The Ticket to Laser City

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It begins as I lie in the ruins of old town Edinburgh at night, gazing up at the fragmented arches of some grand but long destroyed building reminiscent somewhat of the Roman pantheon. I’m lying amongst rubble and puddles, near a bag of technology filled with items that I have at some point in my life lost, and other pieces that are yet to exist.  Somewhere nearby in this Edinburgh of Dreams is a hollowed out hill that I’ve seen many times before. Inside it a temple of deep antiquity, flanked by enormous granite columns and worn statues, half exposed to the sunlight and weather as the side of the hill has collapsed. Its architecture stylistically inscrutable and indistinct. Celtic? Roman? It's seems to sit outside any type of easy classification, but seems to reach out from the beyond to remind us of something long forgotten.  

An office. Muddled and confused. My line manager Andy and I hold a meeting amidst jostling crowds who move past us in shoals. Eventually we ending the meeting abruptly as we are pushed away from one another. On my way out I bump into Noel Edmonds, and ask him how it is going, given his recent well publicised troubles. And by well publicised, I am referring to billboards.

“They just think that all these girls will go on fire if I talk to them” he complains, muttering about the press. 

We chat for a moment longer and I bid him farewell, in two minds about his predicament. 

I exit at the top of Broughton street and enter on a glass-fronted bus travelling down from a futuristic St James Centre. I try to take notes on my phone but a young boy or girl next to me reaches over an smears away what I’ve written like it was a pocket whiteboard, frustrating my ability to write anything down. Each time I do this I nip them in the face, and eventually they complain that this is assault. I counter that what they are doing amounts to assault also, and we leave it at that. As this exchange unfolds, the bus completely dissolves around us, I find myself at the top of Leith Walk. 

Two enormous crystal spheres sit at either side of the walk, and between them stretches the vestiges of the original St James Centre bridge from the 70s, like a gateway in or out of the city. In the far distance, in what must be Newhaven or Granton, is an enormous angular, pyramidal structure shooting a beam of pink light up into the heavens. I ask the kid what this is. 

"That’s Laser City” they say.

Soon I learn of the long and controversial history of this place - of the money that had been senselessly thrown at it, of the committees and bureaucracy that had gummed up its construction, and the contractors and subcontractors that had swallowed much of the eye watering cost. I see a big catalogue of alternative names for the site and the elaborate justifications given for them. One of them is “Computer City”.  

“I can’t let them call it that” says Noel Edmonds, suddenly, in what appears to be a flashback. “I’ll veto it. The public will never understand what it is” 

And, to be fair, it does sound like an electronics retailer from the 1990s. 

I’m later told that the ticket to Laser City was the most obnoxious and absurd part of it. Itself constituting an expensive piece of consumer electronics, and was one of the main reasons the site was so costly to enter. Later I’m being given a tour of the company that made the offending tickets, just so I can see for myself. The office is a lot like the one I saw earlier, full of pampered cosmopolitan types enjoying the perks of the cushy office. This was for the most part bowls of colourful sweets and candies of imaginative form, which sat on trays every few feet throughout the building. 

I am then taken downstairs and shown of the tickets to Laser City, which resembles an enormous candy bar, which was at once both surprising and unsurprising given the Willy-Wonka-esque surrounding. I was invited to unwrap the ticket, and as I peeled the wrapper back, a slow synth music started to build, in anticipation of what was to come. The music was timed and scored perfectly to my unwrapping actions, and I started to see why it cost so much to develop. As soon as I got sight of the ticket itself - a kind of elaborate chocolate bar full of square pits of fondant - the music really got going. 

Around this point I realise I am in a dream, and bring out my phone to begin writing down details. Although after a while, I realise this is still in the dream, but check the nocturnal Google Keep app to see what notes I have written, and try to memorise them so I can transfer the details to the waking world. 

Pilot

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I build a tall structure out of Lego at the window of a hi-rise, knowing full well that something is not quite right with it. Not so much the its build quality, which is decent enough, but that something in the very nature of the construction is unsettling. Night. I'm standing in in the middle of a neon thoroughfare in the rain, the Lego structure now an enormous metal pylon jutting from the middle of the street, stretching up into the night sky. Glowing blue panels higher up are dimly visible through nocturnal smog. 

I know now that what I’ve built is a beacon of some sort to try and lure in an alien intelligence from the depths of space or time. After making some final reconfigurations, a nearby shopping centre glows blue and an alien dropship lands suddenly and in full view of the public. It is a fairly generic thing resembling a shuttle raft from Star Trek, and we wait in anticipation to see what sort of being will emerge from the door, but nothing ever does.

