Egelre, Dissland, 11th Zendor 998.

I have decided to write my notes for tonight while wandering the pale streets outside the Government’s quarters. Somehow I find it more quiet/more peaceful than in my office up in the yellow tower.

The tightly-regulated temperature system appears to be failing. At least, I feel cold, or I think I do.

It’s said to be common in cases like mine. The subject develops negative emotions, and then the subject can’t cope with the perfection of their environment and starts to experience non-existent negative conditions. The mind has an expectation that its habitat fits with its personality, and suffers when this isn’t true. It tends to be caused by an error in how the subject was raised, possibly due to influences external to Dissland, and can lead to distrust of the Government. At best, this results in self-elimination. Often these subjects will attempt to escape from their home, as with a well-known case from the end of last year. At worst, they will attempt to bring others with them, but there are rarely others suffering from the same issues. Sufficient authoritarian might has been established that no such case has yet resulted in an attack on the Government.

I have an appointment in two hours. I have not been told who with.

I am not sure the implications of my condition are worth considering. An outside influence seems like the only possible explanation, unless the Government’s advice cannot be trusted. It is true that I have been dealing with an outsider recently, but these encounters didn’t happen during my childhood. In any case, after the encounter tonight, the intruder won’t return.

Brief description: Intruder materialised on the ground and identified itself. Identity did not match any known Dissland resident (“Calsent” does not resemble a Disslandic name, though my own name, Stinley, is traditionally rendered as “Sthientlyr”, supposedly meaning “one whose spoken reality wastes to ash”).

One hour and eighty-four minutes left. By then, it will almost be the middle of the night. Who would arrange a meeting at the time when the Minister of Dreams is most busy?

I previously identified the intruder as an outsider, but I have to consider the chance that the source is internal. Another branch of the Government could be targeting me, using the same technology which was almost complete when I first began working here, almost two years ago.

The Ministry struggles for resources. Anna left her secretarial position in the Government, and took with her a trove of information that could have assisted in the case of the intruder. All I have to work with now is the Government’s archives, and there are many kept from me. Anna had no such concerns about sharing information.

My board panel tells me to sleep in case I’m not ready for the meeting. I can’t convince it that I was never going to sleep anyway.

Another night wanderer passed by in the chilling street, and I felt compelled to hide my notes. Despite having sleeplessness in common, I feel no association with him.

Anna once told me that Tregrihi watches its citizens in a similar way to the Government here, but the difference is that they lack the automation we have, which they can never achieve. Tregrihi is a competitive environment, where so-called companies of people work by themselves to advance technology in order to improve upon their rivals. Their growth is wild and dangerous to their population. Dissland achieved the perfect balance it has today because, after it split from what’s now Kylan, the whole country worked together to advance the nation for the benefit of every citizen. The Government keeps us working together, putting in our time and our input to push us all forwards. A Kylani would say that neither approach works, as if theirs does. They fight themselves because they can’t agree on how their country should function. They claim we don’t deserve our land, but the least deserving of land is those who don’t have a use for it.

The line blurs between dreams and reality, and we are approaching the point where the distinction isn’t necessary. The logical next step is to keep people thinking and labouring within their dreams, keep everyone working together to push the country forward even while it sleeps.

Time is a strange concept when you don’t see the sky. Our twenty-hour day could have been fabricated by the Government. All timing devices can be controlled remotely. If the length of a second was adjusted to make the day longer or shorter, no-one would ever know. Because of my Ministry, anyone who suspected an issue could be convinced it was a dream. Maybe we’ve never woken up.

The intruder did act differently tonight, even if it appeared the same. So could be it’s not one person, but a group who doesn’t want me to remain stable.

I need to hurry back. Not long until the meeting, anyway.

I should never have left the office, should I? I’m the most powerful person in Dissland. I don’t know why I wrote that. Is something moving in the silence?

We’re conditioned not to notice it, but there’s a cool humming that permeates the space wherever you go. It reminds me that the machinery that runs our lives isn’t perfect. It has an expiry date, just as we all do. The Government would like us to think of the inner workings as all-powerful, untouchable, but the truth is that it’s as mortal as we are. It’s calming, knowing you’re not so different from a god.

Possible meeting topics: moving forward with the technology, expanding its range of usage. My position in the Government. A new recruit for the Ministry?

Nobody knows how big Dissland is. My dream technology could be key to the expansion of the country into larger territory. Or maybe we have enough.

When I was much younger, a person who went to school with me told me I was weird. She thought something was off about me, and that interaction might have made it so there was something off about me. There’s a strange defiance in wanting to fit in.

I find a train and take it towards nowhere. The cube rattles along the smooth tracks, inflamed in darkness.

Am I supposed to feel tired?

When we’re young, we always ask each other what we’re going to be when we’re old, like it matters.

I wonder who will be waiting for me when I reach my destination. If only Anna would return, I might have some idea of what I’m supposed to be doing.

I don’t feel so cold now. But the feeling that there’s someone right behind you never leaves.

Although it’s possible to be certain when you’re truly awake, I’ve never cracked how to tell if your dream has been altered. Maybe there are signs, little glitches in your reality, but your mind in the unconscious world is a linear one. It’s ironic that in the world where you could do anything, it’s beyond your control, and in the world where your path is chosen for you, you have total free will. Our biggest threat is our own brains.

What if dreams can’t be altered and I’ve been asleep the whole time? In a coma since the Erimar 996? It’s established that time in dreams is not the same as the Government’s time. Who will I be when I wake up?

I arrive. The panels in front of me slide open and I slide out of the compartment and onto the street. I am greeted by a woman from the Ministry, the one whose name wasn’t important enough for me to learn. Time is over.

It occurs to me that this might not be a meeting. I was never right for this job, I stumbled into it by accident. I was never right for this country.

I fleetingly wonder what will be left of my module when I no longer live in it. A succession of inhabitants across the ages. There was a first, and I might be the last. I won’t know. I’m a node in a network that’ll blink for a second before I’m replaced. Then-

She pushes me back, the doors opening behind me, but there is no train for me to enter. There won’t ever be ground again. Not for me. She keeps smiling down at me from above the gap.

If I scratch the wall on my way down, maybe I can start a fire.

Next: “Cold Open”.