I Had a Dream

Last night I had a dream. The dream began at a fancy party I was attending that was held in a large penthouse at the top of a condo or hotel. As usual I was alone. I didn’t know any of the other attendees, as most of them were 20-30 years younger than me, all smartly dressed and attractive. Many were wearing badges that indicated they were participating in the same conference. They were cordial to me as they talked, joked, and flirted among themselves, but it was evident I was only a politely tolerated outsider.

I strolled through the penthouse, which contained several rooms for various party activities. One of them included the façade of a huge “boom-box,” about 6 feet tall by 10 feet wide, embedded in the wall, blasting crappy techno dance music. Disco lights illuminated the room while people danced. I passed on that and stepped outside onto one of the balconies. The brightly lit scenery revealed I was in Vegas, perhaps not too far from where I used to live. One of the party-goers remarked to her friend what a beautiful night it was while sipping their cocktails.

The apparent hostess of the party, a young, perky woman, then ushered everyone into one of the rooms, which was otherwise empty. She cheerfully informed us it was time to watch the movie. There were no chairs, so we all sat on the floor. She told us she put great effort into the movie selection, and hoped we would like it. I wondered if it would be something I’d previously seen.

The lights dimmed, and the film was projected to fill an entire blank wall we faced. It was a series of futuristic vignettes, rather like the TV show “Black Mirror.” In the first, we see a couple of boys, maybe 10 years old, intently playing what looks like a late-70’s era arcade game machine. A man appears on the scene who tells the boys, simply, “It is time.” They stop whatever they are doing, reluctant but resigned, and accept a hand-held “device” given to them by the man. It is about the size of a TV remote, but includes wires and electrodes that attach to the bare skin on their arms.

Additional kids as well as some adults appear, each holding an identical device. Orchestral music begins to play and they all perform a stately “dance.” At this point the movie switched to a first-person view of one of the “dancers.” It’s unclear whether it’s choreographed, but whenever a dancer faces another, they pause for a moment as their respective devices sense the mutual proximity and give the pair an electric shock, like a taser. It’s sufficiently painful to be unpleasant but not debilitating. Then they move away from each other until they face someone else, and the event repeats. A narrator informs us that in this society, all aggression has been removed from human interaction, thanks to it being replaced by this “shock-dance.”

In the next vignette, two young men enter a clean, well-lit room which contains several strange mechanical-looking things. One of them excitedly proclaims, “Oh look, there are two [unintelligible]!” They run across the room to what they spotted and each pick-up something that vaguely resembles a high-tech pogo stick, except that it has multiple shafts along its length with gears and wires that seem to serve as sensors and actuators. They mount their sticks, which also include harnesses that they attach to their heads.

The movie again switched to a first-person view from one of the men. The head harness apparently serves as some type of VR device, enabling a virtual display in front of the wearer, which now fills the movie screen. The narrator announces the men are contestants who will to “race to the sea” on their pogo sticks, and so they begin to move by hopping. The virtual display shows a sequence of still images, which changes in sync with each hop of the stick. As the contestants pick up speed and hopping frequency, perhaps aided by the pogo stick mechanisms, the changing display images create a more movie-like effect.

Those images show a retrospective of human history over the previous hundred (or more?) years, relative to the contestants’ time-frame, moving forward in time. The earliest images show typical scenes from the 1980’s, and the party audience laughs at the “antique” cars and ridiculously low gas prices shown at a service station. These scenes progress though the present day into the future, from our perspective, but still in the past from the pogo stick racers’ perspective. (And possibly the party attendees as well, as if I’ve been transported into the future.)

The scenes become disturbing, showing images of a terrible future (to us) war and genocide. We see piles of corpses and skeletons riddled with bullet holes in the skulls. Meanwhile, the racing contestants have moved out of the building and are race-hopping through a city, which we can still see through the translucent virtual display. There aren’t any cars or people. The city has a deserted, post-apocalyptic steampunk look to it, like something from the “Fallout” video game series.

As the racers exit the city and approach the shore, the display scenes approach their current time. The previous horrors have passed and a “new era” has arrived. The images show a mostly empty, sterile world. The racers enter a beach. Their pogo sticks apparently include a sophisticated control system and a base which changes shape according to the detected surface, which allows them to continue even on the sand.

At the water’s edge, we see a group of people participating in what looks like a religious ceremony. There is a ringleader with his back to the ocean, while his congregation, about 8 men and women, stand in a semi-circle facing him. They are all wearing white tunics and chanting as the water breaks at their feet. The leader gives a knowing nod as the racers approach. They had been expected.

The virtual display turns off, and we were fully immersed into one of the racers’ point of view. In fact I could feel what the racer does as he enters the surf, still on his stick. The water was cold, but not unbearably so. This wasn’t a race after all and we now understand what’s supposed to happen. I continued, though the eyes of the racer, deeper into the ocean. I could still hear chanting people now behind me. The racer continues forward, calmly not attempting to swim or turn back.

I awakened just before the waves engulfed me.