“Is there any way that you could help me?” I asked, increased urgency in my tone.
“Hush!” he said. “You’ll scare away the dreams.”
My brows knotted. “Dreams?”
“I’d almost caught one! Just sit down and close your eyes.” He paused, waiting for me to slide down to the floor next to him, before continuing, “I will show you how to catch dreams. It is very easy. All it requires is for you to extend your mind…”
I looked at the man in bemusement. I realized that I hadn’t tried to close my eyes since leaving my body. For that matter, I couldn’t even remember if I had been blinking.
“Relax your head, and close your eyes,” the man commanded me again.
Assuming the same slumped position as him, I lowered my head downward and closed my eyes. There was just darkness. Which in itself was surprising. I’d expected that perhaps I would see right through the thin walls of my eyelids.
I was really in no mood for whatever game this ghost was proposing, but I didn’t know when or if I would come across another person who could hear and see me—another ghost. I didn’t see what other option I had but to pander to him in the hope that he’d be more likely to help me out afterward.
“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be seeing,” I muttered. “I see nothing.”
The man breathed out impatiently. “You try too hard. Just loosen your mind and wait… the next one will come soon.”
I didn’t understand him, but I humored him all the same. I kept my eyes closed, and tried to “loosen my mind”… whatever that meant.
And then I saw something. A warm golden light trickled into my mind’s eye. A scene began to form, slowly, as if being painted in with brushstrokes, until I found myself beholding a beach. A beautiful white-sand beach. A glowing orange sun hung over the horizon, already halfway down in its descent. The shore was empty except for a couple walking hand in hand with the waves lapping around their ankles. The woman wore a wedding gown, while the man was dressed in a smart black tuxedo.
Then the sky darkened, as if God Himself had flicked a light switch. There was no moon or stars in the sky and the only light seemed to be emanating from the sea. It had turned a bright green, almost neon color, and it glowed eerily. Heads of seven giant serpents reared from the water, hissing and flashing white fangs. The couple were fixed to the spot, too stunned to duck out of the way before—
“No, no!” The old man’s gruff voice shattered the vision. I opened my eyes. He was shaking his head angrily. “That was a black dream! We don’t want to live in those. Close your eyes again and we’ll search for a good one.”
A black dream, I thought to myself as I closed my eyes again. A nightmare. So, somehow, ghosts are able to intercept dreams. Yet another new thing I’d learned about this spirit existence.
We weren’t waiting as long for the next vision. It emerged quickly in my mind. A beautiful poppy-scattered meadow, through which ran a pure white horse, ridden by… an ogre—the smallest ogre I had ever seen. It must have been a child. A boy. He wore a shiny metal chest plate and a gem-studded helmet, and strapped to his short, chubby legs were silver knee guards. A sword dangled from his belt—a sword so large it was almost as tall as him. He rode across the meadow with practiced grace, then guided the steed into a forest. They whipped through the trees until they reached a clearing, at the end of which lay a steep drop.
Even as the horse approached the edge of the cliff, still the child didn’t slow it down. If anything the steed sped up. And then, with one giant leap, the horse launched off the cliff into a terrifying freefall. The boy’s hands dug into his steed’s neck, and just as the two were about to collide with the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, a pair of magnificent wings sprouted from the horse’s back. Wings that beat hard and fast until the horse soared with the ogre high in the clear blue sky. The child gasped with pleasure as he beheld an entire world sprawled out beneath him—trees, lakes, hills…
I opened my eyes and shook my head.
Enough of this.
I looked at the old man. His eyes were still closed, and his face was… almost unrecognizable. His sour, scowling demeanor had vanished, and his face had lit up. He swayed gently from side to side, as if hypnotized, so taken by the fantasy of some ogre child sleeping within one of the rooms of the guest house.
I needed to interrupt him, but I felt almost bad to burst the bubble of happiness this otherwise miserable man appeared to be in. I wondered whether he lived in The Tavern. Whether he haunted this guesthouse corridor every day.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll leave you alone, if you’ll just answer a question.”
He grunted in frustration and when he opened his eyes, his face had resumed its former grumpy look.
“That was a good one!” he fumed, his lips curling. “It’s been three days since I roamed a dream as good as that!”
“I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I wish to leave you alone, as I said. Answer my question, and you can return to the dream.”
“What do you want?” he snapped.
“I’m looking for a gate that will lead me into the human realm. Do you have any idea how I might find one?”
The man’s mouth formed in a hard line, his brows furrowed as he continued glaring up at me. “Hm. There are some ogres who may be able to take you there,” he mumbled.
“Ogres? Which ogres?”