This story, written by @james__clayton on a prompt from @_TK_O, does exactly what it says on the tin. And despite being one of the most straightforward, easily readable, and lighthearted stories in the collection, it manages a concise and clever piece of satire to boot. Elegant and enjoyable – get stuck in:
STORY NUMBER: 20
PROMPT PROVIDER: @_TK_O
TITLE: Netflix for dreams
Liz was exhausted. She shuffled into her studio-pod, dropped all her stuff on the floor and lurched towards the kitchen wall.
She pulled a beanburger from the fridge panel, blasted it in the microwave and dumped it on some rice cakes. The half-full mug of camomile from that morning was reheated and used to wash down an unsatisfactory dinner but Liz didn’t care.
She was just too damn tired. It had been a draining shift. It had been a draining day. Just like every other shift and day in Liz’s instantly accessible memory.
Liz needed a good sleep. Liz needed a good dream tonight.
Passing up on a shower, she hauled herself over to the bunk in the corner and undressed clumsily. She then fixed the trodes in place and fumbled for the tablet left on the pillow. A few swipes and she’d opened the app – her hopeful saviour, Dreamflix.
The muted scarlet glow of the screen stirred up warm reassurance in her weary heart. The white subtitle flashed ‘Netflix for Dreams’ in case any of the millions of subscribers had forgotten what they’d downloaded and signed up for. Liz’s drowsy eyes wandered around the interface and looked for something – anything – that would do for tonight.
She ignored the tile that asked ‘Continue with Lavish Wars on the Moors?’ and eyed the ‘Recommended for you’ options. Dreamflix suggested Dungeon Dragon Chase and Royal Rave in the Inverted Crystal Castles because Liz had recently experienced Riding with Knights Across the Holy Neonscape.
Seeking something more tranquil, she scrolled her gaze rightward across further recommendations. Family Reunion in the Fairy Glen sounded lame and she reckoned that she wouldn’t be able to hack The Entire World Turned Toothless right now.
Dreamflix also pitched the ever-popular Cloud Metropolis Robot Battles series at her and, bizarrely, Japanese Graveyard She-Demon Orgy. The latter was recommended ‘Because you previously enjoyed Wild Werewolf Flesh and Blood Pits‘. Liz did not remember that one at all. She had no idea why she’d even pick that and questioned whether she ever would or had.
Perturbed and impatient, she whizzed downward desperate to just find something. The categories called out to her and crammed the near-infinite array of options into her weary eyeballs. She skipped past the Thriller section, the Nightmare section, the Childhood Favourites section and the Anxiety Dreams section.
Liz had never got her head around the idea that people would subscribe to this service to binge-experience their own subconscious terrors over and over and go through their deepest fears night after night.
She knew that Kris at work took on a lot of Anxiety Dreams. Kris never seemed to be very well.
The offerings splashed across the Especially Surreal bar – Spaghetti Hospital, Everything Kitty Cat Echoing, Bathtub Floating through the Ocean of Psychedelic Tears – struck Liz as way too trippy. A quick glance at the Erotic section found nothing inviting and she continued her hapless search for something suitable to her mood and shattered state.
Then Dusk Fjords appeared on the screen with its soft radiance and promise of Nordic meandering. Liz had seen positive tweets about it, praising its production values and the beautiful scenery it brought to users’ subconsciouses. She hesitated for a moment but headed on, concerned that the Norwegian language may be off-putting and prevent her from relaxing properly.
On and on and on she scrolled past an endless abundance of dream titles, some familiar and some startlingly novel. Your Mother is Addicted to Marmalade. Cosmonaut Karaoke Superstars. Grand Birthday Party During the Parisian Blitz. Duchess Cries Crêpe Paper. Liz considered them all for an indecisive second and then moved on, convinced she could find something better.
She spent a little longer toying with the idea of Coral Beach of Mermaid Kisses but then recalled the time a mermaid bit her in another dream and opted against it. You are Molten Chocolate would only make her hungrier. She also remembered Maytime Apennine Garden Bliss but chose not to re-dream that dream either. Last time it had been inexplicably interrupted by the sinister shape of Meryl Streep bringing trays and trays and trays of salmon.
Coloured box after coloured box after coloured box beamed out a beautiful mix of weird and wonderful dreams but Liz couldn’t select one. In exasperation she pawed her way back up to the top and eyeballed Lavish Wars on the Moors again. Everyone at work had gushed about the pastoral period-combat fantasy but she hadn’t been able to make it through in three attempts.
She couldn’t be bothered trying again, listening to the antiquated poetry of the heartbroken heath-folk waiting for battle against the Stallion Lords in the heather (a battle she had never reached). Liz just wanted something soothing and comforting. Her head pounding and her eyelids protesting, she scrolled ever onward looking for the perfect dream…
Three hours later, Liz was still looking for the perfect dream on Dreamflix. The coloured tiles danced on and on but she couldn’t decide and settle. Personal Clone Gang Back Together in High School. July Jelly Setting Contest. Burlesque Show Presidential Assassination. Making Love to the Moon. They all occupied the centre of the tablet screen for mere moments and then the corner of Liz’s vision caught the next option and moved on.
Restlessly, she reached back up to beginning and contemplated Lavish Wars on the Moors again. Then she noted the timestamp in the corner of the screen. It flashed 03:26 and Liz realised that in less than five hours time she was due to be back at work again for another whole-day shift.
She growled a pathetic low moan and tapped her tired head down on the tablet screen. Overwhelmed by choice and in the throes of chronic indecision and desperate fatigue, she cried out in quiet frustration and went back to scrolling.
She just needed a good dream. She just needed a good sleep. Liz was absolutely exhausted.
PROMPT:NETFLIX FOR DREAMS