Disclaimer: This is a little uber tale. No infringement of anyones rights is intended.
The Dreamer and the Dream
The call comes through at 5 a.m. "Dreamer at 7115 Paley Plaza. 23rd. floor west."
Its been a quiet night, and Im hyped, ready to roll. Paul Palmer is in the drivers seat. He takes another bite of his sandwich, egg salad on white. I try not to watch him chew. "You want to go?" I wait. Not long.
He swallows the last bite, wipes his hands and mouth with a napkin, drops that out the cruiser window. "Take it easy, Washington. Youll live longer." He hits the lights, no siren. Dreamer Squad doesnt get sirens. Might wake the perps. The cruiser leaps off its pad, up 3 meters, turns 180 degrees, forward 60 kph.
"With you driving, Ill be glad to live til tomorrow." Wasting energy on a snort, Palmer corners 90 degrees, jerks back on the steering collar. We hover for half a sec and then fall like a spent bullet. I get out of the cruiser 2 cm. shorter. "Nice parking." Palmer takes his time joining me. When he does, he points a scanner at 7115 Paley. At the lobby. A guy looks that much like a geek oughta be smarter. "23rd. floor," I nudge him. He nods and points the scanner up. At the 2nd. floor. 3rd. floor. 4th. floor.
I grit my teeth, knot my fists to keep from grabbing the scanner. Or my partner. Big, strong gal like me learns to keep her hands to herself. Mostly.
So we stand there on the sidewalk in the middle of the Borough of Manhattan, in our black jumpsuits, equipment belts low on our hips, looking less like cops than burglars. Dumb burglars. At the 20th. floor, theres one beep from the scanner. Overflow from the electrical storm going on in someones head. Back to the 19th. Nothing. 20th. Beep. And so on, to the 23rd. floor, where the scanner sounds like a geiger counter on Three Mile Island. 24th. floor. Fewer beeps. 25th. Fewer still. 26th. One beep. 27th. Silence.
10 minutes, and we now know the same thing the dispatcher told us.
"Wanna go?" I ask.
Theres no doorman. I shove my universal lock jammer against the ID pad.
Click. Were in the lobby. Palmer looks at the elevator. No way. The last time I took an elevator on a call, a hundred snakes dropped from the escape hatch onto my head. Turned out the dreamer was a herpetologist at the Bronx Zoo. Guy shoulda learned not to take his work home with him. As I pound up the steps, I think that stairs arent always safe either. Not if the dreamer watched Jurassic Park or Godzilla Eats New York just before bedtime. Only choices in a stairwell are run up, run down, try to zap the monster before he eats you, all of the above. Then get to the dreamer and stop the nightmare. Permanently. Nothing but Palmer panting behind me until the landing for the 23rd. floor. I almost step on it. Small. White. Fuzzy. No fangs or vicious claws. I nudge it with my foot, and it wiggles its tiny pink nose at me. ID: rabbit, aka bunny.
Palmer catches up. "Just somebodys pet maybe?" I pull the fire door open. And step into a forest. Smells like Central Park after a rain, looks like one of those trails the joggersand their muggersuse. Warm. Dark. Another smell, like inside a flower shop. Palmer sniffs. "Orchids." He points at some big, weird-looking blooms.
Palmer knows from orchids?
"Scan," I say. We follow beeps past trees, through vines, above and below flowers, to the door of 2310. Birds. Bright-colored. Chirping. Singing.
Sitting in bushes outside the apartment. Not pigeons, thats all I know. Before Palmer can say theyre redbreasted orchid-eaters or something, theres a noise, something pushing its way through the bushes. Dont listen to any of that crap about how dreams cant hurt you. I crouch down as if Palmers scanner isnt broadcasting our position. I draw both my weapons, bullets for reality and shocks for visions. A gray head appears. When I stand, its half a meter below my chin. An old lady in a green dressing gown, slippers. Is someone dreaming about his kindly grandma?
"About time," she snaps. "I called hours ago." We got here hours ago. I think of Palmers "thorough" scanning, say, "Sorry, maam. You the complainant?" I wonder why we got a blind call, not a see-the-woman.
"Damn right, Im complaining." She points to the door of 2310. "Place is a mess since that girl moved in. Every night its something, flowers, birds, rabbits. This is the worst. Practically a damn jungle." "But its all gone in the morning, right?" Palmer asks. Always investigating, that man. Especially the obvious. "So what? Damn mutant trash dont belong in a building with normal people."
My turn to investigate. "Any snakes in the garden?"
"Ever see anything more dangerous than birds? Or bunnies?"
She shakes her head. "No snakes. Birds, rabbits, sheep one time."
"Thank you, maam," Palmer says.
We turn our backs on the old lady. She keeps talking, but, for us, she disappears like all this will when the dreamer wakes. I use my jammer again and slowly push the door open. Inside? More trees, then . . . . I guess you would call it a clearing. In the middle of this clearing, which would be the apartments living room, I suppose, is a camp. Not the kind of camp your parents sent you to in the summer to get fresh air and out of their hair. This is a camp with a fire and, on either side, 2 bedrolls, both occupied. Wondering why the whole place isnt burning, I put my hand near the flames. No heat. No smoke. Guess dreamers can have it any way they want, even a fire that wont toast them in their sleep. "Look at the blonde," Palmer whispers. "Guess the other ones the dreamer." For once, Palmer might be right. The blondes about nineteen or twenty, sleeping on her back, and what can be seen above her furry robes is choice.
I pull my weapons and stand over the other bundle of furs. Knowing the blonde is gonna disappear as soon as I kick the dreamer awake, I take one last look. Yeah, shes gorgeous. Thats someone Ive dreamed myself. But I dont have the power, and my dreams are never this real. Or this perfect.
For once, Palmer is quicker than me. He gives the dreamer a rough shake.
Theres a yell, and the robes fly away. A tall woman faces us. Dark hair.
Blue eyes. Shes muscular and poised to fight. Shes naked. Shes me.
"Shes not the dreamer," Palmer says. I chance a quick glance around.
The trees, the fire, the girl. Nothing has changed. The woman leaps. I fire the shocker, a short, hard burst. The "woman" is gone. Behind her, the living room wall appears. Then the forest fills in the gap in the dream. By the fire, theres once again a sleeping figure wrapped in furs.
I turn to stare at the blonde. "Her?"
"You see anybody else?"
I decide then and there. "We got our dreamer. Go back to the cruiser and call it in." Im kneeling, holding my gun to the blondes temple, almost touching. Palmer doesnt move. "You really want to see this?" Palmer heads for the door. Hes got no stomach for the necessary part.
"Stay outside and wait for the wagon," I tell him. When hes had time to get to the stairs, I touch the girls bare shoulder. She wakes slowly, blinking green eyes. The forest fades, the fire, the woman who is me.
"Im awake, and youre still here." Her voice is soft, as I knew it would be.
I smile. "Get dressed. We gotta run. Its not just a dream anymore."
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