Sometimes, Nella thought, dreams are easy. She had known Shola all her life, and she knew Dran too. She knew what Shola wanted, and she knew that Dran was interested too. She would speak to Tallen, the village elder and the wise woman, Drona, and tell them what she had learnt. Within the year, probably after the harvest Dran and Shola would be married.
Nella had sat by the side of the old village dreamspeaker, Hona, for all the years of her apprenticeship, learning the art of telling the people of the village and the surrounding area what their dreams meant. Mostly, as Hona had told her, it consisted of telling people what they wanted to hear and matching it to what the dreamspeaker knew was possible. Shola wanted to be wed and Dran needed a wife, and the village needed one less unattached male and one less precocious young woman. So Nella told Shola what her dream meant.
Other dreams, though, Nella, knew where not so simple. She had been dreaming herself too. Dreaming of something dark coming out of the deep forest and stealing her away. She wished Hona were still here, so the old woman could share her wisdom with Nella. Nella felt too young for this responsibility sometimes. But Hona had dreamt of her own death a year ago. So she had lain down, after saying goodbye to everyone in the village, to wait for her dream to come true.
And it did.
Then Nella became the village dreamspeaker. Although, every night for two months afterwards Nella came into her dreams to tell her stories of the dreams she had heard over her lifetime and what they had meant. ‘Never make promises and never offer too much,’ Hona insisted in death as in life.
The art of dream speaking, Nella knew was to know the people who were telling you their dreams and to find out what was possible.
‘A dreamspeaker is not so concerned with what goes on in people’s dreams. It is more about paying attention to what is going on around us,’ Hona said once when Nella asked her why one young woman dreaming of marriage would not meet a suitable man. ‘For Drell, it will be different,’ Hona said, watching Nella stirring the pot for their evening meal. ‘It is not men she dreams of.’
‘Oh?’ Nella had looked up.
‘I saw the way she was looking at you,’ the old woman said and laughed, nudging Nella had in the ribs with a very pointy elbow.
Nella had blushed and remembered that time in the darkness of the village hall at midwinter festival when she and Drell had kissed and then…. Nella felt her neck glowing as red and bright as the wood under the cooking pot. She’d looked up to see the old woman smiling at her.
The old woman’s bony hand with its dry, shrivelled skin rested on Nella’s own young hand for a moment, stopping the stirring. ‘I had dreams like that too when I was young,’ Hona said, shaking her head and looking into Nella’s eyes. ‘Sometimes those dreams came true for me too.’ She looked into the flames under the pot. ‘Being a dreamspeaker can be lonely sometimes, but if you pay attention to the dreams and to this world, then sometimes you can find some happiness.’
Now, with Hona gone, Nella wondered if any happiness would come before that darkness she so often dreamed of stole her away from all she’d ever known.