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A Good Ending

by Guy Hasson

Don’t worry.

This story has a good ending.

Well… for the bureaucrat.

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Once upon a time, in a country far, far away, there lived a bureaucrat. And the bureaucrat’s son, who was six at the time of this story, had very bad dreams. The bureaucrat’s son used to wake up in the middle of the night shouting, his heart pounding, his breath short. The son would run to his mother, the teacher, and his father, the bureaucrat, and they would hug him and tell him it was just a dream and that everything was all right.

This was not a problem specific to the bureaucrat’s son.

Many children had nightmares. Many adults had nightmares, as well. Although adults could more easily wake up and tell themselves that they had only been dreaming, and that none of it had been real. In fact, adults sometimes decided that, since it was only a dream, they would try to re-enter the dream and bring about a better ending.

This did not always work. Dreams are hard to control.

Well… dreams were hard to control.

But it is not yet time to tell you about that.

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On the night that our story begins two important things happened: the bureaucrat’s son had another dream and the bureaucrat received a phone call.

The bureaucrat’s son ran into his parents’ bedroom and told them how he had dreamt that a monster was waiting in the shadows, and how every time the monster ate, the shadows grew bigger. The son told them that in the dream the shadows were so big that they took over the entire world, and that there was only room for him and his parents. And then the shadow monster told him it was going to eat even more.

The bureaucrat held his son and told him it was just a dream. The teacher stroked her son’s hair and told him it was going to be all right.

Then the bureaucrat’s phone rang. He went to answer it because it was in the middle of the night, which meant that it must be urgent. The phone was outside the bedroom, and so the bureaucrat left his son with the teacher, who held her son tightly.

The mother and the son did not hear the phone conversation, but only snippets: “Are you sure it really works?” and “Did you test it?” and “So I can introduce it to the minister?”

After two minutes, the bureaucrat returned and said that he had to go now.

“What’s going on?” his wife asked.

The bureaucrat leaned closer and whispered in her ear. “The invention is ready,” he said. “Dreams are going to have good endings now. I have to go check if it really works.”

The teacher nodded. She invited her son to sleep with her in the bed so that nightmares wouldn’t come.

As the two fell asleep, the bureaucrat got dressed, and left his home.

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 When the bureaucrat met the scientist in his lab, the scientist showed him the tests he had done and how well the machine worked. Then the scientist explained to him that the machine reads a person’s neural impulses as the person sleeps. The machine can tell good dreams from bad dreams, because the magnetic resonance color is different. Then, ten minutes before the person has to wake up, the machine creates a magnetic impulse that is the opposite of the impulse created at the end of each bad dream.

Basically, the scientist explained, the machine returns the brain to where it was at the end of the bad dream, and then injects the magnetic resonance of a good dream, forcing the sleeper to dream something good at the end of the bad dream.

Taking into account that most people dream 3 to 4 dreams a night, the machine injects a good magnetic ‘vibe’ every two minutes, creating a good ending for each of the dreams the person had during the night.

It was a machine that gave good endings to dreams.

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The bureaucrat wasn’t just any bureaucrat. He worked for the country’s Minister of Education, who had a lot of influence with the country’s Prime Minister, whose job it was to decide in which direction to take the country.

That morning, the bureaucrat approached the minister and explained to him about the new discovery. He showed him the tests as well as documentary videos supplied by the scientist, which proved how well the machine worked. He explained how the machine read the brain’s magnetic resonance throughout the night, and how it injected the opposite of bad dreams back into the brain towards the end of the night. He explained to the minister that such a machine in every home would be great for all children and adults. He explained that it would end a lot of misery. And he also explained that such a machine would make the Minister of Education as well as the Prime Minister very popular and that they would probably be re-elected many times over simply for introducing this machine.

The Minister of Education was enthusiastic. He began the bureaucratic procedures that were required to get the approval of the government and to make the free use of such a machine in every home mandatory by law.

At the end of the meeting with the Minister of Education, the bureaucrat called his wife at home. His wife told him that their son had had another nightmare, even though he slept in his mother’s bed. The bureaucrat heard and sympathized but could not do anything.

