'Theo's Wish' - First Instalment
‘Theo’s Wish’- First Instalment
By Tony DeLorger © 2011
This children’s book was a labour of love and a tribute to my own children’s fruitful imaginations. It was written as a fantasy for children but it is much more. It's a book with many layers, least of which the metaphor that we all seek to find ourselves and to become whole human beings. The book will be presented in parts for you to read and hopefully enjoy, as much as children have who have read it before you.
‘For those who believe no proof is necessary
For those who do not, no proof is possible’
‘The Nameless City’
Once, upon a fractured world,
fashioned of broken dreams,
a faceless boy, against all odds,
yearned to be complete…
‘I must see Nester,’ said Joh, feeling as always, that Nester alone could offer him relief from his endless mental torment.
Joh fled his room and pounded the streets determinedly, oblivious to a succession of sunrises and the absurd Half World that surrounded him. As he passed three-eyed dog-owls and featherless one-legged chickens, he saw none of them, feeling only the agony of his own circumstance.
The pain of being a faceless child and longing for real parents felt intolerable and now in sheer desperation he approached the haven of Nester’s run-down little shack, hoping, praying for answers.
Standing before the gnarled wooden door, Joh’s heart was thumping in his chest, his mind awash with confusion. He took a deep calming breath, paused then knocked on the rickety door.
The vibrations alone alerted old Nester- his hearing wasn’t what it used to be. Joh could hear the crisp, shuffling sound of Nester’s sandals against the stone floor as he slowly drew nearer.
‘Coming!’ a musical, siren-like voice resounded.
The door edged open with a low-pitched growl. ‘Ah, Joh. Please come in my boy.’ Nester shuffled aside unaware of Joh’s state of mind, and closed the door behind him. ‘Did you enjoy the sunrises today?’ he asked wistfully.
‘The first three, maybe,’ Joh answered, with other matters on his mind.
‘How many times have I told you my boy, we must learn to accept what we are given here.’
Joh found an almost empty seat and squeezed himself into it, scanning the dimly lit, dust covered room. He peered at the staggered stacks of books on the floor, clothes of every colour and texture draped over chairs, tables and doors, and endless memorabilia piled erratically on every available surface. The shack was a mess, but a warm and homely mess.
Nester was an old man, who was once a wise and powerful wizard that had lost his powers because of an interrupted dream. He preserved all of his knowledge in mind and by written word but could not use it, destined to remain without the one thing that had made him complete- the practice of the magical arts.
Leaning forward a little, the folded fabric of Nester’s grey robes fell loosely on either side of his delicate frame. He had penetrating crystal blue eyes and his long beard and hair were a wispy silver-grey. There was a certain understanding within him that made Joh feel better just being in his presence. Nester was as close to family as Joh could find.
Suddenly detecting Joh’s mood, Nester sighed, knowing that Joh needed more than a bandaid this visit. He made his way over to a plush half-covered armchair and eased back into it with a groan.
They both sat in pensive silence, then Nester spoke. ‘Look Joh, I do know how you feel. Look at me, this wand of mine is no more than a stick. But what can I do, what can you do?’
‘We are by nature, aberrations. We are dreams, given life by our dreamers. Being incomplete is no-one’s fault, it’s simply what we are and this is where we must remain. At least we have life.’
Joh sat forward. ‘But what a life. I know some have gone to the Dream World from here. I have heard of it.’
Nester shook his head. ‘You know how rare that is? To dream the same dream twice and the second time to complete it, in every detail.’
‘But why not me, Nester? Why can’t it happen to me?’ Joh said with frustration. ‘Who am I, and who dreamed me? Surely there must be a way to find out…I want a mother, I want a family.’
Rising to his feet, Nester shuffled over to Joh and sat beside him on the arm of the chair. ‘My boy, this Half World is where we belong. We are not complete, and that is the way that most of us will always be. This is our lot. You must learn to accept it, for your own sake.’
Joh lowered his head for a moment, struggling as always with Nester’s words. He then looked up, his expression hardening.
‘I’ll never accept that. I am a boy and one day I’ll have a face. Then I will be complete and I will have a mother, and a family…just like any other boy…just like a real boy…’
He stood up and looked at Nester with immeasurable anguish in his eyes, then dashed out of the shack and into the streets, sobbing uncontrollably. He ran all the way home, thrashing his way through the bustling streets, and then threw himself on to his bed confused but determined to change his intolerable life.
Down in the streets, the Half World citizens were enjoying a clear, mild day and everyone seemed in good moods, laughing and sparring with one another in their broken down world. Joh simply saw it as madness, with half-built houses, two-legged chairs, bottomless glasses and inhabitants that for the main, defied description. One-legged four-eyed frog-things were common, and two-ended, mixed animals plentiful. Cat-Dogs and Bird-Cats were the worst, spinning like tops in desperate hope of tearing their opposing ends to pieces. No-one bothered to explain to them that if they did succeed, they would die. Everyone simply knew that biting your own bum was a feat not many could perform and left these poor abominations to do their best. Monstrosities of form roamed the streets, mostly in peace, communicating if they could, one way or another, and taking for granted their individual limits.
