From the Dangerous Woman Vault: The Sparrow: Dream Detective.

The Sparrow: Dream Detective

“…And my company’s profits have been in slow decline over the last year and I cannot figure out why. I heard you were one of the best detectives in the world and I want to hire you to find out whether someone is sabotaging my shoe repair empire and if they are, to stop it.”

The detective looked deep in thought, making the man rephrase his last sentence.

“Well, Sparrow, do you think you can take my case?” asked the burly man with the animated unibrow as he looked intensely at the tall, voluptuous doe-eyed blonde sitting in a chair beside his bed as he straightened his lucky pajama top. It was his lucky one because he was not sure if he would be free of his woes without it.

“In your dreams, yes,” Lexine Lark said with the chipper air of a confident heroine. “I can look into your case, but you must promise not to try to kiss me while I have a look about in your dreams or I will be forced to slap you awake from the inside of your head and that is even less pleasant than it sounds.”

The man frowned sadly. “But you do look like such a beautiful dream girl.”

“Woman,” she corrected politely. “I am not as young as I look. I merely gave my birthdays away to a greedy little boy over two hundred years ago who thought more birthdays meant more presents and I have not aged a day since. Now, do you need me to read you a bedtime story or will you fall asleep on your own?”

“What sort of bedtime stories do you have?”

“I can read you one about a benevolent and dainty tyrannosaurus rex who is best friends with a tough and brave beetle or a story about a Queen of Hearts who became God because the magician who kept that card close to his chest wished it so.”

“But won’t those stories give me strange dreams?”

“The stranger the dream, the better I can help solve your mystery.”

“Read me the one about the dinosaur lest I get a lusty dream from the other story and then get slapped from the inside of my head whilst trying to give you a kiss.”

“A wise choice, sir.” The Sparrow obliged and soon after, her client fell fast asleep. At the moment he began to dream, the Sparrow fluttered into his mind and began to walk inside the very essence of his soul, which was mostly intact save for one small piece he had sold in exchange for a television set that would make his obnoxious elder brother green with envy.

This was her first telling clue since it meant her client was not all there to begin with.

The Sparrow then entered the dream where her client was in his childhood home that, in fact, had been merged with his current home, taking the most traumatic parts of both. The living room looked harsh for it was the place where he had been bullied in front of a mirror and it was bigger and colder than either place had been in the waking world.

The man’s childhood fears had come out to torment him tonight to give strength to the fears he had harbored as a lonely adult. This was a house with no love for him and even the empty sofa made his loveless status known.

Yet it was the man’s wailing that was the loudest of all the belligerent cacophony: he was holding a shoe as he was pleading to a beautiful, but conceited woman standing angrily before him.

“Gunda!” said the Sparrow’s client to the cold woman in the long black gown. “Gunda, I would fix a thousand broken shoes in a dungeon just to spend a night with you!”

But Gunda snorted haughtily. “You are so repulsive, that my toes and heels quiver with disgust! You couldn’t even repair my favorite pair of shoes!” The man then crumpled to the floor and began to cry into the broken black stiletto shoe he was clutching.

“Ah!” said the Sparrow as she approached the woman who suddenly looked afraid. “I can see by your vibrant and detailed features that you have been living in his head for about a year! Around the same time my client’s company started to stumble!”

“Get away from me!” yelled Gunda. “I heard about you! You’re the Sparrow! You can make trouble for figments!”

“I am the Sparrow, but it is only the naughty figments that have something to fear. Now, why are you vexing this desperate man?”

Gunda vanished without a trace and the Sparrow looked around the room for some clue, but could find none.

“The trail cannot be this cold if this were a case of true love! My client’s self-deception may be a clue, but it makes my job so difficult!”

“Maybe I can help!” a cheery female voice said. The Sparrow turned around and saw a statuesque Spanish beauty she knew well who was known to those in their realm as the Heart Collector. The Heart Collector smiled and waved to her friend. “Yoo hoo! Lexy! Fancy meeting you here!”

“Madreselva! What a pleasant surprise! What are you doing here?”

“I am processing a return.”

“You only deal with pieces of hearts that people give to another. You either give them to an intended recipient or return them to the sender.”

“That’s right. Last night I had a backlog of deliveries and tonight I have a backlog of returns.”

“Oh, dear. May I see that package, please?”

“Of course. You always ask very nicely.”

“Thank you.” The Sparrow took the tiny package from the Heart Collector and opened it to reveal a single dancing grain of light. It was a piece of her client’s heart that he had given to Gunda. There was also a note from Gunda so ill-mannered and crass regarding what her client could do with that piece of his heart that the Sparrow blushed as she placed both the note and the grain back in the box and returned it to her good friend.

“Is that a clue?” asked the Heart Collector.

“Yes, a very vital one. I know Gunda’s ego grew stronger with the idea of being seen as desirable, but she was not the one who encouraged my client to pursue her, meaning someone else caused my client’s distractions and planted the idea that he loved this despicable woman in his head.”

“I wrote my dissertation on such cases when I was studying to be a Heart Collector. It is very, very sad, and very, very silly all at the same time. So many people are very promiscuous when it comes to giving pieces of their hearts to the undeserving. They think they have infinite love to give, not realizing that the rest of the heart becomes so distressed for that one missing piece that the whole heart goes to pieces!”

“I have seen it too many times in too many nightmares. Pity, if you weren’t so busy, I would invite you on this adventure.”

“I would love to join you, but tonight are the vehement returns so I must deliver these horrid and nasty rejections as quickly and gently as I can. Next week I will invite you over to my house and we will have a lovely lunch on my terrace.”

“Oh, Maddie, how thoughtful! The view of Eden from there is just breath-taking! I will accept your gracious invitation and let you get back to work.”

The Heart Collector then gave the package to the weeping man who was so distressed that he did not see her or the Sparrow. The Detective then took another look around the house and began to separate the client’s current residence from his boyhood home and examined each piece very carefully until she came to the mirror.

“I see this mirror distorts the truth!” she said excitedly. “And I think I know who made this mirror and why!”

She returned to her weeping client and whispered in his ear. He stopped crying, perked up and nodded. She took a pen and a form which he eagerly signed before leaving the house to find something more pleasant to dream about.

The Sparrow then returned to the mirror and shook it until a tiny seed fell out of it and then suddenly turned into an angry man who seemed shocked that he was discovered so quickly.

“Ah, there is the culprit! A wicked seed of my client’s obnoxious elder brother! You have been sabotaging his company!”

“How dare you interfere with my plans? I want to be the favorite brother! I have rights! I wanted to be an only child and my parents had him!”

“You should have gotten over your jealousy by now – you are a sixty year old man with grandchildren of your own.”

“My parents were fools! I am the cute one! They should have put all their resources with my dreams! I could have been a famous opera singer if they had more money to give me the proper schooling!”

“But your brother proved to be the successful one and now you must destroy his self-confidence to prove he was not worthy of any attention.”

“I own his mind! You’ll see! I am a weed and a weed is nearly impossible to destroy! Every move he ever makes is controlled by me!”

The Sparrow took out the signed paper from her pocket and handed it over to the surly brother. “But he has signed this form, giving me permission to get rid of you.”

The man snatched the paper and read it. “What? You cannot do this to me!”

“Yes, I can and will. It is against the rules to invade another person’s dreams for the express purpose of causing them psychic harm.”

“It cannot be!”

“That paper is an eviction notice. Your brother finally realizes you are not worth the trouble you are causing him. He told me he would rather dream of dinosaurs who are friendly to bugs than be plagued by your naughtiness. Now that I have found your root, you will have to go back to the rest of you and sulk.”

