- [Harper] The subjects had their first session in the D.R.E.A.M. program today. They underwent intense physical monitoring before, during, and after this first experiment with no anomalous activity detected. After each session, I will interview the subjects to determine the impact the dream had on their mental states and inquire about any physical symptoms they may be experiencing that were not detected by our medical team. My first interview is with Subject 1, Stephen. Hello, Stephen.

- [Stephen] Hello.

- [Harper] How are you feeling today?

- [Stephen] If you're asking if I'm feeling anxious or whatever, I'm fine, I'm alive, aren't I? What's there to be anxious about?

- [Harper] Well, you had your first dream session today. Did it go well?

- [Stephen] It was fine.

- [Harper] Would you like to tell me about what happened there?

- [Stephen] Not really, but I guess I will, it was fine, I guess, it wasn't what I expected.

- [Harper] In what way?

- [Stephen] I don't know, I guess it was just kind of normal. Like, I didn't realize I was even there at first. I thought I was just walking around the city as normal.

- [Harper] Yes, this session was programmed to be similar to real life, to ease you and the others into the experiment. What did you do there?

- [Stephen] Not much at first. I wanted to see how much of the city was programmed, it was remarkably detailed, so props for that, I guess. But when I tried to take the bus, I was, uh... Recognized.

- [Harper] Recognized?

- [Stephen] Yeah, like I was a celebrity. Some man was like, "Hey, you're Stephen-- No, you're recording this. I'm not telling some recorder my full name.

- [Harper] You realize, again, that we have your name on file already?

- [Stephen] Yes, but you can't be too safe. Anyway, he said my name, and a crowd kind of swarmed me, which was weird.

- [Harper] So you were famous. Interesting.

- [Stephen] Why is that interesting?

- [Harper] Please, go on.

- [Stephen] Fine, anyway, I figured out that apparently I was some hotshot reporter who blew the whistle on this huge scandal about the president and a voting fraud scheme, totally called it, by the way. And yes, I'm aware that this wasn't real or whatever, and was the biggest name in news reporting. It was kind of cool, I guess.

- [Harper] So you were a famous reporter. Is that what you wish you were in your real life?

- [Stephen] Huh? Well, I guess, I mean, I was a reporter before, and I did like it, but--

- [Harper] And were you happy? Anxious? What did you feel?

- [Stephen] Why does that matter?

- [Harper] The point of the interview is to gauge your mental and physical state both during and after the session. How did you feel?

- [Stephen] Happy, I guess? Content, at least, like I had finally accomplished my life's work.

- [Harper] This session was designed to simulate the real world, but also to be a kind of wish fulfillment fantasy for you. You should have been your ideal self in that world. Would you say that was accurate?

- [Stephen] I guess so? I mean, it was nice. Now it feels like--

- [Harper] Like what?

- [Stephen] Like it was a dream. That's so cheesy, but now I feel like I used to after I would have a nice dream, I guess.

- [Harper] Used to? Do you not have nice dreams anymore?

- [Stephen] I don't dream at all, ever.

- [Harper] So it felt like a pleasant dream, interesting.

- [Stephen] No, it felt real, which is really fucked up because it wasn't real. Now it feels kind of like a dream.

- [Harper] So how do you feel now? Still content?

- [Stephen] Are you fucking serious, no! Now I'm pissed off!

- [Harper] You're angry, do you know why?

- [Stephen] Because all I can think about is how nice it was to be respected! And now I'm here, and no one respects me at all. They all think I'm fucking insane and you're sitting here asking me questions about how I feel.

- [Harper] So you'd like to go back?

- [Stephen] Hell no, that place is a Goddamn lie.

- [Harper] So you prefer the real world.

- [Stephen] I don't prefer it, but it's fucking real. People are assholes and sheep who blindly follow authority here. No one wants to believe the truth here, that's reality.

- [Harper] Let's change the subject for a minute. You've spent a few days getting to know the other subjects. How are you getting along?

- [Stephen] Just peachy, we're besties.

- [Harper] Stephen.

- [Stephen] We avoid each other when possible, well, I do, and, what's their name, Effie?

- [Harper] I think you mean Eddie.

- [Stephen] Yeah, whatever, that one. We avoid each other and Emma. Eddie stays in their room pretty much all the time and I guess so do I because the ditz like never--

- [Harper] Please refer to her by name to avoid confusion, Stephen.

