A short story that involves a young transgender woman falling asleep and meeting the Sandman who she then shares her greatest nightmare with in hopes of him removing it from her dream cycle.
She stretched her neck one last time, her arms overhead as she pushed them near the end of their rope, her body tightening at its elastic limit as she released her coil and drifted off to sleep.
She curled up next to her pillow.
Her body becoming weightless, unable to define where her neck began and where toes would end.
She was floating, floating away into the land of dreams.
Only this time, it was different. There were no memories to rehash, no fantasies to swim through.
It was empty, an ether in which one man stood in the distance: a tall, pale, gawkish looking figure. She walked towards him, unsure of where this dream might lead her.
Upon her approach, however, the figure turned around and stared back at her.
His hair fizzled, curled like the rings of Saturn. His nose large, and his eyes like stardust.
“Hello, young dreamer,” he said.
His voice is translucent, textured like a cold night’s breeze.
“My name is Sandman,” he said. “I am the keeper of all dreams, though I would not interfere,”
“I do see them all.”
“I have no family, no friends,” he said. “I am eternal.”
He threw out his arms, the cloak he wore hiding most of their makeup, his white hands pricked out from the cloth-like leaves on a tree.
“Tell me, young dreamer,” he said. “What dreams do you have that I cannot see?”
“Dreams of wealth? Of fame?” He asked, “or are these dreams of intimacy? Of passion?”
“Do not hide them from me, for I am as powerful as the gods who made you.” He said.
His voice growing softer as he gently asked, “tell me, young dreamer, what dream can I bring you?”
Unsure of the male figure standing before her, she took a step back from the Sandman. Pausing, she wondered if this even a dream, or had she died and drifted elsewhere? How could she tell?
Dreams were merely worlds without structure, able to be destroyed and recreated in a moment.
“Unsure, are you?” The Sandman asked, raising from his bow.
“Uh, yes,” she answered.
“I promise I am not here to harm, only to help,” he says, “for I am The Sandman, and it is not mine to impose any disservice to those who do not belong to me.”
She kindly nodded, taking another step back before an idea popped up in her head.
She took a step forward, nearing his long shadow, and asked, “you said you can create dreams?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“could you change them?” She asked
“Why, yes, I suppose I could. Though, it is incredibly rare that I would choose to do so.” He replied.
“Only dreams though?” She asked.
“Why yes, of course,” he replied. “I am the ruler of dreams, nothing more is in the reach of my hand.”
“Why do you ask? young dreamer.”
He knelt down so that he might look her in the eyes as she answered.
She looked down at the floor, white and infinite like that of a blank canvas.
“what about nightmares?” She asked.
There was a pause before the Sandman stumbled upon an answer. He stood upright and said, “that, young dreamer, is a difficult question to ask of I.”
Caressing his chin, he explained,
“while dreams are more like stories, almost completely works of fiction meant to comfort or distract us.”
“On the other hand, nightmares are often more truth than fiction, wounds in need of repair despite how abnormal they may seem.”
He took a step back and shrugged, looking towards the sky of his palace though there was nothing there that she could see.
“Come,” he said.
“Show me your nightmare, and I will see if I can help relieve you of its torment.”
She nodded and walked alongside him.
They walked together for only a minute, maybe two, before he stopped her with his hand and wafted it in front of her.
Magic spilled out from his fingers, opening a gleaming oval of stars and color.
He motioned his hand towards it as she took a deep breath and walked through its passage, The Sandman following close behind.
The room they now stood in is was dark, the kind of darkness that makes you keenly aware of the very space you occupy.
She reaches for the Sandman, feeling his cold hand graze hers.
Then in the distance, she sees him: a white, tapered, older gentlemen.
His chin stout and his hair combed neatly.
His smile is big, deceitful, and swindling.
Next to him, she sees another figure, a girl with the same hair, the same shoes, and the same body as hers.
Her shoulders slump down as the man wraps his arm around her and brings her close to him.
He whispers something into her hear, but she can’t make it out before the world around her and The Sandman comes to life.
The lights clap on, the sounds of factory machinery roaring throughout the four grey walls that spawned from what was once emptiness.
She hears the unique sound of each machine filling the factory floor that had constructed itself before her eyes: the sewing machine ran by the crooked nun and her mighty ruler; the compressor controlled by her father and his shaky right hand which always had a drink in it, and the factory line run by the man in the suit.
She watches the girl go to each station of the production line, each station causing her to slump further and further down.
The nun strips her naked and replaces her clothes with boys clothes, the father unscrews her back and shoves in a new chip fit for a good ol’ boy, and at the end of the runway awaits the businessman.
He rips away her nails, her lipstick, her jewelry, and her rainbow wristbands.
She slumps past her knees, her body folding in on itself, and her tears creating puddles beneath her.
The man pushes out a full-length mirror and spins it towards her before rejoining her side and demanding she stands up straight.
He smiles next to her, telling her to smile.
Her bottom lip quivers and her shoulders jump, as he leans down next to her and whispers with a slimy grin, “isn’t this better? Son?”
The Sandman sees the girl beginning to cry, as the nightmare fades away as quickly as it came.
He approaches and asks, “it that it?”
She replies with a nod.
The Sandman takes a deep breath before sauntering away, his cloak dragging on the white floor behind him.
“Is that it?” She screams.
She reaches out to grab his shoulder, her hand falling through his body as she falls to the floor he walks on, the wind escaping her.
“I’m sorry, my dear,” the Sandman says,” but I cannot assist you.”
“Why?” She asks. “Why can no one help me?” She cries. She rolls over and folds herself over her knees, hugging them tightly.
“All I can offer you,” he says, “is my wisdom.”
She stands to her feet and nods at his offer. She looks up towards him, as he says,
“They are wrong.”
“Despite what your nightmares may whisper, you know who you truly are, and all that matters is that you believe that truth and that it brings you joy.”
“I have been awake for eons, older than the stars themselves, and I promise you that no matter how alone you may feel, you are never alone.”
She looks away from him, wiping her eyes clean before embracing him.
He lets out a chuckle as her eyes close.
She feels him embrace her, as they stand together, alone in the shadow of a bad dream.