“But his bumbling caused the floundering of his own company!”

“But you pushed him into believing he is in love with a woman he does not even like, but since you also manipulated him into selling a piece of his soul for a television set, he is blind to this fact. Since you made the trouble, you have to leave so that he has a clear mind and heart to clean up this mess.”

The brother cursed before disappearing with a loud bang, causing the Sparrow’s client to awaken from his dream, gasping for air. “Is it over? My troubles, I mean.”

“Yes, you are free of your delusions of unrequited love and now have that piece of your heart that my friend the Heart Collector returned to you. Next time, be careful where you throw pieces of your heart and do not fantasize about Gunda anymore because I will help a client only once.”

“But how did you know about Gunda when I kept my feelings about her hidden from even myself?”

“Because you avoided the story of the Queen of Hearts because you were afraid of love, opting for a story you thought was just about friendship, when it was also a love story. The bedtime story you avoid is the one that is the key to unlocking the mystery, but the one you choose helps your heart heal.”

“So I will be able to save my company?”

“Yes, but only if you give your fancy television to your older brother and then find yourself before finding love once more. A real love, this time, not the fake kind because fake love is really hate in a clever disguise.”

“Do you think a burly man with a unibrow can find true love, gentle Sparrow?”

“He already found the fake kind. If he looks in the opposite direction, he will find a lady who finds his ways heart-warming.”

“But giving away my television set to my rotten brother? Will that cure my ills?”

“Yes, don’t try to make him jealous and you will be able to save your shoe repair empire and your love life. Now I must be going. I have to visit a client in Antwerp who is frozen in fear because he suspects his girlfriend and his best friend are having a torrid affair as they laugh behind his back and I must find out if it is all in his head. Good night and pleasant dreams.”

The Sparrow got up from the chair, opened the window and leaped out before the man could say goodbye. He was saddened that he could not thank her, but now knew his dreams would be sweeter and his soul would feel whole again once more. He rested his head on the pillow, hoping to meet that lovely dinosaur he had chatted with in his dreams for she was such a nice and gracious tyrannosaurus who knew many good jokes that made him laugh. Before he fell back asleep he truly wondered if all dinosaurs were so kind back in the day or was she the only one who saw something that all the others like her missed all those years ago.

 

The Benevolent and Dainty Tyrannosaurus Rex and her Best Friend the Tough and Brave Beetle

There once was a vast garden of paradise and inside the paradise lived its ruler, a very dainty dinosaur named Ansuz the Adventurer.

Ansuz was no ordinary Tyrannosaurus Rex for she had battled even larger dinosaurs than she and won with her strength and agility.

She won them all fair and square and she won them alone. It did not matter if its size was larger, its numbers were greater, or its strength surpassed her own, somehow, she would see the job through for her job was to rid the world of its evil so that the seeds of goodness could flourish unimpeded.

But there came a day where she looked up in the sky and saw a star dancing about and though she knew nothing about it, she was moved by its gentle light and decided to become a friend and protector to all the good things in the world.

So she found a tiny and lonely tree where a single scrawny flower struggled to grow and made the tree her home.

One day, as Ansuz sat pondering about all the good and right things in the world, a tiny beetle fluttered to her nose and began to chortle, remarking that her nostril was so big, he could make a home inside of it.

The remark stunned the tree and the flower, who thought the mighty dinosaur would eat the beetle or crush it with her breath.

But the dinosaur giggled girlishly, making the beetle blush. The flower and tree thought the beetle was brave to face the gravest of danger with laughter, but the dinosaur thought the beetle cute and charming and asked him to tell her more silly musings he had gleaned on his many travels.

The beetle had nearly fainted for no one had ever asked him about his musings on anything, let alone a dinosaur as mighty as Ansuz.

So the beetle told the dinosaur stories, but since she had never lived life as a beetle, Ansuz was at first confused, but was polite enough to decide she would do her best to see the world as a beetle, and the beetle, who realized the dinosaur was too large to understand him, was determined to retell his fables in such a way even a mighty and dainty dinosaur could follow his beetle logic.

At this first sign of friendship, the flower became inspired and told the tree its many fables of wisdom, causing both the tree and the flower to grow stronger, all while a beetle and a dinosaur forged a powerful friendship as the dinosaur learned to listen and understand the ways of the beetle and the beetle learned to become an equal to a mighty dinosaur.

 

The Queen of Hearts who Became God Because the Magician Who Kept that Card Close to His Chest Wished It So

There once was a magician who performed card tricks with an ordinary deck of cards. He was no better nor worse than any other magician who did so, but he had a single magic trick he loved the most – a mundane trick called Find the Lady.

He would take the Queen of Hearts, throw her to the bottom of his deck, but at the end of the trick, she would appear at the top of the deck for she was always an ambitious card, and then when the show was over, he would put the deck back into his breast pocket, always taking care that the Queen of Hearts was the card closest to his chest.

One day, the magician became bored of the tricks and the stage, and angrily threw all of his cards at the audience, save for one card.

The Queen of Hearts.

He loved this card above the rest for while all his friends and family had left him, she was the only one who stayed by him no matter if the crowd cheered or jeered at him.

He kept the card and gave it a kiss, wishing she were a person rather than a card for whenever he looked at her face, she seemed as if she looked at him with kindness and understanding, unlike any of the other cards he dealt with over the years.

The magician retired from performing, becoming lonely and broken, but he always kept his favorite card close to his chest, even placing her under his pillow when he went to bed at night.

As time went on, he began to feel helpless for she was his one constant companion, yet he felt he had failed her for he wanted her to be the real star of his show, yet his shows were failures and he never managed to do the one thing he wished in his heart he could do for her.

If he could only bring her to life, perhaps she would be free from being a mere card in a deck.

Worse, he knew she was the quiet and understanding sort who only wished for him to be happy.

She may have been only a silly little card, but she was one who was all heart.

Then one late summer day he felt it was his time to go, but before he did, he made one final wish – that his favourite card, who never left his side, be given a worthy gift, even if it meant she reached a higher plane than he.

When he reached Heaven, he was shocked to see the Queen of Hearts waiting with a smile and bowed roaring, “Ta da!”

Because of his wish, she became God for even God could not refuse such a benevolent wish.

And Her first act as God was to give the magician a kiss and a hug and then gave him the gift of a mighty stage where he would finally learn all the tricks of a true magician and when it was his time to start a new act, he would take the world by storm and by calm.

Only this time, his favourite card would be more than just a card he kept close to his chest – but a loving companion who brought magic with a single, loving look as She made a new world of wonder for every good and gentle magician to play.

The Sparrow: Dream Detective and the case of the Black and White

I

“Yoo hoo! Lexy!” shouted Alala from the outside as she hoped her friend Lexine Lark, otherwise known as the Sparrow was home up in the Tree of Knowledge in Eden. The Dream Detective poked her head out of her window and waved.

“Alala! How thrilling to see you! Come on up for a tea party!”

“Oh, I do love a good tea party, Lexy. I am coming.” Alala climbed the rope and hopped into Lexy’s cozy home where the two chatted and giggled as they enjoyed the tea and the manna.

“So how is your new job as fable writer for the Otherworldly coming along?”

Lexy sighed. “It is a marvellous job, Alala. I already had experience being God’s bedtime story teller, and then using my fables to help solve the problems of dreamers, but to write new fables to make the Otherworldly kinder and wiser is a challenging career, but one that brings me the greatest of pleasure and honour, though I do admit I miss cracking cases wide open.”

“Doros must do it now.”

