I was to give the keynote speech. Corporate luminaries from every corner of the galaxy were there. All the cognoscenti were there. The greatest and most magnificent intellects of all time were there. It was to be a magnificent speech. More than just magnificent, it was to herald in the New Epoch. It was to usher in a new age, a new era. It was a solemn yet joyous occasion; the air of expectation was palpable. You could reach out and touch it – it had a texture like cold smooth marble.
All of this was a hallucination created by the fantasy machine of course. It was a fantasy created by the hallucination machine and the dials were all turned up to the max. I was in my own private reality bubble. I was standing on the podium, about to address the assembled multitude. I was about to utter the words that everyone was waiting to hear and the tension was palpable. There was a background hum like an electricity substation that was being stretched to the very limit. Little mauve tongues of static electricity were frantically licking the air, looking for their chance to jump, looking for their chance to leap. Something was about to give and all of us there knew it.
Someone had overclocked the hallucination machine and all the circuits were starting to dangerously overheat. An uneasy vibration had set in, a dangerous feedback oscillation. The dials were flickering widely, their needles swinging viciously and repeatedly into the red. The smell of ozone filled the air and everything was starting to feel frighteningly surreal – the hallucination machine was malfunctioning and I didn’t want to hang around to see what happened next! It was guaranteed to be bad. I couldn’t move though – I was trapped in the hallucination and I knew there was no chance of me ever escaping from it. Time itself had been stretched beyond breaking point; it was fracturing around all around me like a vast planet-wide mirror that had been struck by an immense sledgehammer. It was fracturing in slow motion and the more the fracture lines spread the slower time went. I knew then beyond any doubt that I was trapped in a nightmare.
I realised that I had to say the important thing and I didn’t know what the important thing was. Everyone was waiting to hear me say it, their faces distorting and becoming unrecognisable. My attention was fully captured by the horror of the situation and I knew that this moment would last forever. The hallucination machine had malfunctioned, I realised. I was trying to think of the important thing but nothing came to me; some of the faces in the crowd were nodding encouragingly at me, urging me to come out with it. Everyone I had ever known in my entire life was in that audience. Hideously and grotesquely distorted though the faces were, I could – incongruously – recognise them without any difficulty. Say the important thing, the distorted faces were urging me, say the thing that everyone is waiting for you to say.
The fantasy machine had gone off the rails and there was no way that anyone was going to ever get it back on them again. The hallucination machine had come loose from its moorings and was lurching wildly around the room. There was a terrible knocking sound, like an ultra high-speed centrifuge that had been incorrectly loaded. Something was about to break. All the same, I had to go ahead and deliver my keynote speech. I could not get out of it. There was no getting out of making the speech – everyone was looking at me, willing me to go ahead. ‘Speak the words,’ they told me telepathically, ‘speak the words that are going to usher in the New Epoch…’