In the familiar surrounds of his bedroom, Joh had nodded off and when he awoke, was a little bit more clear-headed, but still feeling the frustration that had launched him out of Nester’s house, as emotional as always. But how else could he feel? Without eyes he couldn’t even cry real tears, further adding to his frustration.
Rolling over on to his back, Joh felt the cooling wisp of a breeze against his smooth contour-less face. He looked up and browsed the dome-shaped ceiling of his room, following the smooth lines that flowed down from its top and below to the arched columns that supported it. The structure was solid marble, white with soft pink striations. If it weren’t for the crumbled ruins beyond his room, one could have thought that it was complete. But like all images within this crazy world, nothing was complete, finished or even working. He often imagined that a nice little Greek boy had dreamed up this home for him, so he could be comfortable. He then thought the boy could become a friend and drop by just to play. Unfortunately, this was pure fantasy.
With a deep unresolved sigh, Joh struggled to a sitting position and looked out on the soft hues of dusk. In the Half World the days were so uncoordinated and erratically repetitive, that it was always difficult to know where you were, when to sleep or do anything. He’d heard that in the Dream World days were just like on Earth, and he thought how wonderful it would be to know the sun would come up just once and set just once. Completed dreams could happen during the day or night, but because the dreams were complete, the lives of those dreamed followed a normal rhythm, and life was free and uninhibited. If only that were true in the Half World.
Standing up, Joh yawned, mouth-less. Seemingly resolving himself to the status quo for now, he decided to visit his friend Errol to take his mind off everything. Surprisingly, the dusk was now transforming into evening and with the street lamps now lit, Joh wandered outside and walked slowly down the street towards Errol’s home. Turning a corner, he was all but bowled over by what looked like a large two-headed lizard with more than a dozen legs, each foot sporting a shiny red gumboot.
‘Watch where ya goin!’ spouted one head of the lizard. The other head nudged his twin, disapprovingly.
‘Don’t be so rude!’
‘Arr! Enough of your cultured whining.’
‘I was simply making a point, George.’
Joh just stood there witnessing this odd banter.
‘Who said two heads are better than one? Someone, please save me?’
‘Well, I never…’
‘George, that was my eye!’
Joh shook his head as the lizard zigzagged its way down the street, head-butting itself amid a barrage of verbal abuse. As the sound of their quarrelling slowly faded into the distance, Joh saw Errol’s little house just up ahead. After waiting for a large caterpillar to pass, who was riding a tiny bicycle rather badly, Joh stepped across the road and gently knocked on Errol’s door.
‘Come in Joh!’ said a muffled voice.
Joh opened the door and stepped in.
‘How did you know it was me?’ he asked.
‘When you’re this close to the ground, you hear almost everything. I think I’ve got your steps down well now.’
‘You never cease to amaze me,’ said Joh, with a chuckle
‘Oh, listen, could you do me a favour and…’
‘Scratch, you mean?’
‘Would you mind?’
‘Sure, where is it this time?’
‘On the other side, third or forth roll from the top…I think.’
Joh carefully stepped around Errol and peered down, counting the rolls, then scratched. ‘Is that it?
‘Nah, sorry, one roll up and a little to the left. Oh yeah, that’s it. You got it. Yeah, just around there. Ohhhh!’
A moment later Joh finished scratching and collapsed into a chair in front of Errol. There were only a few chairs in the room, for guests only of course. Errol spent all of his time on the floor and when he wanted to sleep he would simply roll on to his bed covers in the corner.
Errol was one of the hard luck stories in the Half World. He was so fat that a breathing snorkel kept him alive. His massive rolls billowed out, creasing and folding and squelching together until his body was barely visible underneath. The snorkel allowed him not only to breath but speak. All that could be done to help him was to hose him down now and then, to wash off all the piled up dirt from his continuous rolling around. But to Errol’s credit, his predicament never bother him. He took everything as it came and even amid his almost impossible physical handicap, Errol was a pleasant and happy soul, who always had plenty to say.
‘You’ve had a bad day haven’t you?’ asked Errol with concern.
‘How did you know?’
‘In my predicament, you learn to use what senses you have. What happened?’
Joh fidgeted, a little hesitant at first, then replied. ‘I don’t know. I’m just not sure how much longer I can take this… living here I mean.’
‘It’s not like we have a choice, Joh.’
‘Maybe we do, Errol. Maybe there’s a way to find our dreamer and get them to complete us, dream us whole.’
