Short Story: The Daydream Eater

Lady Ashlynn rarely slept. During the day she would wander the halls of the Ardon Castle, of which she was its lovely Princess. She wasn’t boastful of her place in the world, nor did her parents lavish her with gold trimmed jewels or stuff her with pastries and sweet cakes. That was the commoner’s doing. Lady Ashlynn walked amongst her people as if she were one of them.

They would admire her sun kissed skin and her hazel eyes and signature curly pigtails. Not her. She stared up at the sky during one of her early morning strolls, escorted of course by a heavily clad guard trained not to speak without command. Ashlynn was only thirteen, rarely did she see anyone her age that had the pure red robes she wore or even the shiny lustered shoes. None were clean, yet she didn’t care. They had carried smiles with them, smiles that she had before she knew that she would someday be Queen. 

She sought to break the silence between her and the guard.

“Sir, may we go out to see the archery performance? I hear that Lady Coralene has gotten very good.”

The guard shook his head. “The King forbids you from being anywhere near anything that might endanger your life. The archers could misfire or something could disturb the event.”

Ashlynn sighed, pulling out her wand. People saw the Princess, but they stayed when the wand came out to play. The guard sighed his own frustration. 

“Again, my lady?” 

She closed her eyes. “It’s okay. You don’t have to watch. I’ll be right here in the town square.” 

The guard sauntered off elsewhere as Ashlynn breathed deep. The common folk, merchants and traders, poor farmers and scrawny children came. The cheering of her name didn’t drive her, nor the number of eyes watching. It was all in her mind.

A wisp of golden light seeps from the tip of the wand. It whirls and twirls with sparks like topaz, then settles onto the ground. Forming from the pool of light emerges a golden fox, flowers blooming around its paws. All the while, Ashlynn’s eyes are closed, she does not think about the imagery being painted before all. She sees other.

She has friends, tall and mighty, short and spirited. She knows not their names or where they come from, for they do magic and unspeakable things no human can do. One young woman standing before her with long black hair and piercing platinum eyes smiles.

The image ripples. Lady Ashlynn’s golden fox dissolves. The flowers wither. 

“Aaaaahhh!” 

A pang, pang, pang in her head ripped. The people stepped back in whispers and in cowers. What was happening to their beloved Princess? Her glorious display was cut short and the guard was summoned by her cry.

“My lady!” he scooped her up into his arms and whisked her away. 

“I don’t know what happened my Queen,” said the guard. 

Ashlynn lay in her long canopy bed with her eyes as bright half moons. She saw her mother as her older self standing beside her, with the guard in a prone and very nervous kneel. 

“She was doing one of her displays again, and I missed what she was showing but then I heard the most blood-curdling scream. I thought someone may have attacked her.”

Her mother glazed over her body. Ashlynn could feel nor see anything out of the ordinary. No blood or bruises, no singes from miscasting of her spells. Her head however, held the shots of a thousand tiny needles. Reaching for her head, she tried to convey this to her mother. 

“Ashlynn…” her mother whispered. 

“Here,” said the Princess. She touched her forehead. 

The Queen’s eyes lit up, and she lifted her dizzy daughter upright. “Are you sure?”Ashlynn nodded. “Leave us for a moment.” 

The guard bowed before making his exit. Just as Ashlynn’s head simmered down, her mother had pulled down the top of her dress collar. The small bit of her chest was exposed. 

“Mother! What are you doing?”

“Shhh,” the Queen put her hand over her daughter’s mouth. “I needed to see if you were…branded.”

“Branded?”

“It’s nothing you need to know yet. Things are peaceful now, at least at the moment. Try not to drift off into the dream world, Ashlynn. The people need you to focus, your future as Queen depends on it.”

A familiar pout came to Ashlynn. Her role as the future Queen of Suhemede always shaded her, yet she also lacked a much needed warmth from the world beyond. It was for this simple reason that Ashlynn held onto dreams. They were her only escape.

When it was time for her training she looked forward to seeing him. Him being Sir Kota, who was far from the rest of the brave knights who served her. He knew magic too, and a magic that was once forbidden by her people. His pointed ears and hair whiter than the stones by the sea set him apart in a blend of sameness. 

He came without his helmet, so that all could see that he was not one of them, but among them all the same. 

“Are you up for a little practice today? Your mother told me what happened.”

Ashlynn nodded. “Yes, I should be okay.”

It began as it always had. Sir Kota would give her a command of emotion and she was to imitate it into the real world. Today it was ‘a new beginning’. 

Ashlynn closed her eyes and concentrated hard. A new beginning. She had always wanted a younger sibling or friends, friends that she got to pick from, not those that were sent to her from wealthy corners of the region. 