When he finished talking to his wife, the bureaucrat felt that with the Minister of Education’s enthusiasm, nightmares would soon be a forgotten phenomenon.

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The path to get the government’s approval was not an easy one. Many people objected to the idea.

The Minister of Justice shouted that the government has no business going into the brains and dreams of the populace.

The Minister of Education said that people would be happier if their experience during the night was constantly a happy one. They would wake up cheery and feeling good about themselves, which would make the populace a happy populace.

The Minister of Defense clamored that giving children a good ending to every story was not a good lesson for life, which was filled with both good experiences and bad ones.

The Minister of Education explained that children need good endings. The sorrows of life should not be faced at such a young age.

The Minister of Health was outraged, because what the Minister of Education was actually suggesting was that the government medicate all its children with sedatives of the mind. “You are basically creating children who think everything is good and happy. These children will be ill-suited to face life,” he insisted.

The Minister of Education suggested that perhaps if an entire generation grows up knowing only happiness and good feelings, then perhaps everything will change and life will no longer contain so much hardship. “Without anger and resentment,” the Minister of Education said, “without fear and frustration, the world will be changed.”

“You are creating sheep,” the Minister of Health proclaimed. “Sheep!”

The Minister of Education explained that he was ending suffering. “Children do not need to suffer,” he said. “How can the suffering of children be a good thing?”

The Minister of State insisted that pain is good. He explained that people need pain and bad experiences in order to form a full personality. “Sorrow makes us better people,” he explained. “Pain, as much as it hurts, builds character and depth and knowledge.” He further explained that, “Hardship makes us strive to do better and try harder to achieve our goals.”

At the end of long discussions that lasted weeks, too many people within the government were opposed to this new idea. Without a majority in the government, the Prime Minster would not turn the bill into a law.

But then, on the last day of discussions, the bureaucrat, who was sitting silently behind his minister all through the debates, stood up and said, “My son has nightmares every day. My son wakes up screaming every day. He is six years old. How can this be good for him? Lately, the experience of his nights is becoming the experience of his day. After such a long period of nightmare-filled nights his days are riddled with fear. He is six years old. I would do anything to stop those nightmares. Wouldn’t you do the same for your children?”

After that speech, no one said anything. Everyone was in agreement and the government approved the machine and approved the policy of giving such a machine freely to any home with at least one child.

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It took six months for the government to turn the bill into a binding law. The government used this time to explain the machine and the idea behind it to the populace. In the government’s commercials, the bureaucrat’s convincing and empassioned speech was played again and again until every parent could recite it by heart and they agreed with the proposal.

Six months after the bureaucrat’s speech, it became law that the government distribute these machines freely to all homes with children. Homes without children could buy the machines cheaply.

Immediately afterwards, the government began mass-producing millions and millions of machines that gave good endings to all dreams dreamt at night.

It took two months for the machines to arrive in the mail all around the country, and during that time time, the nightmares of the bureaucrat’s son had not stopped. After the teacher and the bureaucrat lay their son to sleep they went into the kitchen where the teacher discovered a box in the mail.

“The good ending machine arrived today,” she said. “Shall we put it in his room?”

The bureaucrat opened the box and looked at the machine. “No,” he said. “Everyone else is using it. Everyone else will be sheep. Our son will be a beast. And he will rule the sheep.” With that, he broke his son’s machine.

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 As you can see, this truly was a story with a good ending… for the bureaucrat.

Copyright © 2012 by Guy Hasson

Guy Hasson is an Israeli playwright, film maker and science fiction writer. While he writes plays and scripts mainly in Hebrew, his fiction is almost exclusively written in English. He is a two-time winner of the Israeli Geffen Award: he won it in 2003 for his story „All-of-Me(TM)“ and in 2005 for his story „The Perfect Girl“. Since 2006 he has focused on production of original films, including the feature-length A Stone-cold Heart. News about his work are to be found at https://guyhasson.wordpress.com/

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