This was a term I was forced to create, for when I brought Dr Banks to my facility to attempt to explain what was taking place, I found it to be the only appropriate phraseology. She is one of the most practiced neuroscientists in the world, but she was at a loss to explain. I decided that now the subjects had confirmed to me that they believed they were lucid dreaming, I wanted to see it for myself on the oscilloscope and look for clues as to their state of consciousness. Dr Banks agreed that given we appeared to be traversing through unchartered territory, the test could prove useful.
The day before the test was scheduled the subjects all made a similar comment that I did not think too much of at the time, but in hindsight is truly concerning. They remarked that even though they were convinced their dreams were lucid – they could recognise the difference and stretch the boundaries of the dream a little more – they wanted to proceed with the biting of the woman in the street. As horrific as it seemed to them, they held an unwavering desire to tear through her as they had done in every other version of the dream they had experienced normally. I noted that I felt perhaps they weren’t dreaming lucidly at all, but no matter – the test would be able to answer for sure. It is surely a test I wish I had never conducted.
Dr Banks joined me with subject A in an empty room on the ward, one that I had selected because it was suitably secluded from the rest of the hospital, and we explained the procedure. I noted that Subject A looked healthier than he had at any point in the two weeks he had been with us, and he confessed that lucid dreaming had been of great benefit to him; he did not fear something which he felt he could influence, and that gave him peace of mind when sleeping. He even went as far to say that he looked forward to resting now. I was hugely encouraged by this, and was buoyant as Dr Banks connected the vibrating device to the patient and hooked the opposite end to the oscillator. I felt that lucid dreaming could be a step on the path to a cure for PZSD, a way of the patients regaining a comprehension not only of what they had experienced but also of why they didn’t need to fear it. No medicine required, just some simple advice and the willingness of the patient to accept it. To me, this was a noteworthy breakthrough despite my misgivings about the subjects and the unanswered question as to why their dreams were in sync.
Subject A drifted to sleep naturally, with a look of contentment I hadn’t yet witnessed. Dr Banks monitored the oscilloscope. The line was normal to begin with, splitting the oscillator in two, indicating the mind was in a normal dream state. After around 20 minutes, the line edged upwards a notch, just as Dr Banks research suggested it would in the mind of a lucid dreamer. This was as scientifically verifiable as possible in this scenario that subject A was lucid dreaming.
I was satisfied with this outcome, and as Dr Banks and I discussed the potential of creating a wider study based on serious PZSD cases, the oscilloscope line dropped a notch. Then another. And another, and another, until it finally came to rest just a notch above the bottom of the display. Dr Banks rushed to the patient to check his pulse; all vital signs were normal. She ran her hand along the cable from the oscilloscope to the vibrating device on the neck, which was buzzing away correctly, with all associated wires connected properly. It was at that point that Dr Banks turned to me with a deeply troubled expression that caused me in turn to fear for our patient. Dr Banks explained that the bottom of the oscilloscope represents zero brain function – that is, the patient is dead, or at least, brain dead. The line on the oscilloscope had come to rest only slightly above the base of the machine. Dr Banks confessed that she had never seen such a reading. We checked the equipment repeatedly, for the alternative meant that within her dreamscape subject A was operating at a feral and virtually thoughtless level.
Subject A awoke around an hour later, appearing calm and satisfied. When coerced into describing his experience he explained that the visual cues to implement lucid dreaming had continued to work, but admitted that the urge to attack the unknown woman remained and the act made him feel peaceful. The oscilloscope was still connected to him when he arose, and the line had returned to normal. He appeared perfectly healthy. We returned the patient to his room, and I believe that Dr Banks had managed to convince herself that the technology was faulty. She immediately requested use of an alternative device and suggested we perform the test on Subject B, with the replacement oscilloscope.
The test with subject B began normally, with Dr Banks paying extreme attention to any movement on the device. As with subject A, the line rose to indicate a lucid state before sometime later dropping to precisely the same level as in the previous test. Subject B’s thought processes upon awaking mirrored those of subject A.
Dr Banks, undeterred, demanded a third run, with subject C. It had been a long afternoon, so when C moved into lucid dreaming state of consciousness, I sought refuge back in my office, where I could ponder what these results meant. I began taking notes on a pad on my desk. I was still some distance from even beginning to explain the simultaneous nature of the dreams, but what troubled me most was what I perceived to be a correlation between the type of dream and the subsequent drastic alteration in the patient’s state of consciousness. If their brain was operating at such a basic level of functionality, it could be concluded that this was almost Zombie-like in its similarity to the very visceral level with which their brains operate. I have retained the note that I scribbled:
“Could it be that, within the confines of this particular recurring but lucid dream, our subjects become Zombies?”
As it was, my postulation proved only partly correct. As I made my way back down the corridor to check on Dr Banks, a gargling cry for help echoed around the walls. I lurched forward towards the door and burst in to find Dr Banks curled on the floor, with a wound on her forearm and Subject C leaning over, apologetic for injuring her. I demanded an explanation; C blurted out that she simply had an uncontrollable, overwhelming urge to bite the doctor. The feeling had lasted only seconds after awaking from her dream, and now she was perfectly eloquent and contrite and engaging me in conversation. Dr Banks was suffering from mild shock and though the bite had left teeth marks and a bruise was forming the skin was unbroken. By this point other members of my medical team had joined us and they ushered subject C back to her quarters, while also ensuring Dr Banks’ wound was immediately tended to.
On that morning, I had wished to believe that I was on the verge of finding a method to control PZSD Category II in its most aggressive guise. By the end of the day I was considering the possibility that my subjects may indeed be becoming Zombies – but not within the confines of any dream.
I returned home, exhausted, pondering everything that I had witnessed. I returned to the facility the following day having enjoyed little or no sleep but keen to assess how another night had impacted my three subjects, and seek to extract a full explanation of events from Dr Banks, who I had kept in overnight for observation.