“Between the dreams of night and day there is not so great a difference.” Carl Jung
There was once a boy, a foundling, who lived in a farm cottage in Wales. After sixteen years of moving between a variety of children’s homes and foster homes, he wanted to live a quiet secluded life of hard physical labour and plenty of sleep.
His two up, two down abode was the first place that felt like home, and he had arranged it with the utmost simplicity. The brick walls were whitewashed; stone fireplaces were swept clean. The house was without adornment of any kind. In the alcove next to the fireplace a bookshelf held three books, all about dreaming.
His home was set in a small copse of mature oak trees, adjacent to one of the farm’s apple orchards. In return for this accommodation and a small wage, the boy worked six days a week as a farm labourer.
Each morning, the farmer’s wife provided eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans and fried potatoes, served by Bronwen, the farmer’s daughter.
The boy knew that eggs contained chromium, a trace mineral which had the effect of intensifying dreams; so he ate at least three eggs each day.
When Bronwen placed his breakfast in front of him, she smiled, but he fixed his eyes on his plate, until she walked away. Then he watched her, shifting his gaze quickly again when she turned back to the table.
Each evening, after a hard day of toil, he ate dinner at the farmhouse, then retired to his cottage.
He went to bed early, where his real life began, in his dreams, captivating him with vivid undulating landscapes in shades of sunset. He floated, drifting through strange unpeopled worlds, absorbing the peaceful aloneness of strange plains.
A recurring dream had troubled him forever: the only dream with a person in it. Maybe it was an ancient memory.
A black-haired woman dressed in red walked away from him. He felt desperate to call out, for her to turn and see him, but he couldn’t find his voice. He could only extend his arm, reaching, reaching. But she didn’t turn back. His abiding vision: the woman in red, walking away, and his own small pleading hand.
He would wake from this dream, frozen white. The dream ended before it finished, leaving him breathless with hope and fear. Something else happened that he had yet to see. The only thing he wanted was to complete the dream.
One evening, sitting quietly, reading his book on lucid dreaming (again), there was a soft knock at the front door. It was Bronwen, bringing freshly baked Welsh cakes. The boy, blushing and tongue tied, let her in.
Her eyes alighted on his book. “What are you reading… oh, you’re interested in dreams?”
“Yes,” he mumbled, his face hot.
“Why don’t I make us a cup of tea, to go with the Welsh cakes?” without waiting for an answer, Bronwen went to the kitchen.
By the time she returned, with a tray of tea and the warm cakes, the boy had managed to calm himself.
“Sometimes I write my dreams down,” she said
“Do you?” he was amazed. He had never spoken to anyone about dreaming in his life, though it was all he thought about.
“I try to work out what happens next, as if it’s a film.”
“Do you dream a lot?” he asked
“Most nights, I think. Do you?”
“Sometimes I have nightmares,” Bronwen said. “When I was a child I had night frights and I used to sleepwalk, but that’s stopped now.”
“I have a nightmare sometimes,” the boy said. “The same one over and over again.”
Bronwen went to the bookshelf and ran her hand along the books. “Where did you get these?”
“I found one in a children’s home I was in… then I looked for them in charity shops.”
“What’s lucid dreaming?”
“When you try to make a dream tell you something, or deliberately try to dream about something, to try and solve a problem…”
“Really? Does that work, can you do that?”
“I tried it with my nightmare, to find out how it ends, but it didn’t work.”
“What’s the nightmare?”
In the golden glow of her attention, he told her.
“How do you want the dream to end?” she asked.
He felt as though she had slapped his face. The question had never crossed his mind. “I d-don’t know…. What difference would that make? I want to know what really happened.”
“I don’t think you can get that from a dream. I think they’re there so you can have things turn out as you want them. Can I borrow one of these books?”
“Sure,” he said, feeling slightly dazed.
“I must get back. That was so nice, maybe we could do this again?”
“Oh yes. That would be great, anytime.”
Bronwen closed the door behind her, taking with her the warmth and sunshine.
That night, settling himself to sleep, he relaxed, pictured the woman in red, and whispered: “I want you to come back to me.”
The familiar dream arose: his own beseeching hand, the retreating back of the woman in red. But tonight, finally, she turned, faced him, smiled and gazed into his eyes. She walked back towards him, smiling warmly; she embraced him, kissed his cheek and spoke his name.
The next morning, he awoke, stretched himself out, smiling. He felt completely contented, at peace.
He went to the farmhouse for his breakfast. No more eggs for him. He hoped never to dream again.
Bronwen, wearing a red dress, gave him a plate of cheese on toast. He met her gaze and returned her smile.
As she walked away, he spoke her name: “Bronwen..” and she turned around to look at him. “Thank you for bringing me the Welsh cakes.”
She smiled and walked back towards him, put her arm on his shoulder and placed a quick shy kiss on his cheek.
“You are very welcome, Gareth” she said.