Author: Sarah Klein
The Dreamselector opens as George gets into bed.
“Mountain Climb”, he selects. “Anxiety/difficulty: Medium. Ending: Summit.”
George nestles into bed, ready to dream of a hard but rewarding climb up a snow mountain.
Except that doesn’t happen at all.
George is climbing, sticking his crampons into the ice. His breath comes hard. He puts in an ice-pick, but it slips. His body dislodges one of his legs as he swings.
He tries to find his footing again, but cannot. His other leg comes undone. Scrabbling madly, he remains with one hand stuck into the mountain, unable to find a hold. His heart beats wildly.
And then, his last hand slips, and he is falling, falling, falling, and he wakes screaming.
“It’s broken,” he says into the phone the next day.
“What?” The man on the other end says.
“I had a nightmare,” he insists. The man chuckles.
“Must be a nice change of pace,” he says as typing noises swell in the background. “Okay mister. We will have someone come by as soon as we can, but it could be a few days.”
“Days?” George asks tremulously, but the man has hung up. He stares out his window at the nice summer day. He puts his hand on it. He wishes today more than ever that he could go outside.
The selector pops open again that evening. George sighs. Maybe it was a fluke. “Swimming. Anxiety level: low. Location: local pool”.
George is surrounded by happy children splashing. He is doing a lap. He feels the cool water and the smell of chlorine. He reaches the end of the pool and goes to turn around.
Just then, a man standing at the edge of the pool jumps in. George cannot see his face well. He grabs George’s head and holds it under. George fights and begins to panic. He feels his chest contract and his lungs burn.
He wakes with his heart pounding, covered in a cold sweat.
“Can I turn it off,” he asks the man on the phone later that morning.
The man chuckles again, in the same irritating, dismissive way. “Can you turn off dreaming? I don’t think so. Relax, sir, someone will be there soon.”
The next night George fights sleep, but as it slowly descends, the selector picks for him.
George is in the desert. He is brushing some dust off of some bones; it appears he is at some kind of archaeological site. He feels a swelling joy at discovery. A moment later, a strong wind whips up sand into his mouth. He waits for it to stop, but it does not. He looks all around. A sandstorm. He looks for cover, but there is none. Before he can try to stuff his mouth into his shirt to breathe, the wind picks him up and slams him into a dune.
George wakes up coughing, his eyes watering.
“Someone will be there soon,” the man says on the other end of the phone two weeks later. George feels the tears start to come. He looks at his rudimentary tools strewn around his apartment – the aftermath of desperate attempts to escape. “Please,” he whispers, but the man has already hung up.
George picks up his hammer and rests it against it forehead, and thoughts fill his head of slamming it into his skull over and over again.