The Dream Quest of Iris Jane
Have you ever noticed how big and amazing the world is? What if I told you that some people can make worlds all by themselves—worlds that are just as large and colorful and wonderful as what you see around you right now? You’d probably think that someone who could make a world like this was tall and strong and very old. And sometimes, that’s true. Sometimes; but not always. I’d like you to meet Iris—she’s only ten years old, and she makes worlds. Lots of them. But she doesn’t make them with her hands—instead, she makes these worlds in her sleep, using nothing but her imagination.
You see, Iris is a very special sort of dreamer—we call them Dream Weavers. When most people dream, they simply sit back and enjoy the ride. But not Iris. She takes thoughts, feelings, tastes, sounds, and weaves them into a world that’s so beautiful, sometimes it feels like her heart is growing too large for her chest. But she doesn’t remember any of this. Something dark and scary has been lurking at the corner of her dreams, just out of sight, and every night, sooner or later, it starts chasing Iris. And every time, she wakes up suddenly, forgets her dreams, and goes about her day—attending school, doing her chores, and arguing with her brother—as if nothing special has happened. But even though she has no idea that she’s a Dream Weaver while she’s awake, the scary thing in the darkness is always there, waiting for her.
Tonight, almost as soon as her head hits the pillow, Iris finds herself in what looks like a dark room. No, it’s not a dark room—it’s an empty room. Nothing is around her, and it’s this nothing-ness that she’ll use to create her world tonight. She thinks of a unicorn and her mind goes to work drawing its shape in the air. She blows gently onto her work and suddenly, there it is—snow white, an ivory horn, and a silvery mane of flowing hair that sparkles. When Iris looks more closely at the sparkles, something inside her starts to grow warm, and a sun appears behind her. But where is the unicorn standing? She looks to his long legs and grass suddenly sprouts beneath his hoofs. The magical animal lets out a happy whinny and begins to run.
As Iris watches the unicorn gallop forward, she concentrates, and hills begin to rise beneath him and a towering mountain springs up in the distance, impossibly large and covered with snow. But why is this unicorn running all by himself? Where are his friends? Something inside Iris grows warm again and suddenly, there are other unicorns—hundreds of them—galloping behind. They dodge playfully between each other as they rush forward across the field of bright green grass. Iris stares with wonder at the picture in front of her, and after a few moments, a butterfly the color of flames appears—its red, orange, and yellow wings flitting in and out of her vision. But she doesn’t pay much attention to it—she’s far too distracted by the herd of glistening white unicorns running freely and happily across the hillside.
Then, the feeling of the world around her changes—clouds cover the sun and the warm air cools sharply. The unicorns begin bumping into each other and keep twisting their heads backward to glance behind them at something. And so, Iris turns, too. She thinks she sees something round and very large just beyond the bend of a hill, but before she can quite say for sure what it is, the butterfly with flame-colored wings flitters into view again. It swoops in front of her face, startling her.
In the next moment, Iris’s eyes snap open and she shoots up in bed. Something tickles the back of her mind, something important. But she doesn’t remember anything from her dream—only a sense of brightness, darkness, and something like fire.
Iris closes her eyes the next night, and before she knows it, she’s is in an empty room again. But after a moment or two, the room is no longer empty. Instead, several large sheets the color of vanilla ice cream fill the room. No, they’re not sheets—they’re sails. Several of them. And underneath these sails, the body of a mighty ship appears with its brown, weathered wood glistening. An entire ocean bubbles up beneath the ship, holding it up, and rolling waves begin to crash against the ship’s tall sides. And over the loud crashing of waves, other sounds begin to rise. On the ship’s upper deck, a colorful crew are tugging at ropes—sometimes swinging from them—and yelling cheerfully to their crew mates below. One of them is playing an accordion and its music drifts beyond the breaking of the waves. Iris smiles.
Then, the sound of the song changes from happy to sad. The crew isn’t smiling anymore as they yell—their eyes are now wide, and their heads keep snapping back to look toward the rear end of the ship. Dark gray storm clouds have spread out across the sky behind them, and something round and enormous and dark green barely breaks the surface of the water every few seconds. When Iris looks more closely, she sees that there are several more of these large, dark green shapes poking out of the water, bobbing quickly toward the ship, one right after the other. Back on the ship the sailors yell to one another about being chased by a whole swarm of something evil, but Iris somehow knows that these large, rolling humps are all part of the same incredibly large creature, and that it is racing toward the ship. But before she can move to get a better look at the monstrous thing, a flame-colored butterfly flits into view, dives toward her face, and startles her awake.
Once again, Iris shoots up in bed. She scratches her head and remembers nothing of what she saw in her dream but the smell of salt and the feeling of fear that still tugs at her heart.