a lobster on it. She's bleeding from her crotch. I ask her what's wrong, but she can't hear me. The lobster becomes real and scuttles across the floor towards George, and I see him pick it up and put it in his mouth. I can't say anything. Then I wake up.


"I think that was George," Lauren says and looks back.

"You know who I see?" I say.


I point across the street. Dr. Klein is walking away from the uptown stop.

"Your boss."

"No way."


"It's been like two days."

"Let's follow him."


Lauren stops and look at me. She says it again.

"Let's follow him."

"You're kidding."

"He looks hurt, doesn't he?"

"I didn't notice. So what if he is? And what if he sees us?""

"We wave and say, Hey, we didn't see you there."

"No. It's not professional. I'm not going to follow him."

"Fine, then don't. But I'm going to."

She takes off in the direction Dr. Klein was headed. I look back, and then down the street where I can see him about to turn the block and head north.





When Calvin woke up, he was in a steel gray room lying on a table facing the light. He could not move, and could not tell why. Without willing it, he saw images in his head that felt like strangers casually going through his things: trees on fire, hot wind across a blasted landscape and sand between the tops of office buildings; and then a streaking of pain down the center of his forehead straight to his gut and he thought he could feel the suffering coursing through the network of all conscious things -- stinging limbs after a bombing; everyone crying for something that could not be changed; and then after an excruciating moment (he had no idea how long) the pain relaxed its grip and his body filled with the feeling of plants moving towards light, the frantic scattering of an electron deep inside his eye; what a spider sees. That you are making harm on the planet. Watch for the man with mouths for eyes.

It was this last thing he remembered first, when Calvin found himself running down the Belt Parkway, cars honking from behind him, no shoes.


Cliff sat with his headphones on, staring at the ceiling in the dark. He believed that music was a mood-altering substance. Made of waves, not particles like weed or caffeine. He thought it worked by causing the firing frequency of select neuronal groups in the auditory system the match the frequency of the incoming pressure waves. Then those select groups gave an electric tug to the neurons they are connected to, and those groups tugged on groups even further out, and soon the whole brain was dancing. That was why drums made people go crazy, swinging their bodies and seizing up. Or why people like Alexa, who Cliff used to date and always took him to long slow drone shows where everyone listened with their eyes closed in the dark, why people could hear those low waves and drift off. Like a coma.

He thought about Alexa and the sex they had. She had weird dreams and like to tell him about it in the morning. Aometimes what's wrong doesn't even hurt. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, and let the music stop.

un-becoming, perhaps (daresay) but encouraged by such ambition

She has little that will prevent her from becoming that dismal and distant (no close!) realized, oh dear [oh my! I shall not say] - that whore has little that will prevent her from becoming that eventual clone, the slobbering, indeed, indeed--she is the wench, that prostituted and evaluated clown, oh, he--no she!--indeed, oh she, so mesmerized by the watch, yes, time, while it went, yes, while it went, it did go, indeed it did go from one, to two, to three, to four, yes, it did go, all around, all around, in those same fucking circles, yes, yes, she is that beastily copy, that monstrous allusion (illusion! dear mate) of course, she is but a slobbering [again with the license, brute] a fabricated whole, a visionary of description, such detail I could not possibly require, not ever demand, not upon such a soul, a sole-less itinerant - you fucking assholes.

She has little that will prevent her from becoming the recitation of repitition, of their song in her song, of her hands in her hands, of her image (her clarity) in definition of only definition of reponse, that looking glass self (dear cooley, sir), that is the imagined then relized hope, unless, against the better halves, there were a broken window (my indeed) that posited, just perhaps, that she has little that will prevent her from becoming and indeed that little is just her little chance that she herself will not be ever performing the requiem, the simple ever reminder of the life that is to be lived as suggested by the ever fruitful and once magnificent tree - that we did, upon a sand dune, give up all that we cherish, each freedom, in order (but not death! dear me not death!) to retain the peace that ours, yes ours, will not be taken.

She has little - do not tell it as it is that she has little. There is no proper analysis, no excuse, not for the social contract, lad. Do not tell it as such. We have agreed in promise and in purpose.


Faint Music

"There certainly is something wrong with it." Shaina hit the clock again.

"That won't help."

"It might."

It was the kind that couldn't be set; it just knew somehow, Shaina thought, and imagined it had to do with satellites whirling around in space. Cliff watched her.

"Just get a new clock. Use your phone for tonight."

"Fine, fine..." She breathed out and came into bed.

"I'm too tired," she said.

"Me, too."

So they closed their eyes.


Calvin stumbled over roots he couldn't see in the dark. From somewhere up ahead he heard something like faint music. But it wasn't music exactly. It sounded more like the way it is to almost remember the name of something. Calvin stepped into a clearing. There were clouds that moved between purple and red parts of the sky, holding water that reflected the distant city lights. Calvin turned his head both ways to try and localize the sound. For a moment he felt like something other than a man whose guard was down after leaving his car by the side of the road. His legs ached a little. He started to run.

Across the clearing, the trees on the other side got closer and he thought there was something in him that was finally getting some air. It moved through him and woke up everything it touched. He stopped, took of his shoes, and kept on running.

He was about halfway through the clearing when a light shot out from between the trees and hit him in the face. He stopped short, suddenly aware that everything was quiet; no faint music, no crickets, no wind by his ears.

"Tell me about your dream."

"I can't remember most of it. Just parts here and there."

"That's okay. Tell me what you remember."

"I remember feeling fat. Very fat. And unattractive."

"You dreamt you were fat?"

"I don't know, I just remember the feeling. It was harder to walk down the street -- it was a street from the town I grew up in -- and people around me, they were looking at me as I passed and I thought it was because of how I looked, my body."

"Let me ask you, Shaina -- can you think of a time you felt that way before? Other than in your dream?"

"When I felt fat?"

"Sure, or when you thought people were looking at you."

"Dr. Klein, people look at me all the time. Living in the city makes men act a little more like animals."

"So tell me what it feels like. When men look at you."

"It feels... uncomfortable. Anxious, I guess. It makes me feel anxious."


"Yes, anxious and sometimes I feel afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"Afraid if one of them decided to do something to me, I couldn't stop them."

"What else about it makes you feel afraid?"

"Beside that?"

Shaina was quiet. The confidentiality machine made a sound like the ocean.

"I think... I guess I feel afraid that they can see something in me. A weakness. And if I don't hide it, they will do something to me."

"It sounds like you feel responsible for their behavior -- that this acting like animals is your fault."

"I'd rather feel this way than like I have no control at all. At least I feel like I can just put out a certain vibe, I'm safe."

"Shaina. Do ever feel that way here? That you have to put out a vibe, to be safe?"

"I don't know. I never thought about it."

"I want you to take a moment and think about it now."

"This feels like some weird therapist trick."

" I am not trying to trick you. I want you to think about the answer, and let me remind you that there is nothing you can say that will upset me, or get me mad. This is for your benefit."

They looked at each other.

"Okay. Sometimes."

"Sometimes, what?"

"Sometimes I feel like I have to act a certain way in here, to give you the answer you want."

"What would happen if you didn't give me the answer you think I wanted?"

"I don't know. Maybe you would say that I can't be helped."

"I'm glad you told me this. I do have another question for you, though: does feeling this way, like you put out a certain vibe or else be somehow abandoned -- can you think of any other times you've felt this way?"

She thought.

"With Cliff."

"With Cliff?"

"Yes. With Cliff."

dearest Marie - (alas) what troubles I have. . . !

