Dreamtown U. S. A.
BY LEO P. KELLEY
Here is another look at the America of tomorrow—by a
Wilkes College sophomore, winner of the 3rd prize in IF's
College Science Fiction Contest.... An America in which
there is no more school, no more art, no more enterprise,
no more intellectual pursuit—a nation of hedonists.
And in such a land, how could there be malcontents?
[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Worlds of If Science Fiction, February 1955.
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]
The girl's body was small, slender, and perfectly proportioned. Herhair had been dyed platinum and was drawn back from her face by a meshnet which sparkled with red jewels. She stood in the middle of theroom, head tilted back, eyes closed, moving in time to the music comingfrom an invisible transmitter. Her hands glided sinuously up and downeither side of her body. She seemed oblivious to the people circlingthe room enjoying Gil Patton's party. It was only when she heardBrant's voice that she opened her eyes.
"Lisa, you go for that stuff, I see," Brant called to her, referringto the music being piped into the room from one of Dreamtown's manySensory Communications Centers.
"It's really out of this world, Brant, way out, all out!" Lisa replied.She came over and sat on the arm of the chair in which Brant sprawled.
"You can feel it way down here," she said, and placed her hand on thepit of her stomach.
"Wonder how we ever got kicks out of that old stuff that you couldn'tfeel?" Brant asked as he placed his arm about Lisa's waist. "Justhearing music doesn't give you any glow."
Brant slid farther down in the chair and stretched his legs out beforehim. The bluish light in the room glinted from the highly polishedsurface of his knee length boots. He wore loose-fitting yellow trousersand a black suede shirt split open almost to the waist, revealing hischest.
"Have you tried one of Gil's new pebbles?" he asked Lisa.
"No, what's new about them?" she asked. She wriggled into Brant's lapand rubbed her cheek against his chest.
"They're slaughter. Instead of just getting a deeper feeling from realexperiences, you can sit back and imagine something—anything—and youcan feel the sensations of your fantasy. You can feel all that way downhere, too," he said, touching, in repetition of Lisa's gesture, the pitof her stomach.
"Get me one, Brant. Let's see what goes."
Brant lifted Lisa to her feet and rose from the chair. His bootsclicked against the green metal floor as he pushed his way throughthe crowd of merry makers toward a transparent glass bubble which wassuspended from the ceiling by a silver chain. He pushed back thedispenser on the bubble and a cylindrical pill rolled out onto hishand. He carried it back to where Lisa sat swaying to the music whichcontinued to fill the room.
"Here child. This will really give you a dream," he said as he handedher the pill.
Brant watched Lisa sink into the half coma that the sensation pillsproduced. He leaned over and kissed her shoulder. Then he straightenedand moved across the room to where Gil Patton stood in front of aglass wall which afforded a panoramic view of the entire city.
"Good party, Gil," Brant said to his host.
"I hoped it wouldn't be sad. Anything clicking?"
Brant pointed to Lisa. "She is. Been trying your new pebbles."
"How's the Assistant Director of Sensory Communications doing thesedays?" Gil asked as they walked across the room to a plastic table onwhich rested bowls of red, green, and yellow liquors.
"Right and light. We've got a new show scheduled to go on theDistributor Cable in about another month. Runs twenty minutes two timesa day. Morning and night. A serial about the Council."
Gil turned to Brant with a drink in his hand. "Thought nobody knewanything about the Council except that they run Dreamtown."
"No one does know very much about them. No one's ever seen themactually. But we've heard rumors that the Rebels have been influencingsome of our citizens and word has come down to build this show formorale purposes."
"Why, that's crazy. Who'd want to go back to the way it was before?Those Rebels are out of their heads!"
Brant smiled. "Right man. But there are still some of them operatingin the less populated areas. The Watchers brought in seven men and awoman last week from somewhere south of here. They found books in theirhideout and even some paintings that one of the Rebels claimed to havedone by hand."
Gil whistled through his teeth. "You'd think they'd get with it andcome back here. What are they getting out of this rebellion?"
Brant reached over and touched Gil's arm.
"Just between us, friend. Before they psychwashed these Rebels theyfound out that they had been plotting with other Rebel groups tooverthrow Dreamtown. The Council has every available Watcher on theirtrail."
"Couldn't ever happen, Brant. They don't have anything to fight with.Books. Pictures. They'll wise up and come over to us. Wait and see."
Brant shrugged. "They forget we're living in 2054 and the Big War'sbeen over for nearly seventy years. They still think the old way waspretty good. But Gil, boy, we're getting serious. Let's stack it! TheWatchers will get them. It's not our problem."
The girl was gazing through one of the windows in the small farmhousekitchen. A wild flower was pinned in her long, auburn hair and itmatched, almost perfectly, the blue of her eyes. Even in slacks shewas, not beautiful, but a wonderfully pretty girl of twenty four orfive.
"I wonder when he'll be back, Dad. It's been almost two days and I—I'mworried."
"He had a long trip to make, Nancy. Longer than usual because he hadto make a detour around Dreamtown in order to get down to Ben's group.It's all of forty miles south of here. Don't you worry. He'll be backsoon."
