The old man loads another cartridge of glimmering sand into the dreamthrower, then takes aim. Each of its three scopes rattles into alignment as he turns the crank, wrapping a collection of infrared crosshairs around the teenage skateboarder’s face. His weapon’s ribs glow brightly in the midnight fog. “God damn insomniac kids,” he yells. “For the last time, stop fucking around with the city’s circadians!”

He squeezes the trigger, and a jet of powdered light blasts from the long barrel, narrowly missing its target. The corkscrew splatters against a warehouse’s brick wall, staining it with fireworks. The skater is rattled from his board by the flash of liquid sparks, but still manages to disappear into a nearby alleyway. Laughter erupts from somewhere nearby. “What’s the matter, sandman? Need to rest your eyes for a bit?”

The skateboarder had merely been bait; now, a whole pack of insomniacs have him surrounded. He can see their silhouettes approaching from all sides, armed with baseball bats and bicycle chains. Tonight just isn’t his night. He sweeps the dreamthrower from left to right in a broad gesture, but doesn’t actually pull the trigger- he knows that if even one goes down, the rest will take him out. They know it, too.

“I’ll tell you what’s the matter,” he manages through gritted teeth. “Everyone needs to dream in this town, for everyone else’s sake! The losing of teeth, the running in place, hell, even the nudity in public- all those things we dream of keep our brains running on schedule. You kids, though, you’d rather see all that smeared across the pavement. Without that rhythm, cars crash, pipes burst, houses burn down, and for what? So you can dick around out here?”

“Is that seriously what people like you dream about?” their leader steps forward. His eyes are bloodshot, yet somehow serene. “It sounds like your dreams suck, sandman. But this? This is how we dream.”