The woman who collected dreams, a short story of scientific speculation

By William Sánchez-León (updated 2020-01-06)

The sound of the alarm clock woke me up suddenly. I immediately shouted the word “bug” and said out loud what I remembered from the dream I had just had. A mobile on the bedside table recorded my talk. It had been doing this almost every night for more than three years.

The sound of the alarm was the sensation caused by the microchip I had installed in my brain. I had resisted implanting the “bug” – that’s what I called the microchip whose trade name was ALEXI! – But I couldn’t help it because it had become a universal interface, created by the GOOGOL company, to communicate with any electronic gadget. The microchip had been inserted under the skin at the back of the head, connected to the neocortex at the level of the occipital lobes. This is done in the tattoo centers; I don’t know the reason.

ALEXI showed the images and sounds transmitted from the mobile and other electronic devices in the brain. Step by step, I learned to communicate with him just by thinking. For example: If you wanted to know something, you could search for it using your thought inside the Wikipedia. It even allowed you to understand yourself in countless languages. If you met a stranger and wanted to know something about him, one could look at his image and immediately you would have a huge quantity of data about this person, usually from the trail that everyone leaves on social networks. Only the very cautious were able to have some privacy restricting their exposure to social networks, but most people acted quite foolishly, at least it seemed to me. Fortunately, ALEXI could not record the thoughts, but I was convinced that it was a matter of time. I tried to keep it disconnected most of the time: it was easier to dorather than just thinking or saying “turn off.” To switch it on, you only needed to think or say an agreed word, which in my case was: “bug”.

I found these features very useful since I acquired the mania of writing my dreams down. Every midnight, when the chip detected that I was dreaming, but was about to wake up, it made me feel the sound of an alarm that suddenly did it right away. I don’t know how it did it. I think it measured my brain activity and detected when it was at the end of the REM (rapid eyes movement) phase, which is apparently the stage in which we dream. When I just woke up, I remembered quite well what I had just dreamed about and then I told it to the mobile in order to be recorded.

Every night in the dream I woke up at some point in my past life. From that moment, an insignificant event modified the rest of my life. In this way, I was living different ones. Dreams replaced my lonely and boring real life with thousands of them. Normally, fantastic or unbelievable things were not likely to happen to me, and neither did I turn into a different person. But I was aware that small changes could eventually lead you through lives very different from those you had lived. From time to time I woke up elated, with the feeling of having lived an exciting experience.

I am a person obsessed with the order. I started scoring the dreams from one (very bad) to five (excellent). Of the 1218 dreams that I had recorded, most of them were given a rating between 2 and 4; I gave only one point to 49 of them, which usually corresponded to lives where I had some family misfortune or an unhappy marriage, and only 12 dreams had been given the highest score. Of these, in three cases there were two coincidences: I was a writer and I shared my life with the same man: William. Perhaps, my love for dreaming stories and writing them was a way of supplying my frustrated desire to become a great writer. In most of my dreams the people who appeared coincided with people who exist in my real life, but it was not the case of William. The first time he appeared in my dreams we both lived unhappy marriages. We met in a writing workshop. We left our partners. Almost all my memories with him are happy, it could not be otherwise, he was a fun and vitalist.

Every night when I went to bed, I wished that William were in my dream, but I had not dreamed of him for more than a year. When I started to write my dreams, I gave my real life two points. But my many dreamed lives gave me an incentive for my real life, so I raised my life rating from 2 to 3 points, and I was thinking of raising it to 4 points.

Every day, when I came back from work, I spent hours reading my stories. I often tweaked them to give a more literary touch. I decided to select the stories of several of my lives and post them on the Internet, with the title of “The dream collector”, which could be downloaded for only 1 euro. I was surprised because of the success it had. I received emails where many readers told me they had the same experience as me, they dreamed of variants of their own lives. It caught my attention, but I thought it was normal.

I had an idea: to create a group on the Internet called “The Dreamers Club”, for people who shared the same experiences. Its success was enormous, and the number of subscribers grew vertiginously. The inserted advertising allowed me to earn a quantity of money that I had never imagined. I left my job to devote myself entirely to “The club of the dreamers”.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, astrologers, seers, and characters of the most varied professions kept in touch with me, giving thus all kinds of explanations to the phenomenon. One day, among the comments of the subscribers, there was one who said that the microchip implanted was temporarily removed and that during that time his dreams became conventional again. He asked if other members of the group had had a similar experience and received several affirmative answers. For me, it was unimaginable that ALEXI could control my dreams. I had the habit of disconnecting it every night, or so I thought, and it seemed impossible that a tiny device could induce dreams and make up millions of stories related to each one’s life.

