Morpheus visits the foothills of my mountains the week after Rose Walker left.
Matthew comes before him. He flew over my fields while squarking hello, and settled in a row of evergreens along my eyebrow. He talks, and I look up at him from the pools and puddles that litter the undergrowth. He's a good bird, a good dream, the kind that a human might remember fondly upon waking. He tells me that Morpheus is coming. He tells me what the Boss did to the Corinthian, though I had already known. Maybe Matthew was worried for me. Hoom. Morpheus knows better.
'You are very green,' Matthew says, tilting his head from left to right, looking out over my rolling hills. He scratches his claws against a knot of bark, and settles in to a branch. 'But where's the fiddler?'
I laugh, Hoom hoom hoom, wind rattling through my trees like Mr Tolkien's ents. I remember Mr Tolkien - he was always so polite when he came to me, even when he wanted to steal me away from Dream and make me into his own.
'I shall just call you Gilbert, then.'
I swatted at Matthew with a shower of pine needles, and didn't mind at all. I enjoyed being Gilbert. Perhaps Matthew will remember me as Gilbert beyond when I have forgotten.
~ ~ ~
Morpheus doesn't come by the sea, like my sailors, my lost boys, those gasping for safe harbour, who come in nightmare ships to find safety within my arms. No, not my arms any longer. They find safety within the two curling cliffs which encircle the harbour, the welcoming beacon of a lighthouse held aloft in my left palm. They follow the curve of me until they can land upon my breast and breathe easy. They fall on my sand and listen to my heart beat until it lulls them to a real sleep.
A ship of lost souls had just dropped anchor near my armpit, and two of the boys were swimming ashore, panting and laughing, one dropping back to float upon his back and look up at the shining blue sky. I do like to give them nice clear skies, not a storm in sight. The other boy is laughing, splashing, and in the human world he never learnt to swim.
Morpheus comes down from the hills. He arrives, like he always arrives, without having travelled to get here. Perhaps he misses some of the beauty of dreams that way. In the dreams I had as Gilbert, a human man with a human brain firing electrical impulses in the night, I meandered across the dreamscape with no destination, just dropping into friends and moments and passing on.
'Fiddler's Green,' Morpheus says.
He lets me speak to him in more than metaphor, more than far off whispers of snow and rushes and twittering birds, but I'm not sure if I want to. I never quite have the words.
He stands upon my belly, and I know, I know that when it was my belly and not my rolling meadow edged by ancient hedgerows speckled through with elderflower - when it was my belly, I would have laughed. Hoom hoom hoom, rocking up and down like an earthquake, rattling Morpheus to the ground. Would he laugh too if I took this memory of the soft skin across my stomach and a thousand ticklish spots and rumbled the earth? Would his cloak sprawl around him in folds of darkness, moving with his breath and his chest? Does he laugh at all? Perhaps he keeps other dreams, other dreams just to laugh in, where he is the only one who knows the jokes.
It seems unlikely.
'I did not expect you to abandon your post,' he said.
Neither did I.
I did not expect that Morpheus' occasional visits, the feel of his feet on my paths, the comfort of his presence swirling through my fields was so essential to my happiness. I didn't know they meant so much until he was gone.
It was like losing a son, to not have him walking through me, checking on my wellbeing, ignoring my wishes as much as I ever wished anything, before. It was like losing a son and waking up all at once. Maybe that's what all parents feel when their children leave.
~ ~ ~
The two boys who came into my harbour have stayed for days. Human days, not just the endless days I can give them. I worry about them. What is happening to their bodies, that they stay here, so happy, dunking each other in the waves and then sprawling out to drip dry in the sun. Am I protecting their minds like a teacher, a guardian, an uncle? Or am I just another illusion which will bring them to Despair's realm?
~ ~ ~
Rose arrived by water. Not through my harbour, but by swimming through a puddle on the pavement outside her house until it became a torrent, a pool, a stream. Until it rose from the wilds into the stillness of my centre, and Rose climbed out, shaking water from her hair.
The pink streaks in her hair seemed dull, washed out. I warmed the air around her, let the sun steam her dry.
'This is a nice place to read,' Rose said, as she wandered through a meadow beside my slow moving canal. 'It's like something from Alice in Wonderland. Before the rabbit hole. A place to sit and think under a tree, and not worry about bugs in your sandwiches or dew in the pages of your book. A place to rest. But I don't need anymore places to rest - I barely leave my room.'
She looked down at her feet, checking for rabbit holes. I thought about making one for her, a few steps away. Sucking the earth down and down, and maybe she can have an adventure.
But that is not me. I am not Wonderland, and Rose would not appreciate such childish things, I don't think, as much as she wants an escape to the wonder that was pulled out of her when Unity died.
'I must be crazy. I'm talking to myself in a dream without even imagining someone up to talk to.'
Rose Walker, I say, I say, I say. Miss Walker. Rose. Rose.
She walks on along the bank of the canal, kicking lose stones into the water and listening to the plink, plonk, plunk. The ripples spread and I do giggle, a hitching hiccup of a breath I can't hold in. A flurry of leaves fall from an overhanging tree, landing in the water. One catches on Rose's hair, and she laughs as she pulls it free.
'I bought a complete leatherbound set of G. K. Chesterton books with some of the money from Grandma Unity,' Rose says. 'I barely know why. I've never read any of him before. It was like it reminded me of something I lost. Gilbert had a set of Chesterton books in his attic room. I think Hal donated them to that thrift shop down the street.'
Read them to me, I asked of her.
She walked on. I sent tendrils of awareness ahead of her, let them grow up into rose bushes already in bloom. She ran her fingers over the petals when she saw them, and smiled.
By evening she had tired. She had climbed my right arm and sat upon my thumb, looking down upon the harbour, out across the water towards the west. I gave her a nice sunset, orange fading out to vibrant purple. She found a copy of The Two Towers in the grass, and I made sure the light didn't fade so as not to hurt her eyes.
My boys are looking out as well, curled around each other. Maybe they would stay. I wonder what they need.
~ ~ ~
Rose comes to me from the beach beneath my right arm, now. She comes once a week or so. She waves at the boys, who've settled in nicely in the wooden house I built for them, and climbs to her perch overlooking the dreaming. This had been her place, as much as it was Morpheus's, if only for a moment.
An old sailor, a man sunken into dementia from his nursing home bed in Norfolk, comes to my shores. He's young, whole, dressed in his navy whites. He takes the boys in hand, sets them chores and teaches them to fish, and in the evening he brings out his fiddle, tunes the strings, and teaches the older boy how to fiddle a tune together.
The other boy is wittling himself a panpipe from driftwood. When he cut himself with the side of the knife, he doesn't bleed.
~ ~ ~
Matthew visits for himself. Sometimes he flies up to where Rose reads, and squarks and talks, and Rose feels better for having imagined herself a companion for talking out her problems.
Matthew visits for me. He calls me Gilbert, and congratulates me on having acquired a fiddler, and having built an inn for my boys to live in, beside the village green.
Matthew flies into the sunset, and I make sure it's bright and red, a warming for these charges of mine.
Morpheus doesn't visit like he used to.