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07 August 2013 @ 12:38 pm
LJ Idol Exhibit B: "Like Jewels In The Night"  
Like Jewels In The Night
LJ Idol Exhibit B | week eleven, 2 | 1173 words
In The Bag


To say that Edgar Broussard was a thief would have been to say that Einstein was a scientist. Both were oversimplifications of a more elegant truth.

Broussard stole the unstealable, and not for the reasons of wealth or notoriety but because he coveted and because he could. He would have been buried under his own acquisitions had they been ordinary things like jewels or art, but Broussard was interested in none of those things.

Broussard was a stealer of dreams.

He discovered the secret at sleep-away camp, when he was a boy. During long, wakeful nights of watching the moon pass from one side of the cabin to the other, he found random thoughts creeping into his head—thoughts of places he'd never been, brothers and sisters he'd never had. Eventually, he recognized some of the people in those thoughts as the parents of the boy in the bunk overhead.

Images shifted and flickered inside his mind, mutating into other ideas, other threads of a different story. When monsters began to crowd his thoughts and the boy above him thrashed and moaned, Broussard realized he was witnessing a nightmare. He imagined himself scooping up the monsters in a giant net and tossing them out the window, and his bunkmate quieted. There were no further images for a few minutes, and then the faintest thread of a summer's day spent running through the sprinklers came Broussard's way from some other boy. Broussard liked that one very much, and he tried to grab hold of it as well, just to see if he could. He imagined himself pulling the dream into his own head, and it suddenly became stronger and then stopped. He was left with the feeling of the dream, like a still photograph frozen in time. He held onto it for the rest of the night.

Every evening, he practiced what he'd learned. By the time camp was over, he figured out how to save an entire dream like a fluid thing. The dream still ended as soon as he took it from its creator, but while he could not make the thread of it continue on, he could still repeat it. He replayed the best dreams over and over again inside his head, with a few humdrum and even scary ones thrown in now and then for novelty.

Over the years, Broussard worked out a way to download the stolen dreams from his head and save them in a Dream Vault of his own devising. Appropriating his parents' dreams didn't satisfy him for long. He took to wandering the halls of his apartment building in late-night forays of dream-collecting every week or two, and by the time he was thirty he had graduated to prowling neighborhoods and motels all over the city in an ongoing search for new treasures.

That was exactly what he was doing at the moment—slipping through the shadows along the side of a Marriot Hotel, his Dream Vault hidden in his satchel. He'd already found several worthy prizes among the first-floor dreamers, including an extended panorama of bronco-riding and the vivid and exotic outpourings of a Chinese National. To make room for those, he had purged an entry involving endlessly knitting a scarf that became a waterfall, and someone's nightmare encounter with Godzilla (reasoning that the first was too played-out to keep any longer and the second too bizarre to fully forget).

He moved around toward the back of the hotel, tuning in to the reveries leaking through each of the walls in turn. Almost… there, a small-town parade with—damn it, the guy's naked, it's an anxiety retread. Skip that one. Broussard caught wind of another thread: Rocky surface below the feet, rising up ahead as the guy climbs from one handhold to another and the crest of the

Someone grabbed Broussard from behind.

"Hand over the wallet and the bag, and you won't get hurt."

Aw, crap! Broussard had been so intent on exploring that last dream that he'd forgotten to monitor his surroundings. Well, at least it wasn't the cops.

"I can give you my wallet, but the bag would be worthless to you," he said.

"I'll be the judge of that." The man behind him tightened his arm around Broussard's neck. "Hurry up, before I lose my patience."

Broussard fished out his wallet, and the man snatched it away. Then he opened the top of the satchel so the man could see its unremarkable contents, but the robber's greed was stronger. With a swift pull, he took both wallet and satchel and ran off down the street.

Broussard stood there forlornly, half-lit by the sickly emanations of the cheap light bulb overhead. It was gone, all of it—an entire collection representing years of careful hunting and selection. Flying dreams, fantastical machines, mutating houses, and miscellaneous real and imagined journeys. The sheer loss of it was so overwhelming that it was minutes before he could force himself to move again. He stumbled blindly down the street, where his car parked just one block over seemed interminably far away.

How? he thought. How will I ever rebuild it? He drove home in a daze, falling into bed still dressed and pulling the sheets over himself like an animal burrowing in for the winter.

He dreamed that night, of ships lost on dark and lonely seas drifting toward islands of such incredible beauty that one could die of happiness simply by looking at them. He wandered the nearest island, where the colors were so bright and the breezes so sweet-smelling and pleasant that he marveled at his fortune and vowed he would never leave. This place, this feeling, he realized, was what he had spent a lifetime searching for.

A car alarm went off on the street below, and he woke, the haze of the dream still surrounding him. Oh, he would have given anything to hold onto that dream and relive it again and again. It was better than anything he'd ever experienced before, whether his own subconscious creation or one of the stolen renderings he'd taken from someone else.

He rewound that thought, slowly examining the layers beneath it. Imagine if someone else had pulled that dream out of his head mid-stream, the way he'd taken so many others he'd found beautiful or fascinating or emotionally compelling. What then?

Broussard looked at the chair where his satchel would have lain after a typical night's procurement, with its Dream Vault repository of images and experiences selfishly gathered for his personal use.

