Friday, August 29, 2003

Operation Mindfuck
The dream started out simply enough. I was working on some thing or another when I got a call from some friends that they needed help on a video game. The first puzzle was a basic Tomb Raider-style puzzle, with swinging ropes that had to be times just right, and torches that had to be lit in just the right order. Appropriately enough, my avatar was a giant ape. The door opens, I walk through, and instead of the giant ape, I'm in my own body, with my friends. The next puzzle involved an Aztec temple that could only be opened right at sundown, and more of the usual stuff involved moving blocks and twisting wall decorations, all of which revealed a huge feast. Which gave us something to do, and something to eat, but still no way out. And unbeknownst to us, the same reveal that gave us the feast also released some animals, including a housecat, squirrel, coyote, and mountain lion. Once I'd saved the smaller animals from the larger, then we could move on.

The last level was called a "Narcissism Trap". The tunnel walls pulsed like capillaries, and were filled with robed creatures. Some had mirrors for faces, some had none, and others were simply beautiful men and women who locked eyes with you until you forced your way past them. The crowd pressed tight, the tunnels pulsed closed, burst open, and you're in the open, walking the streets of a college town on a Friday night. There's a party going in a couple of houses, and it's clear that's where we're supposed to go. One of your group has a sister that lives nearby, so you decide to use her apartment as a base of operations. You pick two of your number to reconnoiter the parties, but after an hour or two it's clear they're not coming back. It's your turn.

There's nobody you know at this party, but that doesn't make it any less alluring. The first room you enter is filled with people talking about art, movies, and literature with wit and intelligence. As you work your way toward the door on the opposite side of the room, at least three people ask your opinion and offer you a drink. The next room is the kitchen, where they're mixing drinks. Wonderful smells are coming from the stove, and the cook is holding out a spoon. "Taste this. It's missing something. Any ideas?" But your friends are not in this room, so you keep going. For the first time, you recognize people, as the next room is filled with celebrities. They know your name, and seem to know your private thoughts, as each seems to have a project he or she wants to work with you on that fits perfectly with what's been in your thoughts lately. But now you see the stairs, and work your way toward them.

Every few steps there is a beautiful woman who smiles at you. Some resemble women from your past, just enough to tug at the memory, but not enough to frighten you off. Several touch your arm flirtatiously as you pass. The upstairs landing is dark, and crowded, but the faces and voices of the crowd are indistinct. The first room come to is a bathroom, and you're surprised to find it both brightly lit and empty. You close the door behind yourself and savor the silence for a moment, then begin to look for someplace to go from here. There is a low cabinet in the corner, but as you reach for the handle, you hear a noise behind you. There is woman smiling there, a note-perfect mixture of every trait you've ever found attractive in a mate, friend, or stranger. "I'm glad you finally found me," she says, and you feel yourself stepping towards her before something in your gut reminds you there are friends to be found in this honeytrap of a house, and so you turn back to the cabinet.

Just inside the door, there is an opening in the floor. It is just a hair wider than your shoulders, oddly shaped, and moist looking. Oddly enough, it is not dark, but bright, as though the irregular walls were lit from within. You feel claustrophobia rising in your gut at the thought of going into that tunnel, but somehow know that's the next step. You turn back to the woman, and now she's nude, her hourglass figure glistening with the same greasy substance that seems to line the tunnel in the cabinet. Her still-smiling face is tilted to the side, like a curious kitten. Taking this as a sign, you raise your hands above your head and step into the tunnel feet first.

From there, things get weird. The game, or dream, or whatever the hell it is you're stuck in leaves behind the nominal logic that's driven it so far, and image piles on image with only a vague resonance to connect them. All that's left of your consciousness is the sense that you must keep moving, don't allow the game to win, but whether winning means staying in the dream or letting the morning pull you out is less than clear. Your alarm rings, and you let the noise roll over you for a while, but it ruins the flow of the dream, so you snooze it and slide back into the parade of images until the sun and the cat and the knowledge that you're going to be late for work pull you out of bed like a log on a chain, and you stumblingly start your day.

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