Kellen lay back against a mountain of down pillows, luxuriating in lavender-scented, 1500-thread count sheets. “Open,” she murmured. The blinds lifted, silently. From her penthouse apartment, Kellen had a breathtaking view as the rising sun lit up the façade of each skyscraper with a golden flash of light on glass and brushed steel. The older granite and brick buildings reflected warmer hues of orange and red.
“Espresso,” she said. The machinery of her kitchen gurgled to life: First, the grinding of freshly roasted coffee beans flown in from her favorite plantation in Sumatra. Then the hiss of water and stream, pressed through the powdery grounds, trickling into a small white cup. Kellen chuckled to herself, imagining a day when a tiny “flying saucer” would bring the warm and aromatic cup across the room to her waiting hand.
The same hover drive that helped make her lifestyle possible could easily be miniaturized and baked into a porcelain saucer. People were lazy, and they loved novelty and gadgets. Kellen mentally reviewed the non-disclosure agreements she’d signed with the government and figured she could be turning a profit on civilian uses within the year, if she manufactured the miniature drives in her own local facilities. Meanwhile, she walked across the spacious apartment to get her espresso. Exercise was good for her shapely legs, after all.
You never forget your first time.
For Kellen, the first time came in a terrifying crush of clowns. Evil, murderous clowns with red lips dripping blood. Other people’s blood. A hand reached out from between the fleshy bodies of ravenous, cannibal clowns and grabbed her quite forcibly by the arm. “Come on, Kellen – now!” and suddenly, she was standing in the middle of what appeared to be a helipad atop a mountain overlooking a lake that was bluer than the cloud-striated sky. A young man smiled at her. His hand released its death-grip on her arm. He vanished in a pinprick of light – that bright, white pinprick of light that appears when a television is switched off. Kellen stood there, alone, her heart racing. Kellen rubbed her arm, remembering, and looked down to see if the impression of his fingers still remained in her flesh.
The next time was not nearly so terrifying or painful. Kellen found herself wandering the grounds of the White House. She walked, unnoticed, past Secret Service agents. She plucked a tender blossom from the Rose Garden and pressed it to her nose. She explored a confusing array of rooms – some historically preserved, some boringly utilitarian. She found the President’s bedroom, wandered in, and watched him as he slept. The steady rise and fall of his chest told her that he was either a man with a clean conscience or a sociopath. Kellen had her suspicions, but she reached into his skull for confirmation.
It didn’t seem at all odd or revolting to dip her fingertips into the President’s right temple, as he lay dreaming, and pluck from it the silvery webbing of memory. Sticky strands clung to her fingertips. Kellen marveled at its intricacy. She pulled it out like taffy and peered closely at the dewy droplets that clung to it in places. Kellen gasped at the enormity of what she’d done. Dear God, she was holding the President’s brain matter in the palm of her hand like a psychopath! Stuffing the faintly glowing strands of silver thread back into the President’s head, she began to look for a way out. Surely, by now, the Secret Service would know there was an intruder – why hadn’t they burst in to arrest her? Her fingertips still felt warm and sticky; unconsciously, she licked them so that she wouldn’t leave fingerprints on the President’s bedroom door. As she did this, her head was filled with Presidential knowledge – visions – and secrets. She jerked her head around to look at the leader of the free world. Her expression of horror turned to one of satisfaction. “Gotcha,” she murmured.
It took Kellen a year to master the art of lucid dreaming, but while others thought she slept too much and lazed away the workday, Kellen was infiltrating the finest – and most nefarious – minds in the field of military technology. She courted and lured the most brilliant engineers by parroting their own thoughts back at them; they were utterly enchanted with her intellect and imagination. She was able to ferret out and build connections between people who held the keys that unlocked and flung wide the doors of scientific advancement. Nothing now stood between the kernel of a terrifying idea and the reality of an unbreakable national defense and “peacekeeping” machine. With the President’s full support – and her promise never to mention the codename “BlueAsset” or a certain comely young lady with wide eyes and rounded lips – a contract was secured. Seemingly overnight, Kellen became a very wealthy woman.
Kellen dozed off at her desk. She dreamed of a field of ashes and zombies. They didn’t press in on her, as the clowns had, but sadly shook their heads and parted to let her pass. High above her, on a hill with one lone tree, stood a young man – his skin seemed to radiate light from the dying sun behind him. “I know you,” whispered Kellen. “you’re–” He shook his head, turned his back, and the world faded to black.
Kellen had had enough of dreaming.
She had slept the better part of three years; now, she would travel and see the world.
Years and millions of people passed in a flash – they vanished, not in a pinprick of light, but with screams that haunted the nightmares of strong and stolid men.
“You need to sleep, Mrs. O’Meara.” The young nurse smiled and asked if she would like a nice cup of Valerian root tea.
“No, not at my age,” said the elegant, older woman. “I’ll sleep forever, soon enough.”
Did the dead dream? Kellen wondered. She fervently hoped not. She had not slept since the start of World War III, six years ago – in fear that, perhaps, they did.