‘Joh, don’t you think that if it were so easy, everyone would have done it by now?’
‘There’s always got to be a possibility,’ replied Joh, with a twinkle in his eye.
‘You’re such a dreamer, Joh. What are we going to do with you?’
Joh suddenly frowned, as if transfixed by a thought. The pregnant silence slowly built up until Errol could wait no longer.
‘What are you thinking? I may not see that sparkle in your eye, but I know when you’re up to something. Come on, spill the beans.’
Joh stood up. ‘Errol, that’s it, me- a dreamer. You’ve hit it on the head.’
He sat down again, on the edge of his chair. ‘Why can’t I dream?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous! You are a dream, at least the result of one.’
‘Errol, don’t you see…if a human boy can dream and create me, to live here in this world, then why can’t I dream myself to go to the real world. I could find my dreamer. If I can do that, then maybe I can help him to dream of me again and this time with a face. It all makes sense, now. Don’t you see?’
‘Joh, hold on a minute. This is a big ask. How can we dream for a start? No-one here has ever dreamed. What you see around you is made from dreams.’
‘Errol, I know this is possible. I don’t know how, but I know that it’s possible.’
Errol suddenly had nothing left to say. Joh’s mind was racing at a hundred miles per hour, taken with the idea of dreaming. For the first time there seemed light at the end of the tunnel, a real ray of hope.
‘I must go Errol, I have things to do,’ he said, preoccupied.
‘Please don’t do this to yourself. It will just lead to more disappointment.’
‘I’ll see you tomorrow, then,’ replied Joh, as he walked out the door and turned, heading toward home. Errol just sighed with worry, saddened by his friend’s false hopes.
‘This is it, I just know it,’ Joh mumbled.
Marching toward home and muttering all the way, Joh strained his brain trying to imagine how to dream. The idea was as close to him as anything could be, being by nature the result of a dream. However, the act itself was another matter and as much as Joh could imagine all sorts of things, being able to do it in his sleep seemed a little bit beyond him.
After arriving home, he scoured his collection of writings, trying to find some clue from old earth books. There were books on great Gurus’ and Magicians, something called Trans…something meditation, and ‘How to be Happy’ books, all with pages missing and blank spaces just at the crux of an important statement. Joh was just about tearing his hair out, unable to make sense of anything. Then a thought struck him, someone that Nester had mentioned a long-time ago. This creature was a seer, a fortune-teller. He lived high up above the city in the hills, in a large cave. Nester said that this creature had many tentacles like an octopus, which could sense things and allow the creature to see what others could not.
‘What was his name?’ Joh mused. ‘It sounded like…mourning, manner, magpie?’
‘It’s on the tip of my tongue… mag, man, mor.’
‘That’s it!’ he said, rising to his feet. ‘MUNGO! His name is Mungo.’
Rushing to the window, Joh peered outside. It was dark and the streets were all but deserted. His little trip would now have to wait until tomorrow. So he begrudgingly got into his bed and tried to go to sleep. But his mind was spinning, a sense of expectancy and excitement rushing around inside his brain making it feel like it would explode. Under his eyelids, if he’d had any, lights were flashing by as if he were speeding along in some cosmic contraption. Each time that he tried to empty his mind a new scenario would simply pop up for him to address. He tossed and turned, grumbled and snorted until some long hours later, he finally fell asleep.
Back at the shack, Nester had turned the place upside-down trying to find an old text that described the Dream World, anything that could help his friend.
‘There must be something here!’ spat Nester in frustration, sifting through pile after pile of books and brushing off the dust that covered everything. There were cobwebs in the corners of the bookshelves and so many knick-knacks. ‘I must clean up some time,’ he said, coughing noisily as layers of dust were launched into the air, filling the shack with a thick smoky haze.
Nester’s shack was unkempt to begin with and after a few hours of turning it upside-down, it now looked like someone had ransacked the place. Nester stood in the middle of the room and surveyed the damage, not all that happy with having to put everything back.
‘Not a single page of information,’ he grumbled. ‘After all of that.’
Then suddenly a thought popped into old Nester’s head. He remembered the old library. Some blocks away stood the ruins of an old Roman book depository, the tall broken columns barely holding up the last stones. Inside there were many old scrolls, some written by the ancients, testaments to the earlier thoughts and philosophies of mankind. ‘Perhaps there will be something there,’ Nester thought.
After throwing on a musty plum-coloured cape, Nester left the shack and made his way down to the old ruins. Hobbling as fast as he could, he was now on a mission and his rather uneven steps displayed that urgency.
Nester expectantly climbed the stairs and entered the old library, kicking up small clouds of dust with each step on the dirty stone floor.
‘Where to look?’ he mumbled, parting the cobwebs that adorned the doorways and corridors. He looked upward at the full moon and grinned, the soft luminescent light beaming down into the ceiling-less ruins and creating a delicate bluish radiance.