A baby emerged from the void of her mind. 

“Have you figured out what you can see?” he asked.

Ashlynn nodded. 

“Then let me see it too.”

With a twitch of her wand the round, smooth form of a clean newborn child rested in front of the two of them. It was hard to tell if it was a boy or girl, Ashlynn didn’t mind if it was either one. Then, came a circle of cheering onlookers behind her. It was the same group of strange folk as before, with the same young woman. This time, her mother stood before them as well. What was she to make of the appearances? She had never seen these kinds of people other than in illustrations and illusions.

Her answer roared against her. Something, somebody reached in. Her images, the young woman, the newborn, all spilled out of her brain and dissolved into a pulpy mush from her wand. Her voice was lost as she merely collapsed onto the ground. She coughed and wheezed feeling Sir Kota’s hands grab her firmly in a dire and heated fear. Again, through a simple act of thought she was forced to experience agony.

Everyday since, the pain had eaten away at Ashlynn. She lay in her room for days only coming out for food and to stretch her legs. It didn’t matter where she went or when though. Just as she daydreamed of other lands and their people, magic and peaceful days they were torn from her psyche and discarded like trash. She cried and sobbed, fearful of what was happening and scared of the fact that no one knew what was going on.

On an ending day her mother came with her own pitted eyes, aching even further as she watched her daughter deteriorate. 

“I’m sorry my child,” said the Queen. “I fear I should tell you why I’ve been so scared for you and your troubles.”

“Mother, why can’t I simply imagine happy things anymore?”

The Queen lay beside Ashlynn. “You have a gift, a gift of dreams. Yet you were not meant to carry this burden. It shouldn’t be yours to bear. I’m not entirely sure of it myself, but there is a beast I have met who is meant to carry the gift of dreaming alone. You are meant for something other.”

“But, I like these dreams. None of them are bad, confusing yes. But not nightmares.” 

“Mistakes have been made before when it comes to these marks,” said the Queen. She pointed to the half-formed heart on her collarbone. “but there is no mistake that soon the Gods will need us to carry their will. Maybe your dreams show those who you will meet someday.”

“Who is this beast?” asked Ashlynn. “is he an ugly monster with big, mean fangs?”

The Queen shook her head. “We will summon him, and see what this beast truly is.”

Because she couldn’t sleep herself, Ashlynn’s mother blew a strange silver dust into her daughter’s eyes and she was finally able to slumber.

The Queen and Ashlynn were taken to the outskirts of Suhemede, a long ride but would be more than worth it to Ashlynn if she could confront the monster. She wondered why her mother would allow a creature with such power near her. What if the beast ate more than daydreams? It could’ve been a trap so that he could feast on her!

“This should be far enough,” said the Queen.

The mother and daughter let themselves out of the carriage, where dozens of guards and knights had formed a perimeter around them. The Queen then lifted her arms with her wand in her right hand and spoke of a name Ashlynn had never heard of. 

“Come, Cheveyo!”

The guards made an opening and there was silence. A yipping noise broke through. Dust from the path which the beast gathered followed a trail from where no one knew. It was not long, and he had not been far. As the knights armed their blades and prepared for the creature, it slid into its greeting with a golden flare.

Massive for its size, a coyote with a green neckerchief and golden eyes stood before the entourage. He looked no further than to Ashlynn and her shaking body. He could in fact swallow her with those giant jaws, if he so chose. 

“You wanted to know who was stealing your daydreams…here he is.” 

What to make of it, wondered Ashlynn. How and why were the obvious questions, but who Cheveyo was rose to the top of her list.

“Cheveyo has only been around for a few hundred years, that seems like eons to us but to the Borderland races that is mere moments. All I know is that they say Cheveyo was once a member of one of those other races, and that he had the gift of foresight and other psychic powers. Perhaps they had been scattered when he’d been changed.”

Cheveyo howled, high and long. He was agreeing. 

Ashlynn approached with a cautionary curiousity. The guards and the knights readied their stances, yet the Queen remained unfazed. With soft hands the Princess dared to touch the creature’s golden yet matted fur. 

“You don’t want to eat me…do you?”

Cheveyo yawned. No.

“But my dreams are not my own. Why is that so?”

The coyote snorted, then scratched furiously at the dirt beneath him until he found a jagged stone. He picked the stone up with power and slammed his jaws down hard. Bits and pieces fell from his mouth, but only one remained. It dropped at Ashlynn’s feet.

Crystalline and dirty red, Ashlynn was unsure if it was a precious gem or a bit of rock with the coyote’s blood on it. His jowls seemed sore. 