“I know,” the Sparrow said sadly, “It is strange that the job was given to me as a gift when I solved the case of the Scandal in the Garden of Eden, and yet my former love was given the same job as punishment, but the strangest thing is that I still do not know what he did wrong. One moment is was proposing to me on the Ninth Cloud and we kissed in celebration, and the next moment, I was stuck in the waking world solving mysteries until I figured out how to come back.”

“You still have no idea?”

“I wouldn’t know where to begin, but Dor was in a very bad way when I made my way back. I gave him a kiss goodbye, but even before that, he was sullen and moody. He came here as an altruist who gave his life saving people, and was the gentlest and kindest man I had ever known. What happened and why proposing to me was a forbidden action is one mystery I need to solve, but I have been given this task that I must do first.”

Alala looked saddened. “I have no idea. The two of you were dating, and everyone in the Otherworldly knew it and supported you two as a couple. Dor could not come to Eden if he had a dark side or sinister intent. He planted seeds of good fortune in people’s dreams, he helped you with your cases, and his story machine was extremely helpful to us. Why wanting to marry his true love was punished seems peculiar.”

“We were both punished, and yet I came back with nothing but cheers and celebrations. I do not know if I had done anything to offend anyone.”

“But no one here said a thing, Lexy. Not an angel, or even God Himself. They would have told you, and you would have figured it out. It must be Dor, but I have a feeling not even he knows why.”

“Perhaps it is the mystery he must solve to come back here.” Lexy sighed as she could not even begin to grasp why such a joyous event between two people who loved each other more than anything else were torn apart just as they were about to become one.

II

The client lying in bed waiting for Doros the Dream Detective was not happy that it was the moody detective and not the nice and perky Lexine Lark who was going to solve her dream woes. Lexy was nice and good. Doros seemed to have sucked a lemon dry. He was curt and unsympathetic that the woman’s dreams were now strictly in black and white, with his exact words being, “Gee, too bad for you. What do you want me to do about it?”

She then said as tersely that she wanted him to restore the colour in her dream because it was upsetting her, and he should be a friendly detective and not a big meany. He rolled his eyes, tsked loudly and sighed as if the job was beneath him.

Doros then made a sour face as he stared at the woman, “Don’t give me lip. Now you have a choice of bedtime stories: do you want the one about the dog who destroyed his owner’s guitar to get more attention, or the one about the slumbering baker who sold his own oven for a better bed?

“But those sound like such negative stories that will wreck my aura!”

“Your aura is already wreck considering I am here to help you solve your problems.”

“Hmph, I thought dream detectives were supposed to be nice and friendly folk.”

“I used to be until the love of my life got taken away from me; so now you are stuck with an effective dream detective who is angry and bitter. Now stop dawdling, and tell me your decision.”

The woman pursed her lips and looked at Doros. “Give me the story about the dog. Maybe he will be friendlier than the one who is telling the story about him.”

III

Lexy sat at her desk as she was writing her latest fable. She knew without a doubt her new job was a valuable clue in what happened between her and Doros, and her stories would crack the case wide open. Doros had not done anything in the waking world to warrant such a punishment, and he did nothing in the Otherworldly, either. This truth was the reason he turned so bitter: when an alchemist does everything right, but his lead stays lead and not transmute into gold, it could be soul-crushing.

Lexine pondered the dilemma. She did not do anything to cause such a catastrophic fate, either, yet she was hurdled into the waking world where she worked as a waking world detective until she solved her own riddle, and then was rewarded.

But she freed herself from any curse when she kissed Doros goodbye. Whoever or whatever was behind it wanted them apart.

But with Lexy out of the way, Doros should have been released from his punishment, but wasn’t.

Lexy was a storyteller and she began to write the story as a fable. Just as she thought she was stumped, she snapped her fingers and nodded.

“Someone else promised a demon Doros’ soul to a hellish existence without him knowing it! But who? And why – and how was it that they could enter such a bargain without Doros or anyone else knowing about it?”

She got up and fluttered down before running to Alala’s home.

“Alala! I have a question for you!”

Alala opened the door, “Lexy! You look excited! What is it?”

“You are the Unifier – the one who holds reality together.”

“Yes. It is a very interesting job putting puzzles of dreams together to form a reality.”

“What if I told you of my theory about what happened to Doros? Do you think you may have some insights?”

“I will do my best. Come on in and let’s talk about it over a splendid dinner of manna.”

IV

Doros dragged himself through the woman’s very boring black and white dream. She was an incessant complainer and nothing was ever good enough for her. Doros pointed out that as she had abused every colour in the world as it was always deficient in some real way, the colours all got together and revolted, leaving her dream to be colourful in the dreams of those who appreciated them.

The woman wouldn’t believe it. She was livid that her dreams were no longer vivid. Doros then wrote a letter to the rainbow, and within minutes, a registered letter from the rainbow came back to chastise the woman for her never-ending griping of colours and there was a strike against her tyranny.

At this comment, she turned enraged, stomping and screaming that colours were just lazy things, just like sounds.

And then she could not hear a thing in her dreams.

She tried to scream, but then realized that sounds joined colours in their defiance of her.

Doros just stood and watched the woman turn her own black and white dreams into a silent nightmare, and couldn’t even blame either colour or sound for their revolt.

V

Lexy looked at Alala who nodded. “Yes, that has to be the explanation. Nothing else makes sense, but I don’t know how anyone could just make that sort of deal.”

The Sparrow shrugged as she frowned. “I cannot investigate it myself, nor can I tell Doros about it just yet. Perhaps a past love in the waking world…”

“He was barely twenty when he perished saving all those people, Lexy, and he always behaved as if you were also his first love. He died not having children. My best guess is it is a parent or sibling who had some sort of ability to trade his fortunes with their own.”

“I wish I knew. He has no more recollection of his family…”

“Meaning they were not kind to him in the waking world. If your family doesn’t appreciate you, the Otherworldly no longer recognizes the ties to make a clean slate of things.”

“Which means this horrible deal happened in the waking world.”

“Yes, it makes sense, but why did it come into play now and in the Otherworldly, no less? It is a horrible prospect that something in the waking world can turn into a timebomb here.”

“I agree, Alala, but I was wondering if any of the puzzle pieces that hold reality together could hold a clue to Doros’ old life.”

The Unifier considered. “I don’t know as I have never had the opportunity to find out. Putting them together is a complex job. I could take a look, and if I find anything, I can tell you, but I have a feeling by the time I find out, you will have already solved the case.”

She smiled as she waved, “Thank you, Alala. That is all I can ask of you. I will leave you to your work now. Good night, and pleasant dreams!”

She then laughed with a roar as she soared to her home where she had much to ponder.

VI

Doros folded his arms and tapped his foot impatiently as his client ran in circles as now she could no longer see anything or hear anything. Both the dog and baker in her dream entirely gave up on her as she found fault with them both, and walked out. Perhaps she would not offend touch, smell or taste, so he took one of the banana cream pies and hit her in the face with it.

“Ack! What happened?” she yelped as Doros took some pie off the woman’s face and popped it in her mouth.

“Yummy! This pie is delicious and the best pie I ever tasted!” she said before she gasped, “Hey! I heard myself speak!”

“Because you said something nice about something, what I have been telling you all along. If you weren’t such a Negative Nelly, you wouldn’t be alienating all the nice things in the world.”

“Oh, all right, you made your point,” she groused as she wiped more pie off her face and began to eat it. “I can see it, too! In colour! Finally! But who made this pie? The baker?”

“No, the dog.”

“The dog?”

“Yes.”

“Seriously?”

“He was the one who bought the oven from the baker.”

“Oh.”

“The dog won the baking competition in your dream before you insulted him.”

“Wow, what a talented dog.”

