People are weird. Their thoughts are weird and their dreams are even weirder. I should know—it’s my job.
Have you ever had one of those dreams that made perfect sense, even after you woke up? It was like someone was writing a movie and playing it out in your brain while you slept. It had production value. Of course, the next night, it’s usually back to some jumble of nonsense about teddy bears, an ominous-looking toaster, and your Grade 4 teacher driving a taxi.
Imagine you could dream those cool, complicated dream every night—chasing bad guys, flying around like Superman, and still waking up fresh as spring breeze? You can now, thanks to In Your Dreams, Inc. It’s popular, let me tell you. The guy who founded it is a multi-billionaire now. Not that I see much of that though—I’m just an extra.
* * *
“Brad, here’s the script for the Harper drug-bust scenario.” Heather hands me a single sheet of paper.
“What is he this time, the drug lord or the cop?” I ask.
“Actually, he’s the briefcase. They carry him in, open him up, then test the drugs. When the cops show up, he’s thrown into the evidence locker for a while, then ends up as Exhibit B in the trial. That’s when he wakes up. Hey, I got you a speaking part this time.”
I look at the script and find my name. “‘I gotta go pee”? What kind of a line is that?”
Heather shrugs. “He wanted to throw a subliminal hint into the dream somewhere. He says he always wakes up with his bladder almost exploding and he wants to start waking up before that point. Don’t worry; everybody starts at the bottom. You do a couple ‘I gotta go pee’ gigs, then move on to ‘you got the drugs?’ or ‘the giant lemon bounced that way.’ Before you know it, you’re the guy explaining to the dreamer how he’s the only one who can save the planet. Baby steps, Brad.”
An hour later, I’ve gotten through makeup and am on the sound stage with the rest of the actors. Abraham Lincoln is the drug lord this time. I’ve worked on a few Sammy Harper dreams before and for some reason Abraham Lincoln always shows up somewhere. I was a giant Raggedy Andy in a tea party dream of his and sure enough, Lincoln was the one serving the tea.
“Places, everyone!” the director Kyle Dresden shouts. “Sammy Harper just fell asleep. We’re live in twenty minutes.”
We always do dreams live, while beaming them remotely into the dreamer’s brain. There is a huge screen set up at one end of the stage that shows us exactly what the dreamer is experiencing. That’s essential since dreamers rarely stick to the script, even ones they’ve helped write themselves. We always have to keep an eye on it while we’re acting.
In this scenario, I’m one of the drug dealers. I’ve got a bazooka—which is insane—but that’s Sammy Harper for you. Other drug dealers have AK-47s, elephant guns, and one has a tiger on a leash.
The blue “Dream On” light goes on and we advance towards the middle of the room. Abraham Lincoln is in front, holding the briefcase. The director signals the giant marshmallow Peeps to start jumping around in the background. The theme song to “Cheers” starts playing.
The actor playing Lincoln-as-a-drug-lord puts the briefcase on the table and opens it. The other gang leader samples the drugs inside. I look up at the dream screen and see that in the dream, the briefcase has grown wings and is flying around the room. I knew Sammy Harper couldn’t be content to just lie there as a briefcase and let everyone else have the action. The briefcase in the dream has now sprouted arms and is firing a Tommy gun at us.
This is where improv takes over. We all keep an eye on the screen to see where the briefcase is firing and when it gets near us, we fall back as if we’re shot. The customer is always right, after all.
The dream briefcase fires in my direction and I drop to the ground, writhing as if shot. I’m about to full-on die when I realize that I haven’t said my line yet. The first line of my career and the dreamer goes off script and kills me. Not this time. I let out a dying scream. “I gotta go pee!”
* * *
It’s 6am and I stumble through the door of my apartment and fall onto the bed without even undressing. I just want some nice black-screen sleep. I used to like my dreams, but now, I don’t want to remember a thing. It’s too much like work.