Intermission 1A (Telling Tales)
A friend sent me the following 5-part story on a whim and it was so lovely I asked her permission to post it. She’s a periodic blogger at Cakes and Ale, a frequent theater artist of many, many stripes, and a delightful person. Telling Tales will pick up again on February 18th. In the meantime, here is The Dreamcatcher.
A Restless Princess Dreams of Sleep
Once there was and once there was not a restless princess.
The princess was restless in the widely used definition of the word – always searching for something she couldn’t find, always strolling from castle room to castle room for no good reason, her mind always wandering off in mid-conversation. But she was also restless in the most literal sense. The princess did not sleep.
The first dream happened when she was very, very young. She was on a boat on a river, a long boat carrying her through the darkness towards some lights on an island, when suddenly a monster ripped through the boat from the water beneath her. All she could see of it was its huge silhouette, its gleaming sharp teeth, and its red, red eyes. She was so afraid, she woke up in a cold sweat.
The dreams continued and grew in their sophistication. They found new ways to trick her into sleep. It was as if they crawled up from beneath the pillow upon which her head lay, grab her by the hair and pull her down into their nightmare realm. Sometimes her dreams crawled out of the reflections in her mirror. Sometimes her nightmares were her reflection.
These dreams were too much for her little body to handle, so the princess did the only thing she could. She stopped sleeping altogether.
Her royal parents promised anyone all the riches they could give for a cure. Wizards and witches showed up with sleeping potions and dream banishments. Princes promised happiness so bright that the nightmares would dissipate, and there was even a heroic thief who played a golden harps to lull the princess to a calming dream. But the princess still would not sleep.
“I’ll solve this myself,” said the princess. And off she went.
Well, off she escaped, rather. Given her fragile condition, her loving parents would never have knowingly let her out of the castle. With the cunning use of a bed sheet rope on the one hand and a pole for vaulting on the other, the princess was on her way to her own adventures.
She walked straight into the thin forest that surrounded the castle. She let herself be guided by the arc of the sun as she had read about in books. She did not stop to rest but wandered as was her way, her mind thinking as idly as her feet, one idea falling with every other footstep. The hem of her dress became heavy with mud and leaves, and she tied her long hair back after it snagged on a low branch one too many times.
The first night of walking was peaceful enough. Bats swooped between branches soft as shadows. The gentle moonlight imbued the dark world with a silvery glow. The next morning she decided to stop for a moment by a river to pick the irritating burrs out of her sleeves. The burrs were so stubborn and her sleeves so delicate that as she worked at the prickly plants, most of her sleeves disappeared with them.
Her back against the bark of a willow tree, the princess stared up through the branches at bright, billowy clouds. They drifted through the sky as the princess had been drifting through the forest, easily and without care.
“Where do you come from?” asked a voice right by her ear.