Mistress Nicole Coffin loved her femmebot harem, or, as she often fondly referred to it, her “doll collection.” She had accumulated eight of them: Lea, Snow, Adia, Tabitha, Diamond, Lola, Ivy, and her favorite, Galatea.
Unlike most Mistresses, she didn’t keep her femmebots with her in her own home. She lived alone in her real house, and had had the guest house by the pond at the back of her property remodeled into her “doll house.” She’d had a fresh coat of paint put on the exterior, but aside from that, the outside of the two-story Victorian building hadn’t been altered. The remodeling had been much more extensive on the inside. After having walls added to create more, smaller rooms, she’d had oversized furniture put in, as befitting a doll house. Some of the rooms were designed to look like those found in an actual, traditional doll house, with an emphasis on fragility and languor, with burgundy or cream or pale pink wallpaper, candles, rosebuds in crystal vases, plump pillows, brass cages, wooden canes and ivory hairbrushes and bundles of birch, overstuffed couches, pastoral artwork, collections of actual dolls of porcelain, and plenty of velvet and tassels and lace. One such room had an electric fireplace, beside a window facing the pond. The kitchen had been designed to look like one out of the 1950’s. Other rooms had been brought fully up to speed with the 23rd century, with black or metallic red or silver wallpaper, sleek aluminum sculptures of female nudes, wall sconces that held light bulbs of various colors, vinyl-upholstered furniture, o-rings bolted to the walls and floors in strategic places, metal paddles and rubber branding-hoops, CGR units and sensor-suits, electrostim units and aluminum probes, and computers installed. One of these rooms had a glass wall fountain, while another boasted an aquarium in which mechanical fish swam amongst swaying plastic plants.
Mistress Nicole had her own bedroom in the dollhouse, though she rarely actually slept in it, preferring usually to spend nights in one of the dolls’ rooms. Each “doll” had her own tiny bedroom, with a décor appropriate to her personality. Galatea had been programmed to have a rubber fetish—she loved all things having to do with it, and wore dramatic, flattering latex outfits. Like all of Mistress Nicole’s dolls, Galatea was anatomically correct and sexually responsive. Unlike all of them, she bore the appearance of a human woman, with two exceptions: she had an old-fashioned wind-up key in her back (which could be removed temporarily if necessary, as it was really just for show, even though it did turn), and there was a square of her warm, lifelike silicone skin which could be peeled aside so that her mechanical heart could be observed through a little plastic “window,” working and beating inside her. Adia had been created to look like a rag-doll, only a human adult-sized, distinctly feminine rag-doll, with the powers of speech and independent movement. She wore patchwork silk dresses, sometimes gothic-styled, sometimes multicolored, and bows in her “hair,” which actually consisted of different-colored wigs of yarn or rubber. Underneath her cushy silk “skin,” she was made of silicone and titanium just like any other femmebot, but it was impossible to tell by looking or even touching or embracing her, so skillful had been her construction. Mistress Nicole had had Adia programmed to remove and wash her own “hair” and “skin” on a regular basis, so that she didn’t have to see Adia’s underlying workings and the rag-doll illusion could be maintained. Lea and Lola had been programmed to believe they were twin sisters. Lola cooked, while Lea was the maid. They both looked more or less like the ordinary, humanoid femmebots which were such a common sight whenever one was out and about in public. The same could be said of Tabitha’s physical appearance, except that she had been programmed to dress and act like a modest Victorian lady. Diamond, on the other hand, was a steampunk fan’s wet dream. She had a cylindrical, translucent torso through which the cogs, chips, and wires that made up her inner workings could be seen, metal limbs, a rubber vulva, and a metallic, mannequin-like head with glowing blue eyes and spiky copper hair. She had to be oiled regularly, and Mistress Nicole liked doing this. Mistress Nicole had given Diamond a “pet”—a mechanical cat named Rocket, which spent its days moseying haphazardly in and out of the doll house’s rooms and enjoying the attention of both the Mistress and the dolls. Ivy was the most rugged of the bunch, a denim-and-sandal-wearing outdoorsy type whose duty it was to care meticulously for the garden behind the doll house, and the surrounding grounds. Snow was a life-size porcelain woman, with glass eyes that opened and closed. She wore a lot of lace and crystals and pearls, and was the most fragile of the Mistress’s dolls. Mistress Nicole enjoyed making up her pale, pretty face, and dressing her in taffeta and sequined evening dresses. No casual observer would have been able to guess at the complex robotic limbs and motors underneath Snow’s surface—in fact, unlike the other dolls, Snow had been programmed to move only when Mistress Nicole either verbally commanded her to, or physically guided her along or posed her.
