Monday, December 12, 2011

Dreaming in Stories

I have interesting dreams. Story dreams. Dreams with a beginning, middle, end; with conflict and with resolution. Dreams that make it impossible for me not to be a writer, because when you have dreams like these, they take over your imagination and leave you wanting more.

Last night’s dream is a good example. The dreams aren’t crystal clear, of course. Passing time is usually flashes of images that tumble helter-skelter through my mind, and make sense only because my mind decides they do and assigns them scenes.

Meeting the son, for example, was a flash of him standing in the hall and knowing that we sometimes hung out, who he was, what he did in the mansion, what his personality was. Meeting Yugo and befriending her was a flash of me and a girl sitting on a bed, laughing, and knowing her name and that we’d become close friends. Like all dreams, nothing’s explained – I just know it. There were actual scenes, too, longer sections like the training and the jumping into the chandeliers.

It took me a while to write this dream up. In fact, it took about 2100 words. I'm not a conscious dreamer, and I didn't know where the dream was headed when it began. Do you ever dream in stories? If so, what do you do with your story dreams?

When I say I have awesome dreams, this is exactly what I mean:


We stood in the hall, looking left and right and trying to figure out where we were. I think perhaps my brother and his girlfriend had an idea, because they didn’t look surprised to be in the endless marble halls. Tall ceilings were lined with decorative chandeliers, red and gold and currently unlit, thanks to the large windows that brightened this hall.

Then he showed up, the master of the mansion, sable-haired and tall and wearing a battered, floor-length, tan leather trench coat. His dark eyes were older than his face, with a sadness that dodged through the corners of his tired smile. I don’t know that he was handsome, but he was strong – the sort of strength that carries more power than a person should be able to hold, without giving in to the corruption that sort of power usually draws. “I was wondering when you’d get here.”

He clenched a hand, and something flew across the hall. The air between his hand and the flying book felt tight, condensed – different. “This is what you’re here for,” he said, holding up the book. It wasn’t the book we were here to learn.

My brother’s girlfriend stared at us in confusion and a little surprise. I knew immediately that most people couldn’t feel the difference.

He gave us the first lesson right then. “Focus. Concentrate. Close your fist to help you visualize it. Feel it? Now pull.”

I failed the first time, barely generating a spark. My brother did better. He had a lot more power than I did, and apparently a natural talent for using it. When he got it right, it was like an invisible firework went off in his hand, a twisting of light that nobody’s eyes could actually see. A line of power flew from his hand to the object he chose, and like a fishing line, he tried to reel it in.

The Master of the mansion took us to his manservant. The manservant was dashing, taller than his master. His high cheekbones were pale, his black suit with its red trim perfectly proper, but a smile came easily to his beautiful face.

We were to stay out of the way except during our lessons. The mansion should be safe, but sometimes they got through, the monsters. There were safe rooms for the normals and the new trainees to hide. We’d run there, should we be invaded.

The Master’s son was training, too. He was younger than us, twenty years old and light-hearted. Because power didn’t develop until the late teens at the earliest, he wasn’t that much beyond us. He looked much like his father, sans gloom and that powerful intensity. He was very friendly. We sometimes hung out with him, as classmates, as general friendly acquaintances.

It was odd to see the young man near his father. The powers kept away the ravages of age; his father didn’t look more than his mid-thirties. I knew we’d face that one day, too.

We were in the Master’s classes. There were a few graduate students, but only a few, because the school hadn’t been going for very long. The Master did our training himself. My brother impressed him with potential and quick learning. He wouldn’t graduate any time soon, but for a beginner, he was making very quick progress.

I was a slower case. I would never be very powerful, and the focus was difficult for me. I also felt that the Master had too much a burden on his shoulders. I wanted to make him smile, to take some of the sadness off his shoulders, so I goofed off (just a little) in my lessons, and did the silly things I like to do.

I made the Master laugh. He liked my randomness, my sense of humor that just fit with his. And we could talk so very easily. We didn’t like all the same things, but our eyes saw the world in a similar color. I don’t know that anyone had ever managed to find just his shade before. Sometimes I’d pop by his library after dinner, and we’d talk. He was usually busy, though.

Every now and then, I’d catch a flash of silver in his eyes when he was laughing, those rare moments when he managed to forget his sadness and responsibilities for a moment.

The mansion was staffed by normal people, and many of the trainees had brought loved ones. I made friends with one of the maids – Yugo – a pretty young woman with a big smile and a twinkle in her eyes. She did my laundry. She was never afraid of the Master, or any of the trainees, even though she witnessed their powers every day, and knew just how dangerous they could be if they chose to be. I don’t think she envied us, either. That just wasn’t her style.

The manservant was taking us to a lesson when we found out that they were invading. He sent us to join the others for hiding. We couldn’t get to the downstairs safe room; they were already coming through the doors. We ran upstairs instead, and joined a group that mostly made of normals, including Yugo. The room was less protected, but the glass was clouded. There would be no reason for them to assault that room, and the Master and his people would keep them off the stairs.

We were in the back of the group, my brother and his girlfriend and one more trainee. I looked over the rail to see them. They were tall, thin, gaunt. Too-long arms sported fingers two to three feet long, each finger tipped with knife-like, silvered nails. Dark fae? The name seemed to fit.

The Master fought them with steel and power, wielding both equally well. I saw him cut down one and toss another across the hall at the same time. Using power took concentration. And then he was running with some of the elder trainees, out of the room to fight off another knot, as the rest of the battle continued below.

The four of us had dawdled too long. The rest of the normals had already crammed themselves into the safe room and closed the inner door to the pool hall. We followed them, racing the rest of the way up the stairs and slipping as quietly as we could into the small room in which the cues and balls were kept, an outer compartment that barely qualified as room. The fourth locked the outer door behind us.

