Guernica Magazine

The Dreamlords

Sometimes I was being chased by furies—monsters with the heads of women and bodies of huge black birds—and the castle was my refuge. Other times I wandered its halls looking for my husband, poking my head in each room and noting the tapestries and gold-framed oil paintings. The post The Dreamlords appeared first on Guernica.
Detail of John Martin's "The Great Day of His Wrath," ca. 1851.

We lived with my father in a two-bedroom house that had once seemed too small, then became too big. Or maybe I was so accustomed to being cramped that the extra space felt excessive, made me aware of the absence of my mother and husband and how my daughter had once slept on the couch but now had a small bed in my room. She was eight and in third grade, a bright kid who liked drawing and carefully ignored the fact that we bought clothes from garage sales.

“It’s more fun this way,” she said when we scoured someone else’s card tables for sweatshirts and jeans in her size. Like any eight-year-old, it seemed she’d sprouted another inch every time I turned around. She looked for shirts with bright colors and sparkles. I squinted at the fabric to be certain there were no stains I couldn’t get out with a good scrub.

But my daughter was clean, warm, and fed, which had been tricky before I had the dreaming job, especially when we needed extra money to repair the house. My husband had done that when he was alive, and now that he’d been gone for two years, there were window drafts he would have patched, but I couldn’t. My dad didn’t have the stamina to carry my husband’s heavy toolbox, and I worried about him with the electric drill. Even mopping the kitchen left him breathless at the table. I sewed curtains and made doorstops to keep out the cold, but it was my dreaming that bought us new windows. That helped a lot, especially during winter.

I was lucky that my kid loved drawing. It was entertaining and cheap.

“I’m going to be an architect when I grow up,” she told me when showing off her latest artwork. “Like Daddy wanted to do.”

I adjusted my glasses and held the drawing closer, to see the pointed conical roofs that reminded me of unicorn horns. Her father had drawn fanciful castles, telling her tales about the people who lived inside. He loved the delicate puzzle of buildings, of stonework techniques and steel skeletons beneath cement and glass. “When we have enough money, I’ll go back to school,” he often said. I tried to add to our savings, but we always had some more pressing financial need. Leaky roof. Leaky pipes. Broken water heater.

But I still saw his cities in my dreams: their twisting stairways, turreted towers, and grinning gargoyles nested in my mind. That might have explained the high demand. Often my dreams were copied and sold over and over to various clients.

*

I entered the dream business simply enough, when I was chatting with the wife of one of the dreamlords. She was a regular customer at the salon where I worked doing hair and nails, trying to make enough to pay

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