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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #2199870
The big win, every man's dream made real. What could be better than that?
Editor's Pick, Fantasy Magazine 9/11/19. Written for the "Fabulous Fantasy Contest prompt: celebrating the big win.

“We do fantasy celebrations.”

Marvin Swartz, Disney Productions scout chewed on a fingernail. “Like what? Show me.” His foot was already tap dancing in place counting the seconds until the next interview. The placid little man sitting at ease across the conference table had less charisma than a couch potato.

“All right. Pardon the probe. I need to mind what kind of daydream you prefer.” His visitor pulled a pen out of his suit coat breast pocket, aimed the tip, and Marvin Swartz felt a warm glow on his forehead where the laser light beam struck.

When the pen clicked, the little man no longer sat at ease. He no longer sat at all. The salesman from WonderWorks, Inc. looked like the twin of the Disney Executive’s wife. “Hello, Sweetie. Miss me?”

The voice was the same. The exotic perfume Martha wore scented the air. The shape of her dimpled chin, everything was perfect. Marvin, the typical overworked upper echelon executive hadn’t seen her in days going on weeks if truth be known. Late-night phone calls and online chats did not a romance make. He missed her like crazy, had daydreams about . . .

“Will that do?” It was the little WonderWorks man back again. “We stimulate dream centers from the Medulla Oblongata into the Frontal Cortex to consciously process them. It is a mild form of what psychotics do when they hallucinate but we have better control. We can start, direct, and shut it off, for a price.”

There was a sudden change in the little man’s posture and countenance. His eyes held a hypnotic quality in their deep, dark, black depths. “We offer personalized as well as group experiences. Of course, the larger the number, the more generalized and basic the fantasy. All the proven literary genres, romance, mystery, action and adventure, you name it. With complete immersion. The hook is built in. Once you experience it, you want more.”

Was this the big win Marvin thought it was? It was every man’s dream come true but at what cost? How fast would the government step in with laws? What would be the side effects when the public was exposed to this form of entertainment? Marvin’s analytical side of his brain began, analyzing, prioritizing, and checking off pluses and minuses.

“This could be big.” He stalled, but in the back of his mind, he had already become infected with the powerful narcotic. He wanted more and he got it. The little man left without his own prototype WonderWorks pen. In return, he had a solid first options contract and test session scheduled for next Monday at Disney International headquarters.

“We got our number. Send in the paperwork. No more interviews. Thank them for coming.” Marvin’s fingertips trembled on the start and stop button of his new pen. If the stop button was not pressed within a half-hour the device automatically turned off. After all, it was a prototype meant for demonstration use only.

“Hold all calls.” Marvin Swartz’ voice sounded husky in his own ears. His mouth was desert dry. His tongue felt like sandpaper as he finished talking and clicked off his connection to his private secretary. A nervous twitch and the laser beam activated. Soon after the light was positioned right between his eyes on his forehead.

A half-hour later and he couldn’t click the on switch fast enough. When the time was up Marvin realized the ringing in his ears was his private phone. By instinct, his arm reached out, fumbled his cell into the palm of his hand, and placed it against his ear.

“Hi, babe. Miss me? I can’t wait to see you tonight. It has been too long.”

It was the real version of Martha bringing Marvin back down to earth. The fantasies he’d lived with her made her presence feel like a washed-out fake cardboard version. There was hesitation in his response that went on too long.

“Honey? Am I interrupting something important? I can call back.”

The worry in Martha’s tone forced a response. “Uh. I may be late.” Marvin lied for the first time in their relationship. He wondered how long the power lasted in the pen. There was so much he didn’t know.

“Late? Why didn’t you call me? I have something special prepared.”

Marvin almost slammed down the phone. How dare she question him? It took a mighty effort to control himself. The pen was a magnet drawing his eyes to it. “I’m O.K.,” he said to the pen. “I can wait.”

Martha sighed in relief. “You had me worried there, pardner. You know I don’t take jokes like that well. Stop teasing and get over here to the Seventh Heaven Motel as we planned. I have a little fantasy I think you are going to enjoy as much as I will.”

