Author : Leslie Bohem

Kevin, in his early thirties, upwardly mobile, does not look like he belongs in this dank alley. He started coming down about six months ago. At first, maybe once every couple of weeks, then once a week, then every couple of days. Now, he comes every day. He comes for the dreams.

You get so you need it. All the time. So you can’t do without the input.

Kevin stops in front of a door. Dirty titanium. Used to be the entrance to a warehouse, back in the day. Now it’s lofts down here. Lofts and empty space where the server farms used to be back in the day. Kevin waits with strung out impatience. Time drips. And then the sounds of deadbolts being thrown and Clive opens the door. Clive is maybe sixty. His hair is long and greasy. “Anyone follow you down?” he asks.

Clive has let him in now, looking up and down the alley first. Now he shuts the door behind them. Throws both the deadbolts.

There are maybe a dozen mattresses on the floor. Maybe that many people crashed out on the mattresses. Kevin doesn’t really see them. Clive and these others, they were like Kevin once. They had jobs up top. Offices with windows and sunshine. All the perks. Kevin imagines that’s was the next step. Give all that up, come down here on a more permanent basis. No reason he could think of not to. He had enough money set aside. He could “retire.”

Clive takes a seat at an old kitchen table. Kevin takes the chair across from him. He slides an envelope over to Clive. Clive takes it.

“You sure no one saw you come down?”

“I’m careful.”

“Everbody’s careful,” Clive says, taking the envelope. “The DPs are cracking down on this whole sector. I may have to close up. Move.”

“Where would you go?”

“There’s always a place,” Clive says with a shrug. “There are always people in need.” He takes a moment, in his head. “I remember,” he says, “when this shit was legal.”

“Must have been nice.”

“You never thought about it. Just something everyone did. Every once in a while, you’d tell someone about it, you had a particularly wild night. That was it.”

“They say they outlawed it; it was something they found out by accident. Is that true?”

“They were doing some research, crowd control. An anti-terrorism thing. Seems people who didn’t do it were more docile, less likely to rock the boat. Once they knew they could do that to people, it was only a matter of time. They found a way to stop it.” “He looks at Kevin. “You ready.”

Kevin nods. Clive slips him what looks like a tricked out iPod and a set of headphones. Then a sleep mask.

“I can never get over how simple this is.” Kevin says.

“They’ve created an electro/magnetic fence, that’s all. A sort of barbed wire between the id and the super/ego. This just cancels their signal. Allows you to go where you were meant to go.”

“I never asked you. What were you, before you got into this?”

“Psychiatrist,” Clive says.

“You came up with this in your spare time?”

“I thought it was important.” He nods to the mask in Kevin’s hands. “You’d better get started. I can get you off if you like.”

Kevin nods and moves over to one of the mattresses. He lies down, puts the phones on. He looks over at Clive. Clive smiles at him. Kevin pulls the mask over his eyes.

He started coming down about six months ago. Now, he comes every day. You get so you need it. All the time. So you can’t do without the input.

Clive looks down at Kevin, lying there on the mattress. He reaches out and flips a switch on the iPod-like devise. He smiles a little sadly and then he says, “Pleasant dreams.”

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