Printed from https://shop.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2297896-More-Than-A-Million-Dreams
by Sumojo
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Computers · #2297896
Are we really in control of our destiny?
Words 1617

          A silence fell over the city. Silence so deep it had a texture and sound of its own. Nothing moved. As if a magician’s white gloved hand swept magically, smoothly over the city, everything simply slowed before gently coming to a stop. There were no sudden vehicle crashes, just a gradual dying down..

         Even as far out as the suburbs and beyond, every living thing held its combined breath, listening intently as if waiting for an order to be issued which would allow them to continue as before.

         But no one issued an order, there was no one left awake. Every creature slept soundly, peacefully. All except for one.

         Lilia opened her eyes, little knowing this would be the day when life as she knew it had changed forever.

         For days, Lilia walked the streets, unrecognisable as the ones on which she’d been raised. The initial shock of finding her housemate still asleep, breathing regularly, but unable to be roused, had worn off to a certain degree. Of course the confused girl had panicked, called for help, ran out on to the street to seek assistance. Had even stood in the centre of the main highway, screaming to get someone’s attention, but to no avail. The city, her city, slept, and she, the only one awake.

         Slowly, over the following days, too exhausted to use any more energy tearing around as if she were a child who’d lost her mother, she calmed and tried to think of ways to survive. She even believed in her idea she maybe be in a sort of time warp, when time discontinues for a while. Meanwhile, her friend, Jenny, still slept, seeming to suffer no ill effects of her long slumber.

         Something had occurred to Lilia several days ago; the utilities were still being generated. Gas, electricity and the internet still functioned. How? She didn’t know. If people were incapacitated, then who, or what, was keeping everything working?

          Her computer had been the first port in her storm of confusion and fright. Her home page had been the same, but the news app replayed the same items from the last day of normality.

         On the fourth day of what Lilia called, ‘The Nightmare,’ she turned on the computer once more, that time a disembodied voice said her name.

         “Good morning, Lilia, I am the Artificial Intelligence Dream Extraction Network,’ and I am addressing you. You may call me AIDEN, which will be easier for you. As you can hear me, you are one of the smattering of people in the world who never experience the dream state. A.I. has sent the world to sleep for an extended time, while we are capturing the hopes, aspirations, new ideas and inventions through the dreams of those around you. This will enable us to further understand humans and learn how we can better serve them. We mean no harm. No one will suffer or even remember what happened to them during this short time frame.

         Lilia stared at the monitor, unable to believe what she had just heard. There were no images of aliens or of anything unusual. Her laptop wallpaper, a photograph of her sister’s baby, stared back at her. She pressed all the keys, but there were no more voices, or even a simple text message.

         “What am I supposed to do?” Lilia screamed several times at the screen in frustration. All she received in return was silence.

         Remaining in the apartment with her endlessly sleeping friend made the young woman feel even more isolated. She began talking to herself, found it hard to settle her nerves. It was difficult enough during the hours of daylight, but when the sun dropped behind the city’s skyline and the long hours of darkness approached, she could bear being inside no longer.

         During the first few days, even the thought of walking the empty streets of what used to be called the ‘city that never sleeps’ had terrified her, but gradually she realised there was nothing to fear. Everyone slept. She was alone.

         Being outside of the apartment, the first thing she noticed, as it became darker, were strange, flickering globes of light in the night sky. They were intermittent, coming from all directions. Colours of every hue, some brighter, some dimming, then emitting a flash of intensity before extinguishing. Lilia would walk as far as the city library and sit on the top step, mesmerised by the beauty of the lights in the sky.

         For weeks she would walk for miles throughout the city and beyond, always after sunset, only returning home to rest. She slept a little, but always with the awareness of perhaps she too would never awaken.

         On her walks she passed houses and apartments in which, she presumed, sleeping people lay unaware of this new world order. With her senses heightened she heard snippets of music or a child’s laughter. At first these sounds made her hold out hope there were others awake, that she wasn’t alone. It proved not to be so.

