Written By: Benji Gutsin
“Murderer! Murderer!” a shrill voice screeched.
The Dream Peddler looked up and around them. They were surrounded.
“Grab them! Grab them!
“Don’t let them get away!”
“No, please you–– try to understand!” Red and black figures flashed through their vision as they looked around, afraid and scared. Everything seemed to be screaming, their periphery was clouded with a deep blood red. The sky was black and closing in on them. Their body was cold and hot all at the same time. Their hands were shaking and their throat was dry. It was getting harder to speak as they seemed to choke on the air in their lungs. A thick uncomfortable layer of humidity settled around them as blazing white hot torches closed in on them. “No, no, please understand, it wasn’t me!”
“It wasn’t me! It wasn’t––”
Gasping awake the Dream Peddler took in deep gulps of air. The cool refreshing evening breeze from their window helped calm them down as they settled down and reminded themselves where they were. They were wrapped up in their blanket to the point of near suffocation and their legs were twisted into an uncomfortable position. Their long hair, covered in sweat, was stuck in several uncomfortable crevices around their body making the uncomfortable situation all the more unpleasant. They adjusted their position into a much more comfortable one and undid the blanket knot from behind their back. Then pulled their hair back to try and tame it. With a deep sigh, they swung their legs so they were dangling off the side of the bed. Another night, another dream ruined by their guilt, how disappointing. They pressed the palm of their hand to their forehead. After a few moments a dark puce, almost muted grey, thing emerged from in between their eyes. As soon as it was removed from their head they gripped it tight in their hands so it wouldn’t go away then slammed it into the nearby jar they had set out the night before knowing this would occur. They screwed the lid on tight to prevent the nightmare from escaping. Looking out the window they saw the moon starting to get close to the horizon. Early morning then. Best be getting started, they supposed. They pulled themselves out of the bed to get ready for the day.
After managing to wash themself of all the sweat and grime from tossing and turning in bed they got dressed. They checked themself in the mirror and saw nothing else that they could really do for the time being. The Dream Peddler climbed into their dumbwaiter which was in the wall across from the foot of their bed. The dumbwaiter was a simple wood thing that had come with the building, surprisingly enough it was the only way to access the upper floor, but that was possibly one of the many reasons rent was so cheap, the Dream Peddler didn’t mind all that much though, they didn’t use it that much so it didn’t bother them. They lowered themself down via a rope that hung by a pulley system which they used to move in-between floors of their home. They arrived on the first floor in their workshop then walked into the front end where they ran their shop. Without another thought, they set out from their building and down the street into town to start the day.
The kind figure stepped inside the first store of the morning as the welcome bell chimed behind them on the way in. It was just starting to be light out, the sun barely shone in through the shop windows, make the orange of the inside contrast the dark blues seeping in through the windows in a delightfully surreal atmosphere. Most of the outside was still bathed in a cool blanket of night, but the inside of the shop was slightly warmer than that which was very pleasant. “Good morning my friend,” they said to the man slumped over behind the counter, his head in his hands. “Has my Emotion order come in yet?”
The man behind the counter, his nametag read Julius on it, looked up and yawned. “Huh? Oh, hey Dream Peddler, yeah it just came in. You’re lucky that I’m good at outsourcing. Emotions like the ones you take are hard to find. And that I get up at ungodly hours for you. You know I do a lot of stuff to make sure we have good business together.”
The Dream Peddler chuckled. “Ah well, I only take the finest ingredients for my dreams, where else am I going to find them but here? Speaking of which…” they reached into their pocket to pull out a glass vial that had a flat bottom with a small beach inside of it. The waves of the ocean lapping at the shores of the tiny world. “It’s your niece’s birthday if I’m correct? I hope this will do as payment. One dream about collecting seashells with a small turtle companion. She’s going through an ocean phase, right?” They placed it down on the counter with a feather light touch so they didn’t disturb any of the slumber within. The water inside sloshed around a bit at the movement, but not enough to make it any less serene.
Julius smiled as he picked up the glass giving it a once over in his hands. “Yeah, that’ll do. Thanks, Peddler. Just her size too,” he said. Julius took a moment to stow the dream in his jacket pocket which was hanging next to the warehouse door for safekeeping. He stretched out to get ready for a bit of the heavy lifting he was about to do. Nothing he couldn’t handle though. “Just give me a second to go and get your stuff. I won’t be long.”
