I’ve had this idea for a short story since I was probably in middle school. It’s maybe a bit weirder than I’d like. Enjoy!
My life is a dream within a dream. One dream happens again and again; the other one never ends.
In the first dream, I’m in a hospital, sitting, staring at a turquoise wall, holding my wife’s hand. My then-2-year-old, Clarisse, is holding up a book.
“Weed it, Daddy.”
I place her on my knee and begin but am interrupted by the sound of footsteps coming from the hall. The doctor enters the room.
“I’m sorry the diagnosis isn’t good Mr. Inavat.”
He puts up some kind of scan of my body on the wall to show us. My wife gasps.
“Blain… look at that! …Doctor, is there anything we can do?”
That’s where I wake up. I try to tell myself it’s just a dream, and go back to sleep. But once I’m awake, it’s hard to fall back asleep.
I like to start my day by visualizing how I’d like it to go: I’ll savour a farewell kiss from my wife as I leave for work, enjoy the camaraderie of coworkers-turned-friends, and get a call that evening from Clarisse. In my dream, she’s only a child, but in reality, she’s grown now, with children of her own.
But that’s only how I imagine it going. In reality, Clarisse and I haven’t spoken in years. It’s not because we had an argument or anything. I just don’t talk to anyone nowadays, really. Last time I saw her, she said: “I’ll love you forever.” I hold onto that.
Often, the dream continues.
The doctor goes on to explain that because of the disease, my body will cease to function. There is no known cure, yet.
“But it’s very likely we will discover a cure in the next few years.”
“But you said my body will shut down in a week. What good will a cure be then?”
“We might not be able to save your entire body, Mr. Inovat. But maybe your brain…”
“Just my brain?”
This is such an odd part of the dream. The doctor thinks he is going to just save my brain and not the rest of my body. Something out of science fiction. Hilarious even.
But I can’t laugh.
I try my best to enjoy the basic senses: smelling the wet morning air, seeing the leaves on our Maple tree blown in the wind, hearing crickets chirping… but I can’t enjoy them anymore. I heard once that there’s a sixth sense we all possess, proprioception. It’s being able to know where your body is without necessarily feeling it. I’ve gotten really good at that, at least.
“Mr Inovat, I wouldn’t suggest this procedure if there were any alternative. With this system, your brain can survive outside of your body for a very long time. Theoretically even longer than it would naturally. I’m sure we will find a cure, at which point we will unfreeze your body, cure it, and reinsert your brain.”
Then I dream I go home, cry, say my goodbyes, and return to the doctor’s office and am prepared for surgery. I give my wife a kiss and my daughter tells me “I’ll love you forever”. And I’m put to sleep.
That’s when the first dream always ends.
How long ago did those events of my dream occur? It’s hard to say, it’s very hard to keep track of time when you have no sensations, only your thoughts. The best way, I’ve found, to keep track of the days is by counting how many times I fall asleep. Of course, it’s hard to tell when I’m dreaming and when I’m awake. That’s why I say I feel like I’m living is a continuous dream.
I hope, someday, I’ll wake up from this second dream. I’ve had a lot of time to think about how I would have done things differently. I’d enjoy the sensations of being alive more. Enjoy interacting with people, even flawed people, but especially my family. Mostly, I look forward to finishing the story I started reading to Clarisse.
My name is Blain Inavat, and I’m a brain in a vat.