Today's Story by Ingemar Lindahl

What do you do when your dreams come?

The Boy

The boy took a different way home. He knew all the hills and valleys around and could afford to change his route. He was certain that he would find his way home before dark. It was still some time until sunset, and he didn´t hurry when he walked up the steep hill where all the people had been sitting. He reached the top and looked over the plain to see where the path could be. There were a lot of small but sharp rocks on the ground and didn´t want to walk straight across the rough plain now that he wasn´t chasing a missing goat or lamb.

It took a while before he saw him. On the top of a small rock at a distance a man was sitting with his back turned at him, all alone in the soft evening light. There was something familiar about him, but not until he came closer did he recognize him, the man he had been listening to for nearly two hours this afternoon, together with all the others who had gathered, for reasons of curiosity or hope, under the intense hillside sun.

The man rose to leave, but stood  for a while as if something still kept him. He suddenly seemed so different from the man on the hillside, who had been the center of everyone´s concentration and questions. Now, there was a strange unsheltered openness about him, even from behind and at a distance, so the little boy, without thinking much, set out through the rocks to come closer. Wasn´t  this  what he had been waiting for, for so long?

Sooner than he had expected he reached the rock, hesitated for a few seconds, then went up to the man and said quietly: Can I ask you something? The man turned around , looked for a moment at the boy, then sat down beside him as if all the time in the world belonged to only those two and said: Yes, you can, if you can give me some time to answer you. The boy looked back at him and said, very quietly, his voice not quite steady: Do you ever have nightmares?

The man sat without saying anything for a while, his eyes soaring along the mountains at the horizon. Then he lowered his head and said, without looking at the boy: Yes, I do, at times.

The boy asked, now a little louder: What are your nightmares?

The man looked at the boy and said: Does it really matter?

And the boy knew that he wouldn´t have to tell his own dreams in all the words he had so carefully planned, ever since he first heard of the man who was the one who knew. He wouldn´t have to describe the fears and the bottomless darkness, he wouldn´t  need any  words for the unspeakable. He had met the man who knew.

One question he had to ask, however.

-What do you do when your dreams come? and the man said: I just do what you do, I talk to someone I trust.

– And then the dreams go away? asked the boy, a little too quickly. The man looked out once more over the sunset cliffs and up at the swiftly passing swallows, glanced at the slowly approaching evening cloud in the west and said, more to himself:

– No. No, they don´t.

The sun was a glowing half-dome in the centre of the valley between the sharp-peaked twin mountains near the coast where the boy used to spend his summers with his uncle, the fisherman with the name that meant solid rock, and who was so intense in his manners and yet so sensitive to the words and thoughts of his only nephew. The man rose from the rock, then sat down again and put his hand gently on the boy’s shoulder. No words came through the chilly breeze that played with their clothes, but the boy said to himself: Yes, now I know, too. The dreams would come back, maybe many times, but now he would never again have to meet them alone. He said: I´ll have to go home. The man nodded: I think I´ll stay for a while.

The boy picked up his little sack from the ground and felt inside it. He found a small piece of bread and some fried fish. I thought I ate all this earlier today, he said. I´ll leave it here. Aren´t you hungry?


Ingemar Lindahl is a retired teacher (adult education), looking through notes and sketches from years of hope and despair.


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