“Try to hurry, if you please? I’m expecting someone in my shop.”
“Sure thing,” he said tapping on the counter then heading off to the back where the storage was. The Dream Peddler could hear a few boxes and items shifting around as Julius searched for their order. After a moment his voice piped up from inside “So, who’s the early riser? That kid again?”
“Her name is Loraine. And, yes. I imagine she’ll need a new dream.”
“You know, all that dream switchin’ she does probably ain’t healthy. You think something’s going on with her? If you have a good enough bribe I bet the mayor could help you look into it.”
The Dream Peddler decided not to comment. A moment of silence passed in the air. Not uncomfortable by any means. Just a rather unsatisfied pause for whatever reason.
“Oh! Found it!” Julius came back out to the front carrying two rather heavy boxes. Inside the boxes were jars, larger than the one the Dream Peddler had given Julius, filled with glittery goopy slushy liquid. “Here ya go.”
“Ah, thank you,” they said smiling and ready to leave.
“Ah, ah, ah,” Julius said wiggling his finger at the Dream Peddler. “You know the rules, identification please.” He held out his hand for their papers.
“Oh, right yes of course.” They reached into their pocket to pull out a paper with their information on it. Just standard stuff like profession, name, place of birth.
Julius began looking it over without much scrutiny. “Name?” he asked.
“Dream Peddler.” They said.
“Do you have a history of drug or emotional abuse?”
“Will you produce your product using the emotions I’ve given you in a safe and, honorable, way that will better other people’s lives?”
Julius smiled and reached out to shake their hand giving them back their papers. “Pleasure doing business with you as always.”
“And to you as well,” The Dream Peddler replied giving Julius’s hand a firm and honest handshake. They took the boxes into their arms then gave Julius a smile. “Have a good day my friend!”
“Yeah you too, don’t be a stranger now, ya hear?”
“You know I won’t.” The door closed behind them on their way out, sitting outside Julius’s shop was a simple red wagon. It was a little worn down, but trustworthy all the same. The Dream Peddler places both boxes inside making sure to be gentle so none of the glass would break. They pulled it behind them as they headed off to the next shop. They hoped she would be there on time so he could get everything done on time. Loraine was expected in about three hours or so.
When they arrived at the next shop they tried to open the door only to find it locked. With a sigh, they set their wagon next to the door. They would be back later after a nice walk and a little look-see at the shops as they waited for Penelope, the jar lady, to come. They walked down the town road at a slow and leisure pace, making sure to take the time to admire the way the sunlight bent over the sky to make the clouds all pink and sweet. The Dream Peddler stopped to admire the local florist’s blooming daffodils in the window sill, taking a sniff and smiled to themself at the pleasant scent. The bakery was just starting to heat up their ovens and the Dream Peddler could smell the fresh dough and flour from inside the shop. Looking inside they could see a soft puff of a flour dust cloud as the baker and his daughter worked to get everything ready for morning customers. The Dream Peddler vaguely wondered if they could stop in and say hello to the bustling duo, but the two seemed busy enough as it was. They didn’t want to be any trouble.
“Here I am! Here I am! I’m so sorry I’m late! Mr. Poodle was so fussy this morning,” Penelope said.
“Yes, of course, it’s not a problem. He’s your newest cat, yes?”
Penelope flashed the Dream Peddler a dazed and happy smile while unlocking the door. “Yep, that’s him. Come on in now,” she waved her hand at them as the door swung open. The store was so colorful. Stained glass creations hung from the ceiling refracting light in all different direction seemingly at random. That coupled with the morning sunrise that shone through the windows and bounced about on the glass jars made the whole shop almost surreal, like a dream.
“Now then, what can I get for you today?” Penelope asked. She had put on her large glasses which were big green rectangles on her face, making her eyes seem rather large almost like a rabbit without the teeth, or the fuzzy fur. No, her hair was quite fuzzy but more frizzled than soft. The pounds of glass jewelry she wore tinkled and jingled with all her movements, following her as she walked about.
“I was thinking my usual order. Twenty vials, a hundred jars, eight glass balls, and two large glass water jugs,” the Dream Peddler said.
“Are you sure you only need two jugs?”
