Glass Prism

Seventeen-year-old dream stealer Valkyrie Highlander finds herself caught in a dangerous web when she agrees to join an extracting team hired by the most feared prison camp owner in the nation.

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2. Chapter One

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”
Edgar Allan Poe

 

FOUR MONTHS LATER

 

A dream is remarkably like a glass prism. It's like a box that reflects things back at you--and holds things for you, too. Like almost-forgotten memories, or bitter secrets.

Aside from that.

Every dream must have a dreamer, obviously, or else the dream wouldn't exist. The dreamer creates the dream without actually realizing, usually. The setting where the dream takes place has some scientific name that I haven't bothered to learn, but the slang is "palace", like a mind palace. It's the same with the projections of people in the dream--there's some acronym that's their official moniker, but I prefer "hals"--short for hallucinations. 

The dreamer in the dream is the Driver--not quite a hal, but not technically a real person, either. More of like a figment-type thing. They can change the dream around them, but that only happens in really peculiar cases.

A dreamer can also give a dream "elements"--ideas and beliefs that make up the dream's core. The core is always present at the center of the dream, but stays blank until a dreamer comes along.

That's where I come in.

I'm a scammer. My job mainly consists of--illegally--taking the ideas and beliefs from the core and transferring them to a glass prism. I mainly do these jobs on call, kind of like assassins from Old World stories. I've done my job for corporate businesses and rich heirs, for faceless kingpins of underground mafias and twitching drug lords with dull eyes, for reasons both justifiably good and horrifically evil.

It's my job. I don't really question who or why. I just do it.

It's mostly due to the fact that dreams that have been scammed fetch a pretty price on the black economy bustling in the shadows. They should, too, because scamming a dream isn't always a walk in the park.

First, I spend months researching the Driver, learning everything I can about them to make sure the job will go smoothly. Nothing's worse than being in the middle of a job when suddenly someone's skeleton in the closet jumps out at you. I also need to find out a time block where they won't be missed for a couple of hours and a place where an unconscious body won't be a problem. 

Time in dreams moves slower than it does in real life, because our brains function differently. Have you ever had a dream where you feel like you're wading through everything, kind of like trying to claw through a filmy curtain? Dream time is pretty much the same concept, only you're not always as aware of it. Twenty minutes in a dream is about an hour in reality. 

Secondly, I have to integrate myself into the dream, using a jumper. A jumper is a small black box that connects the scammer into the same dream as the Driver. That's always my least favorite part--I'm always nervous I'm going to hit an artery or something when I put the needle in. I knew someone that that happened to. She didn't know she'd hit it, and bled out during the dream. Horrific. 

Which brings me to three--don't die in another person's dream. If you do, you end up in the Prism--kind of like hell for scammers. I've never been there, but from what I've heard, it's basically your nightmares on an endless loop. It's possible to be rescued from Prism, but, I mean, who could come out of that still in one piece?

There is a loophole to Prism, though. It only works if you've gone under with someone monitoring what's happening to your facial expressions on the outside. If you look distressed, they rip the needle out of your arm and slap you awake. Jolting is what it's called. It's pretty rare, though, mainly because of how risky it is. A job can get seriously messed up if you get jolted out early, or for no reason.

If you're killed in your own dream, however, you have a bit of a happier ending. You'll just wake up wherever you went under, maybe a little woozy, but no worse for wear.

There is no way to "end" a dream early--you have to follow through until the time runs out. There's always jolts, but those are mainly reserved for life or death situations. No matter how terrifying or dangerous, you're stuck in the dream until time ends.

This gets even more tricky once you add levels: dreams within dreams. Scientists can stabilize up to four, but once you get past that it tends to start messing with both physics and your mind. It would be absolute suicide to try anything above five. A one way trip to Prism.

There's so much else I could explain--gravity shifts, weather splurges, paradoxes--but it'd be much to complicated to tell you everything. I wouldn't want to overload your inexperienced mind. 

So I guess the moral of the story is:

I'm a scammer--an illegal dream stealer. It would be a bad idea to dream around me.

I mind not be able to help myself.

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