Beyond the Dreaming (part 1)
The boy sat as still as the rocks that littered the mountainside around him. His grey eyes were as wintry as the landscape, and gazed without seeing at the leaden skies that seemed to press down onto his thin shoulders. High above, a buzzard called mournfully, its cry carrying on the freezing air as it wheeled in lazy circles above the frost covered valley. Suddenly, it swooped down into the brush below, and the high pitched scream of the rabbit that was its target echoed across the hillside.
The boy shivered, suddenly brought to life as the eerie sound penetrated the dazed reverie he had sat in for hours. At his side, a bundle of black and white fur stirred, raised its head and whined softly.
The boy reached out, his movements stiff from the chill air, and gently fondled the silky ears of the Welsh Collie. Rising to his feet he yawned and stretched, numb fingers attempting to massage some warmth back into his frozen limbs.
'Breakfast time Fly' he said heavily, 'Mam will be mad if we're late and then there's the chores to begin.'
Gazing around him he shivered again, 'The snow's not far off girl, and lots of it I reckon, time we were getting back.'
Moving slowly down the mountain, Fly at his heels, the boy's thoughts drifted once more to the dream. The dream that had driven him from his sweat soaked bed long before first light that morning, and had sent him out into the freezing pre dawn cold in an attempt to escape its lingering whispers...
For weeks now, the dream had plagued his sleep. He would wake in a tangle of sheets, drenched in the sweat of fear with his heart pounding and his breath caught in his throat, barely able to stop the scream that was building inside him erupting from the depths of his being. Its strangeness nagged constantly at his consciousness, stalked his every waking moment as shadows stalk the golden light of evening.
What did it mean? The answer was dancing tantalisingly out of reach, understanding so close he could almost touch it, but his mind would just begin to grasp at its meaning then it would slip away again, like smoke from a bonfire drifting on a November breeze.
He paused, as a soft flake of snow landed on the sleeve of his jacket, and looking up into the heavy snow laden clouds, his drawn face lit up, and a boyish grin split his face as he watched the whirl of dancing flakes begin to fall more quickly.
'Here it comes girl! Let's go!'
The sudden change of pace energised the collie, and she began to bark excitedly as they began a headlong charge down the hillside. Laughing exultantly, the boy and his dog became a blur of arms, legs and fur until the terrain began to flatten out as they reached the farm and its outbuildings. Vaulting over the drystone wall into the farmyard, they drew to a halt, chests heaving with exhertion.
'Good girl Fly, I think you needed that as much as me,' the boy said, and kneeling he threw his arms around her neck and hugged her tightly, burying his face into the thick ruff of fur there, cold and damp from the steadily falling snow. Drawing back, he looked into the face of his beloved dog, smiled at her lolling tongue that made her appear to be laughing up at him, at the knowing brown eyes that seemed to look right into his very soul, and for just a second he heard a high bell like sound that was so beautiful it almost hurt to hear it. The boy stood once more, looking thoughtfully at the dog, then turned and walked across the yard.
On reaching the farmhouse, the boy removed his sodden boots and left them in the porch, then raising a hand to the latch of the door he stopped, drawn once again into the nightmare world of his dream. He stared intently at the knotted grain within the wood of the door, worn smooth in places through decades of wear, and saw instead the door in his dreams.. Fly whined and pushed her cold nose into the hand that hung limply at his side, breaking the spell. Shuddering, he lifted the latch, and walked into the warm fug of the kitchen.
'There you are Bran, I was beginning to wonder where you had got to.'
Bran's mother turned from the range where she was cooking breakfast and smiled gently at him. Brushing a stray lock of greying hair from her face she looked searchingly into Bran's face, noted the dark circles beneath the grey eyes that changed from the pewter colour of a stormy sea, to the silver of a winters day, depending on his mood. His angular face was drawn and as pale as the snow that fell outside, blanketing the land in its frozen hush.
'Sit down now, breakfast will be ready in just a minute. I hope that dog is not dirtying my good clean floor.'
Her voice held a brittle quality as she tried to lighten the tension that filled the warmth of the kitchen. She glared at Fly who had stretched out in the hearth of the open fire, then chuckled as the dog thumped her tail gently on hearing her name.
'A fine life for a working animal I'm sure.'
She smiled again to take the sting from her words and walked across to the table with a frying pan full of thick farm bacon and sausages. Putting a sizeable portion of each onto Bran's plate she urged, 'Eat up now boy, you're wasting away'.
Bran turned to look at her, hearing the concern in her voice and his heart tightened painfully when he saw the worry etched into her plump, pretty face.
'I'm fine Mam, honestly I am. You mustn't worry.'
She gently stroked his hair and looked as if she was about to speak, when the latch lifted on the door and Bran's father walked into the kitchen in his socks.
Both Bran, his father, and all the farm workers knew better than to walk mud across Mair's spotless tiled floor. Padding across to the sink to wash his hands, Bryn looked across at Bran and nodded to the snow falling heavily beyond the window.
'It's going to get bad out there son, I think we should bring the ewes down from the top pasture as soon as we can. I don't fancy having to go looking for them and digging them out of drifts if this carries on the way it's going.'
Bryn dried his hands on the rough towel and walked to the hearth.Looking down at Fly twitching gently in her sleep, he rumbled, 'I need to nip into the village after breakfast Bran. You and Dai can start bringing the ewes down, if you take Fly with you, you should be done in no time, best sheepdog in all of Wales she is.'
Once again, the apparently sleeping collie thumped her tail as if to acknowledge the compliment, making the family laugh.
'I'll take the Landrover, the roads will be fine once we get off the farm lane, I'm sure the gritters will have been busy.'
'I'll come with you Bryn,' Bran's mother replied, 'There's a few bits and pieces I need to pick up in case this snow continues. We don't want to be cut off without being well stocked up.'
Bran watched his mother and father lovingly, as his Mam bustled about making sure his father had fresh tea poured from the large teapot to accompany the huge plate of breakfast she placed in front of him.
Bran was adopted. He'd known this for as long as he could remember, as his adoptive parents had made it clear from an early age that they had chosen him to be their son, and that they loved him as much as they would have if he had been born to them.
The childless couple had lavished him with the love that they had stored up through years of heartache, as Mair had lost one baby after another, just weeks into each pregnancy. It had never mattered to Bran that they were not his biological parents. He had never thought much about his true family, who they may be and why they had abandoned him at such a young age, so complete was the life Mair and Bryn Evans had made for him.. until the dream had begun to chip away at the very foundations of all that he knew.
Pulling himself back from the gloom that had settled upon him once again, Bran looked down at the congealing mass of bacon, eggs and sausage that lay on his plate. Pushing the plate quietly away from him in an attempt to not draw attention to his lack of appetite, he helped himself instead to the thick slices of homemade bread his Mam had toasted and placed in the centre of the table. Spreading it thickly with the golden butter made in the farm dairy, Bran looked across at his father who was tucking into his breakfast with relish. Broad shouldered and tall, he was a strong man, kind and easy to get along with, the perfect foil for the plump, prettiness of his mother.
Bran wished he could confide in them, tell them about the dream that haunted his nights and stalked his days, but something always stopped him. He could not begin to express the terror the dream held for him, and the knowledge that they were worried about his mental and physical health was tearing him apart.