Today I thought I’d republish one of my short stories with a real twist, Dreamer. Hope you enjoy!
by Sophie Masson
‘So what seems to be the trouble?’ The psychologist spoke rather briskly. He was a busy man, harassed, there weren’t enough hours to the day dealing with trouble such as you wouldn’t read about, and there was something about the woman and boy facing him that made him feel slightly uncomfortable. For a start, they didn’t look like his usual clients. They were very neatly dressed. The woman was mildly pretty, with dark hair and eyes and a soft voice underlaid with the trace of a foreign accent. The boy was thin, nervous, with dark hair and large, pale brown eyes, and he was small for his age, which the woman said was fourteen. It was more than the sum of these impressions, though that disconcerted the psychologist: mother and son gave off something odd, some unstable mixture of feelings he couldn’t put a name to.
‘What seems to be the trouble?’ he repeated, impatiently.
The woman looked at him, then at her son. Hesitantly, she said, ‘It’s the dream, Doctor. He keeps having the dream, you see.’
The psychologist stared. ‘I beg your pardon?’
The woman shot another look at her child. He didn’t look up, but the psychologist thought he saw a tremor running from the child’s thin shoulders to his folded hands. The woman said, even more hesitantly, ‘It’s the third time he’s had it. I..I thought we must come and see you. It’s not..well, you see, each time has been worse than the last. ‘
‘A recurring nightmare?’ said the psychologist, relieved at being in somewhat familiar territory. Many of his clients had nightmares.
‘Yes. He’s woken up—oh Doctor, he’s woken up scared out of his mind, I’ve had to comfort him for ages, you must help him—help us. You must stop him dreaming..’
The psychologist sighed. ‘I am not a magician,’ he said, gently. ‘And besides, nightmares can be a way of coping with bad things. They can rehearse, in our minds, a trauma which has afflicted us, and attempt to change it so that..’
‘You don’t understand,’ broke in the woman. ‘It’s not like that at all. There’s no trauma in my child’s life. None! The dream..’
‘Perhaps we should let him speak for himself,’ said the psychologist, quietly. He felt he could place the woman now—one of those anxious mothers, either single parents or estranged somehow from the child’s father, devoting herself to the care and protection of her only child. She would not want to believe anything bad had happened to him which might cause him to have nightmares. He’d met people like that before. They didn’t understand what harm they did by their stifling protectiveness. So he ignored her, gently, but firmly. He leant towards the child, and said, ‘Is the dream very bad?’
For the first time, the boy looked up. His eyes were expressionless. For an instant, he looked into the psychologist’s face; then he dropped his gaze again and whispered, ‘Yes.’
‘Will you tell me about it?’ the psychologist said.
The woman made a sudden movement. The boy looked at her, briefly. Then he turned to the psychologist and said, indifferently, ‘If you like.’
It was an unusual dream, there was no doubt about that, thought the psychologist, as he listened to the boy. It had started with the boy dreaming he had arrived in a place he didn’t know but that was somehow familiar to him. It was a large city, but not busy, like a city normally is. Instead, it was very quiet. There were few vehicles about, and though the streets were neat and clean, there was little sign of life. Doors and windows were closed, though you could sense, said the boy, that eyes were looking out at you behind closed shutters. The first time, he’d just stood there in the street in the dream, looking around, not sure where he was but feeling that nagging sense of familiarity. Then, he said, he felt a dread growing on him, a sudden nameless dread that made his heart pound and his skin feel clammy. He was being watched, and not just by the eyes behind the shutters. Something was going to happen, he felt sure of it..
But he’d woken before anything did. He’d woken, very frightened and disturbed, but glad to be awake. The next night, he’d not dreamt at all; but the night after that, the dream had come back..
‘The same dream?’ interrupted the psychologist.
The boy nodded; then shook his head.
‘It’s not quite the same,’ said his mother, anxiously. ‘You see, he..’
‘Let him speak,’ said the psychologist, sternly. She subsided.
The second dream had not been the same as the first, though it had started in the same place, in the streets of that silent city. The boy said that it had begun with him walking away from the place he’d arrived, with the dread still on him, the feeling of being watched. He’d come to a large square, which was dominated by the statue of a man on horseback. He couldn’t see the man’s face, because the statue had its back to him, and before he could go round to have a look, suddenly a crowd began filing into the square, a vast, silent crowd. It was eerie, horrible, that silence; and then as they filed past him, seeming not to see him at all, he saw something even more horrible. Some of them had their mouths open—and he saw they had no tongues! But it was clear that once they’d had them; for there were ragged wounds where their tongues should have been. Oh, it was horrible, said the boy in his flat, precise little voice, and just to see it made my dread come back so strongly I thought I would faint. I wanted to run away, but I could not move; my limbs were made of lead. Besides, I was being watched; I knew I was being watched, and that if I made a false move, something dreadful would happen to me..And then I woke up.
The psychologist steepled his fingers. It was an unusual case indeed, he thought. He hadn’t come across one quite like it before. Recurring nightmares yes, but not ones that changed—well, progressed, really—in this way. He said, ‘I can see it must have been frightening. What happened in the third dream? ‘
‘That was last night,’ said the woman, breaking in. ‘It was the worst—the very worst. I don’t think he can recount it. It will make him live it all over again. Let me tell you..’ Continue reading