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The Converse

I wrote this story after a night of vivid dreams while on holiday in Nantes, France. Is the professor dead or dying, or is the woman just trying to keep him in the dream? And either way, how long can he stay where he is?

"What do you think happens to people in a dream when the dreamer wakes up?" she asked.
He thought about the question, and looked at her. She was pale and slender, with long black hair, dark eyes, and an accent he could not quite place. They were sitting in a favorite cafe of his, sipping coffee.
"Well..." he said, thinking it through. "There are no 'people' as such. It's all just in the dreamer's imagination. So there's no them for anything to happen to, if you follow."
"An interesting view," she said, neutrally. "And what do you do for the living?"
"For a living," he said, and regretted correcting the minor error. "I'm a professor. Mathematics--logic, and probability."
"A logician? How wonderful. So, if when you die in your dream then you die in your sleep, then if you die in your sleep, do you die in your dream?" she asked, rhythmically, as if it were a poem.
He was distracted by the rhythm, but he untangled the sentence and said "No. No, that doesn't follow. It's A implies B versus B implies A. The converse, not the same as the original proposition."
"Converse, like in conversation?" she asked.
"Not quite," he said, but he wondered if they had the same root. Maybe he could look it up. He started to reach for his phone, but she touched his arm lightly and asked, in her slightly-off accent, "And where was it you taught?"
He thought, but could not quite remember. And come to that, where exactly were they? And who was she? He felt some alarm, and started to move to get up.
"So, professor," she said, and put just a little downward pressure on him. "Here we are, in the converse-ing. Suppose you think you are dreaming, and you try to wake up. Are you sure you will like what you find? Could someone die in his sleep, but live on in his dream? What would you bet?" And she pushed the cafetiere over to him, and smiled.
He paused for a couple of moments to think. "It seems foolish to risk it," he said to her at last, and poured himself some more coffee.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Author Comments

Philip Apps is a data scientist who lives in California with his wife and daughter. This is his second published story.

- Philip Apps
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