THE THINKER
Copyright 1980, 1990, Sarah Hartwell

I first had a version of this dream when I was at High School. I have met the "thinker" several times in other dreams since then and also seen more snippets of his world. Sometimes I am sure that he exists somewhere in some other time and that I meet him in my dream-time. I seem to grow older in the dreams as though time is passing there as well as here. I've tried to weave the strands together. The grey type is the knowledge that came with each dream or which came in later snippets where I seemed to be wandering through this dreamscape like a tourist.

Snippet 1

I didn't want to go. Wherever I was supposed to go I didn't want to go so I ran away. I was a young teenager and rebellious and nothing anyone could say was going to make me go back. I was wearing tatty old jeans and a short black synthetic jacket over a tee shirt and I was walking across a field in the opposite direction to where I should be going.

In my mind was an image of the City. In the centre was the Palace of Justice. It looked a bit like America's White House or maybe a mosque with a dome and colonnades. It was massive. It was in the centre of the City and several avenues radiated out from it. The Palace of Justice was the law-making centre, the seat of government, the law courts and an administrative centre. It was surrounded by lawns which separated it from the rest of the City, a bit like a stately home standing in its own grounds. Beyond the lawns was a circular hedge or fence and a circular road. The streets of the City all radiated outwards from this centre and circular roads went round it. The Palace of Justice was the hub of a wheel or the spider sitting in the middle of a web. The City was in zones - a commercial zone (offices) nearest the white building (no shopping centre or malls - the City wasn't geared up for luxuries). Beyond the commercial zone were the residential zones in concentric rings - all uniform houses or apartment buildings. Beyond the residential zones were industrial zones. Beyond the industrial zones a ring of farmland growing crops but no animals. Beyond the farmland was a great barrier encircling the City.

I was a teenage girl from an apartment block and I was supposed to be at a learning centre. Each zone was broken up into blocks and each block had a learning centre. I didn't want to be there. Learning centres turned people into copies of each other, all thinking the same way, all doing their allotted tasks, all like worker ants (except the runaway didn't have the concept of "ants", that was supplied by the dreamer). Although I was rebellious and trying to run away, I knew I wouldn't get far. If a "Thinker" didn't fetch me back then I would not get past the zone control point.

Everyone had ID cards which let them pass into or out of permitted zones. If you didn't have a valid ID card for a zone you couldn't get into it. People without cards were restricted to their own zone (all zones had some shops and offices). Under the streets were subway trains and each station had the same control points. Workers could go from the living zone to their working zone. There were no private cars, only trams, buses and subway trains. In the industrial zones there were over-ground freight trains. At the very edge of the City, beyond the farm zone was the huge fizzing "Barrier" which kept the outside out. No-one mentioned that it kept the people inside the City. It was a force field which fizzed and rippled between tall black towers set at intervals along the City perimeter. Small skeletons showed where birds or wild animals had stumbled into the Barrier and been killed. There were no farm animals - they hadn't survived (I didn't find out what had happened until a later dream). Instead of meat there was formatted vegetable protein. It was brown-pink and sold in slices and tasted of nothing.

I felt a tickling in my brain. It felt like cold fingers stroking the surface of my mind. The fingers were inside my head. My legs stopped walking because the cold fingers in the mind had taken control of my body. I tried to keep on walking but my limbs didn't respond to my wishes. Something was overriding my efforts to move. I turned round - the cold feeling in my mind made me turn round - and I saw a Thinker. He was young, in his 20s maybe, fair hair and in Thinker uniform of black trousers and a jacket of gold and black panels. He had the startling telltale golden eyes of a telepath.

The Thinkers all had golden eyes flecked with green. It was linked somehow to the genes which caused mind-control. Some enzyme reaction or something because if a thinker ever lost his mind-control powers through injury or poison, the gold colour faded and his eyes were left brown or blue. You could tell failing Thinkers by the gold flecks in their eyes, reminding you what they had once been. Most suicided when their powers failed. It was too hard to live as a normal.

"You have to go back" the Thinker said as he made me walk back the way I had come.

He didn't allow me to answer, but I didn't want to go. I didn't want to end up losing my individuality.

The feeling of fingers inside the brain was most odd. The feeling was not on the scalp or skin, it was actually inside my head. The brain has no sensory nerves inside it, yet I could feel "something" INSIDE my head.

Snippet 2

This came some years after the runaway snippet. I was the same person, but I was older.

I was in a cell waiting for judgement. I didn't know whether they would terminate me or dis-mind me because I resisted conditioning. Their idea of what made a good citizen didn't mesh with my ideas. I wanted to choose my path, not be forced to do what my "aptitude tests" said I was good at.

Dis-minding a person stripped them of all free will. It ripped something out of their mind and stripped away their identity. They became pretty much a clean slate, a receptacle for whatever thoughts were conditioned into them by the Thinkers who were good at that sort of thing. It was like deleting an old computer program and loading a new program. Sometimes it was less trouble to terminate a rogue person, their aptitudes were not important enough to preserve.

