Author : Travis Gregg

As I fired my gun into the Stim’s chest I wondered if he saw me as a monster or if he understood that I was only doing what he had forced me to do. His choices had brought us to this point and I was just trying to clean up the mess. My partner and I got the call just twenty minutes ago and things had escalated quickly.

Once a Stim was over the edge situations always escalated quickly.

The call had come in from a woman two apartments down claiming she’d heard disturbing noises. Ever since the solar event and the following epidemic we’d gotten a lot of these calls. Most of them were false alarms these days, but there were a surprising number of Stims still out there, still integrated into society, and every one of them was going to be a problem sooner or later.

“Goddam Stim,” my partner muttered, rubbing his left shoulder. When we’d first come up to the apartment the Stim had met us with a baseball bat. We’d been lucky, knives were much more common. I’d been attacked with a goddam katana once too.

“You’ll be alright,” I replied, hoping that it wasn’t anything worse than a bruise. “So why’d you never try Dreamstim?” I asked, hoping to take his mind off the pain. We’d only been working together about a week and that question invariably comes up between people who’ve known each other for any length of time these days.

“My wife thought it was unnatural,” he replied with half a chuckle. “Said it would rot my brain.”

We both had a good laugh at that.

“What about you?” he asked.

“Never really got around to it. I would have probably picked it up eventually, just wasn’t in that big a hurry, luckily. Then when it was banned I never really sought it out.”

Dreamstim had been the medical breakthrough of the century. The small device allowed users to get a full nine hours of sleep in only ninety minutes. The prospect of an extra third of the day was too tempting for many people and users adopted its use in droves. Soon though, users learned that using Dreamstim even once broke something inside of them, something fundamental, and they were completely unable to sleep naturally again. The general consensus is that this was done intentionally but the manufacturer denied the accusations. Three weeks after the initial release of the Dreamstim the largest CME in history rocketed toward Earth. The resulting geomagnetic storm shorted out power grids worldwide and aurora could be seen nearly to the equator.

The power grids were back up after a couple of days, at least here in the States, but those were a bad couple of days. Worse though for most people was the burning out of the little electronics everyone carries around with them. Smartphones, newer laptops, and the Dreamstim units had circuitry that was too delicate to handle the extreme fluctuations in the magnetosphere.

America had it pretty bad, China had it worse, and trade still hadn’t been normalized six month later. Despite promises, no new Dreamstim units had been shipped from the factory. I doubted the factory still existed.

Between sedatives and chemically induced comas some Stims were able to cope, most couldn’t. These days it was the Stims going off their meds that we had to worry about.

“Think they’ll be a cure someday?” my partner asked, drawing me out of my contemplation.

“Eventually, but until then that’s why we’re here.”


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