Do Heroes Have Nightmares?

Do Heroes Have Nightmares?

wide-eyedangry eyesI gaped at my Young Hero. Rarely had I seen this easy-going half-dwarf lad so upset. Never had I seen his ire directed at me.

I tried to keep my voice even. “What do you mean, I should know? Just what should I know?”

The lad continued to glare at me. “You should know what is going on. Are you not The Writer, The Scribe, The Chronicler? Are you not the one who knows everything about every one of your characters, even things we do not know about ourselves?”

Before I was able to compose a retort, my Young Hero stomped out the door and headed toward the barn. I stood there watching him, my mouth hanging open. Finally, I turned to my Gypsy. “What is he talking about?”

magic energy tracegypsy-facing-rightMy Gypsy lowered his eyes and shuffled his feet. “He has been dreaming about his past life, his life back in our own world. At least, that is what he thinks the dreams are. He . . . he has not been able to understand the dreams. He sees mere snippets of scenes in his dreams, moments that he feels are snatches of memories . . . memories he cannot fully recall. He is confused, frustrated . . . and more than a tad fearful.”

“I see.” I raked my hand through my hair and heaved a huge sigh. “I’m not sure how I can help him.”

My Gypsy rolled his eyes and scoffed. “As he said, Mistress, you are The Writer. If you cannot help him, then who?”

I had no answer.

* * *

Young hero 2Chocolate palomino pony 3While my Gypsy and I were talking about him, my Young Hero had stomped down the steps and had headed toward the barn. He had ducked between the wooden rails of the pasture fence and walked over to his pony, a saucy little chocolate palomino. He patted the pony, and the animal nuzzled his young master, nickering contentedly. As he stood there stroking the animal, the boy could feel much of the tension leave his body. After a few minutes, he walked over to the barn, intending to get a brush to groom the pony. Instead, the exhausted boy collapsed onto a bale of hay.

Palomino ponyThe boy awoke, his pony nudging him and whickering. He opened his eyes, and saw the golden pony standing over him. He stood up and patted the small yellow creature.

The pony turned and started walking away, through the emerald pasture. The boy followed the pony.

canyonThe landscape wavered. They were in a canyon. Something big was chasing the boy through the canyon, something big enough to kick up a huge cloud of red dust. The boy ran as fast as he could. He could hear two voices in the canyon, calling him. He knew these voices but could not quite remember to whom they belonged. Before he could identify the voices, their yells turned to screams and their screams mingled with the screams of his pony.

The screams went on and on and on.

* * *

“Wake up!”

foremanyoung-hero-facing-leftMy Foreman shook my Young Hero, first gently, then with more force. “Come on, wake up!”

My Young Hero jumped up and looked around. He was still in the barn. He could see his chocolate palomino pony through the open door. “Wha . . . what happened?”

“You tell me.” My Foreman frowned at him. “I was just coming out to work my horse, and I heard you in here screaming.”

Backyard 050“I heard you too, all the way up in the house.” I rushed to my Young Hero’s side and reached out to touch his shoulder, but he shrugged me away.

I sighed. “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s happening.”

Without a word, my Young Hero turned and walked away.

* * *

Going into cliff wallghost in caveThe young half-dwarf touched the wall of the cliff. His hand went right through the stone. He pushed forward, and his whole body passed through the rocks, emerging in a dark cavern. A ghostly figure approached him, coming closer, closer, closer, until the boy screamed in terror.

* * *

“What is that caterwauling?” Dragon stomped into the living room, smoke drifting from her reptilian snout.

I ran into the room right behind her. “It’s my Young Hero. I think he’s having another nightmare.”

Dragon shaking Young Hero awakeDragon reached the prone figure on the couch and shook him awake. “Why did you not seek my help if you have been having nightmares?”

Instead of answering, my Young Hero glared at me.

Dragon looked from the boy, to me, and back again. “Well? Will someone tell me what is happening?”

My Young Hero attempted to stomp off again, but Dragon snagged him by the collar with one of her talons.