On this particular evening, the sky was crowded with gray clouds, as it had been all day. The Los Angeles skyline was barely visible over the tops of the trees lining the edges of her property. Suitcase in hand, she stepped out her backdoor, strolled around the side of the pond, and went up the front steps and across the porch of the doll house. She could hear the sound of Peggy Blu’s sixth album, “Broken Moon,” washing through the interior like cool emerald and silver waves. The CD consisted entirely of jazzed-up covers of songs by long-dead rockers. While Mistress Nicole unlocked the door, Peggy’s minimalistic, piano-driven rendition of “Asphyxiate,” by the Genitorturers, was just segueing into “Bad People Kiss,” a Marc Almond ballad celebrating a lust of apocalyptic proportions.
As soon as she stepped inside, Lea was there to take her suitcase and arrange her things in her bedroom as she wanted. Mistress Nicole saw Rocket and went over to pet its warm brass body for a minute or two. The cat’s little green light bulb eyes glowed and blinked, its motor purred and tail twitched, and then it gave a metallic mew and wandered off, likely looking for Diamond.
Each doll greeted the Mistress as she wandered contentedly through the various rooms, wanting to start off slowly—three-day weekends were all too rare. All the plush, luxurious beds were made, Lea was building up a fire in the hearth, and everything was in order. The Mistress loved taking care of her dolls, sometimes brushing their hair, sometimes bathing them, undressing them and tucking them in at the end of a long night of voluptuous games, and choosing which one (or ones) she wanted to either take to her room, or slip into their bed and snuggle with until sleep came.
Roughly half the time, Mistress Nicole shut her femmebots down when she left the doll house, and switched them back on the next time she walked in desiring their company and service. The rest of the time, she let them continue running while she was out, because it was nice to step into the doll house and be immediately embraced by a sense of warmth and life (even if it was artificial). Besides, it amused her to think her dolls had “lives” of their own while she wasn’t present. She didn’t need to worry that she might walk in to find things in a state of disarray, or catch her dolls at a moment when they weren’t ready for her arrival. They existed only for her, and had no ambition beyond pleasing her and refining themselves as servants, companions, and lovers for her, no desires of their own save for those programmed into them, and no distractions. At Mistress Nicole’s request, they had each been programmed to be able to experience all emotions except anger, jealousy, and boredom. None of them had any wish to go anywhere beyond the borders of the Mistress’s property. They were designed to lapse into a contemplative state when they were on but not immediately needed and had no chores to perform at the moment, and to maintain their constant arousal by meditating upon erotic images in their “minds” while in this state.
Every room, no matter its design, contained at least one speaker that was connected with a central sound system, so Mistress Nicole could listen to music no matter what she was doing or where she was in the doll house.
“Adia,” the Mistress called, “switch the music. Put on another Peggy Blu album. You know which one.” Peggy could do a hell of a cover, making every note she sang or played her own, but Mistress Nicole still preferred her original works when all was said and done, and she knew what she wanted to listen to that night.
“Yes, Mistress,” came the eager reply. Her dolls craved serving her and delighted in even the smallest tasks.
Mistress Nicole’s favorite CD to listen to while in the doll house was “Hot Lady, Black Magic,” Peggy Blu’s eighth album. Within a minute, the opening chords of the first track—”Whipcut Roses,” Peggy’s deeply personal ode to the bliss of her relationship with her Slave– reached out to Mistress Nicole, an auditory caress which stiffened her clit. She often had this CD kept on a continuous loop during her overnight stays in the doll house, and she felt that the sexily sinuous piano notes wove an unbreakable spell about the structure, and that the lush orchestral electronica accompanying the contralto’s gothic lyrics induced a state of wakeful dreaming in both herself and her femmebots.
She called for Tabitha and Diamond to come to her. She took them to the main computer room, down on the first floor, and put them both into a dormant standby state so that she could hook them up to the modem and do some toying with their software without their being aware of what she was doing.