The untastiest - certainly, dear (and tragically but again most certainly), the trashiest - of propositions, first gained its imminent momentum during the third movement (oh the grayest of movements, the inelegant autumnal turn, the sheer blissless oboe cackling, dear!). He was suggestive, oh my, and yes, quite clearly, and in a manner unfitting even a boorish marauder. He, without even the proper shame. I was taken, well, I was taken aback, and I must admit, even in the face of the most improper audiences I would refrain from such a noticeable response, such a crude, a cunning bastard - a wolf!

I blushed.

Oh dear, Marie, I did. I blushed. In such a heat I have not found myself, not nearly for perhaps ever, not so crudely acknowledged and discarded, abandoned to the bestial qualities that (and of this I am sure) have not adequate housing even in my corporal skin. No, if they are ever even squatting, perhaps, momentarily confused by the pristine contentment of order, purpose, and place. They would cower, those impetuous unnatural audiences, they would perish in the guise of this costume, forced into the backward woods of the insatiable mortal unfearing mite. Such is the house I keep! Such it is. That they, dear Marie, that they were, those blithering and unwanted carriages, oh my, that they were permitted the sole possession of my reaction, that I was, without the cultured hand, at once persuaded by the audience of my rigid enforcement and at once again, persuaded, acutely, by the other hands, by the false witnesses of this bleakness, that even in this caste, I am like all that is only ever breakable. I am at such a loss, such a dear loss of such failure at composure.

This is, as I witness, the most horrible of outcomes. I shall not leave the house, not but once, for this entire coming season. Of course I shall be terribly lonely, desperate indeed, for the companion of such an assembly as he commanded at that hall, induced to poetic composition by the dynastic mandate, brought into the fingers of the whitest of hands with ease and delicately bonded to the emotional destruction of the earthly prison. Such a joy, I had in his company, in the audience of such delicate and expanded vision. Only to be devastated, at that purest moment, of course, of such vulnerable disposition, by that brute, that unguarded baron - that lout. I shall not leave again, bar no occasion to even the coming festivities. I am ruined by such a man. I have been ruined by such a man.



Technically speaking, Max had no right to be there. Without the proper clearance, anyone on security could ask him for the tag and then he'd be out of there. What would happen then? Max decided it was best left unconsidered. So he walked swiftly across the lab, through the double doors, and down two floors to LL2. Then it was a short walk through the hallway, one more right, and there it was.

At which point things became significantly more complicated. The sample had to be located, removed carefully and placed into an airtight container, which itself then had to be concealed so that Max could walk out the front doors, essentially, without giving any indication to the guards that he did in fact have a very small, very expensive, piece of what might arguably be called life inside his coat.

Which is exactly what he did.

He pulled out of the parking complex, turned on the radio, and by the time he reached the highway he was deep in the second chorus of Easy Lover. When he was young, Max managed two small rock clubs in Manhattan. There was always a revolving door of bands who would come, bring anywhere between a hundred people and no one, and settle for a small slice of money from the door. They weren't in it for the money -- not that money. They were in it for the money they imagined waiting for them, if only they were good enough in the right way at the right time, and looked the right way slightly ahead of the time, to earn it. It depressed him. This work was better. He felt a lot of things in the course of doing it, but never sadness. And in the locked glove compartment of his car, Max knew waited something that would make sure he wouldn't have to work for a few months, maybe more. It depended on if he tried to push it with the client. How far the client would go. What they each were capable of, which in turn hinged on their own personal relationships with the future.

For Max, the future was mostly imagination. That's why those kids in the bands got to him. They were prisons of their own imagination, and everyday the world went on with its very real members doing very real things, and the sun very really directing the movement of the very real earth, and yet no where on it or in the vastness around it lay the future. He switched to falestto voice and said, "You're the one that wants to hold her / hold her and control her / you'd better forget it." Then he turned his head toward the window in time to see the SUV slam into the side of his car, the left side of his body, and then the airbag went off and that was that.


Cliff's Dream

I am in a large meadow. I can't see the end of it; in all directions is mostly flat land, bright green greens of grass. I walk and walk this way for what feels like several minutes and suddenly I reach a sharp drop. I realize the meadow is a large green plateau, and below me is rock. I see Shaina down there, on the edge of a cliff. I know somehow that she is scared. I say, "Shaina, hold on!" But when she looks up I realize it's not Shaina, it's someone who looks like her but it's not her. And she looks at me and says, "Don't you have somewhere you're supposed to be?" Then I realize she's not wearing any pants, no underwear, and on her pussy is a tattoo like a weird tribal symbol. Suddenly we are lying in bed next to each other, and the room is dark and there is no roof just the sky full of stars like in New Mexico when we went camping, and now this woman who is not quite Shaina is on top of me and she says, "Tell me about your childhood." I get the sense we are trying to recover from something painful that happened. I tell her, "It doesn't matter" and she says, "You always say that" and starts fucking me. It feels good but then before I am about to come she closes her eyes and when they open they're gone and instead she had two little mouths and they say "You always say that" and I scream.


Is He Like Me?

Teltron took his first careful steps into the world. I need a new name, he thought. He did not know where the thought came from, and did not worry about its origins or ask himself questions. He thought, I will call myself Adam, because like the Bible I am the first man like myself here in the world.

Adam went about naming things. He recognized what grew from the soil outside the house as trees, so he parted his lips and said trees. The machines that rolled on the street with four wheels were cars, and what reached his ears were vibrating waves called sounds. They were very slow compared to what reached his eyes, which he called light.

From there it was a several block walk to the subway. He passed the hospital and watched the ambulance unload, and the medical technicians smoking outside near the man in the wheelchair. Adam watched him closely, and inside his skull were many more active processes than one could easily count. Dr. Klein raised him to carry out as many active processes as Adam could. His head was insulated so he could not hear them or feel their heat. Is he like me? Adam wondered. The man in the wheelchair looked back at him as he passed.

The sounds in this part of the city felt good and so did the light coming through the trees. It was altogether different in the subway. The vibrating waves bounced in every direction off the flat walls and dirty floor. The smell was warm and unpleasant. To avoid it, Adam began to daydream. He imagined a green park and in it a small fountain with water catching sunlight as it fell.


Dr. Klein was on the express train back to New York City. He thought of Cliff.

"I'm going to kill him," he said to himself. Then he thought about how. This was a distraction, though, from what was really worrying him. Which was the dream machine. And what Cliff was going to do with it. His head hurt. Dr. Klein looked at the bandage under his arm. He wanted badly to sleep, but didn't.

"I can't risk it."


The machines in the basement stopped working. It was suddenly quiet. Cliff put the end of the wire in his mouth, and closed his eyes.

The Edge of Everything

The ocean moved out in the dark. Coming down the beach, I heard it and it got louder and louder the further from the city I walked. It felt like the end of everything: darkness, waves emitting all frequencies known by the neural system in our heads, and underneath it a force older than language applied right to the scared human heart.

"Cliff -- it feels like the end of the world."

"It feels like manifest destiny, to me." Across the sand I saw Cliff's cigarette, a orange button in the dark. "Our own personal manifest destiny."

We had just finished driving from Long Island to San Francisco. I was about to start school in LA and he was going back to Cambridge. That's where he would work in the lab with Thomas Chen, and start his work on generative deep learning algorithms. We would lose touch.

Today we were at Ocean Beach. The coast was dotted with bonfires with kids and adults come to be by the Pacific in the dark. I felt a similar when we were in Alaska, looking at the raw young mountains by the harbor. Then I said it was like looking at where the world was born.