The Queen smiled. “You must make your own dream, Ashlynn. Make it come true on your own. Do not worry about the desires of others, or what things should be. I feel, that is what Cheveyo is saying.” 

The Princess held the strange jewel in her hand. “I can’t just forget about my dreams, even if they aren’t mine. I want friends and a big family, I want to see the world!”

‘You will.’

Ashlynn turned to face Cheveyo, though she didn’t know why. The beast could no more talk than she could cast a spell without a wand.

‘But these dreams are of the future, you need only concern yourself with the present…and yourself only. Though you had the spark to carry the dreams I alone must bear this task. Someday you will be Queen, and the people will need you to be clear of mind and strong. Let me ease your mind.’

Before Ashlynn could manage a gasp, Cheveyo’s mouth opened wide. Her eyes caught the golden glimmers and the flowers. They followed the flowing hair of the strange woman and the shape of the newborn. Dozens of faces she’d never met, of people and creatures she’d never seen, where leaving her all at once. The pain surged deep, but over the run of the feasting on her mind she felt light. The questions plaguing her, the wonder and worry, the puzzles and past all went with her. So too, did her strength. 

She collapsed before the beast and went to sleep without fail.

The morning thereafter, Ashlynn walked the streets of the town with Sir Kota in toe. She would frequent the sky with her eyes and just examine the cloudlessness. The sun was at its highest and she breathed deeply. No such memory of her frequent daydreams or of the Daydream Eater came to her. She hardly remembered what the beast was called. She did not seem to care.

A small boy called out to her, “Princess, will you do another display for us?”

Princess Ashlynn smiled and looked over to Sir Kota. He nodded, more than happy to watch her play. She took out her wand and went out to the central fountain, stepping on its surface and nicking lily pads. Sparks and dancing lights poured out of her and into the stones, and the people clapped away. There was no need to dream for the moment, or any moment thereafter. She lived those thoughts from now on, no longer burdened by their weight. Thanks could’ve been given to the Daydream Eater, if she could’ve remembered him.

And Vice Versa: Storytelling Fears

When I write I become more self-conscious than if I’m walking out of the bathroom with a booger still in my nose. I’ve learned to quell this feeling, but there are two reasons why my writing progress would come to a screeching halt.

Since I’ve began this writing journey for keeps at age fifteen and started sharing my work I’ve noticed patterns. I can write fairly well (and I’ll be sure to show that soon) but I tend to lack clarity in my storytelling and I find myself having to explain in a rather long-winded way what things mean. My friend also read the book Wither by Lauren DeStefano where she thought the idea of the story was interesting but was poorly executed. I was relating to this even though I’d never read the book.

It can happen in reverse, with the writing being great but the story is boring or just cliche or even in bad taste. And then of course is the ultimate fail of having both problems which goes without saying isn’t worth anyone’s time or money. We need to determine what makes a good book good.

I think the writing craft is more objective and is therefore easy to see why this is so important. No one can bother to read a book that can’t grasp basic grammar or rhythm or has spelling errors in it. Styles of writing constantly change. In earlier times you could write as much description as it took to make you immersed in that world or setting. The language reflected the time and the longer and more drawn out the better. Now our attention spans are so short you have to come up with these things called ‘hooks’ and if you don’t catch a readers attention by the very first sentence you can’t bait them back. It’s a conditioning of a world that may be moving too fast.

There are numerous rules to follow too. No prologues or flashbacks. Only the most stellar yet brief descriptions. Organic dialogue that isn’t choppy. No info dumping… :/ And we wonder why it’s so hard to get published today. Not to mention that nearly all of these rules are broken by many new and seasoned authors ranging from Amazon bestsellers to the local thrift store toss-ups. They are still published. Someone out there took a chance on them or thought they were good enough for the public eye and a small paperback.

I’ve realized that if you have a unique perspective, appeal to a wide audience or offer something that’s always in demand you can get away with many things. Yet many of the rules or writing are in place for a reason. Spelling, grammar, pacing, and plotting are the foundation of good writing and unless you have a really good excuse (take Sapphire’s novel Push, where the main character is illiterate and the story is being told from her perspective) you shouldn’t shake these foundations.

A story is subjective. Even with the building blocks of writing firmly beneath you a person can read the first two chapters of your book and put it down. They may never pick it back up again either. We’re assuming this person knew what they liked though, and understood that they went to a certain section of the library or bookstore for something they could enjoy. So why didn’t they pick up the story or keep reading it?

Every genre has a standard. Fantasies are expected to be long and extravagant, thrillers are loaded with suspense right on the first page. Historical fiction better have its facts straight. You get me, I’m sure. Standards are there, but so are surprises. When someone has a book about a dystopian future on another planet since Earth is destroyed or a thriller where the killer is the detective playing up the role, we get excited.

