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Narcoleptic Fruit

Paul Jessup has been publishing in the genre market for around 20 years now. He's had works in Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, Postscripts Nightmare Magazine, Interzone, Strange Horizons, and many more. He has a book out from Apex Books called ?Close Your Eyes, a short story collection from PS Publications called Class Coffin Girls, and another book coming out in April of next year called The Silence that Binds, from Vernacular Books.

Goldenboy sat down under the tree of thirteen lights and bit deep into the Narcoleptic Fruit. You could taste the Saturn on the edges of it, that tangy sour burnt ozone taste that only comes from Saturn's hanging gardens. He'd only been there twice in his lifetime, and he stared in awe at the lush gardens dangling off the side of the floating cities. The fruit was ripe and haunted by small flies that seemed to get into everything.
They were kinda like gnats, but not. They bit and stung and protected the fruit from any predators, including stowaway thieves like Goldenboy himself. He knew what to do, had a chainmail glove and everything. This fruit was worth every single risk he'd taken, and worth every single headhunter in the galaxy looking for his scrambled face. The never found him, he was too smart for that, too well connected.
He lay back, leaned his head against the tree, bit down once more on the fruit and let the juices roll up and numb his tongue. Already his lips trembled, his eyes fiercely dilated, tears running down his cheek, and this melancholy fire leapt about in his heart. He would be okay, he just had to endure this a little longer.
Once the sleep came on and came on fierce, the dreams would be vivid and bright and multifaceted. They said they could predict the future, they said it could see routes through space and time that no other pilot could ever imagine. It had wormhole seeds and that clung to your stomach for weeks on end. But the dreams.... Oh those dreams! He recorded them now, making sure it was sent right up to the cloud server on Io.
That was the blessing and the curse of this dream fruit, once you woke you always forgot what you dreamed. But if you recorded it, oh, if you backed it up? Such wild memories would come pouring back. Thirteen lifetimes across various parallel dimensions and timelines. Various future incarnations, various paths not taken and then taken again. You could live a million versions of yourself, and each and every one would fall to misery or sorrow. All except for one, that one perfect glorious timeline that was within your reach.
All you had to do was dream it, record it, and sit through the whole thing the next day, meticulously keeping track of the different choices and angles and the way each forking path ended. Some people couldn't handle the memories, sometimes they lost it and killed themselves and refused to believe any of it was true. But Goldenboy knew he could take it, he knew he could steel himself up and peer through each of those memories and find that one, that one shimmering one that worked out.
The hard part was watching himself die over and over and over again. He knew he could handle it, he practiced with several VR games and servers, using his own face as an avatar, to experience the numbness of his own death.
Ah, and here it comes now, roaring in and powerful. That great sleep tempting to him onwards. Already eyes drooped and images of dancing cats lay behind his lids. They beckoned him forward and he followed.
Later on they would find his body still asleep by the tree. He'd fallen into a coma, the narcoleptic fruit tainted by the Gardeners of Saturn, overripened and gnat tainted, filled with those cursed sleeping maggots, their venom mixing with the fruit's chemistry and amplifying it a millionfold. They'd known Goldenboy was coming for them, and they had been prepared.
Too bad for him that his dream was now an endless cycle of seeing himself in a coma seeing himself in a coma seeing himself in a coma, a mirror facing a mirror facing a mirror. After all, there was only one path for his future now, and there was no way he could escape it. Not in any of the other million dimensions where he lay asleep, waiting for his trial and execution.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 15th, 2020

Author Comments

I was doing the dishes, and playing with word combinations that sounded interesting, when the phrase Narcoleptic Fruit popped into my head. It sounded interesting and unique, and I wanted to find out exactly what this meant. I thought I should add some ideas I had about Venus and human colonies in floating cloud cities, and I wanted a main character similar to Benjacomin Bozart (from the short story "Mother Hitton's Littul Kittons," by Cordwainer Smith). With those few concepts in mind, I sat down and wrote the entire thing in one sitting. It felt like I was reading it as I was writing it. I really enjoyed writing this one.

- Paul Jessup
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