She knew she had to return to the village soon, before anyone worried too much. She sighed, wiping the wetness from her face looking away from the sky, refocusing on the earth at her feet. Dreaming was the slow death. Time drifts slower in a dream, but there are so many happy moments there making reality seem so careless.
“You dream too much”, her mother chided her, “Some day you won’t wake up, and then what will we do? We will miss our beautiful daughter, lost to the winds and clouds forever. One must stay rooted in the ground. This is where people belong, not in silly dreams.”
She felt at home in the dreams. In the dreams there were many people, and they all tipped their hats, and curtsied to her. She had the best food and there was a boy who would dance with her, and make the light dance between them. Out of the dream, this person didn’t exist, or perhaps she just hadn’t met him yet. But she could dream.
In the dream she lived in a castle with spires, and tapestries, and full of other magical things. In the dream everyone was courteous. Sometimes her dreaming would get in the way of her chores, and she would be scolded by a sharp word or even a slap. But this didn’t bother her too much. Every chance she got she would sleep, even for only a little while, and once her eyes were closed, she could dance, and smile, and laugh.
Her life was simple, and she was happy with her dreaming. Her mother shook her head, but other than that, said nothing. Her teachers in school shook their heads, and would tell her to concentrate on this world, and she would blush as laughter from the other students erupted around her.
“One day this would change”, her father said, “You will grow out of dreaming, and make a decent wife to a good man, and have children. And maybe tend a garden like most women. Or perhaps you will become a learned scholar traveling the world, oh wait, that sounded way too dreamish, never mind that.”
Everyone knew she got the crazy dreaming from his family. Sometimes her father dreamt too, but his dreams were different from hers, mostly filled with monuments, and machines and a crazy urban landscape far removed from the country life style around the mountain.
Her mother dreamt of her children’s future. The grandchildren would be perfect in every way, her daughter would not only marry a good man, but a rich one who would treat the family as his own, showering them with gifts at every turn. It was a good dream, but her mother was secretly ashamed to dream such silly nonsense.
“Adults shouldn’t dream at all”, she said,”Merely do their duty, and make sure everything goes in its same steady stream. Dreams interrupt life, take away from it, dreams could be dangerous.” Her mother was against anything that was dangerous.
It was on an ordinary day where everyone did everything they had been doing, same as the day before, when some strangers came into town. These strangers declared that there was gold down the river, a lot of gold to any who had the hands to grab it, and life was good in the valley. Much better than on the mountain.
The girl listened to the wind, and it sounded like it was crying. Her mother just shook her head, but there was something sad about her eyes. Her father saw his machines, but not the monuments and stayed with the mountain. The girl went to the men with the gold, while her family watched transfixed as if in a dream, and she climbed into their carriage with a helping hand, headed for the valley, leaving her family and school behind.
Her thoughts were simple enough. Perhaps the boy lived in the valley, and that was why she hadn’t met him and danced with the light in the castle. There would never be a castle on the mountain, she knew that with a certainty that made any reservations subside.
The men gave her bright cheery apples to eat, and she kicked her legs freely from the back of the wagon, watching her parents recede ever smaller. They made their way to the valley quickly, night falling about the same time they entered the gates. The valley had a river bleeding through it, as if from a deep wound to the earth, or like the earth was crying over the loss of the sky, forever parted, yet so terribly near.
She thanked the men, and jumped off the carriage without a care in the world. She knew there would be no turning back, she could not go home and expect to find her mother shaking her head. It was much too late for that.
She went looking for love, along the river, while the men looked for gold. The men got some of what they wanted, but never seemed to be content with the amount of gold from the river, and it gave less and less with each passing day. Soon the men started talking of developing the mountain, that the real gems would be found there. By the time the girl heard of this she was all ready too far removed from the men and their dreams of gold.
She was looking for something else, and hadn’t found it yet. She went to the valley town, and introduced herself politely enough, they handed her a broom, and told her to earn her living, and that nothing came for free.
She soon became disappointed, there were no castles here. She cried at night missing her family, her friends, and even the men with the carriage. But she could not go back. She knew that road was barred to her. She didn’t dream that night, and the boy did not come to dance with her.
The next night. there was no dream. Years past, and she was merely a woman instead of a girl, and she couldn’t dream. Dream of what? Gold? Men? Neither were what they seemed. Once had, she needed more, this wasn’t what she was looking for. She no longer knew the face of the boy, or the many people who would curtsy or tip their hats.
She began to feel sadness, and walked along the barren street, with her broom. When she looked up, she found a young man looking at her funny. “Why are you looking at me, like that?”
“Hmm?” he mumbled. “I thought I was dreaming. Is there anything to do here?” Dreaming. Of course, she remembered now, and she felt she was way too old, but then, maybe she wasn’t. She looked at her hands, and was startled to remember that she was still a young woman, not a girl, but far from old. When she stopped dreaming, she had aged years, but the young man reminded her of what it was to live in the realm of ideas, and she was grateful.
It was only after he left that she realized he was the boy, the one from her dream. She knew nothing about him, and she could see her mother shaking her head, dangerous. Still, she followed, wondering why he was here, and where he was going.
He was civil to her, and talked to her freely once she caught up to him. He seemed truly content with what he had, and she was amazed. She had never met anyone content before, just those striving for more. When asked about where he was from he turned to her in astonishment, “Have you not heard of the land to the West? It is where the dreamers live looking for knowledge of those who came before.”
She asked softly, “Can you take me there?”
He looked at her anew, and said, “What is it you do here? Sweep?”
“Yes,” she answered, blushing toward the ground. It was then, that he introduced her to his friends, and his wife, and she stopped in mid dream, horror struck.
How could someone else claim her dream? Yet, he was content with what he had, and wasn’t a dream at all, but a person. He told her he couldn’t take her to the land in the west, but that maybe someone could show her the way. He left her there, not knowing of her dreams, which seemed so silly to her now, all the dancing was gone, and she suddenly felt very old.
She looked to the west, and began to walk down the river, away from the valley town, in the direction he had pointed. She couldn’t help dreaming again.
Seeing the young man in the flesh had forced her to remember what the dreams were like as she walked away letting the broom fall to the ground. Perhaps there was another young man, and that one could be her dream. She knew that wasn’t right, that it was a matter of timing, and place, and she would also have to learn how to be content with what she had in order to find him. Meanwhile, she would look for the land of dreams to the west.