Commercial Dreamtime Testing

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ALEXANDER HAMBONE LAY STRAPPED to the steel hospital gurney while a doctor in a white lab coat hovered over him, clenching his clipboard. “Now, Mr. Hambone, it’s imperative you understand that in order to collect the full payment for this study you must successfully provide your input for all items in our consumer goods survey from within your REM sleep. Once in REM sleep, the equipment will record all of your responses, successful and unsuccessful, with complete and total accuracy. Do you understand what I have told you, Mr. Hambone?”

“Uh, yes, Doctor,” said Hambone. “Say, these straps are quite tight actually and is all this necessary? I mean, tying me down on this steel gurney and all.”

The doctor’s face twitched and then his mouth gaped before he pointed to a row of computers and silver machinery along the wall. “The equipment was very expensive.” He showed Hambone an open palm displaying a single Rolaid. “We have Rolaids should you become uneasy.”

Hambone winced. “Ahhh… Yes. Right then. I’m ready. Let’s do this thing. I could use that payment and the rules of the consumer survey seem straightforward enough.”

“Excellent, Mr. Hambone. As we begin I should like to say a few words to help encourage you on your journey towards a pleasant sleep. First off, please tell me a number between one and suntan-lotioned jet ski.”

“Uhh? Doctor, by any chance, am I already asleep and is this test or survey already underway?”

“I shall record it in the logbook.”

“Uhh? Doctor, I don’t mean to interrupt, but you are merely scribbling on an enormous pumpkin with a child’s green crayon.”

“…because pumpkin pie for dessert,” the doctor mumbled to himself, distractedly. “Sweet, sweet pumpkin pie, but we must be patient.” He straightened and spun to face Hambone again. “Right then. In my hands I have two of the leading brands of cherry chapstick…”

“Yes,” said Hambone.

“Which of them look more handsome when placed inside this emptied-out human skull?”

“That’s—that’s horribly macabre and confusing of you to say and I wish you never would have said it.”

“That isn’t an acceptable answer from which to draw our statistical analysis. I’m afraid you really must cooperate or face the golden dragon, Hambone.”

Hambone was growing very agitated. He considered facing the golden dragon but he wasn’t sure what that was and he didn’t want to seem overly combative and he needed the money. “Well, I suppose the—the one on the left is a tad more striking.”

“I shall record it in the logbook!”

 “Oh—oh, Jesus! There’s a perfectly good notebook to the left of the pumpkin. If you would simply free one of my hands…” He struggled.

“…because pumpkin pie for dessert.” The doctor spun around to him yet again. “In each hand I hold a Dixie cup of two brands of minty mouth wash. I splash one on your feet—”

“Oh God!”

“The other, I will rinse with”—he gargled and spit on the floor—“Which do you prefer, Hambone?”

“The one on my feet.”

“Are you absolutely certain?”

Hambone sighed. “Yes. Write it on the pumpkin.”

“But we are yet inside the pumpkin.”

“This was a bad idea…”           

“…because pumpkin pie for dessert.” The doctor crawled on his knees and gnawed the orange, mushy walls. “The equipment was expensive but if we put it in our bellies in pumpkin-form the wildest fantasies of moon and spoon with your most pleasant partners.”

“How much is this study worth?”

“Five hundred dollars—mmm! delicious!”

“Untie me. I’ll eat the damn pumpkin.”

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