by Tari Gwaemir
A long forgotten story.
"The Lord of the Dreaming hath alwayth been a motht hothpitable hotht," lisped the serpent as it coiled languidly around the coat rack, its tongue flicking in and out rapidly.
"Oh no doubt," Lucien replied, as he carefully shelved another book. "But not all guests have appreciated his hospitality."
"Oh? I thenthe a thtory behind your wordth." The serpent curled itself tightly around the pole and tilted its head at an inquisitive angle.
"A long forgotten story. There was once a city full of inspired dreamers. Awake, their lives were only ordinary, but asleep, they dreamed new realms into existence nightly. Whole wings of the palace were built to attend to the king's nightmares alone. The map of the Dreaming changed every hour they wandered here.
"But they were callous guests. They left their dreamscapes littered with half-formed wishes and secret anxieties, all of which were seeds for new dreams. Such dreams grew unchecked, until it seemed that they would choke the Dreaming with their multitude, and soon the people of the city came to believe that the worlds they visited in their sleep belonged to them and them alone. The king declared that he would rule a greater city of dreams than Morpheus himself, that his kingdom would inhabit dreams rather than reality."
"What a fool," the serpent hissed, slitted eyes growing wide.
"Lord Morpheus locked the gates of the Dreaming to the entire city: they could sleep but they could no longer dream. At first, they didn't believe what had happened to them. Some refused to sleep, others turned to hallucinogens, but in the end, they had to admit defeat. No one in that city ever dreamed again."
The serpent asked, "Ith it tho horrible, not to dream? I've had many a night without a thingle dream."
Lucien frowned slightly as he stacked books in a tall wavering pile. "There is more to the Dreaming than a single night's dream. Imagine being unable to invent a story or tell a lie or wonder about the future. Imagine being unable to imagine. Unable to hope, unable to fear."
The serpent lowered its head. "Go on. What happened to the thity barred from dreamth?"
"They went on with the motions of their everyday waking lives, until the city dwindled, diminished and died."
The serpent unwound itself from the coat rack and slithered away, without a word. Lucien turned around and startled at the sight of Dream, who stood there with an unreadable look in his dark, dark eyes.
"I closed the gates, but I left another door open. It was their pride that blinded them from seeing it," Dream said quietly. "They still remembered what it was to dream. That in itself was a hope they never lost."
Lucien bowed silently and opened the door as Dream left the library.
The Sandman belongs to Neil Gaiman.
Written for AKung, on the word "Janus".