The floor was brushed steel. The walls and ceiling were brushed steel and there was a ledge - a bed or bench - of steel. I'd thumped it a few times and only hurt my hands, not even dented the metal. The door was also steel and there was no keyhole. The lock was operated by telekinesis. What would happen if all the Thinkers suddenly lost their powers? All the prisoners would starve. A single light bulb lit the cell. I waited. I didn't know whether they would reprogram my mind or terminate me. I didn't want to die, but I didn't want Thinkers inside my head taking away my thoughts and memories and replacing them with what they decided should be in there. It was mind-rape - they would force themselves into my head against my will. I'd heard that some people couldn't have their thoughts adjusted and they ended up going mad.

I seemed to be in the cell for ages. I sat on the metal bench and waited for something to happen. Finally I heard a click as a plate slid aside and the door opened. It was the same Thinker who had apprehended me on several other occasions. The first time I had encountered him was when I had refused to go to the Learning Centre. I realised that I had been marked for observation and he had been assigned to me.

"My name is Limari. Please come with me," he said in friendly tones.

I was a prisoner, but the justice system wore a friendly face. Even when they inject you with euthanasate (a killing drug) they apologise for doing what is necessary. The last thing you see is a nurse smiling. The your vision fades - it must be like watching the fading smile of the Cheshire Cat (this was how the dreamer interpreted the prisoner's mental imagery).

Snippet 3

I have no idea what happened between the prison snippet and the next bit. The scenes in the dream were several days after the prison snippet. The dream itself was months later. I keep a dream diary, but in the dream my mind seemed to say "last time you were here, you were in a prison cell."

I was at the perimeter of the City facing the Barrier. The air rippled and fizzed as though electrically charged. I thought I could see a faint blue tint. It was a little like water running down a glass window, distorting the view just enough that you knew something was there,

"It's psychic energy," Limari said, "Generated in the black towers."

"How?" I asked.

Limari grimaced. "There's a Thinker inside each tower, cocooned in a shell of wires. The energy of his or her mind feeds the Barrier. He's kept alive intravenously and when his mind wears down, he's replaced by a new one. His mind is bled dry by the Barrier. He might be in there for fifty years, but no-one comes out of the towers alive."

"But he is asleep, isn't he?" I asked.

"No. The person inside each tower is perfectly awake - they never sleep. They know exactly what is going on and they can't do anything to stop it. He gazed up thoughtfully at the obsidian edifice. "It must be a living hell being trapped in there, never seeing another living soul, being kept alive and knowing that you are being bled dry."

"I'd go insane," I agreed.

"The machines won't even let you go insane," he looked thoughtful.

"They were going to put you in a tower, weren't they?" I asked.

He grimaced again. That was why he had helped me to get this far. He wanted to escape. We were both trying to escape our fates. I think he had spent so much time inside my mind that he had been polluted by my thoughts. Maybe that was a danger of being a Thinker. It wasn't all "making mice run backwards in their wheels".

"Making mice run backwards in their wheels" was one of the first mind control exercises a Thinker learnt. Mind control had to be refined - like learning to write - and early attempts left the mice dead, their brains psychically pulverised. Only when they had made the mice run backwards could they move on to controlling humans. They didn't actually control the limbs like a puppet on strings, they just put the instruction to do something in the mind and the body did it, like a computer running a program.

"There's a weakness at this tower, it's where we will go through soon," he said.

"The person inside is dying," I thought. I don't know if he was reading my thoughts. If he was, h didn't react.

Snippet 4

This occurred some years later, but again my mind said it was soon after the episode at the Barrier. There was a vague recollection of running and walking across moorland and also the knowledge that Thinkers didn't need to use surveillance planes or cameras in order to find people - they could just cast their minds out like a net and see what they caught.

We were in a cathedral, or rather what had once been a cathedral (she knew what a cathedral was, my mind did not have to interpret the image). Tall columns soared up to incomplete arches. It was open to the sky. Columned walls still stood either side of an empty nave. The place had been gutted. Outside of the nave were lower walls and partial columns. Instead of a tiled floor, it was covered in pine needles and dead grass. Outside there were still some scruffy pine trees. We were sat against the outside of a nave wall knowing that the elite guard would soon find us. Limari had said that Thinkers hated and feared this place and that the elite guard might not approach. He was pale and panting, through fear not exertion, and I knew that he was terrified. I didn't realise that a Thinker could be terrified like that.

The elite guard were chosen for their loyalty to the City administration. They wore black trousers and red jackets with black panels. Their eyes were golden of course. People rarely saw them, they were the heavy mob of the Thinkers. People saw the big black vans they travelled in, but rarely saw one of the elite guard in uniform except at a riot (very rare) or disaster (to use telekinesis to lift fallen masonry or girders). Now they were hunting a former thinker and his prisoner.

I wanted to know why Limari was so afraid. He was scared of the Red Guard (as he called them) but he was even more scared of this place. I found it peaceful and tranquil. There was no religion in the City, no churches or temples, but I knew that this was supposed to be a Holy place (she either had a concept of Holy and of religion or my mind was interpreting her feelings).

