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  • Last night, I had a dream.

    It’s an unremarkable statement, one that would hardly illicit a raised eyebrow from a loved one. It’s a statement that you could make aloud on a subway train, and no one would even look up from their phones to discern the source. If you knew where we were going, however, it would be the most remarkable thing ever said. It would change the fabric of our very being.

    You see, there was a time when everything was normal. People went about their daily lives, culture thrived, and humanity prospered. Before Nothing happened, fear was confined to small pockets of humanity; places where people feared wars and famine, places where people feared the Climate Change Emergency, places where people feared for their freedoms and privacy. Fear was never meant to be experienced by a whole species, where every fibre of every being coursed with pure and unbridled terror. It was meant to be locked away; left to fester in the darkest and most hidden recesses of the mind, unable to ooze through the cracks and totally paralyse our existence. Given the circumstance, it wasn’t remarkable that our entire species fell to its knees. The remarkable thing is what broke the entire human race, piece by piece. It wasn’t nuclear war, or an irreversible increase in global temperature. It was what happened when we went to sleep.

    Nobody seems to be able to pinpoint when exactly the Last One happened. Dreaming is complicated, and our memories of each one ephemeral. As the tendrils of sleep slip loose from our minds, so too do the abstract fragments of our dreams, to be forever lost in the archives of our brains. It was hard for anyone to discern the difference between waking with those fragments drifting from conscious thought, and waking without having dreamed at all.

    For the first few days of the Nothing, nobody acknowledged its existence. Daily routines continued unchanged, the people un-phased by what they thought was their own anomaly. Nobody spoke of not dreaming, and the Nothing continued without a name. It might have been a week, or even two, before the first murmurs started about something being wrong. Maybe it started in a psychologist’s office; maybe it started among a group of friends. Whatever the source, the murmurs exploded into shockwaves that tore through the entire global community. Nobody, anywhere in the world, was dreaming anymore.

    It’s hard to explain exactly what the Nothing is. Once widely acknowledged, it morphed from simply a lack of awareness of dreaming, into a very distinguishable lack of anything. Once asleep, we would spend hours in total darkness, with no stimulus of any kind. There was no noise in this place, no physical sensation, just a complete and utter lack of perception. We didn’t feel in this place either, which is probably what was most striking. There was no fear, no foreboding, no anger. There wasn’t even boredom in the Nothing. It was like being adrift on an endless sea, which exerted no force on the body yet somehow held us in place. It felt confined in the sense that we were forced to be there, yet infinite and indistinct. There was simply no way of knowing how large this space we occupied was, nor whether it had boundaries of any form. There wasn’t even a desire to know these things nor explain them, as there was no way to feel anything at all. It simply was, and despite the slightest sense that Nothing is not where we should be when we sleep, nobody could exactly place why it was that we should be concerned.

    In the waking world, the effects of Nothing were profound and wide reaching. Initially, there was an unwillingness to openly discuss Nothing, as if by meeting the undistinguishable with ignorance, the problem would subtly slide away as a perplexing chapter of human history. The unwillingness began to slowly waver, as the period since the Last One extended from days into weeks, and weeks into months. Some tried to explain it, some tried to ignore it, but all slowly fell victim to the utter annihilation of our psyche triggered by something so simple yet intangible.

    The cracks started to show as the first populations began desperately trying to stay awake, unable to quantify what it was about the Nothing that they feared, yet unable to face another night of its confinement. Intentional insomnia led to a complete social collapse, as average citizens turned to recreational drugs, electro shock therapy, and self-harm to try in vain to stave off the embrace of sleep.

    It was amazing, in a most profoundly confronting sense, to witness just how readily the human condition could be destroyed. The removal of such a simple aspect of our daily routine, one rarely acknowledged to others, and one that was barely understood by the greatest minds in existence, was enough to drive the entire human collective to the brink of oblivion.

    I recall sweating profusely, every muscle fibre screaming out for the sweet embrace of sleep, and driving the switchblade into the pallid flesh of my arm. I remember screaming in agony, yet refusing to shut my eyes to cope with the pain in fear that when I opened them again, I would be in the Nothing. I remember people I went to school with, successful people, shooting themselves in the face at point blank range as a last effort to escape the clutches of what happened when they accepted the inevitability of sleep.

    It was, quite simply, a genocide. Whatever the Nothing was, whatever it represented, was erasing the human race piece by piece. The institutions that stood against it, looking for answers to explain our predicament, all fell just the same way as the average person. Nobody could escape the clutches of sleep, and once they succumbed, nobody could escape the Nothing.