Then you realize that the dystopian novel is essentially the Hunger Games on Jupiter, or the thriller is more horror than suspenseful. Maybe the plot meanders into nowhere or the main character is totally unlikeable (even a villainous character can have something to relate to the reader). Storytelling flaws, unlike writing flaws, are not easy to fix and are extremely dependent on the genre, tone and the author’s own personal meaning and style.

Needless to say, bad writing and storytelling scare me. But I’m not afraid of constructive criticism and I feel that is the backbone of what makes writers and artists good. What are your thoughts? Are these fears justified or should we fear nothing at all and dive in?

My Patient Tree

Image

I am in a constant state of waiting. Biding time, hoping for the best. Wishing things to change. Patience, it is a virtue that must have room to grow. Do I give it the time it needs to cultivate or do I pull it in the early stages? It depends, but it never should. Until the time is right waiting is what I do.

There isn’t always a way to know when the time is up for waiting, and when the loud, overbearing cousin Persistence stops by and accelerates Patience things can swing either favorably or against everything. There are days when Patience is overwhelmed by Frustration or completely destroyed by Anger. Then there are days where all other relatives of Emotion must sit and watch Patience shine. It’s very hard to hold onto this need to wait, especially when we are so inclined to take matters into our own hands.

Most people pray to close this gap, others meditate, a handful fill their hands with time killers such as books or handheld games, and the result is again, a matter of hope. Hoping that the outcome is what they desire and arrives in a timely manner. Hope can be easily dashed, and the vacant hole left behind can only be filled with Desperation…

Or Acceptance.

Acceptance is the well-behaved child. The one who does what their told and is then rewarded, not the other way around. It can be heartbreaking to know that Acceptance is nothing like you expected or wanted-maybe it’s even worse than you could’ve imagined. But what does shunning the end result do for you, me or anyone else? A rift as wide as a tree trunk forms, and Hate, the most venomous relative or Emotion, takes over.

In the short span of 8 months or so I’ve learned the importance of Patience and Acceptance, and have become more prepared for things yet to come both good and bad. Our capacities do have limits, and even as I grow older I still have mine. As long as we learn to Accept we can grow, and maybe a new and different tree can form.

Rewind, a Poem by Bre

Days grow soft

Uneventful, repetitive

Hollow.

Then come the afterimages of my thoughts,

Lingering.

Gone.

The cycle continues on.

The pain dulls, then throbs in a blink

Once again I am forced to think

To dwell, to retreat, into the recesses of joy

To this I say…A passing thing

Where the spark began and the neurons sing

I find myself pause in the middle of time.

Waiting to hear the words of Cloud 9.

Yet each morning I simply hit rewind………………….

………………….dniwer tih ylpmis I gninrom hcae teY

.9 duolC fo sdrow eht raeh ot gnitiaW

.emit fo elddim eht ni esuap flesym dnif I

gnis snoruen eht dna nageb kraps eht erehW

gniht gnissap A…yas I siht oT

yoj fo sessecer eht otni ,taerter to ,llewd oT

kniht ot decrof ma I niaga ecnO

knilb a ni sborht neht ,sllud niap ehT

.no seunitnoc elcyc ehT

.enoG

.gniregniL

,sthguoht ym fo egamiretfa eht emoc nehT

.wolloH

evititeper ,luftnevenU

tfos dna syaD

When will I wake up?

Creative Cancer

I am a procrastinator.

Even as I write I’m constantly glancing over at my computer at a video of Tekken Tag 2. Things slip under my examination at every turn, personal or business, it matters not. Past loves go by the wayside as current duties grow in size. They become overwhelming, painful to deal with, disgusting to even talk about let alone discuss.

I ignore it, one could say. It’s apart of life. People go through spells and bouts of fatigue for passion, sick of trying to follow how-tos and quick over-the-desk remedies for lack of creativity. I knew once everything caught up with me I’d begin to lose sight of myself and my dreams. I was withering.

So I clean my room. The clutter of old, high school clothes and the chaos brought on by stress and work was one of the many tumors in my life. I stopped the flow and it shrunk down to size. Old clothes, shoes and books will now go to someone who wants and needs them for the Holidays.

There are still many more things to cut from my life, but it’s all about letting go and finding the source. If you can remove the things in your life that cause you grief in your creative life then slowly you will find healing. They may be benign, like TV or too much internet time. They may be malignant, like self-doubt or depression. It’s a matter of how badly you want your creativity back or even more so, how badly do you want to live your life to the fullest?