Control in moving between worlds was something his grandfather had taught him, a closely guarded secret. He came from a place, just a whisper away but invisible and unreachable.
At midnight, whilst the moon threw shadows like huge gravestones across the street, he would walk, seeking the aroma he desired. His face was gaunt and sallow, his lips thin and red, and his eyes as black as infinity. He wore a tall top hat and a cloak, both blacker even than his eyes.
Tonight his nose twitched with excitement. Children! He passed through a high box hedge into a neat garden, for he had no physical substance. A gnome stood with a fishing rod at a small pool and he smiled, forced to admit pleasure at the folly.
A cat on the lawn crouched and hissed, sensing his presence. He passed through the walls of the house, feeling its warmth and cosiness, and up a staircase. The smell was almost overpowering now and selecting the right room, was automatic. Ah, there they lay! Two little cherubs in their beds, a boy and a girl. Young, perhaps six or seven. Perfect!
He manifested enough physical presence to lay his long bony fingers against their soft, warm cheeks. He waited.
At last! The children’s eyes began to dart under their closed eyelids as they entered the dream world and he attuned his mind to theirs. Oh, what wonders! Children, dressed in billowing bright colours, rode a merry-go-round. Now they sat blowing out candles on an enormous birthday cake with a thousand candles to squeals of delight. In a school, they laughed at a teacher dressed as a clown with orange hair and black-and-white striped tights. They flew through the air, soaring high on unicorns, waving wands, casting Harry Potter spells…
For hours he sat, absorbing their dreams, until the first rays of daybreak crept under the blind. Then with a few strange gestures, and speaking unspeakable words, he was back in his own world. A world where no one dreamt, no one had imagination, aspirations or desires. Stories, such as they were, told only of facts.
He sat, looking at the sleeping faces of his own two children, their eyes still and their demeanour, serious. He stroked their cheeks whilst letting the stolen dreams replay in their minds telepathically. Their eyes began to twitch and he felt a tenderness in his heart, watching as their sleeping faces came alive.
Back in our world, the mother entered the children’s bedroom. She opened the curtains and clapped her hands. “Wakey-wakey, Peter, Pauline, rise and shine!”
Sleepy little eyes blinked.
“Did you have sweet dreams?” she asked Peter.
He stared dully. “I dreamt a horrid man in black sat watching me!”
“It was just a bad dream darling. It wasn’t real.”
Peter replied. “He wore a cloak…”
Pauline interrupted, “And he had a top hat. Horrid man!”
“That’s right, he did!” said Peter.
“Come and eat your cornflakes,” said Mother.
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories
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