    I remember, before the Fall, that NASA even probed the darkest recesses of known space, looking for anything that could be doing this to our species. I don’t know if they expected to find anything, and I don’t think they did before there was nobody left to search, and nobody functioning at a high enough level to care.

    It was just at the brink of the total failure of our species that I had my First One. It wasn’t a dream in the sense of the Ones before, but it certainly wasn’t the Nothing. It was Somewhere, totally devoid of any sense of orientation or actual place, yet definitely Somewhere. It is impossible to describe, but this version of Nothing had a feel to it, like its location in space or time was definite and defined. The complete blackness prevailed, the total lack of stimulus reigned, yet in this place there was feeling. In this place was fear.

    I knew immediately that I was alone in this Somewhere experience. There was no explosion of noise over the airwaves from whoever was left, no acknowledgement that our predicament had undergone a quantum shift overnight. There was no recognition that anyone, anywhere, had dreamt anything at all. I was being shown something, for some reason, that had profound impact on the longevity of our species, and it terrified me. I was our last dreamer.

    I began to miss the Nothing as I experienced time and time again the pure fear of Somewhere. There was never any light, never any physical contact with anything, yet something was getting closer. There was a distinguishable pulsing in the blackness, that my senses appeared able to discern against the nothingness, kind of like how our eyes adjust to an almost pitch black room. The pulsing grew in intensity constantly, so slowly that you could almost be mistaken and believe you were imagining the shift in frequency and amplitude. The most discernible shift in the pulsing from Somewhere was the difference between each time I experienced the glory of waking up to our ruined world, and each time I accepted the torturous grasp of rest. Something was getting closer.

    The intensity of the foreboding brought with the pulsing defies explanation; it was like my very soul was being eviscerated by the thought of what complex power could exert this total control over our psyche. Was this God? Was He wreaking His awful vengeance on His failed creations? Was this something far worse than God, some omnipotent force flaying the consciousness of everything it encountered? Every atom of my existence, every synapse in my brain, and every fragment of my mind screamed out, begged for the release of death. I could not face the unfathomable reality of the Architect of Nothing, yet I could not face the uncertainty of whether death would escape this merciless fate.

    I cannot dictate what happened when the Architect arrived, nor whether It ever did, and I don’t know if I was around for the terrible culmination of It’s crusade against the human consciousness. I can’t explain how at some point, it dissected and re assembled the fabric of time as we know it, and I certainly can’t explain how at some point, I ended up waking up here.

    What I do know is that I didn’t have a dream last night. Did you?

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    • SigmetAlpha,

      I normally review the use of English first and then the story. Your English is definitely above average for a first draft here in the Workshop but there is room for improvement. Have you run the program through a spelling/grammar check? Some of the errors are not much more than typos. They would come up in moments. Have you read the story out loud to yourself? If you can't read the story smoothly, neither can the narrators.

      Here are some specifics:

      The first sentence of the first complete paragraph is

      It’s an unremarkable statement, one that would hardly illicit a raised eyebrow from a loved one.

      il·lic·it
      /i(l)ˈlisit/
      adjective: illicit

         forbidden by law, rules, or custom.
         "illicit drugs"
      

      e·lic·it /ēˈlisət/
      verb
      3rd person present: elicits; past tense: elicited; past participle: elicited; gerund or present participle: eliciting

      evoke or draw out (a response, answer, or fact) from someone in reaction to one's own actions or questions.

      "they invariably elicit exclamations of approval from guests"

      You have the wrong word. They sound alike, but the meaning is totally different.

      Elicit is also a word that isn't commonly used. I guess you can use it if you want to, but couldn't you rewrite the sentence to be clearer without it?

      It’s an unremarkable statement, one that would hardly raise an eyebrow.

      Look at the next to last paragraph.

      I cannot dictate what happened when the Architect arrived, nor whether It ever did, and I don’t know if I was around for the terrible culmination of It’s crusade against the human consciousness. I can’t explain how at some point, it dissected and re assembled the fabric of time as we know it, and I certainly can’t explain how at some point, I ended up waking up here.

      • It's crusade - Its is the posessive. "It's" is a contraction for "It is." This is an irregularity in English.
      • re assembled the fabric - that space isn't correct.
      • Both of the sentences are long and have like a 17th-grade reading level. (College graduate student)

      Overall, your story has a 10th grade reading level. A quarter of the sentences are downright difficult to read. Another quarter of the sentences are on the difficult side. You are also very heavy on adverbs to my tastes. Focus on using stronger verbs rather than an adverb paired with a verb.

      I could go on about your use of English, but that's plenty for a first draft.

      On to the story itself. I kind of get it. The whole thing sounds like an allegory for mental illness and depression. Maybe I am missing something.

