In my dream last night I was on a journey, exploring sprawling lands dotted with preserved historic manor homes. I had left one of the manors, traversed a long dirt road with a sign at the end that changed from “Wopat” to “Cary” when the light struck it at a different angle, and met up with a large collection of my family for some sort of antiquing crawl when I realized I had thoughtlessly taken a china plate and a small figurine from the house. As everyone else pulled out and began to organize envelopes filled with cash gifts, I hurried to both return the items and find my own envelopes.
I turned back down the same dirt road I’d used before, but when I got to the cluster of buildings where I thought the manor house was, it was nowhere to be found. I entered a door and found myself in a Victorian-styled shop. A woman holding a baby was standing at a counter, and she accidentally dropped 10p (yes, pence, not a dime). Two scruffy, lazy-looking men dressed like Mary Poppins characters laughed and mocked her as she tried and failed to stoop down and retrieve the money. One of the men picked it up himself and then embedded it in his mass of thick curly hair with a jeer.
I could not let this stand, so I marched up to the men and told them off. Somewhere during my rant their victim shifted from being a woman holding a baby to being a pregnant woman. I made a big deal about this, yelling at the men that a pregnant woman has a hard time bending over. One of the men countered that she was only in her first trimester, at which point my speech was derailed and I wondered confusedly why she’d had trouble picking up the coin.
Meanwhile, the woman had run off, abandoning her 10p. It became clear that I was now the focus of the men’s attention, and I knew if they figured out what the plate and figurine were, they’d use them against me.
Suddenly I hit upon the perfect plan. “I took these from a manor house somewhere around here. I can’t remember which one,” I told them, handing the items over. “I’ll leave them with you. Now everyone will think you stole them, unless you can get them back to where they came from.” And I turned and slipped out, sprinting away from the store.
I had made it a good distance away and was stalking across a steep hillside partially covered with tarps when the men came running up to me. “Okay, you win,” one of them panted. “Just please take the plate and figurine back.”
“So we’re even?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” he said.
I retrieved the items and kept walking, and for some reason the men joined me. We ended up back in town. The man who’d given me the plate and figurine back seemed to think we now had a bond, and as we passed a stable, he spoke up.
“I used to use this livery all the time, but I’ve been banned. Can you just walk through there like you’re going to use it?”
I obliged. As I strolled through the stable, a small pack animal appeared beside me and, conditioned by years of habit, trudged up a ramp that led to a harnessing area. As stable hands began hooking up the tackle, the man who’d spoken grabbed a wooden cart and wheeled it out to the other side of the barn, where the other man stood waiting. I found myself abruptly lost in a maze of fences and wooden corrals–I had to turn back or crawl through a tiny space to get to where the men were with the cart. As I attempted the crawl, gave up, and doubled back, I muttered something about avoiding dust.
“Dust,” one of the men said mockingly. “According to your TARDIS, we’re all dust.” This made me slightly uncomfortable as I wondered if the men had designs on my TARDIS. (I had a TARDIS? Where did I put it? And how did it form its own opinions?)
Outside, stable hands hooked the cart up to the pack animal. I shrugged and placed the things I’d been carrying in our new cart, and we all continued on our journey. The original missions of returning the plate and figurine and meeting back up with my family seemed to have been forgotten; I’m not sure where we were going.
Before stopping to rest for the night, the man who’d done most of the (civilized) talking and I both purchased the same book from a roadside vendor. At this point the dream shifted into third person, and I saw that my character was a tall, slender woman with straw-colored blond hair that fell in thick, gentle curls well down her back, bright blue eyes that were set rather close together, a prominent but not large nose, and a somewhat long face. Her thoughts began narrating as both she and the man settled in to read before bed, she sitting at the window of her room at an old West-style inn, he outside propped up against the cart.
As the two of them read, cremated remains began piling up around them, appearing out of nowhere. It appeared to be a side effect of the story they were reading. Neither of them took much notice as the ashes buried their backs up to their necks and began spilling over in front of them. However, both frequently glanced up from their books to stare through the window at each other.
“The seduction happened then,” the woman’s narration intoned as she lowered the book into the ashes and, with a slight look of worry or discomfort, closed two sets of ineffectual, sheer lace curtains. She was still perfectly visible to the man and it was obvious she could tell as she resumed reading.
“As I read, the remains piling up around me, I felt the hands of other men,” the narration continued, and skeleton hands appeared from the ashes, stroking her shoulders.
I was really rather fascinated by where this was all going–for some reason the remains and the skeleton hands didn’t scare me at all–but alas, my alarm clock went off.