Stumped

William has been having the most fantastic dream, and he's been having it for quite some time. There's just one problem: a troublesome stump keeps getting in the way. Click the "Read More" link below for the full story.

 

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Stumped

A tale of Taloria

 

by

Samuel J. Plum



Cover Illustration by

Marcie Norried

 

Copyright 2013 Samuel Plum

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. 

 


 

The sun smiled down on William as it had every day for the past several years. Today it also decided to wink, which only happened occasionally. He had always been told not to look directly at the sun, but the few times he had done so he certainly hadn't seen a large smiling face there. To see one now surely meant that he was asleep. He was also pretty sure that fish shouldn't actually talk, and that pigs were not supposed to be so insufferably hard to beat at three legged racing, even if it was usually his balloon double's fault that they always lost. Definitely a dream, then.

And that was fine. He really liked this dream. It had everything that he wanted: good fun, lots to do, and weather that was almost always wonderful. There was usually just the right amount of clouds in the sky, stretching and bunching to make all kinds of interesting shapes for him to guess at. He never needed a coat and never felt too hot. Every now and again it would rain lightly, like tears of joy, but only when he wanted it to and always ending with the most wondrous rainbows.

He had also made friends with the pigs that walked like people and the fish that told jokes. He hadn't seen any other people around, but most of the animals could talk. They would tell him secrets and stories and play all kinds of games with him whenever he felt like it. Sometimes they would come over to his house and they would have huge meals together with all of his favorite foods. He never really felt hungry, but sometimes it was nice just to taste things and be with friends. He did find it weird that the pigs enjoyed bacon so much, but it was a dream, so he guessed it was ok.

He had made a really fun house for himself, with a large, fluffy bed and plenty of hidden passages and secret rooms. Every room was bursting with toys and treasures and interesting things. He hadn't built it himself, of course. That would have been far too much work for a young boy when there was so much fun to be had. Instead, he had just imagined the house. It was his dream, after all, and if you couldn't make things in your own dream be the way you wanted, you just weren't trying hard enough. Not when you knew you were dreaming, anyway.

All in all, it was a really good dream. He assumed that sooner or later he would wake up, but he wasn't really in any hurry. Each night he would go to sleep in his huge, comfortable bed. He wasn't really sure how that worked, sleeping inside of a dream, but it just seemed right to do. And every time he would wonder if this would be the time that he woke up in his own bed, his real bed back home. But each morning came with the smiling sun greeting him. He knew that sometimes it could seem like you were dreaming for a really long time, but you'd wake to find it had only been a few minutes since you fell asleep. This one seemed to be taking a very long time indeed, so he assumed it wouldn't last much longer, and he wanted to enjoy it for as long as he could.

The only dark spot in this otherwise happy dream was the stump. He didn't like the stump. He had run across it one day, not too long after the dream had started, just sitting there alone in a forest. It was black and withered and twisted. It had made him feel a little scared when he first saw it, scared and worried and a bit sad. When he stood close to it, the air got cold and the sky got darker. If he stayed too long, it would start to storm, and he really didn't like storms, though he couldn't really remember why. He had tried to make it go away the same way he had created his house and changed anything else that he wanted to about this place, but the stump refused to move.

He tried not to spend any time near the stump at all, but ever since he found it, he had begun to see it more and more often. It would suddenly appear in new places, wherever he would go. It was always the same stump, he would recognize it anywhere, and it always had the same effect on his dream. It seemed especially to show up when he was reminiscing about his family and his life. He had been dreaming for sucha long time, and sometimes it was hard to remember what being awake was like, which worried him. So he liked to just sit sometimes and remember. That had gotten hard to do with the stump showing up behind him, making him sad and scared every time he would try.

It was also getting worse. In the beginning he could go for weeks without running into the stump, but lately it seemed he would run across it almost everyday, sometimes more than once. One time it had even appeared in his house, right in the middle of his front room. Since he’d been unable to move it himself, he had been forced to move the whole house over two hills just to get away from it. It was then he decided that it was time to try everything he possibly could to uproot it.

First he tried simply digging it up, but he couldn't get through the roots. He tried to convince the pigs to do it for him, but they couldn't even see the stump for some reason. They wanted to help, but there just wasn’t anything they could do. He needed to think of something else.

He tried to remember things that he had seen his father and the other adults do in situations like this, though remembering was hard. He tried tying ropes around the stump and having all of his animal friends help him pull it out, but it wouldn’t budge. He tried to imagine a torch to set it on fire, but it wouldn't light. Nothing he could think to do would touch the stump, and with each attempt he would have to leave before the terrible storm came. Eventually he stood there in frustration, lost in worry and fear, wondering what else he could do.

The rain began to fall again, tears of anger and sadness. This time they fit his mood, so he dared to stay a bit longer. And then he had an idea. Nothing that he could make would harm the stump, but what if it was something that the stump itself had made? It was the only option he had left, and it meant he would have to face the storm.

He didn't need to wait long. The clouds quickly grew heavy, and the teardrops became torrents. The terrible thunder rumbled overhead, and the lightning in the cloudbanks quickly became the only light. He was terrified, but forced himself to stay. A stray bolt hit a nearby tree with a sharp crack that nearly knocked him over, but he stood his ground. It took all of his strength, but he made the next one hit the stump. And the one after that and after that. Over and over the storm tried to hit him with its claws of light, but each time he made them attack the stump instead. And then it happened: it caught on fire. A bright blue-green flame exploded from the stump and it started to shrivel and pop under the flames. And then, suddenly, the storm and the stump were gone.

He felt an unexpected sadness right after, as if a part of his life was over. And then he remembered. He remembered his life as William, his parents, his sister and brother, everything that had happened to him. And he smiled. Except for the big storm that had hit right before he went to sleep, he had enjoyed his waking life. He loved his family, but he knew now that he would not be seeing them again. He would stay dreaming for a long time. Maybe not forever. He would remember them, though, and those memories would always bring him joy. And until he returned to the waking world, he would stay here in his perfect dream where the sun always smiled down on him.


 

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