The phone died before Marvin could answer. He glanced at the time and grew a crooked smile. “Just one more session.”

The pounding on his private entrance brought him out of his daze. It hadn’t been a half hour. That was now hours in the past. Shadows of his dream fantasy faded slowly into the night revealed through his office window. A quick look at the time brought him back to reality with a jerk. “Midnight.”

“You’ve got it locked from inside, Marvin. You better be in there. I called everyone. You’ll need to find some answers for them too. I made them promise not to call security. Why am I talking to you through this armored door? I can hear you in there. Who is that with you. Marvin? Who are you talking to? I am leaving. For good.”

“Security? Wait. I can explain.” Having what he had been doing wasn’t an option. They might take his pen away.

Marvin found himself at the door, unlocking it, without being conscious of the act. The double of his fantasy stood before him, biting her lip, peering around his shoulders at the empty room. “Where did you hide her?”

He moved aside. Marvin had too or been pushed off his feet out of the way. “You let her out the office door?” Martha swung it open hard enough to send shivers through the frame.

“Explain and it better be good or we are over and you can expect to see a lawyer tomorrow filing my divorce.”

“I’ll have to show you or you won’t believe.” Marvin hated doing what he had to do next. It showed in the rigid muscles in his clenched jaw. This was the worst nightmare of his life. How he longed to be back in his fantasy.

“Show me what?” Martha dug both hands into his shoulders like claws, turning him to face her eyes. There were tears streaming down them like little waterfalls.

It broke his heart seeing them there. He had done this. It took a force of will he didn’t know he had to not turn the pen into position on himself. “It’ll take a second to calibrate. Hold still.”

The laser light flashed on, pointed between Martha’s eyes, and Marvin watched the transition into complete wistful welcome in her features relax her. He had to push his executive chair in place with a foot or she would have fallen like a rag onto his carpet floor.

If it had not been Martha he could not have withstood the hunger to use the pen like before. “I really do love you, I guess, and not just the dream.” He gave it an extra ten minutes before pressing the off button.

The change was dramatic. Martha’s eyes lost their cloudy look. Her lips trembled. She let out a little cry. “More.”

She shook her head, hugged herself, and allowed the next shiver to run up and down her whole body. “That pen in your hand. I got one like it in the mail today. All the note said is that you would explain how it worked. Let’s get out of here.”

They didn’t talk while Martha drove. They sat close, fighting to stay focused on getting where they were going. The tension grew with each mile. “Hurry.” Going through one red light after another brought near-crashes and honking horns but no sirens. They were lucky.

Marvin settled next to Martha on the motel bed, the fantasy of the bed and breakfast atmosphere of the room ignored. “Together. One, two, three.”

Two joined fantasies involving each other were almost more than their bodies could manage. The euphoria drenched them with sweat and tidal waves of emotion. Martha lost consciousness at one point but was pulled back by Marvin’s intense demand.

“What? I didn’t dream this.” She sat up, spinning the pen out of its automatic aiming pattern, making it click off.

“A commercial? What the heck?” Marvin was just a frustrated second behind. “New software pattern beaming an update?” The fact that this fantasy wasn’t his made it easier to join Martha in her astonishment.

“What?” She turned off his pen and put it in his hand. “I couldn’t have done that. Turn it off, I mean. Commercials are required watching. New monetary stream for WonderWorks, Inc. and Disney.”

“Might just have saved our lives. We never would have stopped on our own.” Martha left her pen where it had fallen. “I’m hungry. Getting something sickeningly sweet sent up.”

Marvin reached for the phone and passed it on. “First time I ever thanked a commercial for being there when needed. They’ll have to fine-tune those before they work. I’d get seasick taking an ocean cruise. In fact, I was starting to. Yeah, order me something salty.”

The couple was one of the lucky ones. They opted out of the coming ‘new thing’. Simple living, off-the-grid, in their tiny home by the ocean made survival possible when the world they’d left behind got lost in a dream. They'd found the reality of the big win after all.

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