Electric Sheep
© Ilah Sef and BlackRose, 2001

This is an original work of fiction, © copyright 2001, BlackRose and Ilah Sef. Do not reproduce without permission.

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"Do you ever wonder what's real?"

The question came unexpectedly, with no warning and less explanation, as though it were only an idyl comment about the warm spring weather or the fragrant blooms that edged the little outdoor cafe. The woman it was addressed to didn't immediately reply; one thin brow arched upward in mute response as she quietly tasted the steaming beverage a waiter had delivered moments before. Only when the coffee had passed muster did she lower the cup and turn pale eyes on her companion. "Subjective reality or empirical?"

The man seated across from her smiled slightly, looking pleased. "Either."

"Avaiya." The woman's tone was reproving, as though she were scolding a small child. "You have to define the question. What type of reality?"

"All of it," the man replied, not in the slightest deterred. "Empirical reality is only the product of the concurrent subjective reality of a group of individuals."

The woman frowned, her dark stained lips pursing slightly in distaste. "We've been over that."

"Yes, alright." The man leaned forward, sliding the small glass pot of honey in the middle of the table towards himself and carefully ladling a spoonful of the heavy amber into his cup of tea. The silver of a spoon rang softly against the ceramic as he stirred it, frowning slightly into the warm brown depths of the liquid. "I'll rephrase. Are dreams real, outside of the subjective reality of the dreamer?"

Both brows went up this time, the pale glitter paint used to line them sparkling in the morning sun. "Dreams are an automatic filtering function of the mind."

"But are they real?"

The woman paused to consider, her expression hidden as she raised her cup once more. When she lowered it there was a small puzzled frown shadowing her eyes. "They're thoughts."

The man's lips twitched. "'I think, therefore I am'?"

"Don't be silly."

"I'm not. It's true, isn't it?"

The woman sighed. "Then by your own arguement, dreams are as real as thoughts."

"And thoughts are the foundation of our subjective reality, which then shape our empirical reality," the man replied smoothly. "So - are our dreams real? Or are we, in fact, dreams?" His gaze, beneath the silvery fall of disarrayed strands of hair, was challenging.

The woman made a scoffing noise, leaning back in her chair. Her slender hands curved around the sides of her cup, one brightly laquered nail tapping against the surface. "Now you really are just being silly. This is why Eton turned you down, you know."

"It's not silly," the man protested. "It's hypothetical. If dreams are a type of thought and thoughts create our own personal realities, then do dreams become real?" Before the woman could reply he hurried on. "Not," and he rapped a knuckle against the table top, "here, necessarily. Not in the shared empirical reality. But elsewhere."

"Shroedinger's cat," the woman murmurred. "There wouldn't be a way to prove it."

"I said it was hypothetical," the man pointed out.

"Oh, alright," the woman replied a bit crossly. She considered, her nail against the cup tapping out the seconds like a metronome. "What you're suggesting is that dreams create realities. Are all realities dreams, then?"

The man shrugged slightly. "Let's say, for the sake of arguement, yes."

"You're impossible," the woman complained. "Alright, then yes. We and everything we know would be someone else's dream." She fixed the man with a pale glare. "In your hypothesis, would everything that dreams produce realities?"

The man brushed his bangs from his face. "I don't see why not. If it has the capacity to dream..."

"Cats? Dogs?"

"They do dream, you know."

The woman made another inarticulate sound. "All living things?"

"All things that dream. It would depend on how you defined 'life'." The man leaned back, grinning slightly. "Don't androids dream of electric sheep?"

Whatever reply the woman might have made was interrupted by the low chime of a bell, quivering softly through the air around the table. The man sat up with a sigh. "I'm being paged."

The woman waved one slender hand. "Go on. I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Day after?" the man countered. "Tokyo gardens?"

The woman smiled, tiny dimples flashing in her heart shaped face. "Yes, that's fine."

"Usual time, then," the man assured her. When he was gone the woman sat quietly, elbows resting on the table as she sipped at her cooling coffee, her gaze looking out at the cafe patio without really seeing it.

"...'Electric sheep'," she murmmured disdainfully. "Hmph."

Minutes later a second chime sounded. /Illya./ The voice was in her ears, clear and insistent. /There's been a routing break in the secondary Singapore node./

"I'll be right there." Pushing the cup aside, the woman rose to her feet. Her pale gaze swept the quiet little cafe and the sleepy old-world european street beyond it. Sighing, she tapped her fingertips against the table top and raised her voice, speaking aloud. "End sub-routine and save; shared directory, file name 'prague011'."

The tables, the chairs, the flowers and the mid-morning sunshine; they froze for one moment in a mockery of a snapshot, then disappeared in a split-second burst of gleaming particles that left showers of sparks lingering in the air until those too vanished. Only the woman remained in the nothingness that descended. Hands on her hips, she shook her head. "Sheep. I don't dream about *sheep*," she declared irritably to nothing in particular before, with a flicker of thought, she too vanished in a cascade of dispersed light particles and abandoned pixels.