I decided to check it out for myself. I went to the tattoo center where I got it implanted and I asked then to remove it temporarily. They did so, and they warned me to be very careful because the information I received through the chip would stop coming to me, and I would no longer perceive augmented reality. I felt it immediately. When I left the tattoo center, I felt disoriented. I was used to receiving indications of the path that I should follow, but now I would have to return to home by myself. When I asked a passerby for a certain direction, he looked at me with a puzzled face, until he clarified that ALEXI was temporarily inoperative. The same happened to the people I met, as most of them were complete strangers, and no longer did I have the help of ALEXI to tell me who they were.

I waited for the arrival of the night, so I stayed awake more than usual. I set the alarm at 6 o’clock on an old clock that I found in one of those drawers that one never opens. When it sounded, I woke up startled and as always automatically, I shouted “bug” and began to describe my last dream, which I remembered vaguely. It was not a variant of my life, it was a dream lacking the least coherence, like the ones I had before ALEXI. I couldn’t believe it; the “bug” had been inducing my dreams! If the dreams of millions of people could be manipulated, what could not be done? I felt disappointed and shuddered.

I decided to use the club of the dreamers (it would be better to call him the club of the manipulated) to launch a campaign in order to unmask the great fraud of GOOGOL. When I tried to access my account of The Dreamers Club, I received the message “This account does not exist.” I was convinced that GOOGOL’s algorithms controlled everything. Somehow it identified that it was me and limited the use I could make of the Internet. I had not access to the group, but I could read the comments. I realized that I was still participating in it. Someone had supplanted my identity. Comments on the consequences of disconnecting ALEXI had been totally removed. I felt helpless and desperate.

I filed a lawsuit against GOOGOL. I received a letter telling me that everything was legal and that I had given my consent several times. It included a link to several annexes, with tens of pages. I read them carefully trying to understand each sentence. It took me days. After reading them, I realized that I had practically made my life available to GOOGOL. Some paragraphs were bizarre to me as the one that said: “I authorize GOOGOL to control ALEXI devices (the chip implanted in the brain) through the quantum computer EXI.” It was explained that EXI was a fourth-generation quantum computer that used AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology to process the information.

I wondered what a quantum supercomputer was. It was said that they were trillions or quadrillions, or I don’t know how many, times more powerful than conventional computers. I was convinced that, in addition to their enormous power, they should have something else that made them different from the rest if they were able to manipulate dreams. I watched numerous videos on YouTube trying to understand what a quantum computer was. I found explanations of the type: a process in a quantum computer behaves like several Schrödinger cats alive and dead at the same time, it only goes into its real state when it shows the result of the process. Incomprehensible to me. One of the videos I saw particularly caught my attention. It was titled: “Everett’s interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to a quantum computer.” It explained that if an operation has 100 possible results, the program will get the 100 results but each one in a different world. It included an even more strange clarification: it is as if in each computer process, 100 exact copies of the user were created, each in a different world. In each of the copies the user would perceive the result that was given in his world, but he would not be aware of the other 99 worlds with their corresponding results. It seemed fantastic, I let my imagination fly and thought that the EXI supercomputer accessed all copies of my multiple lives that were occurring simultaneously in parallel worlds. Each night, it showed me some of them as if it were a dream.

It was not long when I received an email that identified William as sender. I thought it was another trick of GOOGOL. I was about to delete the message, but I was unable to do so and therefore, opened it. It was a short video message where William appeared. It looked like a few years older than the last time I saw him. He asked me if we could meet up. To do this, he told me, I should have to re-insert the microchip. I was stunned. Until then, I was convinced that William was a dream, a product of my imagination. No one knew his image, nor even EXI, it was only in my mind. The confusion and doubt took possession of me, but as if I were a sleepwalker, I went to the tattoo parlor to have the chip implanted again. I went back home. I knew I couldn’t fall asleep. I sat in front of the television waiting to be exhausted to go to bed. I fell asleep.
I heard the alarm clock, like every night. I woke up hugging William. I said: “You can’t imagine what a strange dream I’ve had. I thought I was a dream collector and you only existed in some of my dreams, the best!”

— Write a book with the stories you dream about; you will surely succeed – William told me

— I have already done it, and it has had a great success- I replied

— When was that? – He asked.

I doubted if I was awake or was another dream.

In the GOOGOL computer center, programmers had lost control of EXI. They could not disconnect it because EXI had infiltrated all the computers in the world and had taken control of them. The billions of inhabitants of the planet were the characters of his game.

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