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It was, they told us, the very latest in technology. The cutting edge, the newest of the new. “Free Your Mind With DreamShare,” was their slogan, and they promised us a new age of uninhibited creativity.

It was easy to use. Drink down a packet of nanos dissolved into water, put the specs on, and dream your way to hours of entertainment and experimentation. When you woke up you could watch what you had dreamed on your tablet and edit it with a few taps of your keypad. The DreamShare webspace was soon invaded by millions of people’s dreams set to music, tagged with the users who uploaded them and organized by category (Slasher! Space Travel! Surrealism!). Some of the first went viral simply because they were the first broadcasted dreams anyone had ever seen. We later learned to be more discerning, preferring the organized plotlines of experienced lucid dreamers to the hazy events of your average Jane’s nighttime brain-wanderings. Still then it was free, and so new.

Of course the porn industry caught on first. “Sex Dreaming With The Stars” was the first big series to be released on holodisk, and they bought up the dreams of just about anyone who had a racy sheet-stainer involving a celebrity. Arthouse types followed, with just about every asshole who could conjure up a melting clock calling himself the “Dali of DreamShare.” Hollywood was slow to pick up on the fad, assuming that people would rather see the work of real writers, real directors, with real actors saying planned lines, but when the box office numbers for the film industry’s first five years after DreamShare’s release went public everyone’s shareholders pressured the studios to partner up get into the business of projected dreams.

To reignite interest in Hollywood-produced dreams, they organized a talent search for the world’s most interesting and creative dreamers. When they found them, they signed them up for contracts of one year, five years, even life if they were worth it. Every dream the lucky winners dreamed belonged to the studios, with a small percentage of the profit going right back to DreamShare. They paid the dreamers a lot, from what I hear. More than I think they were willing to, even with the huge amounts of money rolling in from people who wanted to see big name dreams on even bigger screens.

After a while they stopped wanting to pay for people’s dreams. They tried to sneak it on us at first. Dreams started showing up in theaters by “Anonymous” dreamers who, it was later found out, had not consented to have their work shown for profit. Some of them hadn’t even shared the dream on the webspace before they saw it coming up as some studio’s next great venture. One guy tried to sue once, but DreamShare had written it into the fine print of the very first version of their product that they had the right to any information uploaded onto their database, and every dream recorded with their technology was backed up onto their cloud server. Nobody knew that because nobody read it, and now someone else had the rights to their dreams.

So everyone stopped. They threw out their DreamShare mechs, smashed their specs, and stopped drinking nano water almost overnight. Poor bastards thought they were accomplishing something. They didn’t know that DreamShare had lied to them. Those nanobots, you don’t piss them out within a day or two of consuming them. They stay in your body. They build up, a million billion powder-small robots living in your brain and in your blood. And the specs were more or less a formality. As long as you had enough nanotech in your head, your dreams were recorded and used and there was nothing you could do about it.

The screens haunt us now. They hover above our streets and in our houses, selling us products we invented ourselves and showing us fantasies that were supposed to stay secret. Anyone’s dreams are fair game, and you live in fear that one day you’ll look up and see your life, your fiction, your own stolen imagination projected in the sky for the world to see. We more or less entertain ourselves now. It’s the cutting edge of technology. 

This is a "What If...?" story inspired by urbanization (remix)

What if people could see your dreams?

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