I recently rewatched “Inception,” and thought about what might happen if Mal hadn’t tragically died. What if two people lived together all the time, waking and sleeping? What if they had no boundaries at all?
I should preface this entry by saying that I love my wife, and this is in no way meant as a misogynistic dig. As a recovering introvert, though, I need periodic alone time to re-energize, so one of my greatest horrors is of being with people all the time. This is, thus, something of a personal horror story. For what it’s worth, she found it quite funny.
“I can do better than this movie,” Thad said when he was twenty-two. “I’ll invent a shared-dreaming device, but I’ll keep my wife from going mad.”
Naomi loved the idea, and loved dreaming with her brilliant husband. They would spend not just every waking moment together, but every moment sleeping as well.
Thad’s wildest fantasies came true in their shared dream world. They could fly on the backs of dragons, build cities from nothing, and breathe underwater. It was wonderful, when he was twenty-two.
When he was thirty-five, Thad’s wife found him wearing green flames as a bathrobe in a castle made of diamonds. He was riding a cockatrice through their grand ballroom, and reined it to a halt next to five leprechauns who were tossing each other down a bowling lane.
“I didn’t want to wake you,” she said, “but you forgot to take the trash out to the curb. They started coming early, so I reset your alarm for five.”
The green flames of his robe sputtered, flickered, and died. The leprechauns laughed when Thad winced at the cockatrice’s scales against his bare bottom. This was the first time their dream-world had mocked him, and he wondered whether it was her subconscious or his own that was laughing.
When he was fifty-two, Thad realized he had to put an end to their constant togetherness. When he told Naomi he just wanted to dream alone that night, though, she cried.
“You don’t love me anymore, do you?” she asked between sobs. “You just want to be rid of me. Do you want me to be younger in the dream? Should I look like somebody else?”
“No dear,” he said. “Of course not. I love you the way you are.”
Without knowing what else to say, and to stop her crying, Thad put the soft wireless transceiver pad at the base of his neck and closed his eyes. Naomi sniffled a few more times before turning out the bedside lamp.
In the dream, she made herself young again anyway, so Thad did too.
“Oh,” she said. “You look so much better! You don’t even have a bald spot. I’d almost forgotten what you looked like without it. You don’t have a gut anymore either.”
There were no leprechauns this time, but a nearby tree brought a limb to its mouth to stifle a laugh. Thad felt sure this was his own subconscious at work.
When he woke the next morning, he examined his bald spot in the mirror. It shone under the bathroom light.
When he was seventy-three, Thad decided he’d had quite enough. His grandchildren lived well off the fruits of his invention, and Naomi was well cared-for. His affairs were in order, and his responsibilities met.
So he died.
His children and grandchildren mourned him, as did the wife with whom he’d lived, waking and dreaming.
Two days later, Naomi died. Her last thought was that Thad was enjoying the afterlife without her, and that she must do something about it.
“It’s sweet,” their youngest grandchild said, a tear in the corner of her eye. “They couldn’t stand to be apart. It’s so beautiful.”