"But maybe the world is born inside the brain and the rest is a conversation," he said. "Between whatever's outside -- some limitless, undifferentiated lump -- and how the wet particles inside carve it up."

"I don't know."

"How can you not think about it?"

"I do. But the more I think about it, the more I don't know."


The shot didn't kill him. Dr. Klein was coming to, and first the world was bright and gauzy and then he could see a dumpster. He smelled garbage, and something tasted like copper on his tongue. His right side, under his arm, was bandaged and the bandage was bloody. It hurt in a way that made him worried.


Dr. Klein got to his feet. Where was he? Outside the alley the street spilled into Market Street and then towards City Hall. It was Philadelphia. He didn't know this yet. Meanwhile Cliff was in the basement lab. The computers were producing heat with every calculation. Everything has its price. They were learning, and the wires strapped to Cliff's skull gave them the pattern of information they needed. Cliff taught the machine to learn how to learn. They did not need to be told what they were learning. From the massive amount of data that came from his skull, transmitted electrically into a digital signal, the machines monitored the amplitude and frequency of the sampled pulses. From there, higher level features were extracted, and Cliff did not need to tell the machines what they were. They knew how to organize the data, like a statue waiting inside a block of marble. They waited, and then they dug.


"I don't want to go back. I like it here."

"Yeah, that's easy to say when you're here with no work and nothing to do but get high and look at things."

Cliff inhaled deeply.

"That's true, that's true." He passed me the joint. "But when I'm out here, it feels like the rest of my life back there is a dream. This feels much more real."

Now I inhaled.

"It's the weed. It has a way of making me feel like the world is more itself when I'm on it." I exhaled. "That's why I can't keep doing it, not after this."

Cliff looks thoughtful.

"Enjoy it now, my friend. Cheers."

"What about Shaina?"

"What about her?"

"She's back there... does that feel like a dream?"

"That... I don't know what that feels like. I don't want to think about it right now. Right now I am looking at the those stars over the Pacific and I am thinking, the mind is wider than the sky, right? Because it can hold the sky inside..."

"The sky is holding me. And God is holding the sky."

"My mind is holding God."

"No, God is what your can't hold."

"You're high."

"I know. Give me another hit."


Shaina's Dream

I forgot my ATM card so I have to go back, but the streets are confusing and I keep taking the wrong turn. Everyone around me is in a good mood, it's Christmas time in Little Italy, it looks like. I see all the lights and someone says, "What a year for love!" But I am getting nervous, I hope my card is there so I pick up the pace. Then all at once I turn into a street and it's totally empty. At the end is a light and I think that it's the ATM so I go towards it but someone is after me, I can feel him. I know he has a knife and if he get close I'll get stabbed. I keep moving faster and then start to run but I heard footsteps and they are moving fast. I am almost at the ATM when I realize it's not an ATM at all, it's a glass house full of Christmas lights. I open the door and inside it's so bright, I can barely see but I think I hear my name and then Cliff is there, he tries to stab me but he's moving slow like he's stuck in molasses so I can get around him. I wonder why he's moving so slow and then I realize that this is a dream. I decide if I am dreaming I can do anything and so I fly up and away from Cliff and straight through the roof of the glass house. Then I wake up, alone and sweating.



After years of waiting Greg decided to see a psychologist. It was not that he was opposed to going to a psychologist. He respected the profession and knew many people helped by therapy. But for him to go -- it felt like admitting something was perhaps wrong with his life, perhaps deeply wrong, and he was afraid what would come up if he grabbed the problem by the roots and pulled.

The latest advances in dream technology convinced him. When the dream machine first started getting press on the blogs and then made its rounds on the news, Greg watched closely. This was something altogether different. Larry King interviewed Dr. Chen, head of the development lab and a the kind of man who never appeared comfortable on TV, and Greg saw as Larry inserted the tube into his mouth and spent the next 60 seconds of air time experiencing his own dream as an outsider. That was both the apex of public interest and televised use of the machine; it was both too weird and too abstract for mainstream news viewers. Callers were vocal and evenly split in their opinions.

Greg was not split. He wanted to try it. He had recorded his dreams on and off for several years. Some of it was hard to understand when he looked at it later:

Greg's Old Dream

I wanted to show dad the youtube video of our first house, filmed in the 50s;
dad in his office, smell of cigarette smoke, with two japanese or chinese men;
the feeling of coming to the door excited and being shut out or turned away;
going in the car to the synthetic place;
computers stored at the gate, to let out heat;
otherwise effectively sealed;
insects made of clay with hard metal framework inside with motors;
all programmed with variants of genetic algorithms done as a Java Apps;
the programmer was Nate or Nat;
being here had something to do with grandma's legacy;
the room with the gun, the bullets; what was real? could it really kill?
the place was beautiful; the water; the plants; all man-made
I tried to tell the young girl about it; we liked each other; we held hands...

For example. What is it I want, Greg wondered. What could I get from a dream machine? Without answers, just a feeling, he got referred by his primary physician to Dr. Klein.

The first session went like this:

"Greg, it's nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you, too."

"Before we get started, I need to explain to you a few things about our sessions. First off, and most importantly, everything you say in this room is confidential. That means I can't tell anyone what we talk about, unless there is strong evidence to suggest that you are danger to yourself or others, in which case I could break confidentiality to contact emergency services, for example. Other than that situation, what we talk about stays here. Do you have any questions about that?"

"No, I understand."

"Good. The second issue: if at any point you or you and I decide that psychiatric medication would be beneficial to you, this is something we can discuss and I can refer you to a psychiatrist. I cannot prescribe medication. I am a licensed dream machine operator, and if that is something you are interested in we can discuss it as well and decide whether it would be beneficial to your work here."

"The dream machine -- do you use it with other patients?"

"Well, I can't talk about the details of other's sessions, just like I can discuss what happens here with them. But I can say that some of my clients have used the dream machine and found it to be useful in our work. It is not a substitute for therapy, of course, but a powerful tool if we use it right."

"What does it feel like, to use it?" Dr. Klein smiled.

"You are interested in the dream machine?"

"Well, yes... I -- I just can't imagine what it's like."

"It is difficult to imagine, yes. Maybe this will help. You can compare it to being underwater. Imagine opening your eyes at the bottom of a swimming pool and walking around. It is different than walking on land, yes? Things are harder to see, and it takes more effort to move around. It is like this with the dream machine, too."

"Have you ever used it?"

"That is a very fair question of you to ask, and I am happy to answer it. But first let me ask you, how come you'd like to know if I've used it?"

Greg paused.

"I guess just to see if you know what it's really like. Kind of like wondering if you've taken pills that you're about to prescribe."

"Would it make a difference to you if I hadn't used it, but had only seen others use it?"

"I don't know... I was just wondering, really."

"Greg," Dr. Klein takes off his glasses. "This is a good time as any to tell you something that I think is very important about therapy. This time we have together, it is your time. And it is as productive as you allow it to be. They say work in equals work out, yes? This is very true here. However much of yourself you bring to sessions, that is how much you will get out. It is easy to go slow, try to stay in comfortable places, but I urge you to take the chance to step out of your routines as much as possible. I don't mean routines like, wake up, drink coffee, comb your hair in a certain manner, etcetera. I mean other routines, the ones that are made from the ways we tend to think, feel, and understand our world. The goal of therapy is to make the toxic invisible visible. Once you can see what your demons are, Greg, you will be able to develop a fundamentally different relationship to them."

"My demons?"

