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.