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He woke up wondering whose dream he had dreamed of. Whose memory was the dream based on? And as he wondered every morning, who was he who dreamed the dreams of others?
In the last dream of the night, he had lived in India in a small town, larger than a village, but not one of the great cities. The details came back to him: his name in the dream, where he had lived, what he had done. He had been an educated man and knew geography, being able to point to his town on a map.
He sighed and tried to recall his other dreams of the night. They filtered back through his memory. As usual, lately there had been over two hundred thousand dreams last night. It made waking up a chance to rest.
He opened his eyes and looked around his room, slowly taking in details, trying to remember who he was, who his body belonged to, where he was.
His name was Alvin. It was not the best name to be saddled with when he was a little kid in school. He had tried just going by “Al,” but eventually a teacher would use his full name and all the kids would hear. On the one hand, he had hated the name, because other kids teased him. On the other hand, he had been named for his grandfather, and he had loved his grandfather. “Big Al” had died when Little Al was six years old. Big Al had been his best friend. In some ways, Little Al had never gotten over that death.
That was when the dreams had started. It started with a dream of when he, really his grandfather, had been in World War II. Over the next few years, he came to remember all of his grandfather’s life. His grandfather had lived to be sixty, so his life experiences and memories sometimes threatened to swamp Little Al’s much shorter lifetime and memories. Who was Little Al? How much was he Little Al, and how much Big Al? He had gotten used to it, but then a maternal uncle died. New dreams started. At least his uncle had only been in his thirties, so it added to, rather than overwhelmed the combined sixty-nine years of Big Al and Little Al. By this time, Little Al was a ten-year-old with over a hundred years experience, including three childhoods in different eras. Then one of his elderly teachers had died. Many years before, she had been Big Al’s babysitter when he was a boy. In Little Al’s first dream of her life, she appeared and said, “I want to be remembered, too.” It was an odd thing for Little Al to remember having been a woman.
The older he got, the more the scope of his powers increased. All of the dead wanted to be remembered. He had within him all the memories of millions of dead people. Their deepest secrets and fears. Their greatest triumphs and loves. Nearing fifty, Al now had millions and millions of years of experience to draw on. He knew every religion and philosophy. He knew math and sciences. He knew literature in a thousand languages. He knew who had done what to whom.
And some days, he thought he might still have a glimmer of what it was to be a man named Alvin, nearing fifty, divorced, graying, thickening around the middle, and working for the government.
He got up to prepare for his day as he remembered so many people had prepared for their days. Showering, shaving, breakfasting, dressing. He straightened his tie, put on his jacket and stepped outside to the car that awaited him. His driver handed him the morning papers as he got into the vehicle and settled in for the drive to the office. When he arrived, he hung up his suit jacket on the back of the door and sat down.
The three men who had been waiting for him smiled and greeted him, with the most senior handing him a list, “These five people died in the last twenty-four hours. What have you got for us?”
Al nodded and began his workday.
Is anyone creeped out by this? Does anyone figure the government has someone like this in their employ?Published in