by R.A. Roth
Two rules you must always obey.
Never dream. Never disturb my slumber.
Or face oblivion. – J. the Dreaming God
J. dreamt that he was a god who, in order to maintain his power, inhibited the public’s will to dream. It wasn’t impossible to dream. Just perilous. Doctors couldn’t figure out what had squelched the desire to dream, so J., as a benevolent god, went on all manner of social media and TV to tell the public that he, their new god, was the party responsible for poisoning the dream well.
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” J. said, nearing the conclusion of his apology, which ended with a fair exchange. “As recompense for lost dreams, I bequeath the ability to stay awake indefinitely, fully alert and well. Bless you all,” he said, and all of social media and TV reverted to its normal traffic flow.
In the days that followed, the world underwent some drastic changes. Sleep related industries collapsed. Businesses unaffected by the death of sleep switched to around-the-clock operations. An extra meal, midmunch, was added to the daily regimen. Food consumption skyrocketed 40%, so the US government ceased paying farmers to not grow basic staples such as corn, soybeans and wheat. The workday was lengthened to 12 hours, with a corresponding increase in pay, and the economy boomed. In less than a fortnight the Dow soared over 30,000 and so fattened the pockets of a few opportunistic speculators that they quit their jobs and retired to lives of 24 hour luxury. The luckiest of the speculators was Dr. Monist Albums, a SoCal OB/GYN who lived in a 35-room palace overlooking copy and paste McMansions, boxy condos and assorted commercial developments. Dr. Albums invested heavily in electronics and game console makers, betting those surplus hours were more likely to get gobbled up on leisure activities, and he turned a mere fortune into a mega-fortune. Monist’s wife of seven years celebrated by making an appointment to have her currently generous helping of boobs inflated to the size of dirigibles. J. oversaw the operation himself.
“Relax, Mrs. Albums,” he said, “you won’t feel a thing.”
But when the anesthesiologist tried to put Mrs. Albums under, nothing happened. Sleep, including artificially induced sleep, had been eradicated. Her case was far from unusual or isolated. Unable to anesthetize patients, surgeons around the world were forced to perform dangerous, intricate procedures on conscious subjects, the majority of whom lapsed into shock and died.
In response to a public health crisis, J. issued a new edict: “I return to the world the ability to sleep dreamlessly. To compensate for lost dreams, I bequeath the power to read minds. Bless you all.”
With sleep back on the table, the sleep industry experienced an instant rebirth, as one would expect. The mass introduction of mind reading, however, didn’t go over as smoothly. In less than a fortnight the divorce rate quadrupled. Families who survived the sudden influx of naked secrets ate their meals in solitude and blasted music to drown out the torrential cloudbursts of unabated thoughts infiltrating their heads. Young men, biologically preoccupied with sexual congress and the female figure, tried squelching their unchecked fantasies by mentally reciting times tables, passages from books, hypnotic mantras, and even then brash involuntary declarations of sexual enticement, I want to fuck that girl so badly, will I ever touch a pussy, a nipple? escaped into the unprotected wilderness of human thought. High school teachers went on strike citing mind reading as an untenable distraction which made it impossible to conduct an orderly class. Public events were canceled. Worldwide, every stripe of politician chose the life of a hermit or was imprisoned by the state, including but not limited to the President of the United States, Martin Mendass, whose head was a minefield of sensitive state secrets, nuclear launch codes and political intrigues. On the plus side of the ledger, business meetings were discarded for actual productive work.
A week into the mind reading debacle, J. usurped mass communication channels for a third time to address the world: “I return to the world the ability to think privately, with no change in the policy of dreamless sleep. As fair compensation for lost dreams, I bequeath a universal IQ of 200. Bless you all.”
Supercharging humanity’s brainpower jumpstarted an unprecedented worldwide pursuit of knowledge. In less than a fortnight, incredible theories were discovered and refined, and the least controversial of these theories proved beyond all doubt that the creation of the universe and subsequent evolutionary processes were godless enterprises. In response, the coalition of minds responsible for the godless universe theory drafted and published a scathing column lambasting J. for his godly pretense. They called him a fraud, a charlatan, a snake oil salesmen preying on the gullible. Head of the coalition, Pope Morpheus, declared that J. was a shockingly unscrupulous phony beyond forgiveness.
“You’re all making a terrible mistake,” J. said on his J.Tube channel. “As your god, if you turn your backs on me, I shall slumber no more and upon awakening end the world and all of you.”
The world challenged J.’s assertion, deemed outrageous and beyond the pale of logic and reason, and turn its back on him. The sudden loss of worshipers woke J. up, and upon waking J. heard the dwindling screams of ten billion souls pleading for mercy as the world faded to black.
“I had the strangest dream,” J. told his wife, K. the Dreaming God, and she banished him to the cold wasteland of space for trying to steal her powers.