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Dyevlev Ulnashe's Dreamporium

Ken McGrath lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. His words have appeared in various corners of the internet including Wordlegs and AntipodeanSF. He's twice won the Tipperary Reads Premier Short Story Competition. If you're interested you can find him @fromthebigface.

You know you're approaching the Dreamporium the moment you taste purple. There it is, wedged into a curve of Ballinger Lane, the exterior tastefully decorated with flowers. Purveyors of the finest imaginings the carved sign proclaims. The door glides open easily and a stone toad on the counter announces your presence with a loud belch once you step over the threshold.
"One minute," a voice like butterfly-wings calls from the back of the shop. "Feel free to look around."
So you do. You keep your arms in close, hands bunched beneath your chin for fear of knocking something over. The shelves are loosely packed with clear jars where intricate light patterns coil when you lean in. Everywhere you turn another catches your eye by starting up an enticing dance.
You can't help but think of Mama Patelina back home, kissing her prayer beads while pointing out the withered, autumnal, half-people who'd gathered like rags around the old fountain.
"Never sell your dreams, child," she'd warned repeatedly. "See how nothing they are? Empty, like an old vase."
There's a gentle movement behind you accompanied by the smell of cactus and mint tea. You turn to see Dyevlev Ulnashe for the first time. The words others have used to describe her fall away like torn paper. Tall and slender, her long dress and waistcoat alternate shades of black-blue but sparkle gently with beads and shells and little silver buttons. Her hair red-black curls, like wood shavings. She fixes you with watery grey eyes.
"Buying or selling?" her voice spider legs on ice.
"Jus..." the word catches in your throat. You cough. "Sorry. Just looking."
She smiles, night black teeth a cavern against her snow-white skin.
"Of course, lots to look at. Dreams of riches and love and heaven. Of family and revolution. Even of death sometimes, too. But never the dreams of musicians. Those are brittle things, given away too freely. No use."
Her movements remind you of little birds flittering about on a hedgerow as she reaches out to take a jar down from a shelf behind your head.
"Beautiful, yes," she holds it out. What's within the glass squirms, pulsing a slow, heavy orange but your stare is drawn to her hand. Seven fingers, forming a circle around the bottom of the container. "The tools of my trade."
Blushing, you manage to look away for a moment and glance up. The ceiling is covered in dream-catchers, contraptions of feather and wood and bone.
"In case any slip away," Dyevlev says. "The dream is massaged out through the eyes, as a liquid. But occasionally one turns to smoke, tries to escape." She laughs, like ice cracking. "What did you imagine?"
The picture you had of a straw sticking into someone's head to suck the dreams out suddenly seems ridiculous.
Dyevlev places a hand on your shoulder, grip tight, uncomfortable. Leaning in close, her voice a cool breeze as it passes over those black teeth she says, "I also do a fine line of nightmares."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, December 28th, 2015

Author Comments

I wondered what a shop that dealt in dreams would be like, then creeping up behind that something whispered, "But who would own such a store?"

- Ken McGrath
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