#8 – Dreamless – Stella Nickerson

There was a girl who wrote down her dreams.  They never told the future, and they didn’t give her wise advice.  She wrote them down because she wanted to know the soft strange corners of her own mind; she wanted no secrets from herself.

Until she stopped dreaming.  It went on for months, her sleep flat and dark.  She became easily irritated and easily distracted.  She forgot things, and no matter how much she slept she was always tired—bone, muscle, and nerve.

Her father took her to doctors who told her to diet and exercise and gave her pungent yellow pills.  Her mother took her to herbalists, hypnotists, acupuncturists.  One day she waited in the lobby of a psychoanalyst.  An older woman in an orange dress sat down beside her.  The woman leaned over and whispered, “If you want your dreams back, get into your car.  Fill the tank with gas, and then drive.  It doesn’t matter which direction.  Drive without stopping until the gas is gone, burned up and released to the sky like a prayer.  When the car will go no farther, look to the side of the road.”

The girl wasn’t sure why she trusted the woman in the orange dress.  But she climbed into her car.  She drove through the tangled woods of her own country to the grasslands beyond, the fields as flat and featureless as dreamless sleep.  The car puttered to a stop in the middle of nowhere, about a mile up the road from a farmhouse (because every middle-of-nowhere is the middle of everywhere to someone.)

She looked to the side of the road and saw it—a concrete building without windows, with no opening but a single door.   It stood in the middle of a wheat field, cutting across the rows.  She climbed out and waded through the wheat to the building.  When she tried the door, she found it unlocked.

Inside was darkness lit only by neon lights attached the ceiling and walls.  The lights formed words in English, Arabic, languages she didn’t recognize.  And in the watery colored light she saw things tucked into cubby holes or laid out for display.  After, she could never quite remember what she saw.

Turning a corner, she found a man.  He sat in front of a television turned so that she couldn’t see the screen.  He looked up at her, smiling; he had the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen on a man.

“I’m watching yours right now,” he said.  “They’re wonderful; you have a very special mind.”  He leaned forward and drew something from his television screen, and then held out his hands to her.  His cupped hands brimmed with silver light.  “Here.”

She held out her hands, and he poured the silver light over her palms.  It felt like someone kissing her fingers as it sunk into her skin.

“Stay with me,” he said.  “you never knew about stealing dreams.  Think of what else you never knew, that I know.  Stay with me.”

She looked at his eyes, too beautiful for comfort.  She thought of everything he could show her, the soft strange corners of the world.  She thought, too, of a life spent stealing dreams and leaving people tired.

“No,” she said, “and never.”

And then she was standing in a wheat field, blinking in the sun.  She thought: I shouldn’t have said “never.”

She walked to the farmhouse to ask for gas, and drove back to her life.  The next morning she wrote down a dream—all neon, and “never,” and the most beautiful eyes…

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