Well, it’s the middle of the night, but I just awoke from a very interesting dream, and felt the need to write about it before it slips further from my memory.
I’ve read a few science fiction stories in which the development of miraculous medical technology prompts people to engage in potentially fatal activities for the thrills, secure in the knowledge that no matter what happens, they can be saved, even from death itself. The most recent one was Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (a wonderful book, by the way, though I was less than satisfied by the ending).
I’ll get it down in as much detail as I can, freely making up bits to fill it out where I can’t remember the dream itself.
In my dream, I am visiting a decadent super-rich future tycoon. I’m pretty sure it was in Japan. A distinguished middle-aged gentleman took me to his display room, which was like an art museum. The room was dimly lit with a series of pedestals illuminated by spotlights. On each pedestal was a bottle of amber liquid. Each bottle was different; some had labels, others did not.
He took me to a number of bottles, each with a history. There were all different kinds of alcohol, from brandy, whisky, gin and rum to sake and moutai, as well as other exotic liquors from around the world, all of them handmade by amateur brewers or distillers, many of them quite old.
“This cognac was made in 1857 by a farmer in France. It was recovered from his estate after he died, allegedly from drinking his own creation. Maybe it was the cognac that killed him, maybe not. No one has tasted it since. I paid over a hundred thousand dollars for this bottle.” He called the medical emergency number on his mobile phone and said, “I am about to do something very risky. Please send help.”
Then he very carefully took the bottle from its place and took it to a fancy table, where he ceremoniously poured into a number of glasses. I found that a number of the man’s friends were there, kind of a little club. Each of them took a glass and did the things connoisseurs do: they examined the color in the light; they swirled the liquid in the glasses; they sniffed the aroma. They commented on their observations.
“Very earthy scent.”
“Reminds me of the Nobukazu sake.”
“I beg to differ.”
“Do I detect a chemical note?”
And so on. The host explains to me, “We relish the exquisite uncertainty of this act. The cognac may be the finest ever tasted by a human palate, or it may be horrid and undrinkable. It may be perfectly safe; it may kill us. This uncertainty is the essence of our pleasure.”
Then the host stands and offers a toast. By this time, a paramedic robot is hovering in the shadows, ready to rescue anyone that needs it.
The participants raise their glasses and take a sip together. Afterwards, each reacts in his or her own way, lost in private thoughts.
The host speaks first. “None of us appears to have died. Thoughts?”
And they all provide reviews of the experience, sometimes taking another sip to gather further evidence. The general consensus is that it is a thoroughly middle of the road cognac, a little unusual, but not outstanding. All of this trouble, and over a hundred thousand dollars, for a mediocre cognac.
How’s that for an odd little dream? The human brain is an odd and fascinating thing. I can identify the sources for a few of the ideas, like maybe the previously mentioned Doctorow book. And not long ago I read a murder mystery set in the exclusive world of rich art connoisseurs. I don’t recall ever coming across anything closer, but I have read thousands of science fiction books and stories over the years, and forgotten most of them, at least consciously – they’re probably still lurking in the nether reaches of my brain, ready to rise up as background material for dreams like this. And add in the experience of having eaten fugu, which is potentially risky.
Now it’s after 4am, and I’m going to try to get some sleep before the night is completely gone.