The woman woke up, saddened that she alienated such a talented baker of a dog, but Doros merely nodded and left before going back to the Dangerous Realm and sat on the lone chair there to think.

He looked around at the darkness. This had to be what his own soul looked like, he was certain. A void where infinity once happily resided. How it all went so horribly wrong, he did not know, but his only comfort was his punishment of doing the job the love of his life once did as it was now his only connection to her.

He still loved Lexy and his work was the way he rebelled: it may have been the way the gods struck back at him, but they could not take away his love for her or his defiance. He had to find the way to heal before going back to Lexy to answer her kiss goodbye with a gesture of hello.

The dog who destroyed his owner’s guitar to get more attention

There once was a musician who loved the attention that big crowds gave and he was a man determined to be the very best musician so that he would be blessed by the biggest and most adoring crowds.

He practiced in front of a mirror day in and day out as he wanted to look as gifted as he played.

The musician lived alone as he did not want the burden of a needy wife and needier children to get in his way of becoming the most beloved musician in the world without peer. He hired a maid to fix his meals so that he did not have to waste valuable minutes putting together and sandwich or frying an egg, and as he did not wish for any visitors to take precious seconds away from his focus, he had a dog stand on guard to chase away any potential intruders.

The dog was very lonely and would long for attention and treats as he stood outside the house where he heard his owner playing. The dog would sing with the guitarist who would then come out to scold him for doing it.

The dog was a faithful companion, but as time went on and his heart was broken time and again, he turned bitter and jealous at the guitar that got all of the attention he never did.

Then one day, the dog snapped in fury, and while his owner was asleep, snuck into the house though an open window, found the guitar and destroyed it.

The noise woke up the man who jumped out of bed and shrieked at the sight.

“What did you do, you miserable dog? You destroyed my guitar! Now my dreams of being a renowned guitarist are ruined!”

The entire neighbourhood heard the ruckus, and came out in the streets when they began to cheer.

“Hurrah!” They shouted gleefully as they cheered “Bravo!”

The man popped his head out of the window and gasped at the more shocking sight before him.

“What is the meaning of this cheering!” he demanded, “You never cheered like this when I played my guitar!”

“Because you stink as a guitarist!” the yelled back, “We had enough of your horrible playing and your conceitedness!”

“Worst of all,” shouted a young woman, “You always ignore your poor little doggy!”

At this slight, the man became enraged and threw the dog out. “If you love that worthless mutt so much, here! Have him!”

The dog was afraid, but was shocked when the townsfolk fought over who would adopt him until the young man picked him up and kissed his face all over. “There, there,” she said sympathetically, “I will love you and look after you, and you will forget all about that talentless lunatic.”

The dog was overjoyed that he now had an entire town who adored him for ridding the place of the bane of its existence. The man was so incensed at the scene, that he packed his bags and left, never to return.

The town was relieved that the man went away, and the dog then became a cherished citizen as he guarded the town that stood by him when he sought kindness and expressed what was in his heart, even when he faced the darkest of consequences.

 

The slumbering baker who sold his oven for a better bed

There once was a baker who was always very sleepy, and though he was an excellent baker who used the finest ingredients to make his wares, he preferred sleeping to baking.

Day in and day out, he took numerous naps with a big smile on his face, and though his wife had been concerned that he was suffering from a debilitating medical condition, no doctor who ever examined him could find anything wrong with him.

He became sulky going to doctors as it took valuable moments away from his nap time, and one day he picked up his oven and left his weeping wife for good.

“That’ll teach that nap-stealing meddler!” he shouted with a defiant fist in the air as he found himself a new place to bake his wares and take his luxury naps to keep his youthful appearance.

Forty winks became eighty winks, and eighty became one hundred and sixty, and while he woke up happy, he had less and less time to bake his goods, and he soon was without much business and a mattress that needed replacing.

He scrounged up his pennies and saw he was too short to buy both baking supplies and a bed for he wished for a king-sized one with many frills and fluffy pillows.

“Confound it,” he groused bitterly, “I cannot afford to sleep and bake! What shall I do!”

Then he looked at his very expensive stove and shouted, “A ha! I know! I will sell my oven to buy a better bed!”

So he went to the local town crier and asked him to advertise to the townsfolk about his pricey oven being now on the market, and who should show up to buy it than the baker’s estranged wife.

“You want to buy my oven?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, “I know baking as well as you, and I will not let a good stove be put to waste.”

“I get it,” he said, “You think you are going to buy my oven, thinking I will come crawling back to you…”

“Nonsense,” she said, interrupting him, “I am already going steady with a French chef and we are opening a restaurant together. Now here is my money, and I will take the stove, buster. Good night, what’s-your-face, and have all the naps you can sleep.”

The baker was shocked as his wife got the stove on a dolly and strutted out of his home, never to cross paths with him again as she herself became a renowned baker whose pies were the favourite of royalty.

The baker stuck out his tongue at his wife’s back as he mocked her in a mock falsetto. “Bah,” he said after he teased her under his breath, “I’ll have the last laugh when I have the finest bed in the land – better than what the king himself sleeps on!”

And so, he bought the finest bed in the land and the most luxurious mattress and fluffy pillows, and he celebrated his new purchase by taking the longest slumber of his life.

He woke up refreshed, and jumped out of bed. “Time for baking!” he said, but when he reached his kitchen, he frowned.

He had no oven, and hence, nothing to bake his wares.

In a panic, he sold all of his worldly possessions, he bought himself a small oven, but as word of mouth of his wife’s wares made her the more popular baker in town, he could not compete.

He went to bed, but could no longer sleep. He may have had the best bed, but he now he had the worst case of insomnia imaginable.

“Oh, woe is me!” he shouted every night, “I have a magnificent bed, but no business, and I cannot pay my bills! I cannot buy the finest ingredients, and now no one wants to eat my wares! What will I do?”

He wept bitterly, and cursed the day he preferred naps to baking.

He was so absent-minded, that he failed to lock his front door, and one morning, when he dragged himself with dread to his kitchen, he gasped as there were cats and dogs eating his pies.

He wept loudly as the owners of the cats and dogs came running in, scolding their naughty pets and apologizing to the baker, offering to pay the damage they made.

“Goodness,” said one man, “Look at my doggy! I never seen him so content in my life! These pies must be very good for pets. Would you be offended if I ordered a few pies for him.”

The baker perked up and readily agreed, and soon, pet owners from across the land bought the baker’s wares for their furry friends. He became prosperous once more, but he never again preferred his slumber to his waking life as there were many things to experience and many new adventures to explore…

The Sparrow: Dream Detective and the Case of the Missing Dream

The man sitting up in his bed told Lexine Lark that he had a bad case of the “pouties.” He was pouty, with his arms folded. Someone was stealing his dreams and he had enough of it, and it was the reason he called the Dream Detective to help him find them.

“I will have to go into your mind,” said the Sparrow, “And if there is no dream, then I will have to follow the trail until I find out who has been stealing your dreams. When I find them, I will bring them all back to you, but remember, they all come in at once, and will make for a very crowded and busy dream.”

“Whatever it takes to stop the dream thief!” said the man as he slammed his fist into the palm of his other hand. “It is very rude to steal someone’s dream, and if there were dream police, I would press charges!”

“When you get your dreams back, you will be restored of everything you were stolen, and the thief gets nothing in the bargain. Now, you have a choice of bedtimes stories. I can read you the one about a horse who loved the world, or the one about the world that loved a horse.”

The man looked nervous. “I don’t know. What if I choose wrong?”

“You cannot choose a wrong bedtime story.”

“Are you certain?”

“I would not offer a bedtime story to cause a dreamer any harm.”

