Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




The Daydreamer by Proxy

Dear Geneertech Employee #__________:

Hello! We’re glad that you’re considering serving as the host of a Geneertech Corporation Daydreamer by Proxy. We know that this is not an easy decision to make. This document will provide answers to some of the questions asked frequently by prospective hosts. Over one hundred twenty Geneertech employees have chosen to host Daydreamers in the past three years, and all of them have gone on to have remarkably productive careers within the company. Seventy-three percent of hosts have received one or more promotions within two years of hosting, compared with a four percent promotion rate for the same period across the company as a whole. So we think you’ll find hosting a Daydreamer to be an experience that’s rewarding as well as fun. Some hosts wonder how they ever got along without them!

Why host a Daydreamer by Proxy?

Geneertech is a company that lives and dies by its employees—it is your loyalty, hard work and creativity that have made us the world leader in the field of designer non-sentient life forms. But every day is a hard-fought battle with our competitors in the marketplace, and the Daydreamer by Proxy is a way for you to help ensure your continued loyalty to us in these perpetually difficult financial times.

Think: don’t you feel more loyalty to Geneertech, more fealty, more love, in the morning? You arrive at your desk at sunrise, and your first cup of coffee helps you focus on your task: determining the proper shape of a creature’s wing, or the best source genome for the medulla oblongota of a specially commissioned servant animal. All problems seem solvable. But in the afternoon, after you have received your cafeteria rations and worked for a few more hours, your mind begins to drift. Even though you love Geneertech as you love yourself, you cannot focus on the mission-critical tasks at hand—you would rather ponder a dead romance beyond recovery, or a chess position you abandoned last night in midgame. You are daydreaming to run out the clock until your shift ends. In short, you are stealing processor cycles from the company! But you are only human, you say. Nonetheless—tasks are not being completed; problems are not being solved; MoreauCorp is landing lucrative contracts and eating our lunch.

Hosting a Daydreamer by Proxy will allow you to concentrate on work-related tasks through the afternoon period until quitting time; you may also find that it yields significant quality-of-life benefits outside the workplace. Throughout your day it will serve as the better angel of your nature.

What does the Daydreamer by Proxy look like?

The Daydreamer by Proxy is the result of the combination of several proprietary genomes held by Geneertech, including variants of the silverfish and the Komodo dragon (but it is not part human, despite rumors you may have heard). It is about a yard long, an albino, somewhat reptilian, semi-conscious being. An array of two rows of twelve slender, translucent legs runs down either side of its body. You’ll notice that its face shows evidence of the whimsical nature of its designers—beneath its snout its long drooping whiskers hang down on either side of its squelching sucker of a mouth, while its large pink liquid eyes—not human eyes!—display a constant childlike cheer. The Daydreamer by Proxy is always happy! But it’s happiest when it has a home, just as you are happy because you know that you have a home at Geneertech.

What is the installation process for a Daydreamer by Proxy?

The installation process will be an enjoyable, memorable experience for you! Upon arriving at the Geneertech campus, you’ll go to the Installation Hall instead of your usual workspace. You’ll be escorted to a room where you’ll be shown excerpts from films you loved as a child, while an administered anesthesia starts to take hold. After an hour—clunk! You’re gone.

While you’re sleeping, a team of surgeons will drill an unobtrusive series of twenty-four holes along your spinal column and a twenty-fifth into the back of your neck, just at the base of the brain. Once that’s done, the rest takes care of itself—we simply place and align the Daydreamer by Proxy on your back, and all on its own, it inserts its legs into the holes along your spine (and this sounds worse than it really is, but the legs have sharp claw-like appendages, and they’ll burrow their way through your vertebrae to make direct contact with your spinal column). Meanwhile, what we call the Daydreamer’s “information tube” slides out of the back of its neck into the twenty-fifth hole—the tube will then extrude a series of thin filaments that will interface with several of your brain centers, but you won’t even feel it. (And don’t be afraid of any mind-control stuff: the Daydreamer can intercept and receive signals from neurons, but it can’t transmit. It’s perfectly safe!)

The installation process takes about three hours; we’ll also give you eight work-hours off with pay to become acclimated to your new friend. Then, the next day, you’ll be ready to reap the benefits!

What are the benefits of a Daydreamer by Proxy?

We’re glad you asked! The first, and most significant, is clarity of mind, clarity of purpose. Remember how your mind is in the afternoon, drifting toward that delusional, distorted memory of a love that escaped you, its playback suffused with false colors and delirium. Such is the duplicitous nature of daydreams; such is their insidious siren’s call, luring employees toward the perilous shoals of decreased performance ratings. But once you have chosen to host the Daydreamer by Proxy, you will no longer be cursed with such afflictions. Your once-lazy brain will seek its usual refuge during the late hours of the second shift to find that your childhood sweetheart’s once-soft skin has returned to the sandpaper that it truly was, that her once-poetic professions of love have returned to the stutters and lies they truly were. For your Daydreamer will have taken the burden of your daydreams upon itself. It will wear the false smile that would have crept upon your face; in your place it will experience the delusional happiness that would have distracted you from your duties. And you will experience the truer, better, more authentic happiness that comes from the accomplishment of a challenging endeavor. Believe us when we say this. Studies show.