My brother was about to open the inner door, which was not lockable, so that we could join the others, but something made him hesitate. We heard the sound of glass shattering. Then Yugo began screaming.

The dark fae had chosen to attack the mansion from several points, and as bad luck would have it, they’d chose the pool room – the secondary safe room – as their rear entrance. It would be a slaughter. Trainees and normals had no defense.

It would be useless to go through and join our friends in dying. But we stared at the door for a moment more than we should have spared, wanting to help, knowing we couldn’t do a thing. My brother’s girlfriend broke the spell first, and silently unlocked the door. We ran out and back into the hall.

The stairs led into the main hall, where the invaders were. Behind led to more dark fae, where our friends no longer screamed. It never occurred to me to call for help to those fighting below, or to give them warning – but I think, had we yelled, those behind us would have beaten the help.

I looked over the railing, and found our escape. “The chandeliers,” I said. In the main hall, they ran the length and breadth of the room like banners, the lights encased in beautiful red and gold interlocked chains, curtains of decorative metal. I focused.

It was the heaviest thing I’d ever moved, and I’d barely managed to move anything before, but it was our only chance. And it worked. The chandelier swung close enough to jump onto, and I leapt onto it. Then gravity took hold and it swung back, momentum taking it close to the next. I jumped again, and again, hopping down the line.

The other followed one at a time, each of the lights too fragile to support all of us at once. The fae’s long hands would never allow them to climb the lights. So we moved beyond their reach and waited for the battle to finish.

Most of it passed in a blur, as we clung to the fixtures over the battle far below and tried not to move. We were all crying, and all too scared to scream. A good-sized battalion of dark fae ran down the stairs, not even noticing us. But the defenders were powerful and skilled. The graduates and the higher level trainees held their ground, and gradually began to outnumber the dark fae.

I couldn’t say how long it went on, but I was sore and exhausted from clinging by the time it was over. I saw the Master running up the stairs, following his manservant (who, despite being a normal, was an excellent swordsman and had helped defend the mansion.) The manservant’s face was a picture of tragedy, a deep sorrow that came from knowing what he was about to show his Master.

The Master – denial, fear, anger, horror, disbelief were all writ on his face. He had clearly been told what was in the room. He went in slowly, torn between the desire to pretend it hadn’t happened and the need to know for sure.

The scream that came out was pure rage and self-accusation. The Master came out as if it was his own personal failure that lay behind him, as if his heart was shattered. He leaned on his manservant, clutching his chest and on the verge of breaking. I tried to call out to him to look out over the rail, but I was tired, my throat so sore, that I couldn’t make myself heard. But one of the others clinging to the lights found their voice. The Master looked up.

He saw us there, shaken and scared and holding on for dear life. I saw his eyes dodge from my brother and his girlfriend to the other trainee, and then he found me. The change was immediate. Nothing could erase the grief, but it was like he’d been handed salvation, because the light came back into his eyes, glue sealing his broken edges back together. I was afraid I was too tired to get down without dropping, but under his gaze the fear fled – I knew he’d get me down safely, somehow.

At some point, without either of us actually realizing it, he’d fallen in love with me.

Then somehow I was over there, safely over the rail, and he clutched me to his chest with a “thank god,” before passing me to his manservant to retrieve the others.

It wasn’t okay; there was an aura of grief hanging over us all for the people who were lost, but we went on. We buried the dead and cleaned the mansion. And when the worst of it was fixed, people had to come to terms with the feelings they’d figured out during the attack.

One couple got married. They’d been separated. She was a trainee, and he was a normal, and she’d thought that he had been in the wrong safe room, and he’d been sure she’d died in the fight. He admitted that he’d been in love with her for a long time, and she decided that she was in love with him, too, so they dropped everything and married and went off on their honeymoon.

It was catching, a virus that spread through the halls of the mansion like a cold in kindergarten. I was walking up the stairs not long after when it hit me. The Master’s son was waiting at the top, and as soon as I was within reach, he was dragging me into a small and relatively private room. “I’m in love with you,” he said when we were alone. “Marry me.”

While he was handsome, I certainly wasn’t at the point of returning his feelings. But I didn’t want to hurt the son’s feelings, because I thought of him as a friend. “We really haven’t known each other all that long,” I hedged. “Love isn’t something I’m just going to start feeling.”

He caged me in a corner and tried again. “I’ll make it worth it,” he argued. “I’ll make sure you enjoy every day; I’ll give you everything. You wouldn’t regret it.”

I shook my head. “I don’t work that way. It takes time for me. It’s not something that I can just do.”

He moved back and changed, the youth sliding away until I could see that I hadn’t been talking to the son at all, but rather the Master. “I see,” he said, and sounded sad.

I was mad. Really mad. I made this known to him. It involved a bit of screaming and a bit of cursing and a bit of both.

“I thought you’d prefer someone closer to your age,” he defended himself.

Which meant I had to point out that his son was several years younger than me, and I didn’t like younger men. Also, there were the questions of how he expected to keep his identity hidden, and how he could think I was dumb enough not to notice, nor for anyone else in the mansion to notice, and why he just assumed that I wouldn’t feel anything back for him without even asking me.

He apologized, and left.

A couple of weeks later, we were in a rose garden he’d built to commemorate the lost. We’d moved to an awkward stage of forgiveness, where we avoided one another. But this was more important. I put a rose on the stone monument he’d built in remembrance, on the side that had Yugo’s name carved in amongst the others. And then we left.

We hadn’t said anything, but we both knew that we were going to give a relationship a try.

And that’s when I woke up.

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