Instead, we cut to a hallway that hums in luminous white. It is a series of connected cloisters and chambers, each inhabited by slightly different entities, trying to communicate themselves through the forms that they take. One chamber is flanked within skeletons with engorged heads in the shape of Klein bottles. Another is populated with porcelain slugs with vestigial humanoid features. They slide about like chess pieces, their bodies painted into phrenological segments and cryptic symbols.  

What seems to be the final chamber a dance of white statues; Bernini’s Daphne and Apollo turns on its axis, her vegetal hands rippling and thrashing in fast forward even though her face remains frozen.  Behind them, Laocoon and his sons struggle is slow motion before rippling fronds of marble. At the end of this ultimate chamber lies a locked door, before which is a headless statue that reaches up as if in rapture, his hands ribbons of thrashing stone.

As my mind glides through this sequence, I scoff at this tortured cliche of an attempt at making first contact.   

Later. 

In the years that followed, it was revealed that the alien Mind bestowed upon humanity a gift, but only to those who possessed an imminent concept of God. Individuals whose instinct towards the divine was like birds who can sense magnetic north. Driven by something beyond the edge of language to gravitate  towards the structure of the unknowable. Despite our species’ religious tendencies this turned out to be an extremely small portion of the global population, but one of them was me. 

Over time The Mind had assembled us into a close-knit cabal, one which wore uniforms with quasi-militaristic, retro-futuristic stylings. And it had tasked us with with finding others like us who could wield  this this gift - whatever it is - to do something with it that felt very important but also very unclear. As we chatted and hung about in what looked like a military mess. Our irises glowed blue in fanatic intensity but as I look closer into them I see corporate sponsorship in the whites of our eyes like optical flotsam. 

At one point I notice that one of our cabal is TV’s Patrick Stewart, and wonder what he might be doing here, as that would be a stroke of luck. Then one of the cabal announces that in addition to seeking out people with similarly glowing blue eyes, they also had to have blonde hair, and suddenly I see in horror what is going on. 

This is the Pilot episode of the new Jean Luc Picard TV series, and it appears to being made to appeal to internet edgelords, crackpots and ethnic-nationalists. I could see that the seeds they were planting would bloom into a lizard-heavy alien infiltration storyline, and something like a New World Order plot would retcon the more traditional Vulcan origin story of the United Federation of Planets. 

”The fans are going to hate this”, I think.  

The locked chamber at the end of the long, white hallway is somewhere I have seen before and has repeated in many dreams throughout the years. It resembles a damp, stone basement full of secrets stored on heavy wooden shelves. They sit like old furniture, rotten, indistinct and draped in tarpaulin.

Behind them, barely visible in the shade, lies another door. 

Perspex Prison

I am in an old, run down council flat in Niddrie, its walls coated in crumbling browned wallpaper and furnished with dirty old sofas from the 70s. Having not been here in years I look out the window to survey what it is like today, and see a semi-wild grassland full of with abstract forms of indeterminate scale. I wonder for a moment if they are pieces of rotting garden furniture or enormous boastful thrusts of starchitecture.  

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I exit the house and walk through a crowd of young families in the gleaming midday sun, across an uneven and undulating landscape made of translucent panels suspended high above a coastline. The entire vista as perfect and pristine as an architect’s rendering. Pushing through the plexiglas mosaic are transparent tubes about the size of a man, which slide up and down through the floor libidinously. The rubber apertures at their tips are an array of garish 90s colours, and spit mathematically precise arcs of water that fall to the ground in complex patterns. 

Rising from this panorama is en enormous wet mass, glistening blue in the sunshine. A living Uluru from which a vast eye stares in hopeless and resigned oblivion. Slowly I realise this is a Whale, trapped in this perspex prison as if in amber. Children climb over it like so many excited ants, battering it with little clubs and clawing at its flesh. As I look up, I see rows and rows of these beasts, locked for eternity, and stretching off far into the horizon. 

Visiting Cousin

I take my infant son Gaius to visit his cousin, who was born around the same time but suffered tragic complications at birth, which resulted in severe deformities (this I dimly recognise this as the sequel to some previous dream).