- [Stephen] Emma is always in the common areas, wanting us to do things with her.

- [Harper] She's trying to be friendly?

- [Stephen] She's fucking annoying.

- [Harper] What kinds of things does she want you to do with her?

- [Stephen] Drinking, mostly. Maybe smoking weed, I don't know, I don't do that shit. She wants us to go out with her to clubs sometimes. When she leaves, we usually come out of our rooms so we don't have to deal with her.

- [Harper] Both of you?

- [Stephen] Well, Eddie doesn't talk much, so we usually don't have problems.

- [Harper] Really?

- [Stephen] Really what?

- [Harper] Just, what you said. Eddie doesn't talk much?

- [Stephen] Yeah, they don't really talk to either of us, why?

- [Harper] It's nothing, so you two get along?

- [Stephen] Fuck no, they're annoying too. They're just generally more tolerable than the, Emma.

- [Harper] How about Bianca? I know she isn't living with you, but she assured me she would make every effort to interact with the rest of you.

- [Stephen] Oh, she does, she definitely does.

- [Harper] How is your relationship with her?

- [Stephen] All I can say is thank God she isn't living with us, because she's the worst of all.

- [Harper] Why is that?

- [Stephen] Are you kidding? You've met her, right?

- [Harper] That's a valid point.

- [Stephen] You get it, right? She's insufferable, a spoiled princess. Which, by the way, I still want answers for. Why is she here?

- [Harper] I couldn't discuss why the selection committee made the choices they did, even if I knew.

- [Stephen] That's a load of shit. It's because her daddy made you let her in.

- [Harper] Again, I can't--

- [Stephen] It's fine, whatever. I know why.

- [Harper] Anyway, Stephen, it would be best if you tried to get along with your fellow participants, after all--

- [Stephen] You're gonna threaten me with eviction again?

- [Harper] The possibility is there, it's in your contract.

- [Stephen] A clause I'm pretty sure you added just for me. Does it apply to the princess, sorry, Bianca, as well?

- [Harper] The contract is the same for everyone, however, Bianca has paid for her lodgings out of pocket, so--

- [Stephen] Of course.

- [Harper] If you would like to do the same, you may, instead of the cost being deducted from your compensation.

- [Stephen] You know that's impossible, I'll play nice. God, six months of this shit.

- [Harper] Let's move on. We discussed how you feel mentally, but how about physically, any soreness or tingling?

- [Stephen] No, should there be?

- [Harper] Any other symptoms you're experiencing?

- [Stephen] Nothing, I feel fine.

- [Harper] That's good to hear. So it sounds like you're doing well physically and mentally, albeit a little, jaded after your first session.

- [Stephen] I've always been jaded, that's nothing new.

- [Harper] Fair enough, that's all for today, then, Stephen. If you start experiencing any unusual symptoms before our next meeting, please let me know. And try to get along with the other participants. You're going to be working together next time.

- [Stephen] Oh boy, can't wait, can I go now?

- [Harper] Yes, do you want me to walk you out?

- [Stephen] Nope, later.

- [Harper] The first post-dream interview is completed and the results are better than expected. Subject 1 seemed calmer than usual, and as loath as he was to admit it, actually seemed a bit happy, at least until his anxiety and usual worldview were brought up. This kind of virtual setting could be useful in therapy, but of course, more testing will be needed. My next interview is with Subject 4, Emma.

- [Emma] Hi, Dr. Harper!

- [Harper] Hello, Emma. Please have a seat.

- [Emma] Okay!

- [Harper] You seem happy today, Emma. Did you enjoy your session?

- [Emma] It was the best!

- [Harper] Would you like to tell me about it?

- [Emma] Hell yeah I would! It was so cool, I'm this super famous author!

- [Harper] You, you are? I mean, were, you were an author?

- [Emma] Yeah, It's always been my dream to write a bestselling children's book series, you know? And apparently I totally did, isn't that amazing! I don't remember writing it at all!

- [Harper] Emma, you're aware that it wasn't real and was just a simulation, right?

- [Emma] Um, yeah, I mean, it seemed super real and still seems super real, and could totally be real. I do a lot of weird stuff when I'm drunk or high or--

- [Harper] I've noticed. But you're aware that it was not actually real?

- [Emma] Duh, of course not. I mean, I'd have to be really wasted to not remember writing a novel.

