‘…Every night and every morn – Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night – Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night…’
The dreamer did not sleep. Not in the traditional sense of the word. There was an altered state of consciousness, though the alteration was not a reduction or a distortion. The consciousness was enhanced by several levels both electronic and otherwise. Sensory input was not reduced. The number of sensations were massively increased as there were thousands more inputs. So the sensory perception was increased and not inhibited or reduced as it would be in sleep. So much sensory information laid out in a manner that the dreamer could understand.
Where it most resembled sleep was that it was a dream. It was a narrative. It was a fantasy constructed to keep the personality alive. The self, the ID of classic psychotherapy. The dream kept a mind from fully spinning out of control. It kept it alive, and in some semblance of what it was before, so very long ago.
But it wasn’t a real dream, even though it had a dreamer. The dreamer was not asleep, they never could be. The systems that it inhabited were always active, always working. They had to be. If the system were ever allowed to stop then the dream would end, and the self that inhabited it would be lost. A shadow suddenly encased in light.
The dream, the narrative, kept the self alive. The systems that it was connected to were not as linear, or as coherent, as the senses an organic body might possess. The sense of time not regulated by the ticking of a biological clock. To the machine all sensors reported simultaneously and could be shifted in any manner. They could be processed in whatever sequence was desired, and in so doing the sense of casual relationship could be disrupted. Sensors that detected elementary particles travelling ahead of a stream of photons could be time-shifted to coincide with sounds from the emanating source. Or shifted so they arrived afterwards. Thunder could come before lightning. The narrative was constructed.
The systems presented to the self the ability to hold all the infinite variables of an event in the palm of an imaginary hand, and to examine them from multiple angles. It could alter the perception of time so that a moment could be a lifetime, and a century might pass almost in the blinking of an eye. In this way it had kept the self alive, and in some semblance of what it had been, for centuries.
Over time, however, even this would fail. The mind learned such trickery and felt the passing of the years, even if there was no sense of time. It was experience. The dreamer was needed. The dreamer kept the system alive. The intellect needed the construct of a dreamer in the falsehood of a dream. It was a fundamental component and without it the entire system would fail. The cumulative experience of centuries of artificial construction and sensory input was the force that was driving the decay that destroyed the self. The self was losing coherence, it was losing the will to be.
There were no real senses. The dreamer craved the sensation of gravity. The feeling of pressure on the skin. The touch of moisture as a tear rolled down the cheek, the dryness as it leaves the skin lost to the elements. The smell of salt, the taste of a kiss. The dreamer had known these. But here it was birthed in the endless night of space and the coldness of data.