Chapter 14 (WIP) – Worlds Collide

Rodney listened intently as Jessica explained how the capitalist economy that she grew up with worked. All the while she wondered why someone in her head would need so much explanation. As Rodney asked questions she decided that it was so that she could make sense of it herself. 

“Wow, how much do you work?” Rodney was shocked when Jessica told him that in order to get necessities like food and housing you have to work for money. 

“That depends. Anything you work over 40 hours a week is considered overtime, and they have to pay you extra. Right now I am working 52 hours per week.”

“So that must mean you can buy more than you need, right? Why work so much?”

Jessica smiled at Rodney, he seemed so naive. “Actually I am struggling to get what I need. I work as much as my job needs me, and they don’t like having to pay the extra.”

Rodney thought for a moment. He hesitated for a bit before saying, “Here everything that we need is supplied. Whether you work or not you have a roof over your head, food to eat, clean water, internet, whatever.”

Jessica just sighed.

“People do work, but it is to get better things. If you don’t work, you live in shacks. but the more you work, the more education you have, and the more contributions you make to society, the better your living arrangements and the higher priority for one-of-a-kind things.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well a lot of things are mass-produced, and whoever wants one can have it. But artists work hard, and the things they make are put online where people who want it can put their name on a list. The person who has the highest priority on that list gets the thing.” 

“But wouldn’t that mean that the people on top just get all the cool stuff, and everyone else gets cheap crap?” Jessica paused for a moment. “Well that happens with money too.”

Rodney looked a little cockeyed at her before continuing. “Everyone gets to improve their ranking. It is recalculated every day. The work adds up per year so you get a re-set, the education and contributions are lifetime. To prevent the same people from getting everything, each person has a limit to how many things they can get this way each year, and overall.”

Jessica thought for a minute, “So if you haven’t been working much and something comes up that you really want?” 

“Depending on the time of year, you could work as much as you can to rack up hours. But usually people work so they have it when they want it. Because people save up the few things they can get, they usually don’t even use up their quota by the end of the year.”

“That’s pretty neat actually.” Jessica said, “But I am trying to figure out how people just get what they need. It sounds like magic.”

“Most things are done by machines. There are a few jobs that machines can’t do. The hours those jobs take are divided up and everyone is told how much they need to work a year, it comes out to about 10 hours a week. As long as we keep on it there is plenty of food to go around. And there are plenty of homes for people, so why not use them?” Rodney thought for a moment, “I guess that is why you have to work so much, necessities are scarce?” Rodney asked in the most well-meaning way.

Jessica was a bit taken aback. She paused before speaking “No, not really. There is plenty to go around, but everything has a price. The people who work to produce the food need to get paid, the people who move from the food to where it gets consumed need to get paid, it’s all about supply and demand.” Jessica caught herself using the rhetoric to explain it, but questioned it for the first time.

After letting that sink in, she changed the subject, “So if there is so little work that needs to be done, what extra work do people do?”

“They create things,” Rodney said as if it was the most natural thing ever. “Some people do the art that others want, other people built the machines that do the work. Every time a new machine takes something over, there is less work that needs to get done, so in the end it helps everyone. This park was created as an art project.

Rodney tried again to find an answer, “I will have to show you how the machines do things around here. That way you can show people there what to do.”

Jessica was wondering what marvels this place must have in store if everything is done by machine. But she also knew that so little in her world was done by hand, that she had to wonder how different things actually were.

“In my world, artists and creators are laughed at for not having ‘real jobs’.” Jessica said quietly, nearly to herself.

Rodney responded just as quietly, “That must be a pretty boring world, nothing changes, nothing is beautiful.

Chapter 15 – Recovery

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Chapter 13 (WIP) – Something’s Missing

That night Jessica was discharged from the hospital and was able to enjoy sleeping in her own bed. She was still avoiding being responsible, so she had not called her boss or the bank yet. She had not spoken to the police since they came to interview her in the hospital. She was of course curious about all of those things, but she was enjoying having a great excuse to escape the stress she had been under for so long. She knew it could not last forever and determined that she would resume being responsible in the morning.

In the meantime Jessica curled up on the bed surrounded with every pillow she owned. She felt a bit antsy, even excited, but she couldn’t really tell what it was about. She was enjoying the comfort so much that she was having a hard time sleeping and decided to read a book. She picked up the one on the top of her ‘someday’ stack, Gulliver’s Travels. She had hardly started the first page before her eyelids fell shut.

