Raymond’s phone emitted a crystalline chime. A message, he knew, from another world.
Swaying back and forth with the train’s motions, his eyes blinked open and he reached into his jacket pocket, feeling for the warm metal. Pulling it out, he held it in front of his bleary eyes and focused on the screen.
SLEEPLINK Message from Mary North – Ray I need your help! My hair has turned to metal! I think it’s like Brillo or something! Can you come home right now?
“Uhh yeah,” he whispered to himself. Thumbing the phone’s keyboard he replied, “You are asleep and dreaming right now. Nothing is wrong. Either wake up, or shift your dream in another direction.” He hit send then plinked the screen off with a push of a button, and then slid the phone back into his pocket. Oh man, he thought, it would be nice to be at home right now, asleep, instead of riding a stuffy crowded commuter train at 5 in the morning.
From deep within his pocket came another chime. Raymond gave a half-sigh, half-laugh. Why, he wondered, did we ever think this SleepLink service was a good idea? He slipped his hand once again into his pocket, finding the phone, pulling it out.
“I’m not the one dreaming, you are,” she’d replied.
“No sweetheart,” he typed back. “You’re the one logged into SleepLink, not me. Everything is okay.” He almost quipped something about making sure her Brillo hair didn’t get rusty, but he restrained himself. He was too tired.
Accessing the control app, he thumbed through the menu and chose something he was only supposed to do if absolutely necessary: RESET PARTNER’S DREAM. He knew he was supposed to try to talk her through a nightmare first, because using this was kind of like teleporting at random and not knowing where you would land.
The wheels hit a bump in the tracks, and the lights flashed inside the train. The jolt threw Raymond’s head against the window so hard he was amazed the glass didn’t break. It felt like it had cracked his head. He clutched it a moment, feeling a wave of dizziness, and after he recovered Raymond felt a warm body next to him in the seat. Glancing over he was startled to see Mary sitting with him.
She was in her pajamas. Her sexy pajamas.
“What the hell?” he exclaimed.
“Oh, you hit the dream reset!” she said. “Great. Just great. I’m naked in public. Thank you Ray.”
It took him a moment to find his voice. She wasn’t naked, exactly — though the nightie was pretty much see-through. What stole his voice from him was the fact that her head was festooned with a mass of dull gray steel wool instead of hair. “Oh crap,” he said, “I teleported you out of your dream!”
“No, stupid, you teleported me into your dream.”
“I’m not dreaming!”
“No? Then how do you account for me being here? Teleportation isn’t actually possible. And—” she pointed “—explain why there’s a Klingon sitting in the seat across from us.”
The Klingon looked over at them, bemused. “I’m heading to a Star Trek convention,” he said in a low, guttural voice.
“He’s going to a convention,” Raymond said. “See.”
“Of course he’s going to agree with you,” said Mary. “He’s in your dream.”
Something occurred to Raymond. “Wait a minute,” he said to the Klingon, “it’s five in the morning! What Star Trek convention is going to be open this early?”
The Klingon now had a third eye. “Meow,” he said. He smiled at them with long, sharp, pointed teeth.
Everyone else on the train turned around to smile at them. They all had three eyes and sharp teeth. Raymond and Mary looked at each other, and then both fumbled quickly for their phones, scrambling to open the DreamLink app and hit the reset button. Mary — lord knows where she had been keeping her phone — beat him to it.
The lights blinked, and instead of being on a train, they both floated in a kind of blue-violet void surrounded by large stuffed panda bears and Hello Kitties. “Oh no!” Raymond cried. “We teleported into your dream!”
Mary spun upside-down and smiled. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
“No!” Hello Kitties terrified him, and these were over 15 feet tall. He fumbled for his phone but lost his grip on it, and it went tumbling away into space. Raymond watched it in horror, especially as one of the giant stuffed pandas grabbed it and crunched it to bits with its very real, very non-fluffy teeth.
“Raymond?” said a voice that wasn’t Mary’s. “Raymond? You okay? Raymond?”
He sucked in his breath and lifted his head in one convulsive movement. Raymond found himself sitting at a table with a bunch of people who were all staring at him. His co-workers. The lights were dim and a PowerPoint presentation shown on the wall. His face felt wet, and he reached up to touch it, finding drool all over his chin and cheeks.
“Uh, yeah, I’m okay,” he said, his tense and breathless voice undermining his words. He had to put his hands firmly against the table to hold himself upright. He felt dizzy and disoriented.
“Are you sure?” asked his boss. She looked concerned.
Raymond’s phone, sitting on the table in front of him, chimed and the screen lit up. INCOMING SLEEPLINK MESSAGE, it said. Without reading it, Raymond grabbed the phone and turned it off, then shoved it into his shirt pocket.
Up on the wall, the projected PowerPoint slide depicted a giant Hello Kitty.
His three-eyed boss said, “Meow.”