To the outside world, Mistress Nicole Coffin was known internationally as a filmmaker. Her obsessive fondness for arranging and controlling was so great and so ingrained in her nature, it carried over into her private, erotic life. She knew she could never love a human like she loved her predictable, ardently compliant dolls. So what if she was the neighborhood eccentric? She didn’t care.
Each doll contained in her hard drive a core set of permanent personality traits and the Mistress saw to it that their memory chips were updated frequently, but beyond this, anything went—unlike most Mistresses, she enjoyed occasionally hooking her femmebots up to a computer and altering certain details about them which weren’t part of their permanent, basic personalities. Whenever the Mistress discovered a new turn-on, or her psyche developed yet another fetish, she programmed one or more of her dolls with the same fascination and a desire to learn as much as possible about it. Sometimes she programmed one or more of them to believe they were human, or to crave a certain food, or to have spontaneous orgasms at random, unexpected moments, or to believe they were from a different planet, temporarily and for no reason other than her amusement. From time to time, she deactivated the monogamy settings on all her dolls for a night so that she could orchestrate an orgy (with the exception of Galatea, who she put in her room, and either shut her down or chained her up for its duration), sometimes in order to sit back and indulge her inner voyeur, sometimes so she could join in and immerse herself in their frenzy of simultaneous lovemaking. It was because of this that she’d recently bought a massively oversized mirror and hung it in the sitting room downstairs—it covered the entire wall it hung upon and, during an orgy, imparted the illusion of the room being larger and containing even more participants than were actually there.
More than anything else about her submissive toys, she got off on controlling and playing with their minds.
The default setting on all eight dolls’ fidelity was monogamy, with all their attraction, arousal, and desire being focused solely upon their Mistress. She adjusted this now on Diamond and Tabitha, to make it so that they would feel irresistibly attracted to one another. The two of them would try to fight this emotion, but within a few hours, their horniness for each other would be so painfully powerful, it would override their guilt, and they would sneak away to fuck. After getting off on spying on their illicit intimacies (unbeknownst to the femmebots, she’d had peepholes drilled into the walls of every room in the house as part of the renovations), Mistress Nicole would walk in and pretend to catch them, pretend to be angry, and use this as a pretext for administering a swift, severely painful punishment to each of them. Then, she would take them back to the main computer, put them into dormancy, wipe their memories of the incident (no sense in them being tormented by guilt, when they had only played out their Mistress’s fantasy, albeit without their awareness or consent), shut them down and boot them back up, and carry on as if nothing had happened. Mistress Nicole knew all of this would happen, because she had done this to Diamond and Tabitha, and to all the other dolls except for Galatea, before. (Doing this with Lea and Lola, and observing but pretending not to notice how hard the two “sisters” were trying not to give in to their appalling urges towards infidelity, or their added shock and shame at their desires being “incestuous,” was especially amusing.)
Having completed her alterations, Mistress Nicole shut Diamond and Tabitha down, and booted them back up so the alterations would take effect. As soon as the two femmebots looked at each other, the lust in their eyes was apparent, but it would be quite a bit later in the night when that lust reached the can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other, damn-the-consequences culmination it was set to build to in agonizingly slow increments. Hiding her amusement, she sent them on their way to continue with whatever tasks they’d been at before.
The Mistress went up to Lola’s room, chose a pair of red latex panties from her drawer, found and cleaned a thick, flexible purple dildo of modest length, and took these downstairs to the kitchen. Dinner in the doll house was always at midnight, but Lola always started early with her elaborate preparations, filling the kitchen with the dull thud of drawers and cupboards, the whisper of steel and glass and machinery, and the busily-ringing click of her high heels against the yellow tile. Mistress Nicole set the panties and dildo down on a counter, and had Lola pause in her work. With few words, she got Lola bent over with her tits flat against the long wooden table at the center of the brightly-lit room upon which most of the bowls and herbs and cutting-boards and such were set out, and her feet firmly apart. She lifted and bunched the femmebot’s short pink vinyl skirt so that it would stay in a firm, tight crinkle up around her waist, and took her time indulging in the pleasure of inspecting the impressive bruises she was so proud to have recently bestowed upon her thighs and buttocks, and spreading and pinching the labia which hung on such prominent display between her legs. Lola’s yielding clish-hole was already very wet of course, with how turned on she was by performing her duty as the Mistress’s cook, and her lips and her firm, rosy love-button only swelled further at Mistress Nicole’s feathery, playful touches. She had Lola step into the latex panties, pull them halfway up her thighs, and then take up the bent-over, spread position again.