Soon Jessica was walking behind Rodney as they tried to find something for her to eat. After walking in silence for a few moments, Rodney slowed down and gestured to the right. Here we are. This place should have some ‘cheap’ food for you. When Jessica looked where he indicated, she saw a storefront. Out front were fruits and vegetables of all sorts. The sign over the door just said “GROCERY”, no brand, no logo. As they walked in Rodney took an apple from the bin and took a bite. Jessica was a little perplexed, but figured he knew the owner or something. Jessica directed herself towards a sign showing “Snacks”.

During the time they were in the store Jessica felt more relaxed than she normally did while shopping. She could not quite figure out why. Maybe the people around her were calmer. They certainly were, but was that what was making her experience so different? She felt that there was something missing. Something that normally made her a little tense. When she turned down the aisle for the snacks she saw a tremendous variety of beautifully packaged sweets, crackers, and other goodies. She was at a loss of what to choose. Normally she would just buy a candy bar and tell Rodney that would be the most help to her blood sugar levels. But here she was not sure what was what. Nothing had the familiar brand names she was used to. It all looked like it was packaged by hand, none of the bright gaudy attention grabbing slogans everywhere. However, each wrap was so perfect and so uniform that it had to have been done by machine.

Finally Jessica settled on a bundle of what looked like shortbread cookies with a raspberry cream in the center. They were wrapped in a sheer lavender light mesh done up with a light blue bow at the top. Once she took it, she told Rodney that was all she needed and looked to find the register.

“Is that all you want?” Rodney asked her.

“Yes, this should be plenty to get me back on track.” Jessica was realizing that she had no idea how much the cookies cost and was considering going back to check when she noticed that nothing on the shelves she was passing had prices. Rodney walked straight out the door, while Jessica hesitated inside. She could not see a cash register anywhere but did not know what the consequences were for stealing in Dallas.

Rodney turned around, “What’s the hold-up?”

Jessica could not think of an answer that did not make her sound like a loon, so she took a deep breath and stepped out of the store. She half expected Rodney to start running away from the store as fast as he could, but he just meandered to a bench right outside in the long park they had been walking through. Jessica followed and sat silently on the bench next to him. Jessica was catching on to something, and wanted to contemplate it for a few minutes before saying anything out loud.

After a few minutes of munching on his apple while Jessica nibbled distractedly at her cookies, Rodney said “You know, these apples are not as good as the ones that grow on this tree right here.”

Jessica turned up from staring at her hands and looked at the tree they were sitting underneath. She did not know her botany, but her grandparents had an apple tree when she was younger, and it looked similar. “What you just walk to school and grab a snack right off the tree?”

Rodney looked at her puzzled. “Yeah. Is that odd?”

Jessica turned away from him. “A little.” She paused to take a breath. “I’m not quite sure how to say this.” She slowed as she carefully chose the right words. “This place seems so real, when I am here. But– at home I know,” She paused as she turned to look at Rodney, “that it is all a dream.”

Rodney laughed out loud. Jessica was not sure what she was expecting him to do, but certainly not that. Rodney caught his breath enough to say, “I am glad that you are enjoying your time with me, but I would not think of myself as a dream. I’m normally not a hit with the ladies.”

Jessica went bright red. “No-that’s not what I– I mean you’re nice and all–but—-” Words failed her all at once.

“I knew that couldn’t be what you meant.” Jessica could not help but think he sounded a little disappointed.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to–” Jessica trailed off a bit. “I mean a real dream, like right now I am lying in bed at home asleep, and this is all going on inside my head.”

Rodney looked her straight in the eyes to figure out if she was serious. “Well that is news to me, I have been living here for years. Is this some sort of brain in a vat philosophy thing?”

“No really, but if you want to think of it that way, okay. In the real world I just got released from the hospital after a traumatizing robbery at the place where I work. I slept for several days because I have been working too much. The time that I met you at the diner was the first time I was ever in this town. Before the episode in the classroom earlier, I had never been there. The real reason I was acting weird and losing consciousness was because the doctors at the hospital were trying to wake me up.”

Rodney stared at Jessica for a moment as she braced herself for his response. “You are not kidding are you?”

“Nope.” I kind of wish I was. This seems like such a nice place.”

They both sat in silence for several minutes. Rodney staring straight ahead from his place on the bench, while Jessica tried to piece together everything that she was feeling.

Finally she broke the silence. “So I guess that explains how you think of money. To me it is the thing that brings the most stress in life. It only makes sense that in my dream world it wouldn’t exist. But just like most things in dreamland, a world without money could not really function.”