"Yes. Your demons. The dream machine can help with this, but please be aware that confronting yourself and your actions with quiet eye can be very upsetting, even in your dreams. In here things will go best if you strive to meet yourself with a non-judgemental eye. I am not here to judge you, and neither should you. I am sure there are many ideas of yourself you carry that are burdensome, or worse, painfully limiting. Is this true?"

"I -- I'm not sure about that."

"Just keep it in mind, Greg. And be prepared: you will have to meet demons in this room, whether asleep or awake. The critical question is not can you defeat them, but will you recognize them at all?"



The tricky part was letting go. Calvin gripped the wheel tight and kept his eyes fixed on the double lines snaking from the darkness. He thought, "Well if this doesn't change everything, I don't know what will." But he had doubts. There seemed a basic but essential lesson he was missing.

Then he hit a deer and went headfirst into the exploding airbag. Everything went quiet.


Calvin's Dream

I am walking on a very thin wire above a circus. People are watching and pointing, and laughing at me, but I don't understand why or what I did. I am just trying to cross the wire. Then comes these guests of wind -- and I almost lose my balance. "What are you laughing at?" I shout down. I see someone who looks like Mom, but isn't Mom, and she laughing really hard and then says, "You look like you just got out of bed!" I don't understand and then suddenly the top of the tent is sliced open by a giant pair of scissors being held in a giant hand, and I think Oh shit it's God and that's when I wake up.


"Ugh...." Calvin moans. There's a bit of blood on his forehead, and a taste of it in his teeth. He looks out the window. There's darkness in every direction. No street lights, no lights in the sky but stars. He struggles and gets out of the car. It's wrecked. The hood is smashed up like a brick of clay against the tree. The deer is nowhere in sight.

A pair of headlights come streaming down the road. Calvin hobbles over, his leg killing him but not broken, he thinks. And starts waving. The car slows and stops.

"Need some help?"

"Oh God, yes. I think I just hit a deer."

"You alright?"

"Yeah, yeah I think so. But my car is not. And I don't get any cell phone service out here."

"Yeah, we are a ways away from any city. You heading to New York?"

"I was."

"Me too," Dr. Klein says. "Get in."

"It's okay, thanks for that offer. But I just need to use a phone, if that's okay, to call the police or something."

"How about this -- I'll drive you to the next rest stop, and call the police along the way. I don't like the thought of waiting out here in the dark." Calvin pauses and looks back. There are trees like the edge of a forest beyond the wreck.

"Actually... you know, I think I am going to stay. Thanks again for the offer."

"Well," Dr. Klein says, "at least use my phone." Calvin looks back at the trees again.

"No, thanks. I'll be okay."

Dr. Klein watches his face. "Okay then. Good luck."


"I can tell you are a man who has something on his mind."

"No, just -- no. Thanks, though." The car pulls away. Calvin, limping a little, walks down the thick tree line. He moves up and down, shining his cellphone light into the woods, and enters at the darkest spot.


Teltron's Big Day

Teltron moved in deliberate paces towards the door. Outside was the world; the world was wonderful. But he had never seen it with his own eyes. He knew it through the machines of his mind. What was it like, he wondered, to feel it -- for real? "Don't go out there, Teltron," Dr. Klein said. "The world is not meant for someone like you."

"Why, Dr. Klein? Why can't I go outside?"

Dr. Klein turned and looked Teltron in the eyes. "You can't go outside because you are not ready to. I have to protect you, or else you will die."

"What happens then, when I die?" Teltron asked. Dr. Klein sighed.

"When you die, Teltron, you will be gone from the world forever."

"But why? Why should I worry about dying? If I will be gone then, how can I worry about what happens to me -- if there is no me at all?"

"It is questions like these," Dr. Klein said, "that make me think you are not ready for the world yet." And with that he bent down and carefully unscrewed Teltron's chest. Inside was his heart, and it was warm and wet. Around it were the wires that kept it warm; the tubes that kept it lubricated and wet; and the wireless senders and receivers that connected it to the rest of his body.

"When you are ready, Teltron, you will feel it -- here." Dr. Klein lightly pressed his finger into Teltron's heart. His face -- warm skin, blue eyes, milk-white teeth -- flushed with the sudden rush of blood. "Then you will go and receive the world."


So Teltron waited for the feeling. The rain outside sounded small and smooth on the windows. "How can that be?" he wondered. "What is rain, what makes it like rain and not like sunlight?" He asked Dr. Klein, who was busy in front of the computers, but Dr. Klein did not answer.

"I am working," he said.

"What are you working on?" Teltron asked.

"I am working on a machine to help you understand the world," he said. "It is called a dream machine. When you wear it, you will understand what it is like to be other people. You will see them in their dreams. Then maybe you will know better what makes rain rain, and not sunlight or a conversation."

"How come there are different things, and not just one thing? One thing that looks differently at different times, to different people." As he said it, Teltron felt it was true, though he did not know how he could know it. Dr. Klein stopped working.

"The dream machine will help you understand. Sometimes it is the question and not the answer that will matter most. You will see, Teltron, you will see."


The day after Dr. Klein was shot was not raining. It was beautiful. Teltron waited but Dr. Klein did not come. Something inside him was wrong. He kept looking out the window, into the world. "Something is wrong," he said, though he did not know why. The door was waiting. He opened it. And stepped outside.


Cliff dragged Dr. Klein inside. His home was a three stories on the upper west side, a block west of the park. He took Dr. Klein through a trap door on the first floor and down the stairs. The basement was lit by the blue light of many computer screens, each working quietly and producing heat. Cliff took the box Dr. Klein had been holding. He looked inside.

"The dream machine," he said.

Dr. Klein's Dream

I am floating in the water inside someone's body, I don't know whose body or how I know but I know I am inside a tiny ocean. The way out is through. I push myself towards light and then there is a crack and a rush and then the Gods come down through the light and burn my eyes until the world reveals itself as what it is; one desire; one mouth swallowing itself; I am allowed to know the names of things and then trace them down through the roots to the buzzing center that spins out all the differences. I see my face and my parents; and the people I've hurt and the plants and animals I've eaten. I see everything that could be; and it collapses into a dense point which I too am sucked in and when I feel myself dissolving that's when I hear the voice saying let yourself happen let yourself happen and like electricity I let it come through and that's when I wake up and realize I'd been shot.


The Second Fetish

"I can't explain it, but it's always been this way. Since I was a kid."

"When do you remember it starting?"

"I don't know... maybe I was ten, or eleven? I had never even cum before. Never masturbated, never saw a woman naked. Except my mom, one time, I saw her topless. But that was just weird, I remember thinking: what are those flappy things? Not in those words."

"So tell me more about what you remember, how you felt when you first knew and how you came to know at all."

"I was sitting at the kitchen table. There was a sound in the room, a soft sound, maybe a siren in the distant coming through. And I started getting afraid, like what if there was a murderer out there in the dark through the windows and the police were looking for him, but what if he found us? What if as I looked out the window, suddenly I'd see a face -- something crazy, the face of a crazy murderer -- staring big-eyed back at me? I mean, it was a terrifying thought. And yet at the same time, I felt a strange sensation... a stirring in my pants. Things were getting tighter down there. I thought, What if there was a face... what if he broke into the house and held my mom with a knife to her throat, like a hostage? Well I thought I'd be able to take him. I'd pretend to be all upset, but then when he dismissed me as a crying mess I'd run into him full speed to take him down. The knife would go flying, and my mom would slide it across the floor to me and then -- wham! I'd take it straight into his heart."

"And what -- what about this -- do you remember what the strange sensation, as you called it, what it felt like?"

