I had a sleep test last night to determine whether I suffer
from sleep apnea. It started at 10 p.m.
At that hour they make you enter the hospital
through the Emergency Room, not the most
auspicious way to begin a routine procedure.
There was a man who had cut himself badly while
chopping vegetables and another
man who couldn't stop coughing.
He was a regular coughing machine, that guy.
When I reached the office on the third floor
a technician had me put on my pajamas
while he attached electrodes to various
parts of my body. As he got closer to my groin
I pondered whether to say something funny
like, "Not so free with the hands, there, Chester,"
but decided against it. For one thing, he probably wasn't
named Chester. For another, I didn't want to be
diagnosed with homophobia as well as sleep apnea.
When I was covered with wires and the equipment
was all set to record, I said, "I sure hope I pass.
I didn't study for the sleep test at all."
The technician said, "That's clever, considering
I've heard it eight million times." He dimmed
the lights and eventually I drifted off.
I think I dreamed throughout the night -- vivid, colorful,
disturbing dreams, though when I awoke
I couldn't remember any details. I saw my
personal things on the end table where I had left them.
I looked in my wallet. The $300 was
still there, yet it appeared that one of the pictures of my
children was missing. Before I could wonder why
a doctor came in to remove the wires. "Well?" I said.
"Do I have sleep apnea?" "Too early to tell," he said.
"We'll have the results next week."
It was then that I noticed a large, transparent plastic
container on the counter. It was filled with an iridescent
liquid that pulsed and twirled and shifted
even as I watched, its long, tentacled shapes swiftly
merging into each other and reemerging in completely new
forms every few seconds. It seemed almost alive,
like a jellyfish in an aquarium.
"What's in there?" I said. "Dreams,"
said the doctor, and I knew he was telling
the truth. It made me feel dreamy just to look at it.
"My dreams?" I said. "Not anymore," he replied.
"Now just hold on a minute, pal," I said.
"You've been harvesting my dreams
without my permission?" "Harvesting isn't really
the word I would use," he said. "The word I would use
is stealing," I said. I was certain they must have
broken some law, but I had no way of knowing
which one, so I made one up. "You're in clear
violation of the Dream Copyright Act of 1997," I said,
trying to sound as officious as possible.
"There's no such thing, and you know it," the doctor sneered.
"According to the Dream Homesteading Act of 2003,
as soon as you go to sleep in this building
your dreams belong to us, and so do you. I could
take you to a bare room and lock you in there
until you mummified, and there's not a damn thing
you or your heirs or assigns could do about it, so watch it
with your fake legalese and get the hell out of here
or we'll send you straight back to dreamland."
I began to put my things in my pockets and prepared to leave,
but reluctantly. Dreamland sounded pretty good
right about then.