THE TETRIS EFFECT
By Constance Brewer
I don’t dream.
When I tell people this, they rush to reassure me they don’t remember dreams either. I pretend they understood what I meant. Remembrance is a non-issue. I don’t dream at all, not since the aliens took me.
Say “alien abduction” to ordinary folks and they titter. In my case abduction is not entirely truthful, since I went voluntarily. Hell, I begged them to take me. They were understandably reluctant; their victims usually didn’t choose themselves. They wanted scientists. I swore up and down my liberal arts degree was valuable. I gave my word, and shook their hands, all of them, including the ones sticking out of their forehead.
I call the alien “they” because it wasn’t a single alien, it was a rotund carcass with numerous consciousnesses attached to it. The alien acquired them over the course of time in an assimilation process I never quite understood. Random parts protruded from the otherwise normal alien. Once in a while a body, human or otherwise, would eject from the alien with the fetid slurp of a boot ripped from swamp mud. Alien mitosis was far messier than the Earth version.
Absorption into the mass wasn’t as painful as it could have been. Uncomfortably gooey and strikingly similar to the sensation you get when your foot falls asleep. Afterwards, there was the disorientation of looking south when the alien walked east, the lack of muscle control, not to mention the disconcerting awareness of an alien hand protruding from your groin as a bizarre companion to Mr. Happy.
In the end, desire to see the universe aside, I didn’t last a month as an alien implant. I wasn’t fully absorbed; I was rejected, expelled with a sucking pop. They apologized profusely, explained they were afraid I would upset their multi-minded balance. It wasn’t personal, a few felt I’d be a valuable addition, but they were outvoted.
If I’d lasted a year, I’d have been privy to all the cumulative knowledge stored in their bloated body. Full awareness, not just the flashes of unfamiliar insight that skittered across my brainpan and vanished before fully sinking in.
As I cleaned the blue slime from my naked skin, I thought maybe it was because they finally realized that while they slept, I spied on the dreams flickering across numerous brainscreens. I ate exotic foods, fought monsters, swam cobalt seas under triple moons, piloted immense spacecraft to remote universes, and met untold foreign species. One night I glimpsed a life form so incredibly unfamiliar, so vicious and frightening I scared everyone awake attempting to muffle my screams. That xenophobic reaction was my undoing.
I returned to Earth alone, distressed, and plagued by paralyzing nightmares. I’d dream of these new horrors attacking from space in wave after wave of glittering terror. Apparently I’d absorbed a lot more than I’d realized watching alien dream theater. I couldn’t shake the image of the razor-fanged extraterrestrial. I knew someday it was going to appear and devour not only me, but my entire planet, person by person.
My nightly screaming woke the neighbors, scared the dog, and forced my decision.
It took several weeks to track down the country where the aliens currently body-mined. I was never sure if it was “my” alien that I talked to or another with numerous humanoid appendages protruding from its body. In the end, it didn’t matter. They understood.
With a sharp mental scalpel they banished the nightmares and rewired my brain so I’d never need sleep again. I could remain alert for travelers not quite as accommodating as them: their many-toothed cousins fondly called “GrxbyPk”. The closest my alien soggy brain could come to an interpretation was, “Interstellar Harvesters”.
I don’t dream, and that’s probably a good thing.