Some competitive event. outside, possibly something athletic. Sun and grass. One of those stupid contests sponsored by a local radio station where the prize was ten metres cubed of crap beer. Needless to say everyone there, myself included, got incredibly drunk and passed out.
Jump-cut to an American gameshow. One contestant has had a winning run for the past two years. Nobody's been able to beat him, really he is just the best of the best. But he's been slowing down, not getting as much right. But the show obviously cheats for him. keeping him winning, a slave to the American Dream.
Running through a big old English school building, myself and someone from work. We had been going to some martial arts class held in the school but it was cancelled and we couldn't find our way out. We take a wrong-turning, run down corridors of old heating ducts and gas pipes. Backstage in your children's education. Down five flights of steps when we've come up two from the ground, like Appleton Tower. But the world outside this door isn't the same as the one we left behind. There's an edge. It stops being semi-serious and starts being deadly serious. Kids pelt us both with stones and larger rocks. The back window of the car, an old Fiat Uno, smashes as one hurls a brick with deadly accuracy. The kids do not like outsiders. We escape.
Jump-cut to another rack of people. Jammed with their heads inside TVs from the underneath, cartoon-funny if it wasn't for the fact that these were real people and real TVs. The one-time stars, living their five minutes of fame over and over again. Hanging by that one thread attached to the TV. Their spirits snake out of the aerials.
The spirits are seen moving sleeping people through trap-doors. The still-unconscious bodies are slid into big barbershop chairs. These people are displayed subliminal hypnotics on a cinema screen while a voice installs powerful hypnopaedic suggestions: "I need a gun to protect my family." "Money makes me a better person." "I'll sue you, you Commie." "Television tells me what is right." The chairs fall away, depositing the rows upon rows of sleeping bodies on treadmill. Excercise and training follows, all while the participants are asleep.
Next thing I know I'm in an American movie theatre. Definitely not a cinema. People around in the seats, but not many. Some I know, some I don't. Lots of vacant seats between us. My limbs feel sore, like I've just done a heavy treadmill session. Lights come up. A figure on the screen (cinema-screen nothing more than a giant TV, the building a sight of pilgrimage with a super-sized shrine to the American Gods) starts delivering a lecture. He pauses for questions. A guy next to me asks one and some other guy is told to explain himself. Trying to make us think in a group-mind, each able to explain everyone else. Hardwire us into the American Dream.
At that point people I only know online enter the room. They slide into seats. Somehow, I get an IM window over one eye, start tapping out messages between us. Point out the conditioning. But they already know. We converse through the lecture, our own separate group-mind with invisible links that may as well be telepathy. None of us notices just when everyone else leaves and the screen goes dark, but it does. At that point I go to leave, but see a SWAT van pulling up. Someone was good enough to bring nine-millimetre party-favours for everyone.
A sniper bursts through the door but he can't see us. We're not part of his frame of reference yet. I shoot him as soon as he recognises us. Kill or be killed. Things go into a blur. It's not like the Lobby Scene, lots of cool people killing boring people with grace and artistry. It's people killing people, whether they realise it or not the same conflict as ever. Admittedly, real people killing each other with action-movie physics.
Then I see him. The face on the screen, in full body armour among the SWAT troops. Big machine-pistol in hand. Wading through the bodies of the dead and dying and still shooting with someone in one hand. Someone from the party at the start of the dream. Someone I should care about. Chanting a name, the True Name of the American Dream. Lawyers, guns, money and television blended into one whole.
And there, I wake up.