I have a pretty suggestible subconscious. There's a reason I can't watch horror movies anywhere close to bedtime (or zombie movies, ever). Generally speaking, I remember at least one dream a night, often two or even three. It could be that some of my dreams are fractured and I'm remembering one dream as two, since I can "change the channel" thanks to a technique I picked up when I was struggling with nightmares. I often say I dream in short story - I can often have a fully fleshed out plot in my sleep, and many of my dreams don't involve me at all. I watch something play out instead. It can be quite lovely.
Or, like last night, I can star in the dream and have a pretty dark time of it. Last night's dream was kind of like that: it was a science fiction prison dream.
And it was because I read this particular story before bedtime.
I'll never learn.
"The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae," by Brad R. Torgersen
Sometimes in really good science fiction, the setting is as much a character as the rest of the cast. This is one such example, from the anthology "Beyond the Sun," set on a world with a very slow rotational period and the resultant exceptionally hot days near the equator. This planet does have, however, abundant clay, and said clay - superheated with mirror kilns in those equatorial areas - makes for bricks, and those bricks mean a local building product with which to continue the process of making this planet a paradise.
And criminals are the ones making the bricks. It's a perfect prison - small portable homes for these prisoners are brought with the attendant guard, and they work their butts off, make bricks, and the bricks are sent back. If they run away, they'll just die of the heat and dehydration.
The man telling the tale is close to his parole, and realizing that this way of life is about to potentially end for him - and wondering where he can go from there - when another prisoner puts everything in jeopardy. Where the story goes, and how Torgersen manages to evoke some real empathy for the prisoners, is a welcome surprise.
And spawned some great dreams.