"Can't you feel it?" he asked. He sounded miserable. He had been confident until now.

"It's quiet and still," I replied.

"It's death."

When I looked puzzled he went on to explain, "Before the City was built there were towns here. This was a cathedral. The towns merged into a single disorderly city and instead of being in the centre, this got left behind on the outskirts of that city. Then the city was torn down and rebuilt in an orderly fashion and this place was forgotten. It was outside the perimeter."

"Outside the Barrier?"

"There was no Barrier in those days."

"I don't know this history," I said, puzzled. This was not in the lessons we were taught.

"This is the history of the Thinkers and Justices, it isn't for simple workers," but he smiled because he knew that workers were not as simple as he had been taught in his own lessons. We had hopes and aspirations as well!

He went on, "There was no Barrier in those days and Thinkers were only just appearing. It was something to do with cosmic radiation or maybe chemicals which made people mutate. No-one really knows. Children were born with telepathy. There was a book called the Midwich Cuckoos about telepathic golden-eyed children and people thought it was happening for real. The administrators decided to train us to be useful to them. Many parents hid their telepathic children. Adults used contact lenses to disguise their eyes. Then it got worse - Thinkers split into opposing factions. Some wanted to be the police force and serve the City, some wanted to be rulers of the City. They fought psychically and burnt each other - and themselves - up. There were those who didn't want to take sides and they were scared, they were being hunted down and treated like the warring Thinkers. A large group of them left the City and ended up sheltering here, planning to move on and find somewhere else. They were found by a mob of ordinary people and were killed."

"Didn't they defend themselves?" I asked.

"They refused to. They didn't want to be as bad as the factions who were fighting. They were all killed. Nothing grows here because the ground is covered in human ash. Their dying fears have sunk into the building. I can feel their death. I can feel my own death."

I couldn't feel anything but stillness. Maybe the stillness was because the birds avoided this place. Maybe the stillness was how I felt the death and despair that hung around this place and crippled Limari. At first I thought it was some sort of Thinker superstition about the cathedral being unlucky or ill-omened. He was sitting on the ground with his knees drawn up to his chin, almost in a foetal position, as though trying to shut something out.

The slain telepaths had been on their way to somewhere else. Except there was nowhere else. Humans had been decimated by radiation and toxins. Most of the mutants had been grotesque or insane. Thinkers were the only mutants who had been sane and who had been viable. Many generations of near sterility had diminished humankind. There was only the City. Beyond the City was wild land, empty of life.

The Red Guard were approaching the cathedral where we hid. Limari was crippled in terror. He knew they were approaching - he could feel their minds and was trying to shut them out. They were after him, they knew I was no threat to them. Had they not killed him, I believe he would have willed himself to die. There was nowhere for him to go. He would have been walled up in a tower and slowly bled dry. I saw him die. They expected resistance but he didn't even defend himself against the blast of energy that ripped his mind apart. There was no blood. I saw and felt him die and I wept inwardly.

I soared up above the place at that point. Below me I saw the shell of the Cathedral and a clutter of Red Guard. For a moment I felt, smelt and heard the chaos of the Mindwars. Total destruction - physical and psychic - as telepaths fought each other and ordinaries got trapped in the crossfire. It was like a shockwave hitting my mind.

Below me was rolling moorland. I could see the City, built in concentric circles with the outer ring of psychic fire showing where order and chaos were kept apart. But I could also see other places. The land wasn't empty of life. The City was not the only place. I saw horsemen hunting with dogs - they were immune to mind control and their quarry was a telepath. I saw the hounds rip the helpless man to shreds and I felt his mind "escape". I knew that the hunters had a feudal society under a king or lord called "The Roy" (my own mind knew this meant "Royal"). I saw isolated tribes of people living in buildings made of reclaimed bricks and blocks. I saw the jagged concrete monoliths and blocks which had once been motorways and motorway bridges - they had broken up or fallen down and nature hadn't managed to break them down completely. I saw the overgrown wreckage of a world familiar to my dreaming self. I saw golden eyes and felt phantom fingers in my mind and a feeling that someone called Limari would one day exist and had sent out this psychic shockwave through time.

Snippet 5

Actually there is no snippet 5. The girl in the dream had died and I only ever travelled forward in her time, never into her past. Sometimes I get a bit more of the other snippets which fill in the gaps - a bit like being a tourist walking in a strange land which I half recognise (like going somewhere you've seen on TV). Sometimes Limari is so real that I expect him to walk past me in the street. Sometimes I wake up complaining of "time disjoint" from my mind wandering in the future. It's disorienting. I feel as though the anchor which holds me in this time is slipping and I'm drifting. It's as though this world is going out of focus. Maybe I read too many books. Still, I would like to meet Limari in the world outside of my dreams.

Because of these snippets of dreams I wrote a series of poems about the mind-wars, telepaths and future times. Some are on my website.

DRAGONQUEEN'S LAIR

You are visitor number:

tumblr visit counter