Doug Binder stepped between the futon and coffee table, keeping a hand on the brim of his smokestack hat. He laid his briefcase on the table full of pizza boxes, porn mags, ashtrays, and beer cans. He put his cigarette between his pinky and ring finger to apply his thumbprints to the ID locks. Through a sly smile he asked, “What have you always dreamed of Georgy-boy?”
The middle-aged man in sweatpants and bathrobe scratched his balding scalp. His apartment was no more than ten by ten feet, with added room for a smaller kitchen and bathroom. The futon the two men sat on was still in bed mode. “Um, I always wanted to be rich.”
Doug blew through his lips and waved a limp wrist. “Come on George! That’s what everyone wants! How ’bout when you were a kid?”
George smiled coyly, “A rodeo clown.”
Doug waved a firmer wrist and mimicked a spit, “Rodeo clown?! That’s crap! You don’t want to get your clock cleaned by a half-ton, horned demon horse! If you don’t like what I’m sellin’, I’ll personally buy you a plane ticket to the boonies so you can hitchhike your way to a rodeo. Those rednecks will throw you in the ring for free. Listen! I’m offering you the chance to own a harem with a pool full of tequila!”
“That sounds painful.”
“You’re missin’ the point Georgy-boy.” Doug opened the case with a decent sized monitor, keyboard, and a coil of cable with tiny barbs lining the inside of the roll. “I can give you the world. As much as you want.”
George looked concerned, “You’re gonna wrap a hundred needles around my head?”
“The cable is just to apply the tiny, tiny barbs into your scalp, and take them out the next time you wrap it around your head.” Doug slapped the table, “The boys and girls down at Recall jam a needle from your wrist to your elbow. Then they zap your brain full of irradiated electro-pulses. Does that sound any better?”
Doug laughed before faking another spit and pointing a finger, “Recall is crap! They charge quadruple my rate! And you only get a few days of a fake memory.” He waved over his briefcase, “Now this! You can have a perfect world every day!”
“Okay, how does it work?”
“All right, you know how you’ll just blank out on your way to work? Like you fell asleep the whole way, and BAM! You’re at work!”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Well that’s just our brains’ natural form of hypnosis. Now my fully adjustable dream crown will use that natural hypnosis, and amplify it.”
“Sleepwalking?! That’s cr—well, yeah. Your body will do whatever it needs to do for the day: paper work, eating lunch, even talking to your boss! And by the time you get home, the dream crown convinces your brain that you did whatever you wanted to do.”
“Wow! That is better than Recall!”
“Recall’s cr—I mean exactly! So how bout it Georgy? Two weeks free trial.”
Doug jumped in the back of his van. Computer towers lined every side; he could only enter and exit from the rear doors. Four monitors surrounded Doug’s stool in a semicircle. Every monitor was a live visual feed, with a name in the bottom corner. The clear right bottom monitor rebooted, and read George Simmons.
George was walking down a busy street with shoulder to shoulder pedestrians in raincoats and umbrellas. Doug spun around to three computers hooked up to George’s dream crown.
Doug cracked his fingers and pulled out three keyboards. “All right people. Let’s rob a bank!”
George stepped into a cab, “Fourth and Grant.” In his mind, George was dressed head to toe in a colorful cowboy outfit. In a mirror, he was going back and forth between different clown makeup styles.
Dennis cleaned his glasses as he stepped in from the rain. The bank lobby was vast and full of people. Clerks lined the walls, with guards standing in every corner. Dennis daydreamed of walking through a bar full of beautiful, shirtless men, all giving him approving eyes. In reality, he never knew he was carrying stun grenades under his raincoat.
Tiffany mindlessly assembled a non-lethal sonic solidifier on the bank roof. Her dream crown gave her the vision of powdering her face in a fancy bathroom mirror. Legs peeked through her seductive black dress.
Sandra was in the bank vault with a teller, searching for her lock box. Sandra stabbed a needle into the teller’s neck and eased him to the floor. Her daydream had her wrestling an alligator in the mud.
George got out of the taxi and into the bank. He carried a palm scanner like a tablet, setting up a bypass program. He walked backstage, tipping his hat to the other rodeo clowns. Management dropped off a new barrel for George to wear.
Dennis reached under his coat, pulled a pin, and tossed a stun grenade in the air. A handsome stranger put an arm around Dennis, and offered a wine bottle. Dennis blushed as he popped the cork, and turned the bar into an upheaval of cheers.
The guards were as blind as everyone else. Tiffany descended from a rope through the glass ceiling. She spun like a ballerina, and shot a shockwave into each guard, knocking them unconscious. The man from the underwear commercials spun Tiffany around in a magnificent tango. Spins weaved together with expertly placed steps and bows. She spat the rose from her mouth and Frenched the model.
A few tellers fumbled their way to the secret alarm buttons under their desks. As an emergency measure, the main bank vault started to close. Sandra was already placing her unconscious teller’s palm against an emergency override panel. The vault stayed wide open. Muddy Sandra dragged the gator over to her husband and said, “If you don’t do the dishes, I’m gonna wrestle you in this gator’s mouth!”
George casually walked into the vault. Sandra was scanning the passed-out teller’s hand into a tablet. The two of them received texts with lock box numbers, and they walked together, running palm ID bypass programs. George cautiously walked into the rodeo with another clown. A bucking bull nearly had the cowboy off his back. Sandra hunched over, watching two alligators emerge from the lake.
Tiffany knocked out a few tellers with the sonic solidifier as Dennis drained teller registers into his own tablet. Tiffany threw roses into the crowd around her, smiling wide and laughing. Dennis collected numbers from random, grinning men.
George, Dennis, Tiffany, and Sandra were all captured by the police. Fortunately for Doug, the oblivious robbers had uploaded money to offshore accounts, but couldn’t get the lock box stash to the drop off.
Doug calmly exited the rear of the van, only to be met by four cops with sonic solidifiers. “Freeze!” Before he could react, two cops restrained him, and a third ran a scanner over his scalp. “Yep. He’s wired, too.”
Doug asked, “Wired?”
The third cop slung his non-lethal rifle and pulled a thick cable from his vest. She wrapped it around Doug’s head. Reality rushed into Doug’s spotlight, his daydream broken. “Oh no. No. This can’t be real.”
The cops dragged Doug to the rear of their own van and put him in with George, Dennis, Tiffany, and Sandra. One cop entered and latched the door behind her. Everyone sat and stared at Doug.
George shook his head, “You used my fantasy to rob a bank?” The other three stared for the same answer.
Doug raised his cuffed hands to his head and said, “Hey, I was crowned too.”
Looks of surprise and doubt split the back of the van. Sandra leaned in, “Well what if you got away?”
“I don’t know. I thought I was a war hero on Mars.”
The cop shook her head. “Okay, all five of you, just go to Recall next time.”