"It felt good. It was a erection. I had never had one before."

"What about that fantasy made you erect, do you think?"

"Being a hero. Being in control. I think that's what it is."

"Being in control? Do you feel in control now, Henry?"

"Now? I don't feel anything now. Not really. I feel nervous telling you this, embarrassed I think."

"Embarrassed about what?"

"Embarrassed that this turns me on. It feels so... I don't know, it makes me feel guilty. Like, how obvious this must be for you."


"Yeah, I mean, here I am tell you that my first erection came when I fantasied that I save my mom from an imaginary killer holding her at knifepoint. I didn't have to study psychology to know that there's something weird and uncomfortably obvious going on here."

"Maybe you feel like by telling me this, you're not in control. You're exposed."

"Yes. I suppose that's why I do it. To expose myself. Then why don't I go run around the city in a trench-coat showing off my dick? If I like exposing myself?"

"Henry. How are you feeling now?"

"Angry. Angry that you are-- hey. Do you smell that?"

Henry looks around and see the walls of the office are coming closer.

"Holy shit, doc, what's happening?" Suddenly no one is there. "Doc?" And from the walls: penises pushing through. They are on fire. And the walls are closing in.

The Psychologist's Thoughts

Taking the long way home, we crossed the street and passed under a line of trees with lights wrapped in their branches. The lit up in order, stop to bottom, to give the impression that of snow falling brightly. I wrestled with thoughts: who I am, what it means to be someone, moving forward in time. I wondered again if the future was real; if the past was mainly imagined; if the moment was like rock dropped on the surface of pond. Was I the sum total of the ripples? Or the water? She hadn't said anything for a block. I watched her look at the buildings, the lights, and then ahead. I didn't know what she was thinking, but I could see her doing it, thinking.

The subway stairs lead down into the dirty bright light. Through the turnstiles, past the men playing flutes, onto the platform. There was a man in front of us, an Indian man wearing a heavy winter coat. He walked briskly, maybe for about 20 feet, and then took off his coat and brought it to the bench. Walked again, came back, put it on. I had to watch him for several minutes before I realized something was wrong. I began to wonder: schizophrenia? Maybe, maybe he was experiencing psychosis. It was a feeling more than any fact. Many disorders are like that; you feel them first, but only after you open yourself to others. Like opening your pores. Then everything comes in and how it moves tell you what you need to know. You use yourself to know another. It's a sacrifice.

Imagine burning at an altar. Imagine the smoke rising up into God's nostrils, pleasing him. And so He comes down into your mind and gives you some of His light. You can get something for nothing. This is how I know other people, what love is like -- all kinds of love. Not just romantic love, or the kind of love it ripens in when the weather is right and its carefully tended to. Also platonic love, of friends, neighbors; familial love, of brothers and sisters and parents; love for a child, a son or daughter; all swallowed up by the one hungry love that does not distinguish between any of the others. Past boundaries. That love like water filling up the container you give it.

All my life, I try to make myself wide enough to hold as much as I can. I am greedy for love. I'd rather lose myself than not keep trying to hold more.


Dr. Klein arrives at Cliff's house. The night before, Cliff had a dream:

I am running in a meadow and the meadow is full of children. I don't recognize any of them; they are people I have never seen before. Then the sun went down suddenly like someone turning off a light and a gray spinning circle came down from the stars in the sky. The children started screaming and I guess I was a child too, so I ran with them back along the path towards the schoolhouse. My mind was suddenly filled with images of tress on fire, and I smelled the planet burning. The circle sped past our heads and I heard it making a sound like piano wire before it stopped in front of us. Shaina came out of the circle, but it was not quite right; her eyes where all black and her fingers were too long. "I don't love you anyway," she said. And I said something like "What do you mean, anyway?" And she lifted her shirt and beneath her breasts were holes like open mouths, writhing along the edges as if say something in slow motion. I felt scared and said it again, "What do you mean, anyway?" Shaina said "Cliff this planet is in danger. I am going to eat you all up and keep you safe." Then her arms grew very long and she reached out and grabbed a girl with pigtailed blonde hair and pulled her to her chest, where the mouths grew and grew until she stuffed the girl in and said to me something that sounded like DEAD and that's when I woke up.

"Cliff. What's going on?"

"Did you bring it?

"I brought it."

Then Cliff shoots Dr. Klein.


Greg stood in the bedroom with only his underwear on, holding the phone. It was dark outside; the time of year when night comes on suddenly. Through the living room is a small balcony. "Godamnit," he says. "God fucking damnit." And throws the phone against the mirror. Shatters. He imagines sparks and fire but the phone stays silent.

"What's wrong?"

"Who said that?" He turned around.

"I can help you, Greg," the voice said. Male voice, low, calm. But there was no one there. The door was locked, Amber moved out almost month ago. There were clothes and empty boxes, food in the kitchen sink, dishes on the table. "Don't bother looking, you can't see me."

His heart started beating fast.

"Oh no oh no oh no--"

"Can you hear me?"

Greg is sobbing.

"Greg, can you hear me?"

"Yes, I can hear you."

"Step onto the balcony."

He did as he was told. The TV was shattered, and the mirror in the bathroom had blood on it. These are things Greg was dimly aware of.

"Look down," the voice said. "Do you see me now?"

A car went by. Someone was riding a bike by the park. The sky over Queens in the distance was turning black from purple in streaks.

"What-- what am I looking for?"

"Look across the street."

A man by the park bench was looking up at him. His skin was like white light. He had mouths were he should have eyes. That's what it looked like from the 17th floor. Greg cried harder.

"What's going on here?"

"I am here to save you," the voice said, and as it did the mouths all moved, looking like dark holes in the man's white face. Dressed in surgical scrubs. Holding something small and silver. He put it in his mouth.

And then Greg jumped. The fall was so fast he barely had time to change his mind.


Later that day, Greg is found dead

Watch dogs in the parking lot. The moon empty and full. Henry stumbles and swears and catches himself against the fence. The dogs come running up and he steps back.

"I'll kill you fuckers," he says.

"No, you won't."

By the time he's turned around there's no one there, and then crack in the air followed by pain. Henry's head is on fire. He's spinning but there's no one, and the dogs are going crazy, they're jumping and drooling and barking against the fence.

"Show yourself," he says. Henry feels someone around him, just out of sight. And then there's another crack, and time skips. "Pass the potatoes." It's dinner. He's sitting with his parents at their house. "Honey, pass the potatoes."

"Here Mom," he says. His head hurts. There's a feeling like something shaking in his heart.

"Oh it looks like it's really coming down out there," his father says, and the three of them look across the table full of turkey and potatoes past the big bay windows to the street. Filling up with snow.

"It's lovely," his mother says and smiles at him.

"I-- I think I'm bleeding."


"What's wrong with your head?"


He hits the floor, the side of his face on the carpet, bleeding, filling up with warm snow.


Greg kept calling. "Goddamn it Klein pick up, pick up--"

"Dr. Klein's office," Lauren answers. Greg is silent. For a moment Lauren listens to him on the other end of the line. She hears breathing, but doesn't know whose. Then he hangs up.

The office is quiet. Dr. Klein stepped out and Lauren is on the internet, watching the clock. Once she had a dream she was at work, and all along the perimeter of the floor was a barbed wire fence. Beyond that was the outside. The patients were milling about with her, and she sat on a bench underneath a clock. One of them told her: follow me, I know a way out. He had strange teeth. She watched him slip through a hole in the fence and beckoned her from the outside. But she couldn't do it. He left, and soon Dr. Klein came but he was dressed like a solider, with a pointy hat and red armband with a big black K on it. You are irresponsible Lauren, he said to her. She couldn't speak. You've been playing it fast and loose. Then he took off his belt and she woke up. I could see it still bothered in the morning, when she told me about it.