That sounds great! What else can I expect?

Additional benefits include double rations from the cafeteria (you’re eating for two now!) and an entire made-to-measure wardrobe provided by Geneertech, suitable for work, play, and formal occasions. (Since installation of the Daydreamer by Proxy is permanent, you’ll find it difficult to shop for clothing off the rack. But no time is too early to step up to the elegance of bespoke fashion!)

Excellent! I can’t wait to get started!

We don’t blame you! But just so that you’re completely informed in accordance with federal law, here are a few examples of the kinds of questions that come to us from hosts of Daydreamers by Proxy, before and after the installation procedure.

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Q: My family doctor has advised me against installing the Daydreamer by Proxy, saying that there’s a risk in “unnecessarily drilling holes along your spine, then permanently attaching a genetically engineered parasite to vertebrae C7-T12 that’ll have access to both your spinal cord and your brain.” He is being rather unreasonable about the whole thing. What can I say to him to convince him that this isn’t nearly the problem he thinks it is?

A: Bwa-ha! The “parasite,” as your self-interested family practitioner calls it, is perfectly safe. And if anything were to go wrong (which it won’t: in the past forty installation procedures there has not been a single death), the extensive health coverage provided by Geneertech (health coverage that you would be hard pressed to equal by moving to another company, that you’d have to do without if you were for some reason fired for nonperformance) would ensure that in the event of an irreversible paralysis-induced paraplegia you would be well taken care of. You can undertake the procedure without fear, whether that fear is of the non-negligible chance of the loss of motor control or the facility of speech, or of a job market that is notoriously unfriendly to people like yourself, who are no longer fresh out of college, easy to train, and ready to take on the world.

Q: As of late I have developed a certain rapport with a colleague who has also chosen to host a Daydreamer by Proxy. Though I would not call this love, or even lust—recent events seem to have inexplicably robbed me of the capability to feel such emotions—we do share a certain affinity for the tasks at hand, and during our prescribed off-task conversational periods we have found that we both enjoy the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer. And our Daydreamers seem to get along as well—when they come within close proximity, they emit a certain keening chitter—chee-chee-cha? Chee-chee-chee-cha!—and I can feel the legs of my Daydreamer clutching at my spine, producing shivers that are now the closest thing I can feel to erotic stimulation.

I am considering asking this woman to accompany me to a double feature of The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr at the local drive-in. Now that I have a Daydreamer by Proxy, are the forms indicated in Standard Operational Procedure Three for managerial permission for interoffice liaisons sufficient, or must I fill out additional forms as well?

A: Good question! You don’t need to fill out any additional forms besides those mentioned in SOP-3. However, you’ll want to read the pamphlet entitled “Mating Procedures for Daydreamers by Proxy” before you hit the town with your new companion. And remember that Daydreamers by Proxy, whether living or dead, eggs produced by Daydreamers by Proxy, offspring that hatch from such eggs, and the genome sequence of the Daydreamer by Proxy are the property of Geneertech; theft of company property will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Go get ‘em, tiger!

Q: After six months hosting the Daydreamer by Proxy, I’m discovering some side effects other than the expected slight weight loss, constant hunger, and occasionally unreliable memory. For one thing, according to my wife, the Daydreamer’s face is beginning to physically resemble mine: its eye color has changed from pink to brown, and its cute little Fu-Manchu mustache has fallen off. “Now it does that little thing with its mouth that you do, when you’re thinking hard,” my wife says. “It’s kind of cute.”

In addition, it has begun to speak on occasion—its voice sounds like a poor imitation of mine, as if its throat is lined with gravel. No one would mistake its speech for my own, but it is somewhat embarrassing when I am deeply engaged in a task in my workspace and the Daydreamer suddenly blurts out, “Taste this foie gras! Taste it!” or “Chicken: standing on sixteen,” or “Aw, yeah, back that on up over here, baby.”

Also, the Daydreamer by Proxy is seducing my wife. Though we have marital difficulties that are proving insurmountable, my wife and I still sleep in the same bed out of long habit. However, I sleep on my side with my back to her, which leaves the Daydreamer facing her. Recently I awoke in the middle of the night to hear the Daydreamer’s raspy whisper. “Do you remember our first time?” it said. “We packed a picnic basket with decadent delicacies, broke into the abandoned opera house, and ascended to the darkened stage. Oh, at first we tried to practice restraint and decorum, but in the end we couldn’t help ourselves: the feast ended with us smearing marmalade all over our faces and dousing each other’s bodies with anisette. And then: the second, shameful feast that followed. Do you remember?” My wife stifled a giggle. “Yes, the shame, the shame,” she whispered back. “Make me feel it again!” The Daydreamer’s legs contracted tightly in my back, hard enough to make my feet kick. My wife has never giggled like that for me! And we have never even been inside an opera house: opera gives me hives! Our first kiss was in the linen aisle of a Wal-Mart! What on earth is going on here? What is to be done?

A: Relax: this is normal.

Dexter Palmer

Dexter Palmer

Dexter Palmer is the author of three novels: The Dream of Perpetual Motion (selected as one of the best debuts of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews), Version Control (selected as one of the best books of 2016 by GQ Magazine), and Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen (longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and shortlisted for the Joyce Carol Oates Prize).