The smoke spewing from her snout grew darker, and she narrowed her eyes dangerously. “What is going on?”

The boy snarled. “Ask her.”

“I am asking you.” Dragon’s tone invited no argument.

I placed a hand on her arm. “It’s okay. Let him go.”

I turned to my Young Hero. “I don’t know what you think I know, but any time you want to talk, you know where to find me.”

* * *

The young half-dwarf was walking his pony across a meadow. Another boy, taller and of human heritage, walked with him, leading a larger version of the golden steed. Suddenly, the two boys saw something disappearing down a large hole under a fallen log. The half-dwarf leapt on his pony and raced toward the hole to see what was there.

The human boy swiftly mounted and rode his horse between the boy and the hole. “No! You cannot go with him! I will not allow it!”

The hole disappeared, and the human galloped away. The half-dwarf rode after him, pushing his pony to the limits of his speed and endurance. “Wait! Wait! Why will you not wait for me?”

The half-dwarf and his pony fell farther and farther behind the other horse and rider. Finally, the youth pulled his mount to a stop, slid from his pony, and fell to the ground, sobbing.

Why won't you wait

* * *

I walked into my office and found my Young Hero waiting for me. He sat on the edge of a chair, his hands clasped tightly in his lap. His tear-stained face was pale and drawn. He jumped up as soon as he heard me enter the room.

“Mistress.” He gave me a beseeching look but said no more.

I nodded and bade him sit. He slowly collapsed back into the chair. I sat at my desk and faced the lad, studying him for many long minutes. He sat, staring at the floor, silent.

Finally, I cleared my throat. “I understand you have been suffering nightmares for several weeks now.”

I paused, but got no response. “Would you care to tell me about them?” I tried to keep my voice soft and soothing.

“You do not know what I dreamt?” My Young Hero seemed confused.

I raised my hands, palms up, spread my arms, and lifted my shoulders. “How would I?”

He stared at me, wide-eyed. “You are The Writer.”

I raised an eyebrow at the boy. “You’ve said that to me before. I don’t know what you think a writer does, but my skill as a wordsmith does not grant me clairvoyance.”

“But you have written about the things that happened to me, to all your characters, in our own world.” He scooted to the edge of his seat again and looked at me earnestly.

I nodded. “I have, but not through clairvoyance or any preternatural means. I simply documented what happened.”

My Young Hero furrowed his brow and chewed on his lower lip. “Mistress, I cannot remember all that happened to me. I have been seeing things in my dreams that I feel . . . nay, that I fear may have happened to me, but I cannot recall.”

He told me of his dreams, the snippets of scenes his sleep-fogged brain had seen.

“And you think these dreams may actually be memories attempting to surface?”

The lad nodded.

I narrowed my eyes and stared intently at the lad. “Do you have any recollection of your previous life? Any at all?”

The boy nodded. “Some. I remember most vividly the things about which my fellow characters and I have spoken. I know that three of us – your Foreman, your Gypsy, and myself – were horsemen in my world. I know my father owned the largest and most successful equestrian breeding and training farm in the kingdom. I know that Cleric was my Protector – something akin to the concept of a godparent in your world, only with equal emphasis on physical protection and spiritual guidance. I know your Gypsy was my best friend. I know we spent a lot of time in an inn, and our friend, the Innkeeper, made a stew so renowned, the king himself used to come to the inn to sup.”

He paused, furrowing his brow as if trying to dredge up other memories. He shook his head. “Other than that, I have little knowledge of myself.”

I tilted my head and studied the boy. “Are you certain this is all you remember?”

He nodded.

I squirmed in my chair. “Is it necessary for you to know more?”

The boy sat, pondering. Finally, he looked me straight in the eye. “Yes, Mistress, I think it is. The dreams I have had – the people and events seem familiar, as if they are a part of my past, not a construct of my imagination.”

manuscriptI sighed heavily. “You know each of you – the characters who have fallen from my manuscripts and now reside here in this world – each of you fell from a different spot in the manuscripts. I do not know the exact moment at which any of you left the story.”