"A red armband? It sounds like Klein was dressed as a Nazi."

"I don't know, there was just something very -- cruel about him. Ugh, I don't even want to talk about it anymore."

"Remember that dream I had, with the Nazis?"

"Of course. It was epic."

"You're telling me. I still wonder what it meant. It felt so important."

"This one wasn't like it. It just felt -- like something was very, very wrong."

I suddenly felt it too. The kitchen was bright and the coffee smelled good, but there was a moment where something felt cold in my body. And then it was gone.

"Don't go to work today. Just call in."

"No, don't be silly. Plus I want to save those sick days. Take an extra long vacation." She got up.

"But you've got plenty of sick days."

"It was just a dream."

"I know, I know. But come on... if you play hooky, I will too..." She kissed me.

"Not today. Today we go to school."

Lauren thinks about this and then jumps when the phone rings. She picks up and this time there's no breathing, no static -- just a clear connection, and silence.

Everybody's Working for the Weekend

There was the issue of salary; of getting up early and staying late; and of course the reasons to be there at all, what you missed, what you didn't get to be part of. There were deals to be made, prescriptions written and filled. Lots of talk in the air, in between more talk, all those people waiting to be seen. There was a long line of people waiting to be seen, every day. This didn't change.


Cliff strolled through the waiting room and made a left down the white halls. He whistled and played with his watch. The nurses walked by, and he turned to watch them go. "I am in a good mood today," he thought. Made another left, then a right, through a series of doors that required codes, then a hand-scanner, in which Cliff laid his right hand. It beeped.

One more door, then another, and now the rooms are metal gray and reflective. Large windows on the far end of the room he now moved through looked out into the lab, and this is where Cliff walked in and sat down in front of the machine. It was blinking a blue light on and off at a regular pace.

Next to it was a computer, and next to that a slab of material on which neurons were growing. The machine was connected to the slab, and the computer connected Cliff to the machine. He began to load the software he wrote over many nights, late nights with caffeine in the lab while Shaina left work for yoga, made dinner and watched TV, and went to bed. Cliff was proud of the software. The Dr. Chen was proud of it, too. They published together in several journals, Cliff as the second author, Dr. Chen the first. Chen knew how to manage Cliff; he left him alone.

The neurons were receiving electrical signals from the machine. On the other side of the slab, wires ran from the exposed brain of a monkey back to the machine. The monkey was strapped in place, and at this moment it was sleeping. Cliff watched it sleep on the screen, which mapped out neural activity in a large collection of regions of interest. The ROIs here were much smaller than in other labs, but there were many more of them and they together formed a distributed network of activity and interaction between neurons throughout the cortex and the thalmus. The interactions formed long, reverberant loops.

It was thought that to see animal's brain in a dream foretold mental suffering, unless the brain is eaten and then it meant the coming of knowledge, and unexpected profit.


A Girl's Dream

i dreamed i died. i died wihth one big boy who didnt have much brain and one other boy that was pretty tipical, we had our belongings from the real world but thats all. the place where we were waiting 4 heavon was dark but lighht. the sky was black but it wasnt pich black like you could see. there were 3 beds and a fence around us. the biig boy was playing with toy monkeys and me and the other boy wwere laying on the couch and i saw two snakes slithering in sync with eachother around the cage adn behing them i saw a ine of 5 light brown bunnys with bit white spots on their right side. after that i called my ex and told him i loved him then i called my dad and i was crying and i told him i was dead and i loved him so much. then soldiers came....... then i woke up


Cliff remembered how Shaina brushed her hair after the shower. Then he looked back at the computer, and adjusted the values that would regulate the balance between the specific electrical patterns in the monkey's brain at this time, and the kinds of patterns the monkey's brain might exhibit in general. It was always a balancing act between the general and the particular. That was the dance Cliff was good at. Shaina liked to dance to salsa music, pop ballads when sung by women, and late 80s hard rock. Different dances for different occasions. The monkey wakes up and begins shrieking what Cliff usually thinks of as some kind of alarm, like a warning for the others, if there were others.



Some Kid's Dream

Crept down the stairs while the trees move past outside their feet deep in earth
I am not bound to anything like that
except the present
and I had something to prove tonight

an hour away from the sides of buildings the light shine
everyone seems sexy or in love or otherwise hungry in the village
met a man he said he knew how to get me high
and this was the night I died


Dr. Klein wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Lauren in the next room, taking his calls. He sat back and imagined the rest of the day, and then to see if he could, imagined the day after, and the day after that.

"Dr. Klein, Cliff is on the line," Lauren buzzed in.

"It's okay, Lauren, I'll take it."



"Dr. Klein, how are you?"

"I'm fine, Cliff, how can I help you?"

"I'm having a bit of a crisis. I was wondering if I could meet you."

"Cliff, we're not scheduled until Thursday. Can it wait until then?"

"No, no, it can't."

He looked over his appointment book.

"Well, this is difficult, Cliff, but maybe I can fit you in... let me see... can you come in at 7? There was a cancellation."

"Well, Dr. Klein, I know this is unusual but this crisis is -- it's complicated. I was hoping you would come to see me."

"Ah, Cliff, I never go to a client's home. It's nothing personal, of course, it's just that there are guidelines about these things. It's a liability, though again of course I mean no offense to you personally at all."

"Dr. Klein. It's about the dream machine."

The office was quiet for a moment. There was the sound of the white noise makers, keeping conversations from coming out into the lobby through the office walls and door.

"What about it?"

"I need to show you. In person."

"Okay Cliff. But I can't get out until 7."

"That's fine. Just hurry."

"Okay. I will see you then."

"And Dr. Klein?"


"Please bring it. Bring the machine."

Dr. Klein exhaled.

"I'll see what I can do. Bye, Cliff."

But he had already hung up.


Broken down, we waited at the side of the road. Lauren looking very worried in the day's last light, on the cellphone, waiting for the car to be towed. Ah God I feel how much I love her sometimes. A physical sensation in my heart. I never knew, when I was younger, that feelings could be so literally something you feel. "We're going to be sooo late," she said.

I laughed a little. "I don't think we're going to make it at all."

"My sister's going to be so mad..."

"She's always gets mad. And it's not your fault. You didn't break the car." I hugged her and she put her head on my shoulder.

"Remember the story you told me?" she asked. "About Olivia?" I laughed again.

"Of course."

"Was that true?"

"I don't know why I'd make something like that up."

"You really asked her if you could rest your head on her shoulder, and then changed your mind?"

"I was fourteen years old! I think that was the first time I ever touched a girl I thought was beautiful. I panicked."

"Funny, that made you panic." I thought about that.

"Yeah, I guess it was."

"Instead of enjoying it."

"Hey-- let's just go to dinner. We'll get oyster's at the place on Court. We haven't been there in a while."

Lauren looked at me.

"I used to worry you were being a psychologist, when you said comforting things."

"I am a psychologist."

"I know, but you know what I mean. Remember how I used to worry you were doing it because you knew how, and I was taking advantage of that?"

"Remember how I used to say, 'I'm not being your psychologist because you don't pay me. And because we have sex.'" She smiled.

"I do remember that. I don't feel that way anymore."

"Good." We called a cab after they took the car away, ate oysters and drank wine and when I was asleep whatever I dreamt was gone in the morning.


