Tiny Stories: Dreams of Gingerbread

Popular belief has it that the universe is comprised of atoms. In reality, the universe is actually made up of…

I don’t dream.

I mean, I do dream, everybody dreams, or else we’d all go slowly mad.

What I meant to say is that my dreams aren’t dreams, their memories. Events pulled from my subconscious and dressed in modern-day clothes. Usually, they tended to be past situations that mirrored current conflicts in my life, and I thought they were meant to provide a solution in a George Santayana Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, sort of way. Alas and alack, this was not the case because I always made the same mistakes, no matter which fork in the road I took.

And the memory-dreams never brought the comfort of nostalgia with them, as they were never good memories, or they might start off pleasant, but there was always something there to sour the experience. Had I really never experienced true happiness in my life? If I described how my memory dreams played out each night, people might have gotten the impression that I was born in a Dickensian novel. “The Tale of Two Pities,” or some such.

And I was certain there was a level of fiction that mixed with real-life moments, the dream and waking world seemed to derive pleasure from swapping details like so many trading cards, which caused me to doubt the authenticity of my remembrance of things.

Worse were the insignificant moments that I had largely forgotten about, which were somehow amplified in my dreams, only to be transformed into real-life triggers. Triggers noticeable enough that my best friend, Shelly, began asking, “What happened to you?” which I took as, What the hell did you do to yourself that made you turn into such a freak?

Normally, I took a moment to ponder a believable and sympathetic lie to tell, but my latest dream shook me to the core, and I had to tell somebody before my mind exploded.

“Shell, you’re not going to believe me,” I started.

“Only one way to find out, Gingerbread. Tell me and we’ll see where it goes from there,” Shelly offered a reassuring smile. Gingerbread was a nickname I picked up as a little girl because of my skin tone, freckles—yes, brown skin can have freckles as well—and shock of red hair—we can also be redheads. I punched as many faces as it took in primary school to put an end to it, but it remained a term of endearment between Shell and me, and now that I was older, I had to admit, it kind of grew on me.

I brought Shelly up to speed on my dreaming situation, and to my surprise, she was not only interested but also concerned for me. She was a better friend than I realized and I should have done this years ago.

“Last night,” I said. “I dreamt that everything was the same as it is now but instead of going to community college, I took a gap year. It was the summer, and I struggled into my clothes, splashed water on my face, and gulped down a scalding cup of tea. Flinging open the door to the garden, I felt a breeze wash over my face. It had rained overnight and the air was damp with expectation.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Shelly said.

“Then I looked down at my belly…and I was pregnant.”

“You what?”

“Not only that, but the pregnancy had driven me mad, alienated me from my husband…”

“You were married? At 18?”

“Yeah, I know, right?” I said. “And just like in one of those Lifetime movies, my world tilted on its axis threatening to pitch me off. Then I gave birth. And this tiny person, who was partially made of me that would one day grow independent of me, somehow held the universe together.”

“Well, that’s a happy ending, I suppose,” Shelly said.

“But that’s not the weird bit,” I said, taking a deep breath before continuing. “I woke up with that same baby lying in bed beside me.”

“Wait a minute now, you woke up with a baby?”

“Yeah, a newborn, by the looks of it.”

“Whose baby is it?”

“Mine, I suppose. It’s the spitting image of pictures of me as a baby.”

“But you didn’t have a baby before you went to sleep?”

“No, I wasn’t even pregnant.”

“Of course not because you being pregnant is something I definitely would have noticed,” Shelly said, trying to work it out in her head. “But, but, um…so where’s the baby now?”

“At home, with my husband, naturally. What kind of mother do you take me for?” I snapped. My response was so reflexive that I only registered the words after I had spoken them. Off Shelly’s shocked expression, I said, “I’m sorry, Shell, I don’t know where that came from.”

“Seemed like a pretty motherly response to me.”

“It’s like my mind and emotions are running on automatic and I’m suddenly filled with all these instincts I never had before. I know this sounds crazy, but could this be an immaculate conception?”

“Not my field of expertise, sweetie, but I’m pretty sure dream pregnancies and instant husbands aren’t part of that package deal,” Shelly said. “And no offense but you’re hardly a virgin.”

“I know you’re not slut shaming me.”