The Dream Peddler nodded. “Not everyone likes having big dreams, sometimes it’s the little dreams that matter the most.” The looked around for a moment then reached up to touch one of the stained-glass creations with a delicate touch. The light moved and twinkled in their hands. What a wonderful thing.
Penelope smiled as she began to pull out their order from the shelves. “You know what? I like you. Even though you’re weird and new, and you have a strange job. I like you. You’re a good egg, I can tell.” She gave them a pat on the cheek then went back to collecting together their order.
The Dream Peddler chuckled at that. “Thank you very much, madam.” When Penelope was finished pulling out their order she grouped them together and wrapped them up nice and secure so they wouldn’t break. “How would you like to pay for that, dearie?”
“I um… one moment please.” The Dream Peddler reached into their pocket to pull out eight teeny tiny plastic containers, and one glass jar. “That’s… um, eight cat dreams, and one dream for the beautiful lady in front of me,” they said. They set out the little plastic containers, before the woman in front of the jar so she could take a look inside of them. Within them were little miniatures of fish, mice, balls of yarn, cat toys, and butterflies to chase. Tiny worlds all different and unique and special to each dream. Within the woman’s dream was a cozy fireplace, a book sitting on a comfy rocking chair, and about a dozen happy kittens all meowing and playing with each other.
Penelope paused for a moment then took the dreams in her hands with a smile. “Yes, this will do very nicely. Thank you.”
The Dream Peddler smiled and gathered their wares into their arms. “Sweet dreams, Miss Penelope.”
“And you too!” she called after them as they left the store.
The Dream Peddler soon set off smiling. The little town was finally starting to stretch out and wake up. They would have to hurry up if they wanted to make it on time.
“Dream Peddler! Please, my wife, I need your help!”
Damn. They didn’t have time. All the same, they didn’t want to be rude either. The Dream Peddler turned their head trying to look at whoever had called them. “I’m so sorry! Come to my shop later, I have to prepare some orders for this morning! We’ll have tea together!” they said as they sped down the street. Then ran right into a man in a uniform, what kind of uniform it was the Dream Peddler couldn’t say, they just kept running to their shop. “Sorry!” They cried over their shoulder.
Finally, they halted to a stop in front of their shop. It was nothing spectacular. A simple two story building. One floor for their workshop, and the one room upstairs that had a small kitchen, bathroom, and living space. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get by. Unlocking the front door, they stepped inside pulling their supplies behind them. The door welcome bell chimed behind them while they moved to the workshop room in the back.
Their workshop was a modest and cozy one. Almost akin to a pottery workshop, only with dream supplies instead of clay. They unpacked all their supplies then rolled up their sleeves. Grabbing their apron from off a hook they set out each glass container individually. First, he got started on the big dreams. The two jugs. They were easy enough recipes most of them were just a third ambition, another third determination, and a third of something else, usually, it was self-satisfaction, but happiness or humility managed to come in now and again. Beginner’s work really. As they poured the goopy mixtures in they then mixed it all together. Once the jugs were thoroughly mixed they took each jug and shook the living nightmares out of them until the emotions within evaporated into pastel colored smoke. They let the smoke release into the air and looked at their work inside. Dreams of success, money, power, and betterment were left behind. A fine job, but not their best work. They set the jugs to the side so they could improve on the dreams later. Next came the jars, they didn’t have time to make many of them, unfortunately. The smaller the dreams got the more time and care had to go into making them. It was hard work, yes, but so very much worth it in the end. They prepared three jars, one in which the user would be swept away to distant lands by their favorite fictional character coming across the ability to fly and do other fantastic things during their travels, one in which the user was surrounded by exotic animals in a sanctuary that defined the word beauty and would be surrounded by caring pets no one else dared to cross paths, and the last one, the one the Dream Peddler thought to be their best work yet, a dream in which the dreamer was a brave knight in shining armor that makes friends with a magical mermaid the two would go off on glorious crusades across the sea defeating pirates and eventually becoming the ruler of the land.
The glare of a golden sweet light shining in their eyes snapped them out of their work. They looked over at the time to see how they were only to feel their heartbeat skip a little in realization. Oh dear, they were late. They puttered about inside, preparing to open up their shop. They tied their long hair back into a low hanging ponytail so it wouldn’t disturb them as they worked. After all, tidiness was intrinsically important to what they did. They flipped their sign to open and waited by the cash register.