“So, it is not a trick question to test me?”

“No.”

“Shoot, tell me about the horse that loved the world. He probably had good dreams he kept in his own horsey head.”

The Sparrow read the bedtime story, and the man fell asleep, but when he did, and Lexine entered his mind, there was no dream to be found.

Only a crossword puzzle all around her.

“Now, this is an interesting clue,” she said as she looked at all the filled boxes. She looked on the ground and saw the same crossword puzzles all around her.

“It is always the same crosswords puzzle, and they are all completed, and yet they should be gone as they are the same puzzle solved.”

“Yoo hoo, Lexy!” said a familiar voice as the Sparrow turned around and saw her love the Keeper of Seeds waving at her.

“Doros, what are you doing here?”

“I was going to plant a seed of good luck in this dreamer’s dreams, but there are no dreams here, only crossword puzzles.”

“His dream revolted against all this clutter, and left him, and now I must try to find his dream and bring it back to him.”

“Perhaps we should call on Alala or Atticus to help us…”

“They know dreams, not empty spaces, and I don’t even think Daralis or Ver’sa Vy’sa could lend a hand.”

“So how do we find this man’s missing dreams?”

The Sparrow studied the crossword puzzle. “There must be a clue in here…”

The Keeper stood beside her as he also studied the answers. “This is a very peculiar crossword puzzle, Lexy. All these words are very complex: misanthrope, immure, ultracrepidarian, poltroon…”

“And all of those words have negative feelings and ideas associated with them.”

“So where do we go from here? The Dangerous Realm?”

“I don’t think his dream went there, and he was right: he did pick the wrong bedtime story.”

“What do you mean?”

“He picked the story about the horse who loved the world, and not the world that loved a horse. His dream could be anywhere…”

“You have that look, Lexy, and that mean’s he didn’t pick the wrong dream, after all.”

“His dream could be anywhere in the world, but I bet I know where that dream is hiding.”

“In a horse?”

“In the mind of a horse.”

“Have you ever gone into the dreams of an animal?”

“Yes, a few times when owners are worried their pets are having a nightmare. I have been in the dreams of cats, dogs, rabbits, parrots, hamsters, and a scorpion.”

“A scorpion?”

“It was having recurring anxiety dreams, that poor dear.”

“Well, I have never been in an animal’s dream. I could go with you a plant a seed in a horse’s dream to bring it good luck.”

“That is very thoughtful of you, Doros.”

“And after we find this man’s dreams, let us go to the Ninth Cloud for a kissing picnic.”

“A kissing picnic?”

“Well, it is like a regular picnic, except we kiss instead of eat.”

“That is a good incentive to wrap up this case as soon as possible.”

“So which horse do you think is the holder of the dream?”

“Let us look at the crossword puzzle.”

“All these words are very sad or angry ones.”

“And the dream ran away from these puzzles that never change.”

“Meaning, it is something opposite to anger and negativity. It couldn’t stand these angry puzzles that clutter this man’s mind.”

“It felt saddened that it could not touch this man’s heart…”

“And went to someone who would appreciate it.”

“Why don’t you take out one of your seeds of good fortune for this man’s dreams. It will attract the dream, and we can hop into it.”

The Keeper of the Seeds took out the seed and before he and the Sparrow knew it, a giant horse galloped as it used its head to place both of them on its back and then whisked them away to the missing dream before letting them down. The looked around.

“This is supposed to be a forest, I suppose,” said Doros as he looked around, “But this forest doesn’t look real – it looks like something right out a picture book.”

“Well, it doesn’t have a personal bringing the dream to life.”

“So it’s a guess of what a forest should look like.”

“And that is the clue that cracks the case wide open!”

“Lexy, you know you are the love of my life, and I cherish and respect you with every grain of my being, but how on Earth does this dream solve the case?”

The Dream Detective gestured in front of her. “What is happening here?”

“Nothing.”

“And it looks like a picture book.”

“Yes, it does.”

“What do picture books have?”

“Well, let’s see: figments, plot…”

“And where are they?”

“I see what you mean.”

“The dream is completely devoid of anything to make an actual picture book.” The Sparrow looked around.

“What are you looking for now?”

“It’s a who. Atticus the Soul Finder should be here as he is Eden’s greatest advocate of figment’s rights, and there must be a strike.”

“Is that why there is no story in this empty dream? The figments are out on strike?”

“And perhaps even the plot as well as a show of solidarity.”

“I am so glad you are the Dream Detective and not me because I would have never guessed this in a million years.”

“I didn’t guess. I merely followed the clues.”

“A pile of identical crosswords puzzles and an empty dream brought you to this conclusion. No wonder you are the best detective around. If someone lost their dream, I’d probably ask if they looked under the bed for it…”

“Yoo hoo, Lexy! Thank goodness you’re here!” shouted the Soul Finder as he ran toward him with his placard, imploring the rights of figments in dreams.

“I figured out the figments of this man’s dream were all on strike.”

“Yes, they are very hurt and angry with your dreamer client who is appallingly rude and hurtful.”

“What do you mean?”

“He preferred thinking about his all-time favourite crossword puzzle that he solved as a boy, and told his figments to make themselves scarce because they always strive for happy endings instead of finding the right answers to crossword puzzles because that’s what counts in life.”

“That is a very hurtful thing to say to figments,” said a saddened Doros, “They always try so hard to make life sweeter and kinder. They are altruists like me, you know.”

“Well, my client is now very remorseful and misses his dreams. Would they consider giving him a second chance?”

“Only if he appreciates all the hard work they do to give him a more loving and fulfilling life.”

“He has learned his lesson. After all, he did seek me.”

“Very well then,” said Atticus, “I will let them know, and after we resolve this problem, Madreselva and I would love to invite you and Doros our party tomorrow. We are entertaining many young figments who are learning the ways of making dreams and stories kinder.”

“We’d both love to come,” said Lexy as a beaming Doros nodded, “I am always excited to make friends with new figments.”

The Soul Finder left, and seconds later, all the figments ran over to Lexy to give her and Doros hugs and kisses.

“Yay!” they shouted, “It’s the Sparrow and her true love!”

Just then, her client appeared in the dream, overjoyed.

“I am so sorry! My life has been meaningless without my dreams. I am sick of the same old crossword puzzle: it was too depressing!”

After the figments made peace with the dreamer, he turned to Lexy, “Why did I want to think about crossword puzzles in the first place, especially one I know all the answers to, anyway?”

“You are afraid of love.”

“You can figure that out from my problem?”

“True love is not a crossword puzzle,” said Lexy, “It is not about the challenge of completing it and then needing a new puzzle to stimulate you. It is a bedtime story you can hear every night and still always find something new to cherish and discover as all that you have heard before makes your heart even stronger and happier than it was the night before.”

“I want to love,” said the man, “I want the bedtime story that I never tire of hearing.”

He then looked at a horse galloping toward him with a beautiful rider smiling at him extending a hand, and when the man touched it, he found a seed of good fortune.

And then he woke up as the Sparrow sat in a chair beside the bed.

“Oh, Sparrow, thank you so much for finding my lost dreams,” but how did you find them?
“The story you avoided told me what your problem was, but the story you chose told me how to solve it. You were in fear of a world that loved a single soul because you felt you had no love in your life. But you wished to love the world all the same, and were willing to open your heart to feel it.”

“Well, I am relieved you found my dream. I want to love the world and the world to cherish the same way.”

“And you will. Good night, and pleasant dreams!” chirped the Sparrow who fluttered out of the window and was on her way to the Ninth Cloud were a happy Doros was waiting for her to arrive at the kissing picnic.