      Dr. Bob

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    • It's one of these theory pastas that just do not work. The content is alright (from a technical stand point), the english is alright, the style is alright. 

      But you are almost giving a way a feeling of trying to jam down my throat this idea that "not dreaming" is abnormal. Thing is, you usually do not remember your dreams. So, "not dreaming" is the status quo of things. For all we know, dreams are recollection of data we've dealt with throughout the day and that during sleep we don't remember in the long term. Hence why most dreams we remember occur just before waking up. Yes, that also includes waking up in the middle of our sleep schedule (cause we're in built for two sleep cicles rather than one). 

      So, yeah, maybe if the theme was the collective loss of memory, I'd buy into it, but "not dreaming" being an apocalypse bringer seems a little meh.

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    • Bloody Spaghetti,

      Normally I have to agree with you, but I am not sure here. Poor dream recall is extremely common. I remember more than most people, so I can tell you exactly happened in my last dream. Lack of REM sleep is associated with a number of health risks and psychological side effects.

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dream-factory/201708/dream-deprived-modern-epidemic

      The lack of dreams can also be a literary metaphor for many things. Mental illness, depression, lack of religious inspiration, and oppression come to mind.

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    • Dr Bob, thanks for taking the time to review my piece. I must admit the word use mistakes you pointed out are embarrassing, but that's the advantage of having a second set of eyes read it over!

      I will redraft based on your suggestions. Bloodyspghetti, I appreciate the feedback. In my mind, the story was not about not remembering dreams, but about a very specific awareness of being in this "Nothing" when we sleep. Maybe I failed to articulate the concept clearly, I will bear this in mind when re writing.

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    • SigmetAlpha wrote: Dr Bob, thanks for taking the time to review my piece. I must admit the word use mistakes you pointed out are embarrassing, but that's the advantage of having a second set of eyes read it over!

      SigmetAlpha,

      There are many other word mistakes. What proofing tools do you use? There's a ton of free ones that REALLY help!

      Dr. Bob

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    • Honestly, I am pretty new to posting anything for others to read so am not familiar with online proofing tools. I have heard Grammarly recommended on here, so will try it out.

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    • SigmetAlpha,

      Grammarly really helps. I also recommend http://www.hemingwayapp.com for checking for issues like sentence complexity and reading level. There are many others that are free to use as well. They all have different strengths, aren't perfect, and don't even always completely agree, but they really help.

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    • Thanks for the suggestions, I will use those with my next draft

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    • DrBobSmith wrote:
      Bloody Spaghetti,

      Normally I have to agree with you, but I am not sure here. Poor dream recall is extremely common. I remember more than most people, so I can tell you exactly happened in my last dream. Lack of REM sleep is associated with a number of health risks and psychological side effects.

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dream-factory/201708/dream-deprived-modern-epidemic

      The lack of dreams can also be a literary metaphor for many things. Mental illness, depression, lack of religious inspiration, and oppression come to mind.

      Yeah, I did state that poor dream recall is extremely common, but in a sense that it's not a big deal, in the majority healthy cases poor dream recall is also common. 

      While a lot of issues do cause a lack of or poor REM sleep, REM sleep is not always closest to our natural alarm, therefore we don't remember dreams from the middle of the night (unless it was right before waking up for a cup of water at 3am). 


      Also, I'm not the biggest fan of overall philosphies the metaphycs for the sakes of metaphysics, maybe that's why I don't seem to mesh with this particular piece. 

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    • Bloody Spaghetti,

      I am with you on the "meh" feeling to the metaphysics. It's so easy it's almost a cheat unless really well developed as a literary metaphor that we understand as really represents something else. I'm not feeling what the metaphor is.

      Dr. Bob

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    • Dr Bob and Bloody Spaghetti, it seems that you both don't particularly like this piece conceptually. I understand, sometimes things sound better in my head than they do on paper. At this stage I think I will not proceed with another draft, and rather focus on another story.

      Thanks for your feedback.

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    • SigmetAlpha,

      If you feel the story strongly then don't throw it away. Your job is to move that strong feeling to your keyboard so we can experience it as well.

      Stories don't always work out as well as we hope. Lord knows I have written a lot of stinkers. (Check my profile and sample them.) I think I am, on average, improving. It takes a lot of work, and sometimes it requires giving a story some distance and then picking it up later when fresh inspiration drives me on.

      Good luck.

      Dr. Bob

        Loading editor
    • I've had a few days to think it over and don't think I will reject the idea altogether, but will use a very different kind of pasta to deliver it. 

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    • A FANDOM user
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