The girl came away from the window and kissed Professor Alan Corbetton the forehead. "You're wonderful, Dad. So calm and sensible aboutthings. I get scared though when I think of Dan going so close toDreamtown. The Watchers patrol for miles around the city and they'dknow Dan was a Rebel in a minute because of his clothes."
"Dan won't get caught, Nancy. You get busy now and make some coffee andstop worrying," Professor Corbett smiled. "And afterward we'll play alittle gin rummy if you feel like it."
Nancy got up from the table and put the coffee pot on the stove. Herfather turned back to the book lying open on the table before him.
"This is such a treasure, Nancy. I wonder if you fully realize it." Itwas a copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare. "There areonly five copies of this still in existence to my knowledge; althoughthere is a man in Ben's group who has been copying it by hand on paperthey've stolen from Dreamtown. Only five copies. There might be more,but we haven't been able to find them."
Nancy poured steaming coffee into her father's cup and then into herown. She sat across from him at the table and watched as he lovinglyexamined the book in his hands.
"Listen to this, Nancy."
Nancy listened to Professor Corbett's quiet voice.
"It's beautiful, Dad."
Nancy watched her father as his eyes scanned the rest of the page. "Youlove books, don't you?" she asked softly.
Her father looked up and took off his glasses. "Yes, Nancy, I guessI do. Teaching in the University was the greatest thing in my lifebecause I was able to spend so much time with books. And, you know, ina way, they weren't just books, they were like old friends. Socrates,Aristotle, Chaucer, Shakespeare—all the others. Every time I pickedup one of those books it was like meeting old friends. And you neverreally get tired of old friends, you know. As the years go by theybecome dearer to you and you learn to appreciate their true value."Professor Corbett smiled a little sadly. "Nancy, it almost broke myheart when the Council abolished the schools and colleges and burnedthe books. That was the reason I joined the Rebels ever so long ago.And, of course, there were many others who felt as I did."
Nancy sipped the hot coffee and watched her father drift into hisreverie about the old days before there had been a Council or Watchersand when Dreamtown had really been just what the name implied. A dreamcity of books and learning and hard working men and women trying to puta civilization back on its feet after the disastrous Big War. Nancythought of the kind of dreams that were dreamed in the city now. Dreamsof pleasure and sensation. Empty dreams. Vapid dreams.
"Do you know what the Council set up in place of the schools, Nancy?They built the biggest and brightest and most terrible playgrounds inthe world. Children were taught to fight and to play; and the ones whofought hardest, regardless of rules, were considered the championsin each playground. They didn't bother to learn anything; they justplayed...." His voice trailed off.
Nancy and her father drank their coffee in silence, each of them alonewith their thoughts. Professor Corbett was back in his Universityclassroom filled with the smell of chalk and the musty odor of books,and Nancy was out in the dark night somewhere with Dan, making theperilous journey to Ben's Rebel group.
A sudden sound on the porch shocked both of them back to reality.Professor Corbett quickly dropped his book into a drawer of the table,rose and walked past Nancy who stared at the door with a mixture ofhope and fear on her face. A soft knock sounded and, after a moment'shesitation, Nancy's father unbolted and opened the door.
A tall young man wearing an old pair of blue jeans and a shirt fromwhich most of the buttons were missing stood in the doorway.
"Dan!" Nancy shouted and ran across the room and into his arms.
His huge frame almost filled the doorway, as he bowed, his blonde headto murmur reassurances to Nancy, who cried with relief at having himsafely back.
"I'm alright, darling,—but I'm afraid I've got bad news," Dan said. Hereleased Nancy, keeping one of her hands in his. When the three of themwere seated Dan spoke.
"The Watchers must have gotten Ben and the others. The place was ashambles. Everything was destroyed. They probably took the group toDreamtown. If they did, you know what that means."
"Psychwashing," Professor Corbett muttered. He dropped his head in hishands. "Then you couldn't get the books?" he asked sadly.
"No. They had been burned. And so had Ben's paintings. We can'twait any longer, Alan. We've got to organize and we've got to raidDreamtown. We can't go on like this anymore!"
Nancy tightened her grip on Dan's hand as Professor Corbett raised hishead and nodded. "You're right, Dan," he said. "We can't afford to waitany longer."
With a slight hum the large video panel in the ceiling of Brant'sapartment clicked on automatically. To the accompaniment of shrilllaughter in the background, the announcer told Brant and the otherviewers that they were about to witness the next installment in theadventures of "The Pretty People." Brant stretched in his bed andgroaned from the effects of the party the night before. He watchedthrough half closed eyes as The Pretty People in their harlequincostumes chased each other about a meadow filled with artificialflowers. In spite of his discomfort Brant chuckled when Mannequina,with a violent blow, knocked Manequin from a large toadstool on whichhe had been seated. He laughed again as he watched Manequin roll down ahill and land in a giant mud puddle at the bottom.
Brant eased himself out of bed and walked unsteadily to the cubicle inone corner of the room, stepped in, and closed the plastic door behindhim. He rubbed his eyes and stretched as the soothing vigoro-senso raysremoved the last traces of the discomfort brought on by too