“Why would I and how could I? I’m certainly not virginal, myself. Hell, do we even know any virgins?”

“Eric Petty.”

“Yeah, okay, but who would sleep with that incel weirdo? The internet was invented for simps like him to five knuckle shuffle over VTuber anime waifus,” said Shelly. “But back to the point at hand. Can I ask you a few questions so I can better wrap my head around this mystery of yours?”

“By all means.”

“What’s your baby’s name?”

My mouth opened…and remained that way. I was coming up blank. What sort of mother couldn’t remember their own child’s name?

“Okay, maybe that’s a toughie,” Shelly said. “Let’s try this husband of yours. Who is he? If he’s someone you know, the odds are I know him, too, because we know all the same people.”

My husband’s face was on the tip of my tongue. His name, however, was not. The frustration of not being able to recall even the simplest details about my family triggered a painful electrical storm of anxiety in my brain that oscillated between intense sorrow and frozen panic. There was a hole in the bucket of my sanity that I was unable to plug.

“Shell, I know how this looks but I swear I’m not crazy!” Never a convincing statement when yelled at the top of one’s lungs. Neither was, “You have to believe me!”

My sudden outburst should have triggered apprehension in Shelly but she remained calm and said, “Oh, I believe you, Gingerbread.” Then I realized she was no longer looking at my face. Her eyes were instead fixated on my chest.

“You’re leaking,” she said with a slight point of her chin.

And sure enough, the circumferences of two damp patches were expanding on my blouse.

Not The End.

The Moemoeā

After an extended drought of blackout nights, Vidalia was dreaming again, but nowhere near ones of the ordinary variety, especially for a person of her kind. These dreams were filled with murky, ever-shifting shapes, people she knew in the waking world, but who tried to obscure their identity, as if they were in a dreamland witness protection program.

She knew, in that way the unknown became known in dream logic, that the people were pixelating themselves because of something she did. She had inadvertently given birth to an idea that was so next of kin to chaos in The Dreamorium, that it made her persona non grata among the inhabitants.

Fearing for her safety while existing in dreamstate, Vidalia had no other choice but to pay a visit to the ruler of The Dreamorium, in order to convince him to take her sleep-wandering soul under the wing of his protection, and make it known to all, that anyone who attempted to do her harm would be severely dealt with.

As her visit to the DreamCore was unannounced, Vidalia arrived while Morpheus himself was asleep, and found it difficult to approach the monarch, because she was forced to wade through his own dreams; the images flowing from his mind were thick with nastiness and liquidy with sin, and they wanted ever so much to enter her, to drown the very essence of her being.

Vidalia’s head bobbed just above the surface of the dreams that threatened to drag her into their undertow. While she struggled to stay afloat, her eyes kept returning to Morpheus’s sleeping face. How could this peaceful-looking man have dreams filled with so much rage?

In her battle to avoid drowning, Vidalia uttered a shriek that woke Morpheus from his sleep. His eyes opened and the dreams evaporated instantly. When he yawned, the air became warm and heavy with welcoming scents: freshly cut grass, and old books, and Christmas morning.

Morpheus, unsurprised by Vidalia’s presence in his boudoir, smiled and sauntered over to her, taking her face in both hands and kissed her. Although the kiss landed on her forehead, she felt it on her lips, and it tasted of chocolate made from cacao and cane sugar.

“I am heartily sorry for disturbing your sleep, sir,” Vidalia said, humbled suddenly by the nearness of him. “But I was drowning in your…“

“Nightmares, I know,” Morpheus nodded. “I daydream as many as I can manage to spare you mortal lot their pain and anguish.”

“My name is…“

“Vidalia,” Morpheus finished. “From the tribe of secret dreamers known as the Moemoeā, and in addition to being the strongest, smartest, and most beautiful of your sisters, you are the seventh daughter of seven daughters, and you have come craving a boon.”

Vidalia tried to step back, to remove herself from his sphere of influence, but Morpheus clasped her shoulders and held her to the spot.

“Your loneliness is like a beacon in The Dreamorium,” he said. “It calls out to me and confesses your secrets. I know your crime.”

“Then you must despise me, sir,” Vidalia turned her face away from the Lord of Dreams. “And I was foolish to travel to this place in search of a compassionate ear and perhaps aid in the form of a possible solution.”

“How can I offer aid without a request being made?”