The horse who loved the world

There once was a wild horse who lived free in a field that was renowned in the land for his speed, beauty, and grace. He played in the field, and basked in the sunlight. He was the happiest horse who ever lived, and he was grateful for the trees and the stream, just as he was overjoyed when it was raining and when the sun came out to dry his coat. The night gave him the calm to sleep, and the day gave him a new adventure to explore.

But one day he came across a ghastly sight: it was a sickly and gaunt horse weeping in the field.

The horse came up and nuzzled his nose to the crying horse. “What is the matter?”

“I ran away from my owner who hates me, and beats me as he starves me! I hate the whole world for being so cruel and wicked to me because the whole world hates me!”

The happy horse consoled his friend, as the shock of his new companion’s words tore into him. He had never seen cruelty or met another who had been chained and confined to it.

He could have wept in sympathy, but remembered he had so much love in his heart, that it was big enough to love the entire world.

But as he could see that not everything in the world was worthy of his love, he would take back the love to those who were cruel, and then give it those who deserved it.

“My friend,” he finally said, “The whole world does not hate you.”

“Yes, it does!”

“No, there are many things that love you.”

“Such as?” snapped the horse.

“Well, you escaped; so, all those things that helped you do it must have loved you.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.”

“The path that brought you here loved you enough to bring you to safety as your owner didn’t come here.”

“Really?”

“But that is not all. The sun loves you as it guided to you and is warming you. The fields have food to nourish you back to health. The stream has water for you to drink, but there one more thing in this world that loves you.”

“Oh, what is that?”

“Me!” said the horse and danced around his new friend.

The other horse was so overwhelmed by the declaration that it then shouted, “I may not love everything in the world, but I know I love you the most!”

“I feel the same way about you,” said the happy horse.

And the two became the closest of friends as the new horse recovered and grew as strong and happy as his wise companion, and while both did not love the cruelty in the world, they cherished the goodness, giving it more love, and with their powerful love, those good things became stronger and kinder, and blossomed as mightily as the two friends who ran in the fields, grateful for all the beautiful things in the world.

The world that loved the horse

Few know the secret truth about the world: that it has feelings, hopes, dreams, and wisdom. It spins all the time to create both life and stories, and it is always looking for new stories to help it spin itself dizzy for another day.

And the world was loving, but it had been bothered by all of the cruelty in it. It was quite offended that evil was allowed to flourish, and the world did its best to bring kindness and tolerance.

But there were so many people arguing that the world’s pleas fell on deaf ears. So dejected the world became, that she vowed to stop spinning so that the evil would stop and that she didn’t have to house it or put up with any of it ever again.

But no one in the world felt her broken heart, and they continued to argue with strangers, steal from their families, and betrayed the friends who trusted them by telling them lies.

Just as the world was about to stop its spinning, a horse galloped in a field singing.

The world gasped for in all the moons of horses living in the world, not a single one sang.

This was first, and she did was she rarely ever did: speak to someone.

“Horse,” she said as the animal looked surprised and stopped singing.

“Oh my goodness! What an honour! The world is speaking to me!”

“You know I am the world?”

“Of course,” said the horse, “Who else talks in so many harmonies at once?”

“You are a very wise horse.”

“I run in the world every day. I see all of your beauty and grace, and melt for you are so beautiful and kind.”

The world began to weep for not a single person in all of existence ever stopped to tell her how much they loved her, and all of the reasons why. That someone noticed her hard work and goodness made her heart soar and burst with joy.

“I love you,” she said to the horse.

“Good, because I always loved you from afar, but was too scared to say it to you directly.”

“But why?”

“Because you are a great big world with infinite stories you spin, and I am just little horse who is but a grain in you.”

“But you are the kindest, sweetest, most loving grain I have ever had the pleasure to know, and of all the flora and fauna, I love you the most.”

The horse then began to sing a new love song to his friend, as the world decided to keep on spinning, bringing more love in her heart, that slowly, over time, began to chase evil away – not with cruel deeds, but by the triumph of kindness.

And as she began to sing to the horse, the world began to hear her beautiful voice, and stopped all of their bickering to listen to the greatest melody of them all: the song of love and kindness when you thought all was lost and no one could see the kindness in your heart that was always admired with gratitude – but was always there if you looked for the single grain in the great big world...

The Sparrow: Dream Detective and the Case of the Rebel Dream

I

Lexine Lark was known to all as The Sparrow: Dream Detective, and when a dreamer had problems in the waking world, he or she need only to wish her arrival, and The Sparrow would flutter into their bedroom with her book of bedtime stories to read to her client to help them fall asleep — or she would sing them a lullaby before entering their dreams with them to crack the case wide open.

Dreams were puzzles to help dreamers solve their waking world mysteries, and when dreams were left unsolved, their waking world would become confusing. When she was not solving the mysteries of the dream world, she lived in a tree in Eden with all the other eccentric and kind-hearted alchemists that made paradise home.

She was sitting on a chair next to the bed of her client who was pouty and sulky. He was a young man whose bedroom was filled with instruments of all sorts.

“Thank goodness you came when you did, Sparrow,” said the man as he held on to his pillow tightly, “My career as a musician is going nowhere fast, and I have no idea what to do about that — or my weird dreams.”

“How are your dreams strange to you?” asked Lexine. “They always go in the opposite direction of who I am!” he groused as he folded his arms and furrowed his brow.

“Just as I dream I am singing on stage with a cheering crowd, I end up being in some weird debate with someone who always finds fault with everything I think! And then other times, I start to dream I am walking on the red carpet to a fancy party, I end up holding a sign and in the middle of a protest! I think I watch the news too much!”

“Oh no,” said The Sparrow, “What you have is an acute case of a Rebel Dream.”

“A Rebel Dream? What is that?”

“It happens when your dreams rebel against you…”

“Great,” grumbled the man as he made a sour expression, “It is bad enough my parents objected to my wishes, now even my dreams work against me! You came in the nick of time.”

“We will get to the bottom of it,” she said kindly as she opened her book of fables, “Now, you have the choice of two bedtime stories: The ostrich who hid the world inside its head…” “The ostrich who hid the world inside his head?” spluttered the man.

“Or you can hear the story about the bottle that changed the message placed inside it…”

The man groaned. “I hate messages of any kind. Who has time to write them or even listen to them? I never answer the messages I get when I am awake — I certainly don’t want to listen to a fake message in a story.” He pursed his lips. “You sing lullabies?”

“I do.”

“Can you sing me something? Music is my life.”

“Certainly,” the Dream Detective replied as her melodious voice soon put her client into a deep slumber and she fluttered into his dreams to solve the case.

II

“Phooey,” said the man when he saw The Sparrow in his dreams, “There is only that ostrich and bottle here.”

Just then a familiar voice shouted, “Yoo hoo, Lexy!” as The Sparrow looked up and smiled. It was none other than her very good friend Phoenix Rose, known to all in the dream world as a one-woman army who battled writer’s block and artist dry spells to inspire the creative into finding inspiration to make beautiful stories, art, and music once more.

“Phoenix! What are you doing here?” asked Lexine as she greeted her friendly warmly. “It’s this silly musician,” Phoenix said as she pointed at him, “Here I am unblocking every block around, and he still hasn’t been inspired!”

“Hmm,” replied the Dream Detective, “That’s the clue I needed to crack the case wide open.”

Phoenix giggled, “At least it wasn’t a waste — I inspired you.”

“You did, and I thank you.” “Why don’t we go out on a river cruise in Eden tomorrow? The cruise on the Hiddekel is opening a brand-new boutique called Your Ship’s Come In.”

“How exciting!” chirped the Sparrow, “That part of paradise always has the most gorgeous fashions and their food is divine. I would love to join you.”