The first two rooms overflowed with leather-bound books, all bundled and tied together. But after untying them one after another and skimming the subjects, Nester found most incomplete and illegible, or on subjects that were of little help. Then finally after more than an hour, he entered a small room that housed old scrolls. Many were on mundane subjects related to government and financial matters. Some were filled with poetry and others historical documents, but finally, just as Nester was about to give up for the evening, he spotted a dusty scroll in the corner of the room. Unlike the others piled up on shelves, this one sat by itself upright, with several pieces of twine around it. As Nester unravelled it, his eyes opened wide.
‘I can’t believe it,’ he mumbled. ‘It’s complete, no missing passages.’
Scanning the text his heart began to soar and his eyes slowly rose to read the title of the scroll…
‘The World of Dreams’ by Augustus Titus.
‘This is miraculous!’ spouted Nester, excitedly rolling up the delicate scroll and tucking it under his cape. In the middle of that dusty, dank room, Nester did a little jig, feeling more alive than he had in ages. Then, with a real spring in his step, Nester quickly returned home to explore his wonderful find.
As the first sunrise broke through the darkness to herald the first of a succession of mornings, Nester sat exhausted over his precious scroll.
‘My God, Joh was right. If one can experience, one can dream. I must see him, immediately!’
Joh had risen refreshed but confused after having an odd and unexpected experience. As he was stirring to wake, he heard a faint voice. ‘Theo, time to get up!’ it said. ‘It’s a school-day.’ Joh sat bolt upright and looked around the room, but not a soul was there. He scratched his head having no idea what it was about and then suddenly remembered Mungo. ‘I have to see Nester.’
The streets were beginning to come alive and sunrise had inadvertantly turned to morning without reverting to sunrise, again and again, and creatures of all forms alighted into the streets to congregate and converse. Two sets of footsteps echoed from the pavement, hurrying toward each other, one set a little syncopated with a moderate shuffle. Moments later both Joh and Nester turned into a laneway at the same time, colliding with each other just as a group of headless chickens fluttered by. There was a small explosion of feathers and flapping as both Joh and Nester awkwardly scrambled to their feet, a little dazed.
‘I was just coming to see you,’ they both said in unison.
‘I’ve found…I wanted to…’
Interrupting them, a bear-like creature barrelled past with its huge girth almost crushing them both. Stunned, they rested for a moment up against a brick wall.
‘We should get off the street,’ suggested Nester, trying to catch his breath.
Joh grabbed old Nester by the arm and led him into a large nearby alcove. Nester caught his breath and began.
‘Joh, I’ve found something. I think you may be right. It could be possible to dream…for us to dream.’
Joh’s face lit up. ‘How? What did you find?’
‘An old text, about human dreams. It says that human’s review and sometimes re-enact events and concerns from their daily lives. It says that while they’re asleep another part of the mind is active, still awake. Boy, this gives us hope- possibility.’
‘Can I see it?’ asked Joh, excitedly.
‘Of course, but it’s fragile. Let’s go to your place, it’s closer.’
Joh grabbed Nester by the arm and led him quickly down the street toward the house. The streets were filled with pedestrians, and arm in arm the two zigzagged their way through the crowd as quickly as they could.
‘By the way, what were you coming to see me about?’ asked Nester.
‘Mungo, I remember you telling me about Mungo. I thought that he might be able to help.’
‘I don’t share your enthusiasm,’ replied Nester. ‘Mungo sees things, there is no doubt, but he’s as wily as a fox. I’m not sure that he could be trusted. It’s been a long-time since I’ve seen the creature.’
‘We shall see Nester, we shall see.’
Joh and Nester were seated in Joh’s house, fervently reading the old brittle parchment. To him, the words were like bubbles of happiness, each exploding in his brain and giving him real hope and confidence that somehow he could carry out this supposedly impossible feat. As he finished the last words of the document, he looked up to Nester.
‘It’s all there, the answer to my quest, except for one thing…’
‘What do you mean?’
‘This explains how human’s dream, but does the same apply to us?’ Nester in all the excitement hadn’t considered that fact. He stroked his beard thoughtfully.
‘Perhaps Mungo will have that answer after all,’ he said ‘He may well be our only hope. I guess we’ll have to trust him.’
Nester looked at Joh with a more determined expression, casting aside his concerns. ‘Look, it’s a long way to the hills. We’ll have to organise ourselves.’
‘You’d come with me?’ replied Joh, surprised.
‘I may be old, but there’s a mile or two left in these shoes, my boy. I wouldn’t miss it for the world- even this one.’
Putting his hand on Nester’s bony shoulder, and with some apprehension, Joh said… ‘I’m not sure what we’ll find out there, but I’m so glad you’ll be with me.’
Theo's Wish by Tony DeLorger
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