It’s a dangerous job. They told me that in college, they told me that in my doctoral studies, they told me that when they recruited me, and they tell me that every morning of a jump. It’s a dangerous job, Jodie. But I know the risks. Everyone in this field knows the risk.
My first case was standard: a sociopath who slaughtered half a dozen children in his basement two centuries earlier. We don’t save the victims, of courseâ€¦that would mutilate the timeline. We don’t even see the subjects. In the projection chamber, I lie on the table as wires are taped to my head, stimulating REM. It takes a special type of person, I hear: a lucid dreamer. Without that ability, it’s easy to lose yourself.
I enter him as he’s almost there, hovering on the brink and fantasizing about the pale-eyed brunette in the basement. I feel the body shudder with the feeling of falling that accompanies the transition to sleep. His mind unfolds into images: the man who sold him bread in the morning, people he passed on the subway. They never dream about the victims. They have their waking hours for that.
Years in the future, the movements of his unconscious are being recorded. In hours, they’ll be processed and scrutinized, and the database will be updated.
His mother, long dead, walking down a corridor and holding a glass of water. She opens a door and he’s inside. “Did you finish shopping?” he asks, and she gives him the glass. He drops it, spills it. The water is the ocean and the shattered glass is light breaking on the jagged edges of waves as he looks overboard. Dreaming. I watch.
When they pull me from his mind the transition is gentle. The scientist enters the dream patterns with keystrokes. “Nice job,” he says, because he’s flirted with me for months. I smile and leave. I’ll be back the next day.
As I sleep in my own bed, fragments of the dreams are recycled. The lucid dreaming distances themâ€¦this is simple review, observation rather than motivation. The scanners realize this, and ignore me. Across the city, people are dreaming, matching and evading profiles. Dangerous cases are summoned and saved by doctors who do my work in reverse. I research, they cure.
It’s a dangerous job, but someone has to do it. We haven’t had a serial killer for centuries.