It was a Wednesday when Dave had come barging into Carly’s office, his face pale and gaunt. “You look like hell,” she’d said, smiling. Her smile faded fast when he didn’t answer back.
“Have you ever thought that sleep problems were contagious?” he asked, his voice quivering. “Like I could have picked something up from the lab?”
“Contagious?” she answered back, incredulous. “What are you talking about?”
Her partner flopped onto the couch in Carly’s office and put his head in his hands. “I took Lucidox last night,” he began, and held his hand up to stop Carly’s objections before they began. “I don’t need the after-school special, just listen, okay?” Carly nodded curtly, her lips pursed like a scolding mother. “I’ve done it before a bunch of times, so I know how it should…”
“David Edgar Windeman,” Carly said, cutting him off. “These drugs are for clinical research, not for, for…” She fought for the right word. “Not for amusing yourself with.”
Dave sighed. “I know your opinion about this sort of thing, but I didn’t come here for a lecture. Just hear me out, and then you can slap my hands, okay?” Carly snorted, but said nothing. “I know what it should be like with Lucidox. You can control everything in your dream, make anything you want to happen, happen. No surprises. Like a daydream, only more vivid. That’s how it always was before. Last night, though…” His voice trailed off.
“Start at the beginning,” Carly said, slipping into her researcher role and picking up her notebook and pen.
Dave told her about how his dream started out normally enough, but then other people who didn’t belong in the scenario kept showing up. “It was so strange,” he said. “I was completely aware that I was in a dream, and I could choose to do whatever I wanted; control my own actions, change the scenario, whatever. But there wasn’t anything I could do to control the other people in my dream. It was like they were… well, like they really were were other people.”
“What are you saying, Dave?” Carly asked, frowning.
“I’m saying that there were other people in my dream. People with their own ideas, their own plans, making their own decisions.”
Carly pursed her lips and thought. “Sounds like a typical dream to me, Dave,” she said, and when he tried to explain further, she cut him off with a lecture. “This is exactly the problem with messing around with something like Lucidox,” she said. “You think that, because you’re a professional, you know what you’re doing, but you don’t, really. And now you come in here thinking you’ve made some kind of breakthrough just because your drug-induced lucid dream wasn’t a perfect construction of your conscious mind. You should be ashamed, Dave.”
She almost convinced him that it was nothing. But over the next few weeks, their patients and research subjects began complaining of eerily similar experiences, and Carly started to believe her partner. And when she finally consented to try Lucidox herself she knew it to be true. The other people in her dreams were real.