Rodney took several moments before he spoke. “I know that you believe this story you are telling me, but I can’t. This is my world. I really live here. I do not think that I am just a figment of your imagination. I don’t want to tell you that you are crazy, but that’s what it seems like to me.” Jessica’s heart broke. She knew that would be the result when she brought it up. She just thought that since it was just a dream it wouldn’t hurt so much. Rodney went on, “In this world, there is no money, and it does work. I would try to tell you how, but I don’t really understand the point of money, so I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Jessica could see that Rodney was hurt by what she had said. “I wish I could know how you are feeling, I know this must be difficult to accept. Would it help if I told you about my world? If it won’t help I won’t do it. We can just go on like we never had this conversation.”

“But we did. I think that it might help me, but you will have to excuse me for thinking of that as your dream world, not this. Maybe we are really living in two separate worlds and when you sleep is when you come to visit.”

Jessica did not really think that was the way it worked, but if that would make Rodney feel better, she would go with it. “That’s okay. I think that in your position I would ask nothing less.” Jessica was a bit confused. From what she had been told about lucid dreaming, once you realized it was a dream, you could control everything in it. But maybe she just had to practice.

Chapter 14 – Worlds Collide

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Chapter 12 (WIP) – Castles in Disguise

When Jessica got back to her room, she tried to think of what she should do next. She was wide awake, for the first time in months. Jessica sat thoughtfully looking at the business card that the nurse had given to her. The card had only a phone number. There was no name, no company. Jessica debated between running away from the hospital now to make sure that there were no further bills, or staying there, since at the moment she had nothing better to be doing, and was already in so far over her head it could hardly get worse. She set the card on the side table. Television did not sound particularly entertaining, but since she had no books, she figured that would be the best thing for her to do.

For several minutes Jessica flipped through the channels. Once she had been through everything three times, she settled on a show about interior design. The ‘experts’ that they interviewed on the show were the overly artsy stereotypical Designers. The things that they were saying were pretty out there, even for a college educated designer. The designers were talking about a historical building that was remodeled in such a way to keep the historical charm. The final product showed nothing of the 1920’s, when the building was made, but had a very modern minimalist theme with 1970’s furniture and modern stainless steel appliances. Jessica started zoning out when the designers were talking about ‘elevating’ the space, and how having some barely noticeable little accents of history gave the feeling that the space had some history.

Jessica began wondering why, if they wanted a historic feel, they would tear out original solid oak cabinets and replace them with brand new, very expensive, designer plastic ones. When the owner of the space come on screen they kept talking about how much they loved the 1920’s design aesthetic. Jessica wondered if they had seen their house yet. Soon it became clear that despite talk of wanting to live in a historic space preserved like a museum, the owners were thrilled with the new design of their minimalist home. They even tore out walls to create a modern open floor plan.

It occurred to Jessica the damage that could befall a medieval castle if the group on television got a hold of it. Rather than ending as a museum exhibit, the castle would have the stone covered over with an enamel resin and a ‘pop’ of color on an accent wall on each room. There would be some tacky reminder of a stereotypical castle outline echoed in a geometric shape on the new crown molding.

Through her mind Jessica ran images of old castles in picturesque locations around the world. Soon she realized that the only place she could remember many of them from was the classroom in her dream. Jessica had to wonder if any of them were real. She knew that experts say that anyone you see in your dreams you have seen before. While Jessica had a difficult time believing that, she pondered whether that would also apply to places in dreams.

She ran through the dream for a few minutes before determining unequivocally that she had never been in the classroom in her dream before, and therefore the images were likely made up as well. She turned her mind to the people of the strange town, and tried to run through the unending list of people she met at the hotel. It was not even a minute before she gave up. Her mind lingered though on Rodney. He seemed to be such a key figure in the dream, maybe he was based on someone more significant in her life. She turned to the glass separating her room from the hall outside. At that moment her doctor walked by.

Ah-ha! The doctor’s name was Rodney as well! That must be it. But wait- the doctor looked nothing like Rodney from the dream. And Jessica had the dream about the diner before she even met Kenzie.

Jessica tried to figure out what she would do for the Medieval Period class project that would not give away the fact that she did not have any memory of the rest of the course. It was a very engrossing puzzle, since she did not know the parameters of the assignment.

After struggling with this conundrum for several minutes, Jessica laughed out loud. It was a dream. She did not need to do the project. There was no-one to be embarrassed in front of. The whole place and all of the people in it were figments of her own imagination. It was perfectly likely that she would never dream of them again.

Jessica drew her attention again to the television and began flipping through the channels. It was not until she heard the words “Identity Theft” that she remembered she should probably have already cancelled her credit cards. And while she was at it, should see if she still had a job.

Chapter 13 – Something’s Missing

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