Mug and the Dream
Waking suddenly in the dark of her room, Mug saw a dream preparing itself to enter her mind. She caught it in mid-step between the wardrobe and the bed, where it had halted the instant she opened her eyes. The dream tried to remain absolutely still, but its posture was all wrong and after a few moments it collapsed to the floor looking most embarrassed.
Mug and the dream stared at one another. The dream squatted like a glowing transparent toad, mumbling liplessly about the games it wanted to play when it got inside Mug's mind. From its fingers and toes and horns came threadlike tubes through which lights flashed feebly in time with the mumbling, but now the lights couldn't go anywhere because the dream had failed to reach Mug's brain in time.
"Caught you," Mug whispered from the bed. The dream's huge eyes were closed, moving rapidly behind their lashless lids. When Mug spoke, the lids twitched but did not open.
"Caught you, you bad dream," Mug whispered. She sat up in bed, holding the quilt up as far as her eyes. "Don't you move, you bad dream, or I'll bottle you." Without taking her eyes from the dream, she put out one hand for the lamp on the table. "Bottle and drown you and give you to the fishes. How would you like that? Fish dream is all you'll be. A shoal of little nightmares, all about worms with metal in their guts."
The dream squeezed its eyelids shut, so tightly that they sank into its head and left only dimples behind them. At the same time its mouth became wider and its mumbling louder, and Mug could make out fragments of what it mumbled: "knifecaps whistling soft metal daisy toilet bearding carpfunnel," and so forth.
"Don't you move, you bad dream," Mug whispered. "Or I'll drown and dissolve you to yawning and morning. I'll put you in a glass with my Aunt Weevil's teeth."
Her fingers fumbled up and down the stem of the lamp, and the dream's mouth opened wider still, revealing its seven tangled tongues all writhing and flopping over each other, while behind them in the dream's throat a feeble light glowed and faded. The light was grey, stolen from the moon's face in which, millions of years ago, the dream's giant ancestors had eaten hundreds of dark holes.
"Crystal fangbeam rivenglass living-room tuffets," mumbled the mouth. Behind the mouth, the rest of the dream was changing shape. Its limbs flexed and floundered, and those at the rear stretched fearfully towards the wardrobe and melted together in a fish-tail that slapped the floor. On the dream's back Mug saw patches and stripes appear and disappear, as though the dream were fleeing through a night forest. "Clotting moonblot plankwallow," it wailed.
At last Mug's fingers stumbled across the switch. Keeping her eyes open wide and fixed upon the dream, she turned the lamp on. The walls, the wardrobe and the bookshelves all leapt from their shadows, and their corners stabbed the dream and their colours scalded it. Mug's eyes were stinging, but she didn't blink and the dream let out a hoarse shriek that boiled in its throat as the stolen moonlight dissolved in electric yellow. The dream went dull and folded in on itself, and the threadlike tubes in its horns and fingers and toes let out delicate threads of vapour, which rose to the ceiling and made Plotty-the-cob stir in her web.
When nothing was left of the dream but a small black pile like a collapsed tar-toad, Mug jumped out of bed and prodded it with her foot, taking care to put her slippers on first. The tar-toad made no response, but after a moment the door opened and Aunt Weevil stood there, yawning in nightmare-pink flannel and rubbing the small of her back. "What's going on in here?" she demanded.
"Nothing, auntie," Mug said. "Just a bad dream, that's all."
Aunt Weevil squinted at Mug, then at the floor in front of Mug's blue furry slippers, where shreds and cinders of steam were still breaking and fading. "That's my girl," Aunt Weevil said, and she and Mug grinned at each other, showing all their teeth.
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