My Young Hero tilted his head and mulled over that information, then nodded.

I stood up and paced the length of the room. “Then you know I cannot reveal more than you already know.”

The boy frowned. “Why? If all of us characters get together and compare what we know, those of us who fell out of an earlier part of the manuscripts will discover what happened after.”

I nodded, hoping he did not notice the beads of sweat that were forming on my forehead. “Perhaps. Perhaps not. I certainly cannot prevent you from doing just that. But remember, none of you know all that happened. You each know only the tale from your own perspective. Even if you had fallen from the last page of the manuscripts, you would know little more than you know now – much of your stories remain unwritten. There are several more books for me to pen.”

My Young Hero slumped in his chair, disappointment written clearly in his face. Finally, he rose and headed for the door but stopped half-way there. He turned and looked at me. “Can you reveal but one thing to me, Mistress? There is one thing I must know.”

“What is it?”

“Why do you call me a Young Hero? I do not remember any heroics in my past life, and I certainly have done nothing heroic in this world. And the fear engendered by the nightmares that plague me points more to cowardice than heroism.” He stared at the floor, and continued in a timid voice. “Mistress, how could a hero have nightmares?”

fear vs heroismI pursed my lips and rubbed the back of my neck. “Fear and heroism are not mutually exclusive; nor is fear solely the province of cowards. Suffice it to say, the best definition of a hero I ever read was in a publication called Psychology Today. I keep the quote here on the wall over my desk. See?” I pointed to the memo on the wall.

What actually makes a hero? I’d argue it’s the willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of others.”

Framed quote in office

I paused, giving my Young Hero time to ponder that quote. After a moment, I continued. “Without revealing any details, I can assure you that you are the most heroic person I know. You sacrificed more than most for the benefit of others, for people you did not even know. Some of what you sacrificed was ripped from you by others, by happenstance, by fate. Some of what you sacrificed you surrendered yourself, knowing full well what you were giving up.”

I approached my Young Hero and placed my hand on his shoulder. “Wear the title proudly, Young Hero. Never doubt but you have earned it a hundred times over.”

A smile slowly spread over the boy’s face. When he turned and left the room, he held himself a little straighter, and there was a new confidence in his step.

Once I heard him going up the stairs, I scurried off to find Dragon.

Why do I need to speak with Dragon? What is it about my Young Hero’s memories that I find so disturbing? Be sure to come back next week as the tale continues. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.



Sat bolt upright in bedA scream shattered the night, ripping me from a deep slumber. My husband and I sat bolt upright in bed and looked around, wide-eyed.

“What was that?” Miles tore his CPAP mask from his face and jumped out of bed.

“I don’t know, but I think we should . . .”

ElfAnother scream cut me off mid-thought. I grabbed my robe and pulled it on as Miles and I raced into the hallway, where we almost collided with one of my characters.

“What’s going on?”

Cleric was wringing her hands. “I fear your Young Hero is wrestling with another nightmare.”

I frowned. “He’s been having nightmares? How long has this been going on?”

Cleric lowered her eyes. “Several weeks now, and the problem seems to be getting worse.”

My frown deepened. “Then why is this the first time I’m hearing of it?”

Cleric blushed. “He asked that I not share this information with anyone, Mistress. I believe the lad is embarrassed. I only know about it because his best friend, your Gypsy, came to me and asked if I might help.”

I nodded. “And is there anything you can do for him?”

sleeping draughts and healing potionsCleric shook her head. “I have prepared sleeping draughts for him, and have even tried various healing potions, but I fear his nightmares still plague him.”

I sighed and raked my hand through my hair. “Do you have any clue what’s causing his nightmares?”

“No, Mistress, and that is why I have not been able to create the proper healing potion for him.” She hesitated, biting her lower lip. “Perhaps you should speak with him.”

My husband frowned and put his hand on my shoulder. “Honey, if the boy’s embarrassed, it might do more harm than good to question him about it. After all, if he wanted your help, he would have come to you.”