Mistress Nicole picked up a wooden spoon and reddened Lola’s pert rear with an impromptu sprinkling of sharp smacks, knowing she was exacerbating the tenderness of her recently-bruised flesh, lighting the fire anew as she told her, “This is just a little preview of what you have to look forward to. I’m going to add to your bruises later tonight.”
Lola was still moaning in pained delight as Mistress Nicole set the spoon aside and retrieved the dildo. She touched the tip of the toy to Lola’s silicone sex-hole, and it responded immediately, opening itself up into a wide-set gape, and then tightening back down in a welcoming hug around the dildo once it had been slid all the way in. Still, she was so wet, the only way to ensure it would remain in place was to have her wear the tight rubber panties, which she told Lola to pull the rest of the way up. She had Lola lower and smooth her skirt back down, and ordered her to her knees. Lola crawled across the kitchen behind her. Mistress Nicole unzipped the fly that ran the entire length of the crotch of her gleaming-black latex pants from her Venus mound to her ass. Leaning back with her forearms resting against a countertop and her legs spread and hips thrust out to expose her pantiless sex, she told Lola to lick her, and return to her dinner preparations after bringing her to one orgasm.
“The Summer Of Lust,” which was track three on “Hot Lady, Black Magic,” was playing in the background, and Mistress Nicole half-listened to the perversely hot lyrics while Lola’s tongue stroked her. She knew the melody and words by heart. The song was about a woman who’d returned from college to stay with her mother for the summer, somehow ended up talking with her mother about everything she’d learned about sexuality and her own body, and went on to spend the summer first teaching her mother about the different ways to please herself, and then indulging in lesbian love with her. Without Mistress Nicole even trying, her own very real orgasm coincided with the lyrics in the song describing the mother’s orgasm under the caresses of the daughter’s warm, gentle mouth.
Lola thanked her Mistress for the privilege of sexually pleasuring her, and rose to her feet and continued her work. She was flushed and flustered, and the rise and fall of her tits was more pronounced. It was with much satisfaction that Mistress Nicole knew the dildo, its girth holding the walls of Lola’s vagina widely separated and teased, would keep her in that state. She happily, shakily left the kitchen with her pants still unzipped, enjoying the open air tickling at her inflated clish-lips while she walked.
She found Ivy out in the garden, and stood silently leaning against the frame of the back door for a while, watching her work.
The vegetables and herbs Lola used for cooking were grown in small plots elsewhere on the Mistress’s property. The garden behind the doll house had been planted and was cultivated for only one purpose: pleasure. On one side of the garden was an oak tree where she loved to line up and bind her dolls with their arms held hoisted above their heads by chains or ropes looped up over the low-lying branches. Opposite this was a birch tree. Ivy cultivated this tree carefully to produce excellent switches, which it was her duty to periodically harvest the best of and bundle properly for her Mistress to use on her and the other dolls’ backsides. Kept for similar purposes, long-stemmed roses and stinging nettles were also grown. Other beds contained peppermint (for the oil that Lola could derive from the plants), strawberries, and ginger root, to be utilized in little sensory games. There was a pedestal upon which she could pose one of her dolls like a statue if she so chose.
Mistress Nicole decided, with a sudden smile, that the following morning, she was going to start her day by having Ivy strip, putting a posture collar and beaded nipple-clamps on her, and having her stand on the pedestal with her arms up behind her head, right crossed over left, so that her breasts would lift and jut prettily, and having her remain in this pose to be the subject of her admiration and amusement until the end of breakfast (which Mistress Nicole always liked to take in the garden when the weather allowed).
Track four of the Peggy Blu CD was nearing its end by the time Mistress Nicole headed back upstairs in search of her favorite doll. It was called “Funeral Feast,” and was about a rich, eccentric older Master who enjoyed slicing off thin slivers of his Submissives’ flesh to add to his meals from time to time, sometimes seasoned and cooked, sometimes raw. The lyrics described in loving detail the scalpels he used, the willingly-endured sufferings of his Submissives and the “countless little deaths” they experienced at his hands, and various methods the Master had come up with for making their bits of sacrificed flesh part of his sustenance. The song also described his dining room in great detail—it was a long, narrow rectangle of a room, with red carpeting, heavy black velvet drapery completely covering the walls, and a ceiling painted gold. It had two tables, both made to look like large wooden caskets set on table legs, and black velvet chairs. The centerpieces were black silk flowers arranged in marble vases. At the head of the room, against the wall, stood a cross from which a skeleton hung shackled. At dinner each night, either absinthe or wine was served, and electric candles shined.