“Great! See you tomorrow!”

After Phoenix left, Lexy saw her client arguing with an ostrich holding a message in its beak.

“Don’t make me read the message!” shouted the man, but the ostrich poked him in the nose, dropping the note in front of the trembling man who picked it up and read it.

“Wait, this is a note from my own heart asking how could I sing when there is suffering in the world…and a-ha!” he shouted as The Sparrow smiled.

III

When the man awoke, he breathlessly replied, “That’s why I was having troubles! My music wasn’t about all the things the meant so much to me! It’s not always about singing love songs! There are problems and my songs can be about making a better world! No wonder I was floundering, but how did you know?”

“The bedtime story you reject tells me your problem, while the story you heard tells me how to solve it, but in your case, you rejected both stories, but opted to hear a lullaby because music brings you peace, yet you were still troubled because you avoided hearing both my fables.”

“Of course! I had a bad case of ostrich syndrome and was too afraid of hearing about any messages — but now that I do, I cannot wait to write new songs.”

“I am happy to hear it. Good night, and pleasant dreams!” Lexy flew out the window and the man happily went back to sleep hoping to find just the right words to bring the chords of change to the world.

The Sparrow: Dream Detective and the Case of the Dream Toll

The stunned-looking woman sat up in her waterbed as she watched Lexine Lark take out her book of bedtime stories.

“Oh, Sparrow,” she said, “I am not even sure you can riddle this dream mystery in time because the same thing happens to me every night!”

“And that is?” asked the Dream Detective.

“Just as I hit an important part of my dream, someone in a funny uniform comes up and says I have to pay money to continue the dream, or it will end! I always say no, and I always wake up!”

“Hmm,” said the Sparrow, “That sounds like a case of a Dream Toll.”

“A Dream Toll? People have to pay to dream these days?”

“No, it is a condition that happens every once in a while, but yours is the first time it is recurring, and that is concerning. Someone in the dream world knows you are the keeper of some very important solutions to riddles, and is tricking you awake by means of a Dream Toll.”

“How very inconsiderate and dastardly.”

“We will get to the bottom of this tonight.”

“But what if I am asked to pay the Dream Toll? Should I pay it?”

“You will not need to as I have the pass.”

“Oh, good, perhaps now I can find out what the big secret is.”

“You will, but first you have a choice of bedtimes stories. One is about four dogs who ran out to play in traffic, and the other is about a man who became a troll to frighten all the pixies in the world.”

“I will take the story about the troll and pixies because if a dog gets hit by a car in your story, I will shed more tears than this waterbed can hold!”

The Sparrow told her story and the woman soon fell asleep and soon the two met in the middle of the road where there were four lost dogs running about in traffic.

“Great,” groused the woman who frowned, “Just my luck I don’t pick the story that probably had the answer to this horrible problem, and now these four dogs will probably all get run over in front of me, turning this into a nightmare! I would rather be awoken because I won’t pay a silly dream toll than be jolted awake because I failed four doggies in need!”

“Now, now,” reassured the Sparrow, “There are no cars here, and we can save these dogs.”

“But how? They just run away if we try to catch them because we are not their owners.”

“This is the dream world, and they are in your dream.”

“Oh!” said the woman in realization, “Of course! How silly of me! Come here, doggies! Let’s go to my dream house for some snacks and belly rubs!”

The dogs all happily came to the woman and walked single file behind her as she began to strut.

“No wonder they pay you the big bucks to be a dream detective,” said the woman as they reached her dream home, “It’s all very simple for you.”

Just as the Sparrow was about to reply, she heard someone call out to her.

“Yoo hoo! Lexy! Over here!”

She turned around and waved to her friend Madreselva, otherwise known as the Heart Collector.

“Madreselva! What a wonderful surprise! What brings you by this woman’s dreams?”

“Oh, just the usual, I have a letter to give to her as someone wishes to give a grain of hi heart to her.”

The woman made a face of disgust. “Yuck! How macabre! Who would cut out his heart to give to someone else? How frightful!”

“But…” began the Heart Collector but the woman’s retching and shivers drowned out her explanations. She turned to the Sparrow and gave her the letter. “Maybe you can give it to her when she calms down and explain it is a spiritual grain, not a physical one. What an idea!”

“She is forgetting the ways of the dream world because she is always be forced awake – and that is a vital clue.”

“At least something good came out of it. After this, why don’t you come over to my place in Eden so we can have a beautiful lunch and then go to the fashion shows to see all of the latest styles this season in paradise.”

“Oh, that does sound beautiful! I will, and thank so much for your help.”

The Heart Collector waved goodbye as the Sparrow calmed down her client and explained the contents of the envelope, which the woman snatched and opened, looking at it and frowned once more.

“What is the matter?” asked the Sparrow.

“What’s the use of this grain now?”

“What do you mean?”

“This man died many years ago. I cannot reciprocate this love, as much as I felt the same way about him. I bet it has to do with this mean-spirited Dream Toll! It’s all a plot…wait a minute! The other story was about a man who turned into a troll to bother all the pixies in the world! I bet he is the culprit behind my sorrows! Come on, doggies! Let’s find this bad man and kick him in the shins!”

“Oh dear,” said the Sparrow, “My client is jumping ahead of things without any evidence, and I can see the Dream Toll ahead. If she wakes up before she finishes her dream, she will be convinced that her theory is right.”

The Sparrow fluttered ahead as the woman marched angrily, but just as she reached the man in the funny uniformed, he took one look at the Sparrow, gasped, and ran away.

“Stop! Dream thief!” said the woman who chased after the man as her four dogs chased him as well.

But the Sparrow studied the scene very careful and nodded, “That important clue cracks the case wide open!”

She flew ahead of the man in the funny uniform and stop him as he tried to hide his face from her.

“You are not a Puzzle Thief, Soul Squatter or a Dreamjacker, and if you were General Rem, you would not hide your identity from me.” The Sparrow yanked the hat off the man, revealing her own lost love, Doros who once was known to the dream world as the Keeper of the Seeds.

“Doros, what is the meaning of all this? This woman has done nothing to deserve it, and it took you a long time to get yourself out of the Dangerous Realm. Why did you try to bring me here by means of a Dream Toll?”

“Because you won’t talk to me anymore.”

“I am talking to you now.”

The woman stormed up and kicked Doros in the shins.

“Oww!” he shouted.

“Take that! And that! Shame on you for messing up my very important dreams! Shame on you for keeping the man who loved me away from me until it was too late! And shame on you for trying to trick your old girlfriend at my expense! If there were proper authorities to report you, believe me, I would, you dream troll! I am doing back to my dream – and if I ever catch you trying to shake me down for a dream toll ever again, I will punch you in the nose!” She turned to the Sparrow and shook her hand. “Thank you, Sparrow for undercovering this horrible ploy. I understand the dream I rejected represented the problem I could not face, while the dream I chose showed me how to solve it. Imagine, people like that messing up the dreams of nice people like me. Shame on you, Doros! Shame on you! I can handle the rest of my dream from here as my doggies and I are going to find that troll trying to terrorize pixies. Goodbye, Sparrow, and I hope your dreams are more pleasant than mine were this evening! My word!”

The woman stomped off with her four dogs running happily behind her as the Sparrow looked at the former Keeper of the Seeds.

“Your melancholy is causing no end of headaches in the dream world,” said the Sparrow, “Your bedtime stories have been so dark and dreadful, that you have made many dreamers cry and fear to dream.”