The First Fetish

"I do. It's part of me. Since I was a kid I wanted to be kidnapped. I remember watching an episode of A Current Affair. Maury Povich showed a photograph left in the empty parking space where two teenage girls had been waiting for their mom. It showed them tied and gagged in the back of a van. Duct tape and no shoes on. The first time I came I tied myself up on the bathroom floor in shoelaces.

"Years later, in college, I discovered through the internet I was turned on by images of women tied. I wanted to see them kidnapped, too. And the rest is history. I first tried it with Susan. We did it for about a year, before we broke up. It was good, so good sometimes. But different."

"Different how?"

"Less clean. The things crept in that always creep in: is she enjoying it, am I enjoying it, is this tight enough, what does she think of me for wanting to do this, or that, or that... but most of all, it wasn't real."

"Not real?"

"I know it sounds crazy, because how could it be less real than jerking off to internet porn, right? But it just felt... too much like a game. The problem is, if she wanted me to, I had to let her out. And that's what worried me most."

"Were you worried you wouldn't let her out?"

Dr. Klein looked at me. "No. I was just disappointed that I did."

How It Works

Imagine watching yourself in a dream. What would it be like, to meet your dreaming self? The dream machine allows just that. It uses deep learning algorithms to isolate the brain activity that correlates with consciousness while you are awake. Consciousness itself is not contained in single neuron or neuronal group; it arises from particular kinds of interactions.* It comes from the relationship between neurons, especially those in the thalmus and the cortex. The dream machine learns those relationships.

The dream machine allows you to experience your own dreams as if you were inside a virtual world. You are free to move about; you can see your dream self, doing what your dream self decides to do; you can see what your dream self is seeing and hearing what he is hearing. In fact, you can see more. The brain abhors a perceptual vacuum, so wherever you look, your brain fills in the gaps -- even the parts that your dream self does not see. Imagine it: you dream you are climbing a staircase. You get to the top where you hear a voice say, "The world is elliptical..." and then you jump into a fountain. The "you" here is your dream self. Unless you dream lucidly, your awake self does not choose the actions of your dream self. With the dream machine, your awake self still cannot make those choices. But you can visit your dream self, watch him climb the staircase, pause to examine the steps, and go in a different direction to explore whatever lies at the bottom of the stairs. Your brain fills in those details. You can watch your dream self get tired as he sweats on the steps. You can hear the voice speak, and try to find its source. The dream world is yours to move in, as freely as you move in the real world. And when the dream is over, you will remember everything as if it had happened to you while awake.

You cannot interfere, though. You are a ghost in the dream world, and so you cannot help your dream self up the stairs; cannot drink from the fountain or be seen by anyone you encounter. You are a spectator in a virtual world that cannot sense your presence.

When the dream machine was developed, researchers found that they could effectively impose the patterns of neuronal activity that characterize wakeful consciousness onto the brain during REM sleep. The breakthrough came when they observed that this essentially created two minds in the patient; that of the dream self, and that of the awake self. Consciousness cannot be split. Even patients with a severed corpus callosum, for whom the left and right halves of the brain cannot communicate, do not experience two consciousnesses. One will always dominate the other. What the researchers saw in early tests was that the wakeful consciousness always dominated** the dream consciousness, meaning that the patient would experience the dreams as his awake self even while his dream self went about his own experience of the dream, inaccessible to the awake self as someone else's thoughts. This observation provided the basis for the dream machine's current use in treatment today, making it an invaluable tool in the treatment of psychological disorders, psychoanalytic dream analysis, as well as many other therapeutic treatment modalities.

* Doesn't this make sense? Wisdom is relational. Knowledge allows a man to contruct a light bulb or a rifle; but wisdom exists in the between we create together, and it is dynamic. This is why the wise man who sits on the mountain, the guru, is no longer valued. The new century is about speed and dynamic functions, changing relationships between changing parts, and infinity moving at infinite speed... --Chen, editor

** almost.


The Dream Machine

"Sometimes the future is like a long tunnel that gets narrower as I move through it. It's like the trick of drawing perspective -- you make the four lines intersect to give the illusion of depth."

"The illusion of depth? Tell me what you mean by that."

Roger pauses. "I guess I mean... I don't know, like the tunnel is literally narrowing. The future, I mean. Narrows as I move through it."

Dr. Klein leans back. "Roger, try to tell me how it feels, as you imagine moving through this tunnel. Don't tell me what you think it means, tell me what your feelings are."

Oh Roger, you can fuck me harder, it's okay okay aaah that's it! that's it! You like it like this? harder Roger you can have me any way you want, any waaaah Any way, how about like this? like this? you like this?

"Lonely. It feels really, deeply lonely--"

Now Roger crumples. Dr. Klein sees him try to hold back, in his body and his face, but the tears come and they are very hot.

"Lonely," Dr. Klein says. He softens his voice. "It sounds awfully lonely, I imagine it you feel as if there is no one to be with you when you are in this place." Roger nods, his hands on his face.

"It feels like I can't breathe. It's like claustrophobia. I can't go further but I have to, like I'm being pushed. Like there's this huge wall behind me, and it's closing up the tunnel as I move through and I don't want to keep going but I can't turn back..."

That was perfect. Whoa. I know, right? Absolutely perfect. Move your arm. Like this? No, like... this. Like you're curling me. There. Isn't that perfect? Ahh. It absolutely is.

Then they fell asleep.


Mandy's Dream

I am waiting for a number to be called, I guess it's on the TV like the lotto or something. I am waiting for my number to come up
and it is the first ball
it reads
and the second ball
I can't remember but then the machine
on the TV catches on fire
and then the TV goes too

and now I'm panicking, I'm shouting Mom Mom the TV's on fire! But when I turn
I see it's not Mom
it's a something dressed as her
though it looks exactly like Mom
I know it's not really her
it's not a man it's something else
like a machine
and I scream and there's an axe in my hand and I swing it and hit her, hard,
right in the chest
and it opens up
and there's a fire there too
it's so hot

and when I wake up the radiator is hissing loudly like electric sparks and that's when I realized what had happened and what the doctor had done--



He does not reply.

"Roger, I want you to listen to me."


"You are not alone."

"But I am."

"Roger. There is no future. What you imagine, the tunnel, the wall, it exists in your imagination. It has no body. The mind can't move through time. I can't go forwards and see what will be. I can't go back and see what was. I can only imagine and in either direction the latest science agrees that the bulk of we think we see we make ourselves. The remembered present. That's where we live."

"It feels so bad, though."

Dr. Klein sighs, leans back and put his hands where Roger can't see them behind the desk.

"Does it have to?"


"What is that?"


"It's a dream machine."

"A dream machine?"

Dr. Klein shakes his head. "Well, not a dream machine exactly. The name dream machine historically refers to device built by Ian Sommerville. Have you heard of Ian Sommerville, Roger? He spent time with Burroughs in the 60s. That dream machine was a cylinder with holes cut in it, and there was a light inside. The cylinder rotated on a record player. People stared at it and saw things. This is not that kind of dream machine. This is more properly a brain-machine interface. It maintains the specific patterns of reverbant loops between your thalmus and cortex during REM sleep."

"What does that do?" Roger is staring at the machine.

"It lets you experience your dreams as if you were awake."

"So.... this is like lucid dreaming?"

"No. Lucid dreamers can control their dreams. Which I dislike the idea of. It is an unfortunate loss of information."

Dr. Klein extends a wire from the base of the dream machine and hands the tip to Roger.

"This is something different. Here. Put this in your mouth."


