In the town shshshsh, a town hidden between places, lives the Collector of Broken Dreams. Her name is Elda, and each night, she trudges past homes, collecting the dreams heaped in broken pieces on doorsteps and under windowsills. She picks them up and places them carefully in her wooden handcart.
No one has seen Elda’s face in many lifetimes. No one knows if anyone has ever seen Elda’s face. And no one cares. In fact, no one ever thinks about Elda, and this is how she wants it. That’s why she took the post as Collector of Broken Dreams. The less people are reminded of her existence, the better.
So every night, Elda walks the ancient stone streets, and just before the sun is ready to break triumphantly into the sky, she brings her overflowing cart to the center of the city where the Pool waits. Here, Elda drops in the mostly darkened pieces of dreams. What had remained of their light had died sometime in the night. The Pool is special, you see. It is the fountain of energy from which the town draws life.
This is Elda’s life. For her it is all very normal. Each night the same, almost always. On one such night, Elda found a child’s dream broken in the street beneath a window. A little girl sat in the window above it, crying softly, so that only Elda’s membrane ears, sensitive to the slightest changes in vibration in the air around her, could hear.
“Tch tch, little one,” thought Elda with tenderness in her heart.
She picked up the child’s broken dream and gingerly tucked it into her cloak. The pieces of the child’s dream still glowed with hope, even as the little girl cried inconsolably in the room above the street. She never saw Elda, and she never would. That’s the way Elda likes it. As Elda sees it, it doesn’t matter who sews the dreams back together. What matters is that these dreams never die.
Just as the sun began to whisper to the sky of her return, Elda deposited the broken dreams in the Pool. She reached a hand beneath her cloak to the little girl’s dream, and smiled when she felt that it still lived, and then she headed home.
On the way, she stopped by the Field of Unicorns and picked through the trash there. Unicorns love to brush their manes and tails, and even though they rarely shed, because they have never met Time, sometimes a strand will break. Elda uses these rare strands to mend broken dreams.
Back home in her hut nestled in the mangroves that edged the lily ponds, Elda set to work on the child’s dream. The dream hummed with hope. Each stitch of unicorn thread strengthened the flickering life. Elda sat and hummed with the dream as she worked, and by nightfall, the child’s dream was sewn back together. Pleased, Elda sat back in her chair with a smile and wiped a sinewy arm across her damp brow. It is hard, exacting work, to build the flickering hope in the broken dream. As she made her even, tiny stitches, she
hummed in chorus with the dream to the Great One, asking for grace and to borrow the Light. The hard part was keeping her heart empty in order to receive it, so she might pour it through her hands into her work.
This time, she was granted success.
Elda stood up, her gnarled joints creaking (she had met Time long ago, and in fact, they were good friends), and tucked the dream into her vest. She shrugged on her cloak, fed what could easily be called a cat, and took up the handles of her handcart.
She spent the whole night collecting and as the sun began kissing the sky to the east, Elda walked hesitantly to the home of the child. Not all people with broken dreams want the dream back, she knew. But she could tell the dream wanted to return, so maybe there was hope. Elda placed the dream on the doorstep and rang the bell. Then she scuttled off to a nearby corner to hide behind some vines overflowing from a private garden. Most people don’t notice Elda, anyway, even if they are looking right at her, but Elda didn’t want to
take any chances.
The light on the stoop lit up and the door opened a crack.
“Hello?” came a small girl’s voice. “Is someone out there?” A head peaked out and looked around, then, looking down, she saw the glowing dream on her doorstep. The small figure gasped and picked up the dream, holding it close. She squeezed it so hard Elda thought it might break again, but it didn’t. It hummed with love. Its own light seemed to return the child’s embrace.
From that night on, Elda heard singing coming from the child’s bedroom, and she could see the small figure silhouetted in the bright room. Over the years, the child grew, but not very much, and her posture became gnarled, like Elda’s joints, but the girl continued to sing and sing, and her voice was so beautiful that people came to
One night, Elda saw a poster at the local theatre proclaiming a night of heavenly beauty, and on it was a picture of a girl who hadn’t grown like the other girls, straight and tall, but rather, she had grown up twisted and bent.
Elda smiled. That morning, after she had returned the broken dreams to be recycled in the Pool, she sat on the little porch of her hut on the edge of the lily pond. As the sun unfolded its pink, red, and orange dance across the morning sky, Elda listened to the chorus of croaks and trills and caws and warbles as her neighbors sang about their lives in the lily pond. She sang quietly to herself in a heavenly voice no one could hear which belonged neither in the lily pond, nor on the stage.
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