The Dream Peddler
You settle into bed and pull the blankets up to your chin, the warmth they provide engulfs you and pulls your eyelids shut, the sounds of night fade into the back of your mind. Your memories sing and dance as the moon patches holes in the sky. Her hands move slowly, but they work with the grace of a seamstress that’s mastered her craft several lifetimes ago. The stars cease their mindless chatter and grow silent; they don’t want to disturb you.
Sitting at the end of the bed, he waits atop the folded comforter and decorative pillows. His legs rest on his shoulders, his feet behind his head, and his hands are pressed together, fingers intertwined across his stomach. He smiles and tilts his head, letting the night sky itself ooze from the tear in his stove pipe hat. Of course, it evaporates as soon as it drips from the brim; the secrets contained in the stars are far too shy for anyone to meet them yet. The man on your bed is known as the Dream Peddler, and he visits you every night, just as you slip out of consciousness and into the world he’s created for you.
You don’t know that he’s there, so you are not afraid. You don’t even notice when he slips a wrinkled, gray hand into a pocket of his tattered tailcoat and pulls out a small, velvet bag held tightly shut with a golden string. Its contents emit a faint silver light and the Dream Peddler smiles.
“I have a very special dream for you tonight,” he says. “It’s full of action, and adventure, and dragons. I know how much you love dragons.” You groan in response. The moon and her stars try to conceal their laughter but fail, and the Peddler scowls at them. He reaches back into his coat and pulls out a different bag. This one glows blue, and the light pulsates gently.
“How’s about this one?” he asks. “In this one you save an alien princess from that clown you’re afraid of.” The smoothness of his voice comforts you, and yet your brow furrows and again you frown. The Peddler sits back and scratches his head, resting his untied boots on your back. You don’t mind.
He taps his knee, he clicks his tongue, he scratches his chin. You’ve perplexed the Peddler, and left him with only one option. He removes his hat, and from inside it he removes a small, wooden box. The polished mahogany glistens in the moonlight and reflects it back into the glass of the Peddler’s eyes. He eases the lid open and picks up one last bag, this time consumed by the brightest blackness one can imagine. Even the moon and stars let a collective gasp slip from their lips at the sight of it. The Peddler chuckles as though lost in a cherished memory.
“I know you’ll like this one.”
He reaches inside and pulls out the dream. It’s smaller than most people would think, constantly changing shape in the Peddler’s palm as faint laughter echoes throughout the room. Gently, oh so gently, he slips the dream underneath your pillow and returns the box to its rightful place. You smile in your sleep, and the Peddler knows his job is done for tonight.
The Dream Peddler does not work for free. In return for his service, he expects payment. He whistles a sweet tune and pulls a memory from your mind, one that he knows you won’t miss. The Peddler pulls a jar from his coat and slips the memory inside, letting it mingle with the other thoughts of the past previously collected. His work is done and his payment is collected, and so the Dream Peddler has no more reason to stay. He returns the jar to his pocket and climbs through the window, disappearing from sight as the moon watches him go. He will return again tomorrow to trade you another dream, but until then, sleep soundly, and be grateful you did not receive a visit from the Reapers instead.