“You won’t talk to me anymore, not the way you used to talk to me. All I did was purpose to you on the Ninth Cloud, and then we were torn apart. Before I knew it, I was a prisoner of General Rem’s and the only way to save me was for you to give me a kiss goodbye, and even after all that, I am forced to make amends by taking over your job by going into the meanest people’s dreams, and then even then I am abused. I went into the Dangerous Realm to cease my existence, and then you tumble right on top of me, and even then, you said we cannot get back together.”

“Doros,” said the Sparrow kindly, “How can we get back together when we were happy and kind, and some invisible force tore us apart and threw us in horrible places? We could get back together, but the danger is still there, waiting to tear us apart over and over for infinity. Is that not an important clue?”

“I never thought about it that way.”

“And how do you expect to solve the riddles of paradise by being melancholy and doing horrible things by charging a Dream Toll? It is shameful, even for a broken-hearted man to do. Good night, Doros, and pleasant dreams.”

With that, the Sparrow vanished, and Doros was left standing alone in a strange place in a stranger’s dreams where there were whispering pixies gossiping about the exchange and a troll staring at him wondering what the strange man was doing standing in a dream that was not his.

Doros turned around and walked away, more confused than he ever was in his existence.

He had his own dream mystery to solve, and he had no idea where to begin or how.

The four dogs who ran out to play in traffic

There once were two neighbors who had two dogs each. One owner had two big dogs, while the other had two small dogs, and there was no end to the bickering of which kind of dog was better: a big dog or a small dog.

The fights and debates went on for days, and the rest of the neighbourhood had become so fed up with the fights that they all took cats for pets instead for they never wanted to hear the word “dog.”

The bickering went on for months until the day all four dogs were sick of the comparisons and they all made a pact to run away someplace far away from their squabbling owners.

But as they were all sheltered dogs who never had to fend for themselves a day in their lives, they had no idea where to do or what to do. They vowed to stick together no matter what and decided to go wherever their path took them.

But the only paths they ever encountered was the sidewalk by their homes where their owners took them for a walk every day. So they took that path and continued on until they reached the highway and watched the cars speed one way and the other in front of them.

“What are those things doing?” asked a small dog.

“I don’t know,” replied the big dog, “Perhaps they are playing chasing games with each other.”

“That looks like a tough game,” replied the other small dog, “But I love when we chase each other in the yard.”

“Why don’t we try to chase those big things ourselves?” asked the other big dog, “If we get their attention, perhaps they will show us what other paths to take.”

As none of the dogs had a clue about traffic, they all happily agreed and began to run in traffic, chasing the cars that squealed their brakes and honked their horns in distress as they owners rolled down their windows and shouted, “You brainless mutts! What are you all trying to do?”

The dogs all looked at each other and seemed excited.

“Did you hear that!” said one of the small dogs, “These people in those big speeding things don’t see any differences among us!”

“Of course there aren’t any differences,” sniffed one of the big dogs haughtily, “We are dogs. We love to play and eat and nap and have our bellies rubbed. We love it when we are little, and we still love it even if we are big.”

“I never knew what the fuss was about, anyway,” said the other little dog, “And while I do not know what this fuss is all about, at least I know our owners used us as an excuse to squabble and not pay any attention to us.”

“And they wouldn’t let us play with each other,” complained the other big dog, “And I had a wonderful idea of tearing apart to sofa to see if it look different than tearing apart a wall.”

Just then, a woman pulled over to the dogs and opened her back door, “Get in here, you four troublemakers! I do not know how you became lost, but I am taking the naughty lot of you home with me!”

The dogs could not think of a better thing to do, and all hopped in with their tails wagging as they all then stuck their heads out of the windows and noted that regardless of size, they all loved the wind rushing through their fur.

Their owners never saw them again as they were too busy squabbling to notice their pets had left them for good.

And as for the four, they made a good home as they all made a terrible mess of the kindly woman’s sofa, carpet, and walls, but as she was good-natured, did not seem to mind, and the four were always proud that no matter what they looked like on the outside, their hearts beat as one on the inside.

The man who became a troll to frighten all the pixies in the world 

There once was a man with a very sour disposition who had many pet peeves, but his biggest pet peeve of all was the idea of pixies.

He loathed the idea of little beings with wings who giggled and chattered in forests and that the very idea of a pixie made children happy, as happy children were his second greatest pet peeve.

“Bah!” groused the man, “I wish all pixies were banished so that children would stop giggling like fools and run out in the meadows and forests to look for them! They ought to just sit in front of the wall at home and be quiet. If I ever found a pixie, I would lock it in a drawer and keep it away from the world”

He had told of his wish to children, who called him a “mean old man” to his chagrin, but as neither the children nor the man would back down, tensions in the land only simmered as he eventfully became known throughout the kingdom as the Mean Old Man Who Hated Pixies.

The pixies all heard about the man’s desire to locked them in drawers and always kept away from him.

Then one day he overheard a bedtime story where the pixies were helpless against an army of trolls, and a very bad idea popped into his head.

“Aha!” thought the man, “If I became a troll, I could frighten all of the pixies in the world, and then children would stop giggling and looking for them, and then just stay at home and stare at walls in silence.”

He had no idea what it took to become a troll; so he went to the library and read every fairy-tale about trolls, and decided he would make himself look like one to fool the pixies.

He put on green grease, plucked out all of his hair and learned how to grunt and growl.

When the children all saw him, they screamed and ran away, delighting him no end.

“If I can fool the children, I can fool the pixies!” said the man and he strutted into the forest to scare off all of the pixies in the world so that children could be as miserable as he.

But when he entered the forest, he was met by a fearful sight: there was a stampede of terrified trolls running out of the forest as fast as they could.

“Run for your lives, fellas!” screamed the trolls, “The pixies have been unleashed!”

“Now see here,” said the irate man, “I read all the fairy-tales and they all said that pixies are terrified of trolls!”

“Those stories are written by fairies, and they are all comedy writers!” shouted one vexed troll, “They think writing stories about pixies being scared of trolls is supposed to be funny!”

Just as the man was about to object how could giant trolls be afraid of tiny pixies, the sky suddenly darkened as thousands of tiny, giggly pixies stormed out of the forest and began to chase the trolls.

“Let’s get them!” giggled the pixies who chased the screaming trolls who knocked down the man and trampled over him.

“Help!” shouted the man as suddenly a group of pixies came and lifted him up.

“Silly!” they giggled as they pointed their tiny fingers at him, “Why are you dressed like a troll?”

“Phooey,” said the man, “I was trying to scare the lot of you by pretending to be a troll…”

They all howled with laughter so hard that tears came out of their eyes and they held their bellies.

“But I see an army of real trolls are terrified of pixies.”

“We don’t know why trolls are so scared of us when we are very friendly,” said one of the pixies, “We go through forests and meadows helping sick plants and animals in need.”

“And making children happy,” said another.

“That’s the trouble,” said the man, “Their laughter annoys me.”

“But why?” asked another pixie who seemed the tiniest of the bunch, “When children are happy it makes the world stronger.”

“Well, they are laughing at me!”

“So?” asked the pixies, “They laugh at us, too.”

“And you don’t mind?”

“Not at all,” said the pixies, “Because laughter means the heart is singing.”

“Hmm,” mused the man, “That is an interesting way of seeing it. I never thought laughter meant I was their muse! I must test a theory, but thank you for saving me from the trolls and myself!”

The man waved goodbye and then decided he would make a show for children to watch where he would do the silliest things he could think of to make children laugh. He became rich and prosperous as his shows were renowned across the world for children became so happy at his silly jokes and ways, that they made the world a stronger and happier place to live.

And when those children grew up, they always expressed gratitude to their hero – the man brave enough to make them laugh, and strong enough to give them the greatest gift of a singing heart…