Hand Over Fist

My day started by going to sleep. My Hourglass carried my consciousness into private dream powered by Somnus. Here, I stretch eight hours of sleep into a full day and fill it with whatever I want. Right now, I’m reading the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer on the large mahogany table in front of me. 

And I’m reading War and Peace as I lay in the nook while the morning sun kisses my cheek. And Nineteen Eighty-Four in front of a library stack with a Brave New World in my other hand. And I’m reading a collection of short stories by an unknown author. And—

Blythe plucks the collection of my hand and glances through it. “Hmm, ‘These eyes of mine have seen infinity.’ Pretty.”

We all look at her simultaneous, hoping she’d get goosebumps. “I’m working,” I tell her, all in unison.

She finally looks up from her pilfered book and I use that moment to pull it away from her. She lets it go without a fight and turns to me as I sit at the table. How the hell can she tell I’m the mainline? “Don’t you get tired of being in this…Schrodinger’s Box,” she asks.

I try to throw her off by answering from the top of the stacks, “That’s not an accurate label.” Blythe doesn’t even pay me any mind. She just throws butt on top of the polished wood surface. I can’t help but think that her rough sketch lines are going to scratch the table. “Schrodinger’s thought experiment involved a superposition of a cat whereas—”

Graphite on my lips. She kisses me. Deeply. All of my eyes go wide and then I back away. Blythe hangs in the air, smiling. Then she appears behind herself. The Blythe that kissed me is erased and the Blythe that is standing on my beautiful table strokes her chin. “It was just a thought and I did it, but I wasn’t doing it.”

“You were thinking about kissing me?”

“I was thinking about shutting you up.” She jumps off the table. She’s now outlined by clean pencil strokes. This must be serious. “Tighty sent me.”

We all groan before I recall all of my instances into me. “We are not going to go through this anymore. I like it here. I don’t need to spend my nights dreaming. I have to be working towards something real. Not this.”

Blythe smiles and then bursts into laughter. Her fine lines get rough again. “Dude, we’ve lost that fight a long time ago. It’s not one we’re trying to start again. You do you.” The lines get cleaner again. “It’s just… there’s something he wanted you to look at.”

She pulls a fragment of programming code from hammerspace. I take it from her and scroll through it. “It’s code.”

“No shit. Can you read it?”

“No. I don’t even know what language it…” It dawns on me. I instance just one version of myself and it runs off through the stacks to search. Meanwhile, I look at Blythe. “Where’d he get this from?”

“Tighty? He got it from another Sandman that didn’t know what it was. The Admins weren’t much help, either.”

I reach the relevant section and pull out the right book. I open it and I immediately know what the fragment is. “It’s the source code,” I tell Blythe. The implication is lost on her. “It’s the firmament. It’s what Somnus—All of Somnus—is based on. It’s Rainframe’s proprietary tech.”

Then the implication dawns on me and I immediately delete it. “What the hell?” Blythe lines roughen.

“Do you have any copies of it?”

“That was my only copy, asshole!”

“What about Tighty? Does he have a copy?”

“How should I know?”

“When you see him again, tell him to delete everything he knows about it. Everything! Understand?”

“Oh yeah, I completely understand your low-information orders.”

I rub my eyes. “It’s the source code. It’s been hidden from the rest of us ever since Somnus came online. It’s root level. With that code, you could change the fundamental laws of Somnus and anything based on Somnus. When we make dreams, we’re basically just using a template like one of those websties that help you make websites. Most people are going to go in and create a website from scratch using HTML. They go to Squarespace or WordPress. With that code, you could adjust things on the molecular level.”

Blythe shrugs. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

I pull my hair. “Such fine control over something means you could practically do anything. Make people forget they were ever in a dream. Alter the way we travel in Somnus. Create instanced realities to trap us. Or even kill us by tapping into the Hourglass itself.”

Blythe nods her head. “That’s… terrifying.”

“Yeah. Rainframe keeps that code on lockdown. I’m better than only a few people actually know it and for it to show up randomly doesn’t bode well. Someone’s probably trying to smuggle it out piecemeal hoping to collect all of the pieces like Pokémon. Whatever it turns out to be can’t be good.”

For a moment, Blythe doesn’t say anything. Then, “I’ll tell him, but I won’t be able to explain it well.”

“Just give him the gist of it. He’ll be able to talk with an Admin and take it from—”

She kisses me again. My eyes go wide again. I wait for another instanced version of her to appear, but one doesn’t. I find myself getting lost in the moment. It feels like eternal bliss. Then, it is cut short as Blythe parts with me. She keeps a hint of a smile as she erases herself from my dream.

I read the words again and again in the book, reliving this moment. We kiss again and again for as long as I want. I want this to be the last moment before I die. I want it to be the last instance before this world is ripped apart by the Carnal.

I start my day by going to sleep.

Previous: The Whiskey Tango

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