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As I enter his house, I negotiate the many bright toys strews across the floor, which given the layers of dust on them seem to have been undisturbed for some time. I accidentally kick some ball or other which clatters into some others and causes a commotion that draws a number of strange, horned purple insects which scuttle around between hiding places. This in turn causes what can only be called a mass migration of hundreds of grey spiders from beneath the TV stand to under the sofa, their hair-thin legs almost invisible against the grubby, faded, shag-carpet Serengeti. As I walk deeper into the house, static faces of relatives blur past me, their presence distant, like so many over-edited social media photos.  

The cousin, whose name I don’t know, sits in a teal medical chair in the corner, his face a knot of scar tissue atop a ruffed collar of coloured pencils held together with epoxy resin, seemingly there to hide enormous gory chasms in his neck. A small fleshy sack hangs around his neck like a medallion, weakly inflating and deflating at irregular intervals. He stares out, blankly from one sickly amber eye, a tube or tendon trailing from the other ruined socket to disappear over his shoulder. All around us is silence. 

“Say hello to your cousin” I say to Gaius enthusiastically, as I bounce him on my knee. 

Cousin responds in a remarkably clear and articulate voice and reflects stoically and at great length on his troubled birth and the subsequent surgeries as if a POW recounting his captivity and torture. It is all very tragic, but as the monologue continues it becomes more and more self-absorbed and cousin preoccupied with his own bravery. I respond something along the lines as I’m meant to; 

“You're very brave” I nod.  

He continues for a while more in the same manner of self-congratulatory auto-mythology. Suddenly, he appears to us as if he were a man untouched by these tragedies, handsome and clean-cut with and with a dashing 5-o-clock shadow.

“If I can overcome this” he continues again “...what are the rest of you all doing?? Hmm? Do I not inspire the rest of them to try harder? To be better?”

Eventually, I make my excuses, collect the boy, and begin the ritual of leaving, but get lost and accidentally enter a room-sized jacuzzi lazed with glamorous bodies. I try to navigate the hedonistic terrain and achieve nothing other than getting my shoes damp.  

Two Fish

I drift in space, my consciousness inhabiting a volume of water containing two fish. It fills a black, human-shaped containment suit scored with geometrical patterns, with areas of translucent plastic - such as the gauntlet-like hands - through which I see the cosmos refracted through my aquatic form. I wonder if I am the water, or I am the fish, as I spiral into the void. 

Zome

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It's the latest TV craze; Zome. An inverted skyscraper built a mile into the Martian soil, at the bottom of which crooks and vagabonds and other undesirables are thrown, to battle it out over several seasons of scheming, bloodshed and violent surprises. Forming ad-hoc allegiances to scour for weapons and supplies, only to betray one another as they reach the summit and dream of seeing the shimmer of distant earth from the planet's surface. Four seasons in, and nobody has yet done so. 

It's an old format, but timeless. Knowing their audience hunger for futurism cloaked in the warm certainties of the past, the producers recycle once again the ancient aesthetic of neon and wireframe kitsch.

The Dragon of London

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The mechanical embryo hung in the sky like a distant satellite, benevolently contemplating the social computations of the city below. I watched as it grew and evolved before me, its metallic hide glistening in the golden hour of the bright blue sky. As its reptilian form became apparent, it seemed to notice me standing on the rooftop, and uncoiled as it gracefully rippled in slow motion towards me. It wove through the muddle of glass towers, churches and Georgian tenements gracefully, its skin a shimmering landscape of silver panels in enigmatic arrangements. It turned to a woman next to me to ask what it was. "Its the Dragon of London," she said as if I was a tourist. 

The dragon continued to seek me, eventually settling on the rooftop before me and inviting me into its maw. Inside, a woman with red eyes and deep green skin flecked with golden freckles spoke in an ethereal voice. 

"Some years ago Jamie, you wrote something of profound importance to future generations. "Really," I said, thinking of my scribblings on history or psychology or some such. 

"Yes", she said. "It was about some kind of savings account, a - how you say - ISA? We must know more of this thing."

My heart sank as I assumed she was referring to the documentation of a financial services apps I'd worked on a few years. I left the Dragon of London, disappointed. 

Old Folks Home

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A centenarian sits foetus-like in a hospital chair, his face on the verge of implosion. Suddenly, a yawn so vast and expansive that his face prolapses and turns completely inside-out. A nurse walks over and nonchalantly folds in back the right way before carrying on with her business. Elsewhere, in perspex tubs like those for holding sickly infants, even older humans sit, devlolved into little more than shrunken heads with ribbed manifolds of bone and flesh prodruding from the sides of thier face.  