“I have done a thing here in your realm and it has grown beyond my control,” Vidalia said, not quite able to meet his gaze.

“And you have come to me seeking to make your error mine own so that I might repair the damage you have done?” Morpheus raised an eyebrow.

“Yes.”

His fingers gently caressed her chin and he turned her face so that their eyes met. “Tell me, mortal, do you think me so weak of mind that I cannot detect when I am standing in the presence of a falsehood?”

Vidalia brushed his hand away. “How am I false, sir?”

Morpheus leaned in closer, their noses almost touching. “I see in you so many levels of deception, it is quite fascinating, actually. But you cannot bury the truth deep enough within your lies to hide it from me. You will reveal to me, child, what you have done.”

When Vidalia offered no response, Morpheus circled her slowly, whispering in each ear as he passed, “I can feel it, this thing you have loosed in my realm. It salivates at the very thought of me. It aches to sip the wine of life directly from my throat.”

“So, you desire the truth?” Vidalia asked.

“As near as you can manage.”

“Very well. I gave birth here.”

“You gave birth in The Dreamorium?”

“I was impregnated here and delivered here. A first to my knowledge.”

“A surface lie,” Morpheus scoffed. “Try again.”

“The thing that seeks you out, I am responsible for its presence. You have said that I am the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter, and that is true but it was my mother who was impregnated here, by an idea made flesh. And I am the result of that union.”

“And what was the fertile idea?”

“It was not so much an idea as it was a truth,” Vidalia said. “Now is the time of women.”

Morpheus smirked. “And you believe that you alone can unthrone me?”

“I know that I will unthrone you. And since you favor truth, the simple truth is that I am never alone.”

Behind Vidalia, women began to materialize. Her mother. Her sisters. her aunts. “We are a tribe, as you have mentioned,” she said. “A tribe of experienced dreamers and we believe ourselves capable of holding mankind’s nightmares at bay.”

“Your number has grown from one to fourteen, that is still not enough, I assure you,” Morpheus said dismissively.

“Peer outside your window, great king,” Vidalia stepped to the gossamer drapes and pulled them aside.

When the Duke of Dreaming cast a glance at the grounds beyond his keep, he witnessed an impossible gathering of women.

“Those women stretch as far as the eye can see and even farther still. It is the Moemoeā and we are legion.”

“The first of our kind inhabited this place since its infancy and we have watched your rise to power with much admiration,” Vidalia continued. “But the world beyond this place is changing and dreams are too, becoming darker, some taking on the quality of nightmares.”

“It is more than one man can bear, even a man such as yourself. We wish to offer you a respite, carry the burden for you now.”

“If your intentions were noble and your cause just, why then approach me like sneak-thieves in the night?” Morpheus asked.

“Would you have granted us audience if we made our intentions plain? No, you would not.”

“Foolish women, I shall oppose you.”

“You will try, and you will fail. You know this to be true but pride demands that you defend your throne. But this need not end in senseless violence,” Vidalia placed a hand on Morpheus’ chest, his heartbeat betraying his calm demeanor.

“It can be gentle, peaceful, and sweet,” she whispered as her lips brushed his mouth. “Why sip wine from your throat when your lips, far more desirable, would achieve the same goal?” She kissed him hard and full and he groaned pitifully.

There was a weight to Vidalia’s kiss that he struggled against, unaware her lips were siphoning his essence at the same time.

Soon, the others joined in, touching and kissing the Lord of Dreams and soothing him into submission, into surrender. His defiant roars transformed into desperate pleas as he begged them to stop but they paid him no heed.

And when he was but a shade of his former self, a ghost who was evaporating at Dawn’s approach, the women praised Morpheus, killing him with kindness until he was no more.

Vidalia led the women in prayer after his passing before demolishing all he had built.

Now, the difficult work began, devising a new way for mortals to dream and a new way to filter out nightmares. Peace might not be achievable in the real world but Vidalia and her kin strove to make it a reality in The Dreamorium.

Slipping on Sueños

Autumn had been a lucid dreamer long before she knew there was a term for it so she wasn’t afraid when she was being chased by a nasty piece of horrifying nightmare but, as she was about to wake herself up, she slipped on an icy patch of sueños and fell headlong into the underdream, the sleep realm in which she possessed no control.