I furrowed my brow and scrunched my lips into a moue. “I know you’re right, but I can’t just ignore it if one of my characters is having problems.” I sighed. “For now, I’ll let you deal with it, Cleric. Miles and I will try to get some more sleep. But please try to convince my Young Hero to come to me. Perhaps I can help.”

* * *

Morning was barely breaking. The yellow disc of the sun was just starting its ascent into a cloudless, azure sky. Dew sparkled on the emerald-green grass. Wildflowers shone like brilliant gems scattered haphazardly around the meadow.

Surrounding the pasture, sturdy fences stretched for miles, the boards so dazzlingly white that even in the early morning light the young half-dwarf could not look at them without squinting. The youth walked along the fence-line, peering between the boards, searching the pasture. A cool breeze tousled his red hair, and birdsong filled his ears. The day was perfect, and the lad had not a care in the world.pasture fence

Slowly, the landscape changed. The fences, the grass, the flowers, were splattered blood-red. The smell of copper overpowered the fragrance of the wildflowers and assaulted the lad’s nose. He bent over and wretched. As he straightened, he saw something in the field.

pasture fence splattered with red


A scream tore from the boy’s throat.


* * *

Young hero 2My Young Hero shuffled into the kitchen. His hair was unkempt, there were dark circles under his eyes, and he all but fell into a chair.

mug of coffeeWithout a word, Miles poured a large mug of coffee and placed it before the lad, who tried unsuccessfully to smile and nod his thanks.

“Rough night?” I quirked an eyebrow as I sat down across from my Young Hero.

He slurped some coffee and frowned. “No more than normal. Why do you ask?” I noticed he did not look at me as he spoke.

I sighed. “I ask because you look like something the proverbial cat drug in.”

The young half-dwarf shrugged and swallowed another mouthful of coffee. “Yeah. Well, I . . . ahh . . . I guess I did not sleep very well.”

I furrowed my brow. I took a deep breath and leaned closer to the lad. “Something bothering you?”

He glared at me. “Nothing.”

I shrugged. “Fine. But if anything is ever bothering you, talking might help.”

He scowled. “I will remember that.” He gulped down the rest of his coffee, pushed away from the table and stumbled toward the living room.

* * *

Second NightmareThe young half-dwarf and his companion had been walking for hours. The scorching sun beat down on them as they stumbled through the deep sand of the desert. A pack of jackals advanced toward them. Suddenly, men with swords surrounded them. At first, the men were protecting them from the vicious animals. But soon, the men turned their swords toward the boy. The young half-dwarf and his companion backed away. A hawk screeched and flew at the men. But the bird turned into a dragon and flew straight at the boy. The beast opened its gigantic maw and threatened to swallow the boy.

His scream went on for many long minutes.


* * *

Miles and I ran to the living room. My Young Hero was sprawled on the couch. My Gypsy was bent over him, shaking him. “Wake up! Wake up!”

I grabbed my Gypsy by the arm. “What’s going on? Was that him screaming?”

My Gypsy nodded and frowned.

I looked at my Young Hero, who was struggling to sit up. “Are you okay?”

The boy’s cheeks flamed, and he refused to meet my eyes. When he finally answered, he mumbled. “I . . . I must have fallen asleep.”

Backyard 050I frowned. “That wasn’t the question. Are you okay?”

The lad shrugged. “Of course! Why would I not be?”

“Well, I don’t know. What I do know is this is the second time I have heard you calling out in your sleep. We heard you screaming last night and now again. What’s going on?”

My Young Hero sat there, silent. His mouth was a thin, angry line, but his eyes were full of fear.

I crossed my arms over my chest and tapped one foot impatiently. “Well?”

The lad glared at me, the fear in his eyes replaced with venom. “Well, you should know!”angry eyes

What is happening with my Young Hero, and why does he think I know anything about it? Be sure to come back next week. Maybe you can help me sort out this mystery. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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