The First Two Murders

Dr. Klein left the office underneath a telephone pole covered in birds. Inside his head words were swimming:

I remember the time I thought I told the truth, but it was a lie. What does that mean, that I might believe what I say when I don't mean it? What are the meanings behind words, what truth lies underneath them, what happens if I cut their skin, what bleeds, what is language's blood and what

"Oh! Dr. Klein."

Shaina was startled.

"I almost -- I didn't recognize you for a second, outside the office, I mean."

"Shaina. How are you doing?"

She paused, touched her hair. The sun was moving slowly above their heads, and beyond that the universe slightly shifted. Shaina had blonde hair. When she first started coming, it was brown.

"Is that a professional question?"

"Of course not."

"I'm just joking, doctor. Not funny, I know, but--"

"Well Shaina, I'd best be going."

Better to create triangles. Better to find her again, and walk away leaving her feeling that there was something guiding them towards each other, the movement of heavenly bodies, something in their cells, magnetic nuclei, something about the way things are meant to be, yes, meant to be, yes, that's what I'm trying to make

"See you Thursday."

She smiled and looked down.

"See you Thursday," she said.


The Doctor's Dream

little elephants come up form the soil and shook their trunks at the sky. I was breaking something down, it was either a stone or a word, or maybe a word carved into a rock. I tried to tell them, hey, elephants, you don't belong here, get back. But they came up and split open at the seams. Butterflies came from their skin loosened and in little piles on the ground. Little elephant skin never forgets, I remember thinking. I was swimming in something thick, it was air but not air, it was a venus fly trap and the thick liquid in its gut. the burning light above me, hot air, long ride back home, I remember thinking that right before she came into the dream. I knew her but I didn't. I could see her face but can't remember now. She said the meaning of the world is not the world, and then wake up and I said what does that mean, and she said wake up wake up and I said I am trying and then I did.


meanwhile it was jazz city USA
int other part of town
some kids were trying to get back
to a different time
jazz time
wanted to be wild in the night

horns like sex
right right right
that's why they wore their hats like that
two of them

young-looking but maybe not really kids
can't tell right now
in the this light
can't tell now with what's on their faces

all this dark shadow
and blood


"I have strange fantasies, doctor. Strange I guess is a weird way to put it. They are mine, I know, so I guess I should try to own them, own that part of me. But I can't help but step back and look at them like another person might, and then I can't escape the sense that they are strange. I want to put people in the microwaves. I know it's impossible but the thought of it turns me on. Not any people, just certain ones. Shelley from work, I've told you about her. And Keila. From the bank. I can't imagine getting them in but I can imagine seeing them pressed against that plastic. On the door. And the light on inside. Doctor, I know it's weird. It gets me hard, a little even now just talking about it. God I don't understand. It seems obvious, in a way, like it has to with power and control. I get that but it -- knowing that doesn't -- it doesn't change anything. What I want to do. And I can't tell Karen. I couldn't. What would she say? I don't want to even think about it. And she's had her share -- in a totally different way I mean -- but her weird fantasies. I know they feel unwelcome in her case, but they do in mine, too, mine are just less vivid. I mean, she said she used to see things. Penises on fire, pushing through the bedroom wall. That was before the olanzapine. I'm glad she got on that doctor, you have no idea what you did for us. No idea."



"I am interested in the various things we talk about when we think we are talking about something else."

Dr. Klein leaned back. I wasn't sure what to do.

"What things?"


"What things do we think we are talking about?"

He paused. I felt distant from myself a bit, and tried to focus. The burbling from the small stone fountain on the desk filled up the room. Underneath that sound, I could hear the hiss of the noise machine outside the door.

"Well, Cliff, what do you think we're talking about?"

"Frankly I'm not so sure right now."

"Not so sure?"


The noise maker kept the conversation private, helped ensure confidentiality, which is an important part of the relationship that we are trying to build in this room. The relationship is an important part of growth; it is in fact a vessel for change, in that it carries us each from one way of living to another. The distance cannot be measured in flat miles. It is more a game of inches, but that is what I am resolved to.

"I think we are talking about sex."

As he said it, I remembered several things at once: Maureen in my bedroom, trying to get me to fuck her without admitting that she was trying; and Elena, who screamed just as I was about to press myself inside her. I remember the feeling of losing my erection, which if it -- the feeling -- were a sound it would sound like a sad clown's whistle: waw waaaw.

"Tell me what you are thinking about."

"I am thinking about whether I need to have it at all; if the army ever gets bored of following orders or if it wants to try something different for a change, collectively; how come it takes so long to conceive of a way of living that might lead to greatness; and why greatness comes in moments and not some more enduring capsule. I am just riffing here. Just letting it flow. I am thinking of the trees I climbed outside the house when I was a boy, and why I tried to push my sister off them so many times. Did I hate her? Do I hate her now? I try to take care of her in a way that feels like love, but is it? How do I know? How did the first spaceship make it to the moon and back? Getting there I can imagine. But getting back..."

I regard him carefully. He is not an unattractive man, to me. I think about the patients he treats. I have never met them, and he has never mentioned them, but I have a clear picture of one in my head: a woman, blonde, short and cute, I can picture her talking and thinking about herself and her life's patterns, trying to climb to a height from which it becomes possible for her to actually see them, trusting Dr. Klein to hold her up there and believing -- and this is most important -- that once she sees them, the patterns, she can put her hands on them and make herself something new.

"I don't believe you," I tell him. "In my office I can only make space for you to do the work. I cannot make you work, and if you don't want to, if you'd like to keep riffing and telling me that these feeling truly matter to you, even when you and I both know they don't, well, I will not stop you. I get paid regardless."

Dr. Klein sat up. I continued. I told him I was sorry if that seemed crass, but the fact is he knows as well as I do that we get paid to do what we do -- to listen, and yes that does help on its own, but really (and I tried to make this point very clear, very eloquent, like a kind of music I hoped or the water on the rocks) it did not matter what I did. And then I told him why.


The next session Dr. Klein cried about what he had done, what he shouldn't have done. I listened and made a mental note to check on the noise machine's batteries. It's part of the job.



Shaina waited on the beach for Cliff to come down. The stars were watery above her head. What are the odds, she wondered, that my life feels the way I want it to, always? It depended on so many variables, each in changing relationships with known and unknown entities, and the entities too were in changing relationships with each other and themselves. Shaina waited for Cliff because he believed this web was navigatable. Cliff believed in Stephen Wolfram, and what Wolfram believed in could be found in the private world he moved through, tailed by young men with hair sticking out from behind their ears, watery eyes, reflective glasses. The key was computation.

Cliff built sequences that made parts inside computers move. Dance, he thought. "Move," he told Shaina, "I mean, that's really what it comes down to, in the end." It was their first date; the wine bar had a fireplace and they ate oysters, which Cliff had never eaten and Shaina loved. "I love them sooo much," she squealed. He never felt that way about anything, the way Shaina felt about oysters. He thought he might fall in love. "In the end?" she asked. "There is remarkable uniformity everywhere," he told her. "If you can make inanimate materials do math, in the end you can make everything do anything."

But did he believe it? That was the question Shaina thought about, in different words, on the beach while she waited. The answer's absence clung to the wet stars. It clung to the sky and the sky opened and suddenly there was rain in the air and on the beach and in her brown hair. Out past the beach crest was the house they rented for the week, and on the second floor there was a light and in that light Cliff sat, internet pornography on the computer screen, divided equally into pixels, fundamental cells of digital images, moving up and down. Dancing? He stared at the changing relationships.