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The Sandman’s Awakening: An Urban Fantasy

I can see people’s dreams and nightmares.

Dancing lights and shadows playing above their heads in 3D, like a movie without a TV.

I first noticed back when I shared a room with my older brother. I was so excited for Santa to visit, I couldn’t sleep. My heart was in my throat and energy zipped through my veins as I tried to listen out for the sounds of hooves on my roof and footsteps as Santa stomped towards the window — because we all know he comes through windows now, not chimneys.

Though my brother says that’s just as creepy.

But to a kid, none of that mattered. I wanted to see Santa for myself.

Except, that night, all I saw were my brother’s dreams. Not that I knew that’s what they were at the time.

In the dark of the night, as I poked my face from under the thick duvet and stared into the nightlight-lit gloom of our room, my quest to see Santa was distracted by a dancing show of dusty lights and shadows above my brother’s face. A boy sliding down a hill on a snowboard, and laughing with mates.

I called his name, but he didn’t answer. But the show changed.

I left the warm embrace of my duvet and padded over the carpet to lean on his bed and look closer, reaching out for the show.

The boy fell off the snowboard, and my brother flinched.

My hand went straight through the dust. Nothing was there.

I asked him about it the next day, but he had no idea what it was about.

Since then, I tried to stay up as late as I could to see it again. Each night I could stay awake long enough, it appeared above my brother’s face.

Different shadows and lights this time, like he’d left the TV on. Except it was black and white, like the olden days.

I ran into my parents’ room, and they had black and white TVs of their own above their heads.

No one believed me when I tried to ask about it. I kept quiet.

It took years to realise it was people’s dreams, or their nightmares. But I learned early on that I saw no dreams or nightmares for myself.

Instead of seeing them for myself, I saw theirs.

I tried telling a roommate once. Years later. We’d been drinking, and he’d been telling me about a weird dream he’d had the night before. I knew. I’d seen it. Though I wish I hadn’t. I learned as I got older sometimes it was best not to see people’s dreams.

He laughed. Didn’t believe me, asked if I was the sandman or something.

“Don’t be ridiculous, mate,” I said, tossing my screwed up sandwich bag into the bin. Goal. “The sandman can control dreams, can’t he. I can’t.”

Or could I. I’d never tried.

It wasn’t long before he crashed to sleep, drunk, and the grey and pale dust spiralled around his head in a strange cloud of drunken dreams. Curious, I got up and reached out my hand.

But what did I make him dream about?

In the dim, I saw the motorbike racing poster above his bed.

Let’s try that.

I held out my hand again and concentrated on the dust, imagining amongst the strange spiralling a racer zooming out from the cloud and skidding around a corner on a race track.

The dust moved, but no bike came.

I scoffed. Of course it wouldn’t work.

The sandman hadn’t been seen or talked about for centuries. As if.

I was just about to climb into my own bed when out of the corner of my eye I saw a bike racer leap out of the dusty cloud above my friend’s face. I froze, knee on my bed.

Hands raised again, pointing towards my friend, and this time I thought harder. Bike turns to a crappy little bi-plane.

Don’t ask why.

I tried to really visualise it this time, and then it appeared in front of me, zooming over my friend’s head.

A laugh of disbelief burst from my mouth, and I sat on the bed, grinning ear to ear, still wild from the booze.

Wings fall off …

In the dust, the plane plummeted, and my friend cried out and fidgeted.

Land in a giant pile of marshmallows …

He did, and my friend let out a sigh in his sleep.

I stared at my hands, grey in the darkness. What if I WAS the sandman?

I can see people’s dreams and nightmares.

But not my own.

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