There was a time Branson could move 50 dreams in a single night. After 20 years dealing dreams, he’d become the top ace. It was a hungry world out there, […]
There was a time Branson could move 50 dreams in a single night. After 20 years dealing dreams, he’d become the top ace. It was a hungry world out there, and he was damn good at keeping it fed.
Problem was, he’d started using the dreams himself. All those nights spent alone, searching the most intimate corners of people’s minds, collecting every thought, every delusion and fantasy, every nightmare. The work had begun to wear on him. Or maybe he’d just been curious. The reasons didn’t matter.
His wife had left him two years ago for that asshole, Andy Higgins. Told Branson he’d become a ghost, as if he wasn’t there at all, and she just couldn’t do it anymore.
If he was honest with himself, he couldn’t blame her. He’d started using two years ago. Just experimenting at first, nothing big, no nightmares or anything like that. Superhero dreams, mostly, rescue the damsel in distress, that sort of thing. He’d always wanted to be Batman growing up. It was the reason he’d joined the force in the first place; he wanted to do something good in the world.
A whisper interrupted his thoughts, slithering into his ear from the darkness behind two garbage bins. “Hey B., you holdin’?” Branson could just see the glimmer of two eyes in the shadows, iridescent, gleaming and bright. Others might have called it beautiful, but Branson knew it for what it was: the mark of a full-blown addict.
“Nah, Hack, not tonight. I’m off.”
“If you’re off, why you hangin’ around here? Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on here but dealin’.” The voice tittered with laughter before disintegrating into a wheezing cough.
“Mind your business, junky, and leave me to mine.”
“Sure,” Hack said, once he could catch his breath, “I’ll mind my business. But my business ain’t so different from yours, is it? You’re just as hooked as the rest of us. The dealer’s been dealt.”
Branson could hear the rustle of his rags as Hack moved away, that wracking cough of his echoing off the black walls of the alley.
He was right, of course. Branson was lost—hooked like the rest of them—and it scared the hell out of him.
But he told himself there was still time; he could still get out. He didn’t go in for the real hard stuff, dreams of killing and raping, dreams of going mad—not like Hack. Branson remembered his sordid tastes, and it gave him a shiver just thinking about it. He’d gone the way of the junky, all traces of humanity gone, and all that was left were the dreams.
Branson would never let it get to that point.
When he got home to his apartment, he went straight to the bathroom and checked his eyes in the mirror. No sign of the iridescence yet; he wasn’t marked.
He stripped down to his boxers and climbed into bed. He hadn’t bothered turning on any lights; the dreams worked better in darkness. He lifted the flap to access the control panel imbedded into his right forearm. The device had been there so long, it’d become a part of him.
He hesitated, his finger poised above the green button marked “Upload.” He could choose. Say no this time. Go to sleep. Go to the precinct in the morning and download the dreams for collection like he was supposed to. No more dealing, no more using. There was still time to do something good with his life.
Outside Branson’s window, the dealer laughed and shook his head. It was the same story every night with this guy. He supposed it was par for the course for beatnik cops like him. His nightly wet dream of going dirty was probably the only thing that allowed him to get up and go to work in the morning, day after day, year after year.
The dealer wasn’t judging; after all, he lived the life the cop dreamed about. For the most part, his dreams were accurate. All except for one thing: dealing and using were the same thing. Either way, you were consumed. For that, the cop should be thankful his nightly escapades were limited to dreams.
Finished for the night, he closed the panel over the collection device imbedded into his own forearm and made to leave. His iridescent eyes flashed once more over the cop sleeping in his bed, and he felt a moment of envy. He wondered what it was like to live a life like that, safe and untainted.
The thought lasted only a moment, before he shook himself back to reality. There was no time for dreaming. Dirty cop dreams paid good money on the streets.