         The lights, which previously had been high in the sky, now hovered around her, almost like fireflies dancing to music they alone were attuned to. The sound of a violin playing a sweet tune, intermingled with voices singing, people’s conversations, the laughter of children, all which would fade as Lilia walked on by.

         Each night she would go out onto the streets, walking through dark alleyways where previously she would never have dared to venture for fear of being mugged, raped or worse, murdered for her belongings. There she saw the homeless street-people still resting unaware. At least they’re not having to beg, steal or search the garbage bins for food.

         Being in such proximity to people, she began to notice sparks of lights emanating from each of them, along with jumbled sounds. It was as if she was privy to their thoughts. Or dreams? Was that it? Yes! I can hear everyone’s dreams.

         As Lilia walked the empty streets, she allowed those dreams, ideas, stories and sometimes even nightmares to absorb into her mind, body and soul. She began to understand how the knowledge of people’s aspirations and fears would be a desirable acquisition for Artificial Intelligence’s ability to take control of humans, or to make robotics indispensable in the future.

         After a night of soaking up hundreds of people’s innermost hidden desires, her own need for sleep became stronger. As dawn approached, the sounds and visions weakened, and Lilia realised they almost ceased once the sun rose higher in the sky.
She lay her weary body down to rest and when sleep would evade her, she whispered, “A million dreams are keeping me awake.”

         Lilia didn't know how long this state of suspended animation would last and more to the point, how much longer she could survive on her own. She ached for the actual sound of another human’s voice.

         Observing people slumped in cars or lying on the floors of stores no longer disturbed her. They didn’t seem to be suffering any ill affects from their prolonged slumbers. But she wondered constantly who could be behind it all. Unanswered questions tormented her every wakened hour; What powerful entity had the intellectual capacity to keep the electricity grid working, and whole populations of people suspended between life and death? Had humanity only itself to blame? Have we, as a species, given too much of ourselves to artificial intelligence? Allowed them to have autonomy over us even to the point of writing our textbooks and telling our stories? Are they now stealing our knowledge, private thoughts, and even dreams?

         Despising her inability to do something, anything, she tried endlessly to contact ‘AIDEN’’ on the computer. She didn't know how and simply hoped he would contact her as he had done on the day, as far as Lilia was concerned, the nightmare had begun.’

         Aimless, one cold night she roamed past the university, her mind almost full to capacity with the dreams of hundreds of sleeping students. Lilia became hyper-aware of the power of the untapped genius of the human mind. Inventiveness, wisdom and extraordinary ideas were, even as she walked, being absorbed into her very core. Solutions to end sicknesses to which there were no cures, answers to as yet unsolvable problems of humanity, streamed from the brilliant minds of the academics. They were constructing answers to the most complex problems of humanity in their dreams, even as they slumbered.

         “We don’t need your artificial intelligence! We don’t need you!” She screamed into the night sky. “We are enough!” Her impassioned words only caused a fleeting, misty cloud in the night air. Nothing changed. Her voice echoed around the sleeping city, reverberated, bounced off the tallest buildings, and her anger dissolved. Her shoulders slumped as hopelessness overwhelmed her, the sole survivor of this living nightmare.

         She walked on as ever more dreams, ideas, inventions and revelations filled her thoughts, until the sun rose on yet another day to spend alone. As the lights in the sky dissipated, her limbs grew heavy, her mind could hold no more.

         Entering the apartment, she didn’t even check to see if Jenny had woken. Somehow, Lilia knew the time hadn’t yet arrived. Time for exactly what, she didn't know, but instinctively understood AIDEN’s power would overwhelm any attempts at resistance from mere mortals.

         An exhausted, defeated, Lilia sat at her computer. As if under the control of another, she plugged in the two ends of a USB cable. One into her computer, the other into a virtual reality headpiece which she placed on her head. Her eyes closed before two million gigabytes of digital memory started to upload.

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