- [Harper] Indeed, so you were an author. What happened in the dream?

- [Emma] I was at a book signing, signing copies of my book! And all these kids and parents were telling me how great I was and how much they loved reading together and it made me really, really happy! And this little girl came up to me and told me she wanted to be just like me when she grew up and it was just so beautiful.

- [Harper] Sounds like it went well, then. And how do you feel now?

- [Emma] Super pumped, like, yeah, I know it wasn't real, but it totally could be, right? Like, that could be me if I just actually sat down and tried to write the ideas in my head!

- [Harper] So you feel motivated?

- [Emma] Hell yeah, I can do anything! I could probably fly if I wanted to.

- [Harper] You can't actually do that, Emma.

- [Emma] Yeah, probably not.

- [Harper] So what was the book about?

- [Emma] Apparently this book was about a pony who gets lost and finds his way back to his owner after a long journey with lots of obstacles. But it was part of a series that is basically just retelling classic literature, but for kids, and with animals.

- [Harper] The Odyssey but, with a pony?

- [Emma] Uh-huh, it's an idea that's been in my head for a while.

- [Harper] I didn't expect you to be so... Well-read.

- [Emma] Well, duh, of course I am, I'm an English major.

- [Harper] Oh, that... Wasn't the impression I got from our first interview, sorry.

- [Emma] It's cool, no one ever believes me when I tell them.

- [Harper] You seemed to have fun in the simulation. If you could go back into the dream, would you?

- [Emma] Maybe, but I wouldn't, like, stay. Maybe to get inspiration for my book or something. Also to hear people scream my name. I mean, people usually only scream my name when--

- [Harper] Okay, Emma, how are you dealing with your living situation? I know you had roommates before, so how is it living with the other participants?

- [Emma] It's kind of a letdown, honestly.

- [Harper] You're not getting along?

- [Emma] I want to, but they're so boring! Eddie is usually quiet and seems uncomfortable around me, which I totally don't get, because I'm super fun. They're nice, at least, when I see them, but they almost never leave their room unless it's to eat something, and Stephen is, well, he just is.

- [Harper] Is what?

- [Emma] He is.

- [Harper] Understood, how about Bianca? She's been visiting regularly, right?

- [Emma] I want to be friends with her but she ignores me unless I mention her cat.

- [Harper] Ah, right, her cat, uh, Señor Sprinkles, was that it?

- [Emma] Senator Sparkles, and she's beautiful! But she only ever shows pictures and won't let me come over and see her. She says she's bad with people but I bet she's not, animals love me.

- [Harper] But you're getting along pretty well, otherwise?

- [Emma] Yeah, it's only been like, what, a week? I'm sure everyone will be friends soon. Well, maybe not Stephen. But if anyone can make him friendly, it's definitely me.

- [Harper] I'm not sure that will work.

- [Emma] It will, I'm very personable.

- [Harper] You're excitable, anyway. How are you feeling physically? We didn't see any problems while monitoring you during the session, but are you experiencing any unusual symptoms, shortness of breath?

- [Emma] No asthma problems or anything like that. I feel really good, actually.

- [Harper] That's good to hear. Nothing unusual at all?

- [Emma] Nope, I'm just super pumped to get out of here and start writing something!

- [Harper] Well, don't let me stop you. We're pretty much finished here if you have no questions.

- [Emma] None, it was fun, will they all be like that?

- [Harper] Not exactly the same, no.

- [Emma] Aw, I'm still excited for more, though! So we're done here?

- [Harper] Make sure to let me know if you experience any symptoms between now and our next meeting.

- [Emma] Sure will, see ya next time! I'm gonna write, like, a whole novel by then.

- [Harper] That may be a bit ambitious, but good luck, I'll see you next week.

- Bye!

- [Narrator] Thank you for listening to D.R.E.A.M. In this episode, you heard the voices of Amoretta Noel as Doctor Robin Harper, Robert Spradlin as Stephen, and Lanessa Tremblett as Emma. This Episode was written and directed by Ami Rae. The sound production was done by Lanessa Tremblett, and all of our music was composed by Tim Sanchez. This episode was brought to you by our Patrons and Indiegogo supporters. If you like the show and would like to contribute, please consider joining our Patreon. You'll get cool perks, including access to episodes a day early and our first Q&A session, recorded at PodX in Nashville. Episode 5 will be released on July 1, 2019. Until then remember, life's a dream.