“Dreams are an integral part of our mental health. While there are times we don’t remember our dreams, they always occur, and in turn affect our daily lives. Who here has experienced a nightmare?”
The man on the stage raised his hand as he spoke signaling to his audience this is what he expected from them. Everyone around me raised his hands. I sat motionless.
“Nightmares can cause segmented sleep and result in you being tired, and unable to function at full efficiency.” He spoke about us as if we were robots. “That is why we at Vision have been working on something revolutionary. We have come together with multiple scientists to bring to you the Muse Box. This small piece of technology has the ability to change each and every one of your lives. Simply place the nodes on either temple.” He picked up two small circles attached to wires and stuck them to either side of his forehead. “Then simply tell the Muse Box what you would like to dream about.” The room of investors fell completely silent.
He lifted the small cube, now a part of him, and spoke clearly, “Muse Box, put me on a beach during a Kate Upton photo shoot.”
The box beeped and then small LED letters scrolled across its frame, reading back what he had just spoken to it.
“It’s as simple as that. Once I fall asleep there will be nothing but sand between my toes and Kate Upton striking a pose.” He smirked as if these lines were unscripted and a few giggles exited the crowd, mostly men.
“So you may be wondering: Simon, how do I get my hands on one of these fine inventions? Well, I’ll tell you. Everyone in this room today will be receiving a FREE, you heard correctly, FREE Muse Box!”
The crowd erupted in thunderous clapping.
“Thank you all for coming out this evening, I’ll see you just outside the auditorium with your free Muse Box. And get ready, this little box is about to change your life forever.”
I waited until the auditorium had cleared, staring at the stage Simon had just been on, flailing his arms and smiling ear to ear. That was supposed to be me. Muse Box had been my project, and instead Simon was up there telling everyone how he was going to change each one of his or her lives. I finally stood up and started making my way up the velvet-covered steps to the doors at the back of the room. I could hear laughter and cheering just outside of those thin, wooden panels and had to brace myself. I pushed the door open and to my right was an almost empty table of Muse Boxes. So many people were interested in the product, which means these investors actually may fund a mass production. I started making my way to the gate of freedom when Simon popped up next to me.
“There he is!” Simon was never one to be unenthusiastic about anything. “Where have you been man? Amy and I have been looking for you everywhere.”
“I guess I had to recover from that exuberant presentation. You put on quite the show.” I hated Simon.
“Yeah, that was all me. Corporate was all, ‘Let the invention speak for itself,’ and I was like ‘Whatever dudes’. I’m probably going to get a very strongly worded email from them.”
He burst into unbridled laughter, showing off his award-winning smile and unhealthy propensity to over exaggerate his emotions. “Well, anyway man, Amy and I would love it if you came to the unveil party with us, there will be tons of trim there.” He dug his elbow into my side as if I didn’t understand what he was saying.
“I had a long day, I think I’m just going to head back to the apartment and catch up on some work.”
He could tell I was lying, but just before he was able to protest, another colleague distracted him from across the way.
“Well have a great night then, Cash,” he said bounding towards his next victim.
I grabbed my jacket from the coat check. I felt something heavy hit my side as I slung the coat on. I reached into the side pocket and pulled a Muse Box out of my jacket pocket.
“What the hell?”
“What was that sir?” the coat check girl said in a ‘I hope I’m not in trouble’ tone.
“Oh nothing just have a hole in the pocket no big deal. Have a good night.” I gave her a wave and she sighed in relief.
“You too Mr."
Hopping into the first cab available, I gave the odorous driver the address to the apartments a block away from mine. I daydreamed about what Amelia was going to wear to that party. Something tight and shiny I’d guess. I’d bet she looked better than anyone in that room tonight. I wonder if she picked up a Muse Box.
The cabbie dropped me off; I paid the man, stuck my hands in my pockets and began walking to my actual apartment. The wind was bracing and I swear I saw more than a few snowflakes before I reached my stoop. Fumbling for my keys I heard Richard down the street spinning his tales for an innocent by-stander. I tried to speed up the process before he spotted me but to no avail.
“Cash!” he yelled through toothless gums. “Cash it’s me Dick! Not your dick the other one!” He snickered on the way over to me.
I saw the person he had been talking up sprint to the other side of the street and look back over her shoulder. I never understood what brought Richard to New York; he was the picture perfect hillbilly from Arkansas, banjo not included.
“Richard, how are you?” I asked, unwillingly.
“Oh you know Cash, buddy old pal, still homeless.” He broke into laughter that evolved into a hacking cough.
“How was the show?”
“It was fine Richard, but I have work to do so...”
“I know you’re a busy man Cash but could you spare me some cash…” his face lit up. Richard loved puns, albeit bad ones.
“You know what Richard, I don’t have any on me. How about I hit you tomorrow on my way to work?”
He seemed somewhat defeated, but nonetheless he moseyed off down the block to catch the next person to step out of a cab.
My apartment felt warm, almost like a sauna, or what I imagine a sauna to feel like. I started stripping off my monkey suit and flipped on the television as I poured a finger of whiskey. I had set the Muse Box on my coffee table in front of where I sat. For a while I just looked at it. I should feel good right now; it should feel good to have achieved my dream. At this I let out a small noise that signified how corny that sounded. But really, none of this was about the money, I had plenty of that before I decided to partner with Vision. It wasn’t about people knowing my name, seeing it right there on the side of the cardboard that surrounded the machine when it was shipped to each individual’s house. It wasn’t about fame, or women fawning over me. Well, maybe one. It was truly about helping people sleep, the one escape from reality. I had chronic nightmares for years, and that escape felt more like a trap.
After a few minutes a yawn knocks me out of my existential stupor and I decide it’s time for bed. I start to my room without the box, but I stop in the doorway. I haven’t tested it since the earliest of stages so I’m very curious to see how smoothly it runs. I use this to convince myself it’s not just because I want to have good dreams for a night. I walk back, grab the box, and down the rest of my whiskey.
My room is what some have described as sterile. Compared to the rest of my apartment, which is warmly decorated my room is a contrasting cold, white room with nothing but furniture. I have found that if the last thing I see before sleep is nothing but white walls I tend to have fewer nightmares. I set the box on my night side table and stick the nodes to my temples. And I ask the Muse Box nicely to give me the dream I want. This could’ve been the most restful night of sleep I’ve had in months if the Muse Box would’ve worked through the night. Around 1AM the box shut off and woke me up. I went into the kitchen to grab a screwdriver. I popped the faceplate off of the front of the machine to take a look at its inner workings to see what the problem could be. Part of me worried that this problem would be wide spread and we’d have to recall all the boxes. The other part of me was hoping the problem would be wide spread and I’d have to spend another few months in the lab with Amelia.