In the hall at the top of the stairs, Mistress Nicole paused to pluck a rubber branding-hoop from where it hung on a hook in the wall, before going on to enter Galatea’s bedroom.
The walls and ceiling of the room were black, the carpet and light bulbs blue. The bed was made up with powdered rubber sheets and a black vinyl bedspread. Black latex balloons were everywhere—resting upon the floor, and suspended in the air against the ceiling with long, curly white ribbons hanging down from them like streamers. Contemporary erotic artwork hung on the walls in steel frames.
Galatea was sitting in a chair with her back to the door, looking out the window. Her legs were uncrossed, hands resting upon her knees. She was wearing a latex gas mask, and as always, her body was in the tight embrace of a full rubber ensemble, and the silver wind-up key at the midpoint of her spine was quietly turning. When she heard Mistress Nicole step in and close the door behind her, she rose and greeted her. Mistress Nicole removed Galatea’s hobble skirt, panties, and mask, but left the red latex stockings and long-sleeved silver latex top on her. The material was thin enough to offer an excellent outline of every crinkle and curve in the shapes of her contracted areolas and enticingly thrusting nipples. Mistress Nicole pinched them, and murmured gently to her.
“Kiss my cunt.”
Galatea dropped to her knees and did exactly as instructed—she pressed her lips to the entrance of Mistress Nicole’s velvet-hole in a reverent kiss, nothing more, nothing less, and then awaited further orders.
Rather than commanding her verbally, Mistress Nicole lifted her to her feet and positioned her so that she was bent forward with her hands on the back of the chair, facing the window. She didn’t bother closing the curtains. Mistress Nicole was no exhibitionist, but that was fine, as there was no way anyone could see her around here. Besides, she enjoyed the view of the pond. She blindfolded Galatea, and then pulled on a latex glove, making sure to snap it so she would hear it and know what it was. Galatea gasped, her entire frame tensing with anticipation even as she pushed her hips up and out just a bit further, offering herself to whatever whims were crossing her Mistress’s mind. Galatea’s moan was full-throated when Mistress Nicole reached between her thighs and underneath, to cup and squeeze her engorging folds. She poked a latex-sheathed finger inside Galatea’s opening, just as a tease, and then removed it and stepped back, drew back her arm, and swung the branding-hoop in a horizontal arc.
She felt she was performing a ballet of seamless motion as she guided the branding-hoop in its swift trajectories, bringing it into welt-raising contact with her doll’s skin again and again. The pain she inflicted reverberated through Galatea’s body and articulated itself in her gasps and moans.
Outside, it started to rain. The Mistress’s real house became little more than a shadowy, bulky blotch on the other side of the rippling pond, and the doll house was shrouded in the torrential mist.
Mistress Nicole saw herself as an orchestral conductor with a wand in her hand, or, no, more accurately, a painter wielding a brush. Everything about the doll house and all that took place within its snug confines was of her own creation, exactly to her liking.
She alternated between stinging her doll’s clenching ass and the backs of her open, quivering thighs with the branding-hoop, and rubbing Galatea’s dainty clit with her latex-gloved fingers, until Galatea came, overwhelmed by the convergence of the feel of the electrifying material and her Mistress’s skilled touch.
She removed the glove from her hand and the blindfold from Galatea’s eyes, and put her into a pair of purple latex panties, loving the way the clingy material conformed itself to her doll’s shape. She had Galatea put on a strap-on harness over top of this. Mistress Nicole selected which rubber dildo she wanted to feel sliding within her that night, and attached it to the harness, and then had Galatea kneel to help her out of her high-heeled, button-up boots. She allowed her kinky little doll to remain on her knees and play with her boots for awhile, kissing them, admiring them, cradling and hugging them to her breasts, rubbing her cheek against the midnight black vinyl and moaning happily.
