“CE” was the hottest selling gift item that Christmas season. It was marketed as a sleep aid, but something about it caught the imagination of all sorts of buyers – sleep-deprived seniors, millennial hipsters, spiritual energy types.
Matt and Linda didn’t belong to any of those market segments. They were both middle-aged professionals who experienced occasional stress-induced insomnia. So, with all the click baiting and push marketing, it was no big surprise that “CE” ended up on Matt’s list of gift ideas. He was like that, somewhat impulsive but mostly a lazy buyer. Linda, his wife, on the other hand, was a cautious buyer. She would research a product inside out before she would commit to buying. First, she needed to know how they came up with the unusual name for the product. The product literature was just a standard regurgitation of the health benefits of sleep and the sterling accomplishments of the female founder and CEO (degree in robotics from MIT and MBA from Harvard). So Linda worked the search engines and found that the founder happened to be a Buddhist from Nepal who wanted to call the product Chakra Energy. But her marketing team found it too new-agey, so they settled on the acronym and went about creating a mystique about the name by not explaining anywhere what it stood for. She also researched the science behind the device which was basically a patch and a console. The user would stick the patch to her forehead before going to bed. The console supposedly would pick up neuromuscular signals from the patch and transmit them to a machine learning system. The system would analyze the signals and determine whether the production of melatonin was optimal. If it was below optimal, the system would stimulate the pineal gland to increase the production of melatonin. Although she found the science dubious, she decided to buy it since it sounded like a fun gift.
She also found a bunch of stuff on the web that she found oddly interesting. The product was a huge hit with the new-agey types who attached a lot of metaphysical significance to the location of the patch on the forehead which happened to be the third eye Chakra in the Tantric tradition. By unblocking the third eye Chakra, “CE” was supposedly clearing the channel to the crown Chakra (the head) which controlled sleep. Linda soon lost patience with the claptrap and turned her attention to the next item on her gift list.
They had a good laugh on Christmas day when they found out Santa had picked the same gift for both of them. They decided to try it out that very night. The next morning, Matt said “I had a strange dream last night.” “And I got one for you. But you go first,” said Linda. “Okay,” said Matt, “so I was on the golf course with Tom and a few others. One of the others was Jeff.” “Jeff who?” she wanted to know. “We don’t know anyone by that name.” “Your brother Jeff. I asked him how you were doing and he said, “Fine. She is living with mom and dad.” “In that cowpoke town? Never” she said laughing. “Okay, here is my dream” she said. “I was on the phone with you and I hear the roar of the ocean in the background. I ask where you were and you say Belize.” “Then what?” he wanted to know. “Then nothing. End of dream.” They both thought it was weird that, in both dreams, they were separate from each other. Later in the day, Linda thought back to the many times Matt had expressed a desire to live by the ocean when he retired.
It was now middle of January. They were returning from a concert. It was snowing and the visibility was poor. He was trying to stay focused on the road and she was beginning to panic by the minute. All of a sudden, he heard her scream as a semi came up thundering down on the right lane at break-neck speed. The scream and the truck’s velocity caused him to swerve to the left lane where an SUV, horns blaring, barely missed crashing into them. The rest of the way home, she was too frightened to say anything and he was too angry for words. Both went to bed that night angry. The next day, he expected her to apologize for distracting him while driving and she expected him to apologize for his reckless driving. After a couple of days, they talked about house-related stuff but neither brought up the incident that night. In the following weeks, they sniped at each other at every little irritant – dirty dishes in the sink, socks on the floor, forgetting to buy milk – until it all built up to a big blow-up fight. This time, they didn’t talk to each other for over a week. One evening, she didn’t come home. Next day, he caught a flight to Oaxaca, found a beach front condo for rent and joined the small expat community there.
A couple of weeks later, a “fastest trending story” popped up on his phone. It was about “CE”. Its users everywhere were reporting a bizarre phenomenon: their dreams were portending real life events – lost cat found, law school admission, death of a dear one. Many were calling “CE” the Coming Events device. Just as he was finishing reading the story, his phone rang and it was Linda. She wanted to know if he had read the story and where he was. She told him she was with her parents in Montana. They were both silent for a moment. Then he said, “I’m ready to come home.” She said, “Me too.”
Balu Swami is a new writer. One of his pieces is in Flash Fiction North.