Researchers figured out how to communicate with people in REM sleep, getting sleepers to answer simple math questions, count flashing lights, and answer yes or no questions.
Before subjects fell asleep, they were told how to answer the questions: eye or facial muscle movements. Then, researchers used audio (words or beeps), visual (flashing lights), or tactile (light touches) cues to ask their questions.
The subjects were woken up after answering the questions and talked about their dreams. There were reports of hearing the narrator’s voice while at a party, seeing flashing overhead lights in a room, and feeling finger taps while fighting goblins.
The questions came through as both overlaid over the dream or came from a source within the dream. Anyone watching WandaVision—think about the agent’s voice coming through the radio.
Turning this into a story, let’s spin this technology further and have a researcher figure out how to insert themselves into the dream.
The story is about the researcher. Each day, they go into other people’s dreams as a form of therapy, helping them deal with PTSD, depression, or anxiety by addressing the trauma beneath.
We see the effects dropping into the dream world has on the researcher as they slowly become burnt out and lose the line between what’s real and what’s a dream. “Inception”, anyone?
The kicker is when a client comes in who uses the researcher to deal with post-war trauma. The researcher suffers their own trauma while helping the man deal with his, and they uncover that their ancestor was in an ancient war—the trauma has passed through the generations.
As the story unfolds, the researcher continues helping people with their own issues and, after work, goes into another dream state where they relive the events from long ago. Let’s call it the Maya battling the Spanish in the 1500s. Like “Assassins Creed,” in book form.
The researcher helps their ancestor end the war in favor of the natives, and they wake up in an entirely different timeline. Then, when they dream, they see their old self, helping people deal with their trauma.