 

In darkness something scuttles in the screams

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My friend Jessica Ballantyne is hard on cash and decides to sign up for a program to have genetic tests conducted on her, by a company called Cybius Technology. As the weeks go on she becomes distant and withdrawn, and so do the others in her group that submitted to the genetic editing. Later, Cybius hires a gym hall to set up challenges between a purely human group with their own group with enhancements. Unexpectedly, Jessica and the Enchanced lie face down on the floor and begin to move across the hall by wriggling like snakes. In unison, they bounce back and forth between the walls like lightwaves, and move through and around the humans as if water. The behaviour surprised even those at Cybius who set up the experiment. Later, Jessica tells me that they experienced a form of hive-mind unity during the episode, which she described as a form of divine transcendence. 

But there is a sense of foreboding in the unfolding of events. While we contemplate whether we have witnessed some new form of step in human evolution, I look back to some of Cybius' other scandals. Like when they sold lifelike, humanoid robotic servants that were found to be using actual human brains. As it was illegal to fix them yourself, when they "broke" (lost their minds) and were sent in for repair, the brains were destroyed and swapped for new ones harvested by some illegal means, such as by from prisons, or kidnap victims.

Somewhere in Cybius basement, in darkness something scuttles in the screams. 

Later, in a medieval street, a giant lobster speedily climbs up the bricks with the speed of a ferret, and weaves through the streets to escape capture. When this becomes inevitable, it launched itself at someone, plunging its neon yellow claws deep into his heart.

Unexpected Twist

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It is the finale of the new season of Game of Thrones and Cerci is attempting black magic to spawn a new child. To do so, she merges with a pulsating Cronenberg-esque mass of flesh, and as she does so, a baby's face begins to appear from her shoulder. The Queen is pleased.  

Then, something goes horribly wrong. Unable to control herself, she grabs a dagger and begins repeatedly stabbing the child in the face. As she does so her face turns white and ridges begin to appear on her forehead. The sorcery has unknowingly unleashed the eldritch forces of evil!

She tears herself from the fleshy mass, transformed; resembling something between an albino version of Terrahawks monster "Sram", and a lame neon mid-90s GI Joe. The dramatic reveal was meant to be a series cliffhanger; the arrival of another new menacing army! But all I could think was "Hmm, this isn't really working, is it."

Demon Temple

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I look across a landscape composed of decayed prehistoric animals, turtles, dinosaurs and extinct sea monsters. Rather than being fossilised, flesh still hung from their bones in gory undulations that stretched off into the horizon. Discovered in China in this remarkable state, the whole area was now in the process of being turned into a theme park. 

Later, I’m in an ancient temple architecturally similar to Angkor Watt but with hints of renaissance style. It is centred around an enormous, elaborate stone statue that depicts a human sacrifice. Bodies entwine and contort in emotive Bernini-esque tangles, with lovingly carved entrails torn from bodies by horrors someway between medieval demons and sea anemones. Sheets of rain lash against the structure as I go inside to try and find the gift shop, and eventually, the loo.

May :'(

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Dreamt that Teressa May topped herself, and everyone was sending me text messages and such like "may :'(", even the people who were prone to rants about "tory scum". It was incredibly bleak. Later I am in a gigantic aquarium where half-human-dolphins flap about amidst the visitors, thier skin was torn down to the muscle by repeated clawings by other animals. 

Insect

I am in a 1970s bar, complete with faded film grain and loudmouth bigots around a pool table spouting earsplitting sexism. I see a small green creature and try to photograph it with my camera, it is fragile and similar to a preying mantis. I turn to look at the drunken oafs and when I look back the small creature has folded itself into a protective, spherical pod, like a pea, with two adorable green eye peeking out the middle. When I look again it has become a green cylinder, that then stretches out into something resembling a latticed slinky, to mouth at the wall. 

Giant Rik Mayall

I am riding around on the shoulder of a giant Rik Mayall, shooting a Beano style catapult at assorted monsters that had come for us. I fall from his shoulders and land in the Swamp of James Bond, a grey slop bubbling with sphincter-like geysers. As I run across the mud to escape the chaos it glows like nebulae, and the horizon lights up with cultural epicycles.

Evolution of the Thing

I am in the sequel to The Thing, which is set in the ancient Indian city of Varanasi. Its dark, warren-like streets provides a stark but suitably surreal alternative to the isolation of Antarctica.

The creature has absorbed so many people that it was beginning to show next stages of its evolution. At one point I walked in on three or four imitations seeming to be uniting into the folds of massive cerebrum in the corner of a darkened room. I run.