I could rebuild it, he thought, though it wouldn't be the same. But his conscience nagged at him, for the wrongness now realized could never again be ignored. He lay there in the dark, watching as the patterns of taillights projected from the street ghosted softly across his walls and ceiling.

Maybe, he thought, I could build something different.

After a lifetime of stealing and storing away other people's dreams, surely he could find a way to do the same for his own?

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

Desireex_disturbed_x on August 7th, 2013 10:36 pm (UTC)
I love the idea of stealing peoples dreams! Did he do it just because he could? I'm not sure if I could understanding his reasoning behind it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 8th, 2013 04:33 am (UTC)
Not just because he could, but also because of the sheer pleasure and surprise of seeing what other people were dreaming of. Almost like someone becoming a thrill-junkie, but he's a dream-junkie instead. The new dreams obviously tempted him, but replaying ones that evoked certain feelings or had certain images he liked... it would be almost like hearing favorite songs.
Pika the Brazen Ninjaporn_this_way on August 8th, 2013 03:39 am (UTC)
Damn, you're two for two this round! Loved this one too - fascinating concept, especially the potential repercussions.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 8th, 2013 07:03 am (UTC)
Thank you! This was the harder story to write, but I was happy about how it turned out. Especially after last night's 10:30 downspiral of "I cannot possibly finish this in time."

Sucking it up and pushing forward won out after all. :D
cindytsuki_no_bara on August 8th, 2013 03:44 am (UTC)
i really like how this ends. it's kind of like broussard was stealing other people's dreams to make up for not having any of his own, and he can only dream himself after he loses all the dreams he's collected. also, "damn it, the guy's naked, it's an anxiety retread" made me giggle.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 8th, 2013 07:06 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked that dream excerpt! Yes, there are amazing and unusual dreams, but you're also bound to run across old non-favorites like "I'm being chased, but my legs won't move!" or "Crap, I forgot to go to this class all year, and now it's Finals time!"

That naked-in-public anxiety dream may show up in a lot of different settings, but it is the same damn dream no matter who's having it. :D
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 8th, 2013 07:06 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad it struck you so well. :D
☾witches on August 8th, 2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
Loved this one as well, especially the opening!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 8th, 2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
I am SO pleased to hear that. Thank you! :)
theun4givablestheun4givables on August 8th, 2013 11:20 pm (UTC)
He should definitely focus on rebuilding that satchel with his own dreams. I think that would be more fulfilling, in the long-run. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 9th, 2013 07:25 am (UTC)
I think other people's dreams might be more 'exotic' to you, but yours would be more meaningful.

But the change would definitely take some new tricks. When he 'overhears' other people's dreams, he's awake and has fully witnessed whatever part he came in on-- much easier to capture. For his own dreams, he's asleep. Getting more than just the tail of them would take some practice! But worth it, I think. :)
tatdatcmtatdatcm on August 9th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)
I love the concept behind this, but I really love the end where he gets that feeling that he'd been searching for.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 9th, 2013 07:27 am (UTC)
I'm glad people liked the transformation of his own dream so much. There is something more personal and fulfilling about the dreams that come from yourself, even if many of them seem more 'ordinary' (or harder to get ahold of). But the contentment of the perfect dream only comes, I think, from a dream that is your own.
Laura, aka "Ro Arwen": Dream Stoneroina_arwen on August 9th, 2013 04:47 am (UTC)
This is a fascinating concept. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 9th, 2013 07:28 am (UTC)
Thank you! Stumbling onto the idea of a thief for the prompt seemed like a good possibility, but once I figured out what unusual thing he might steal it all became a lot more interesting to write!
MamaCheshirecheshire23 on August 11th, 2013 05:50 am (UTC)
Everything about this just works. Love it.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 12th, 2013 06:30 am (UTC)
Thank you! Especially nice to hear, since this was the harder one of the two to write. :)
lriG rorriMlrig_rorrim on August 11th, 2013 09:26 pm (UTC)
Aiiieeeee! I loved this, start to finish. The idea of a thief of dreams, hoarding those little treasures for himself is just too awesome. Your specific implementation of that idea is even MORE awesome. *applause*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 12th, 2013 06:32 am (UTC)
*blushes* That is such high praise, especially because this kind of story is one of the things you do best. If I were to "channel" you and have a story come out, it might be something like this one. ♥
Awesomely creepyagirlnamedluna on August 12th, 2013 02:33 pm (UTC)
loved the concept behind this one, but I had a harder time getting into the story for some reason, even though the opener immediately grabbed me. I really liked the ending though :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 12th, 2013 09:55 pm (UTC)
Comedy is always easier-- this kind of fantasy requires deeper thought, I think, and sometimes IS a little more work (especially depending on time of day). I'm glad the ending came through for you!
favoritebeanfavoritebean on August 12th, 2013 07:07 pm (UTC)
This was amazing! Your imagery of the dreams was fantastic. Hopefully, he will build something wonderful now that he has learned to dream on his own.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on August 12th, 2013 09:57 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked the dream descriptions, including the 'unreal-ness' of them and some of them being bizarre and others forms of all-too-ordinary.

Some of those anxiety dreams, in particular, are just recognizable no matter who's having them and what little details are different. And ultimately, pointless, because they just rehash over and over (can you tell I hate them)?

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!