Meanwhile, Mistress Nicole turned down the bedcovers, rolling the bedspread all the way to the end of the mattress to fully expose the blue rubber sheets. She sat down on the bed and playfully held up the gas mask. Galatea, eyes lighting up anew, crawled over to her, though not without setting the boots respectfully at the foot of the bed first.
Once Galatea’s mask was strapped in place, Mistress Nicole swung her legs up over the side of the king-size bed and stretched herself out, luxuriating in the scent of the rubber sheets. She ordered her subservient fuck-toy to give the front of her torso a brief massage with warming lube, just enough to get her slicked up so that their latex-clad bodies would slide smoothly together when they joined. Sighing, sinking into the mattress, she soaked up the sensations of warmth, and Galatea’s deft fingers working on her through her black latex shirt-jacket, lingering upon her nipples and the undersides of her tits.
She was looking forward to crawling between these sheets much later in the night, heavily-powdered and completely naked, with Galatea, and falling asleep to the tick of her clockwork heart… But then, all thoughts of the future, even of what the very near future held, dissipated. This was now. And she wanted her love-doll to fuck her, now.
She didn’t have to tell Galatea to mount her. All she had to do was spread her legs and display her pink lips, naked and proudly bulging from between the edges of her wide-open fly, and Galatea was there, filling her expectant, deep cunt, and grinding and pressing her body against hers, their latex clothing transmitting their body heat to each other and only kicking the temperature up higher with its slippery static electric friction.
Sex with her darling rubber fetish doll, sex with a machine– she wondered for the hundredth time, was this technically masturbation, or sex? It was an amusing question… but it didn’t matter.
The rain held steady at its pounding pace, just like the merging of human and machine taking place in the blue-lit bedroom did. The sound of the title track of “Hot Lady, Black Magic” rose to meet the challenge of the cascade crackling upon the shingles (no doubt Adia or one of the others had turned it up for her), and the music made Mistress Nicole feel like she was in a porn movie.
She spanked Galatea, keeping up a demanding rhythm, until the pleasure became too great for her to keep up enough concentration in order to be able to do anything besides grip Galatea’s tightly-pantied ass hard and force her to penetrate deeper, moving her in the precise way she wanted her to move inside of her…
Galatea’s sweetly muffled, meek voice suddenly came forth from the confinement of the gas mask—”I love you and I love fucking and I love fucking you!”
That was all Mistress Nicole needed to hear. In the fevered combustion of her orgasm, in the throes of their mutual latex love, she experienced herself as an adored, omnipotent goddess.
Mistress Nicole peeled off her sweaty second skin, and left the articles of clothing in a loosely-folded pile in the hall, next to Galatea’s door. Lea would find them soon enough, and wash, dry, powder, and hang them up for her.
Mistress Nicole traipsed naked downstairs, Galatea close behind. She had Galatea draw a bubble-bath for her, and took Galatea’s mask off. She offered to bathe and tend to her, but Mistress Nicole declined, asking her to instead fetch the erotica anthology she’d brought along from her suitcase, bring a chair in, and read aloud while she lay and soaked for awhile. Galatea could select which story to read to her.
While Galatea went upstairs to find the book, Mistress Nicole leaned back, watching the rain wash down the window pane in rivulets. She was spent, but only for the moment. She knew that by the time she was toweled off and slipped into a fluffy robe, and had had something to drink, she would be getting moist and pumped all over again. She would have an extra-horny Lola to play with, and she could satisfy her even more extreme sadistic appetites when she dealt with Tabitha and Diamond at some point further on in the night. At dinner, she would wear lipstick, high heels, a latex bra, and nothing else. Then she would go to the sitting room and have a cozy little threesome with Snow and Adia on the rug in front of the fireplace. The best part was, this was just the beginning of the long weekend, and there was nowhere else she had to be during any part of it. Sometime the following day, she would shave her sex bare and play with the pussy-pump for awhile, get the freshly-exposed flesh really distended and sensitive and blushing with vigor, and then make Galatea go down on her until the orgasms rendered her limp with exhaustion.
Galatea returned with the chair and the anthology. She sat down, opened the book, thumbed through it for about a minute, and settled upon a story.
*This,* Mistress Nicole thought as Galatea took up the sensuous narrative, *feels to me like a place outside of time. One can’t maintain sanity without withdrawing from the world to dream. And time works differently in dreams. The hours slip by unnoticed here, and what takes place during them is infinitely more real than so-called reality.*