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Journeys in Dream State

The talking elephant was unusual. That and the fact that they were both flying. That sort of thing was certainly out of the ordinary, even for a girl with a very active imagination. And yet, it seemed so stunningly, dazzlingly, breathtakingly, real.

She glanced across at him, laughing at the bowler hat tied to his giant head with a large purple ribbon. He grinned back mischievously, then curled his trunk and dove, deep, deep down, until he was barely a speck racing along the surface of the river far below. She giggled with delight and dove after him, gasping in the wind as she sped towards the pounding waters.

For the briefest second, a thought tugged at her consciousness, trying to alert her to something she already knew. She ignored it, surrendering herself to the ride. Whatever this was and wherever it was taking her, it was better than the drudgery of her typical day.

She pulled up along side the elephant, patting his great ear with her right hand and grinning. He winked back at her and dived lower, until they were skimming across the surface of the river. She squealed as spray drenched her pyjamas. Shaking her head, droplets flew from her hair and when she brushed stray strands from her vision she saw they were racing towards a drop. Shrieking, she followed the elephant over the edge, hurtling down, down, down, passed the crashing waters to the bubbling, roiling mass below.

At the last second, they pulled up and settled in a clearing on the far bank. She stared back at the enormous waterfall. Her chest was heaving as she caught her breath. She had never felt more alive. The vague thought tugged at her again but she pushed it firmly back, forcing it behind all the mental doors she could muster.

'Those are the Victoria Falls,' said the elephant, tilting his head to look down at her.

'I learned about them in school,' she said, staring back at the massive curtains of water. 'This is better though.'

The elephant nodded sagely. 'Come on.'

He leapt, arcing through the air until the updraft caught him and lifted him skywards. Laughing, she followed with her arms out-stretched. They left the river and, without time or space appearing to pass, found themselves above a small dockyard. Towering over the wharf was an improbably large ship, its hull painted in all the colours of spectrum. The passengers' accommodation, rather then the usual cabins, was made up of small houses, all stacked on top of each other. There were so many that some leaned out over the sides, so that an incautious passenger might accidentally step from their front door straight down to the sea below.

Fascinated by the spectacle, the girl longed to take a closer look, but the elephant flew on, over the busy town and on to a village in the hills beyond. They passed over a school where children played hopscotch with a giant white rabbit who, instead of a stone, threw a small blue frog onto the squares. The frog seemed quite content with the arrangement and indeed made every effort to ensure he landed on the correct number. The girl was delighted and dropped down to join the game but before she could land a teacher stepped from the building and rang a handbell, calling the children back to class. The girl watched sadly as the children retreated to the classrooms. She wished, just briefly, that she could join them.

The elephant drifted down, watching her closely. He smiled and ruffled her hair with his trunk. With a nod of his head they sped onwards, circling a huge statue of an angel at the top of a hill. Giggling the girl settled on one of the angel's shoulders and the elephant landed on the other. He leaned forwards so she could see him and rolled his eyes, puffing out his cheeks and flapping his ears. In response, she crossed her eyes and poked out her tongue.

The angel statue stirred beneath them. 'Do you mind? I was having a nap,' and promptly blew a raspberry so loud the girl lost her footing, slipping from the angel's shoulder and sliding down its wing.

The elephant soared down, barely flinching as she landed on his broad back with a thump. With a shake of his head the angel disappeared and a vast plain opened up beneath them. In the distance roamed a herd of antelope-like animals she could not name, their heads bowed as they grazed.

They were bright orange, with green manes and blue tails. A young one peeped out from behind its mother, its eyes huge and interested. Then another appeared behind it, butting it in the rear. It jumped in surprise, turning around. It lowered its head and gave chase. The two weaved in and out of the adults, picking up other young ones as they went, until it seemed to the girl that half the herd was playing the game.

The elephant chuckled at the scene. She leaned forwards and tapped his ear. He tilted his head to show he was listening.

'What are these creatures?'

'These are grappi.'

'Grappi? I've never heard of them.'

The elephant shrugged. She might never have heard of them, but here they were nonetheless. But then he nodded to the right, where a large cat-like creature stalked through the grass. 'That is an Oondu.'

'Oondu? What does he do?' she said, giggling at the accidental rhyme.

'He eats grappi.'


'Do you want to see?'

'No thank you,' she said firmly. While she understood the need to eat, she had no wish to witness the event.

The elephant nodded and the scene changed. They were now flying across a town, its tall buildings shattered and crumbling. Explosions rang out, and the elephant swerved to avoid a passing rocket. The girl screamed and tucked her head against his leathery hide.

'What's this place?

'War Town,' said the elephant, straining to fly higher. 'Keep down.'

'There's a place called War Town?'

'There are lots of places called War Town. They move around. Sometimes they're bigger than this one. Sometimes they're smaller. It's all the same. The people destroy, then they rebuild and, for a while, the places stop being War Town. Then it all starts again.'

The little girl peered over the elephant's side at the battered town below. She sighed and closed her eyes. The suppressed thought re-emerged, forcing its way through the layers of her consciousness. It's time, it seemed to say. But then she felt the elephant surge and she opened her eyes to see a mighty mountain range stretching before them. Shivering in the chilly air, she tucked in closer to him, chortling in delight as he curled his trunk and carried them almost vertically down to a tumbling stream in the valley between the mountains.

Reaching the bottom, the elephant gave one flap of his ears and they soared upwards again, flying over rock outcrops and great swathes of snow. The girl slipped, snow battering against her face. She fell, turning cartwheels. The snow fields and rocks hurtled by and the elephant dropped back beside her.

'Fly!' he cried with a laugh.

Remembering, she stretched her arms out and flew up, up, towards the brown grey, snow-laden sky. A startled roar from below stopped her and she hovered, scanning the mountain for its source. Shouting with surprise, she swooped down, dropping into the deep snow in front of a yeti. He stepped backwards, a hand raised in defence.

She giggled and stooped down, picking up some snow. She threw it at the yeti, hitting him squarely in the chest. He stumbled backwards, his arms windmilling. Picking at the snow sticking to his fur, he at first looked perplexed. Then he grinned and turned away, stooping over to scoop up armfuls of snow.

The little girl, thrilled to see he had taken up the game, quickly formed a small arsenal of snowballs. As soon as the yeti turned around clutching a great mound of snow, she threw another, hitting him on the nose. He was so stunned he dropped his snow and fell down, bottom first. He sat in the snow laughing deeply, as he regathered the snow around him. The little girl danced around him, throwing more snowballs, most of which missed.

The yeti lumbered to his feet, let out a roar and threw an armful of snow at her. It caught her in the midriff, sending her tumbling down the mountain. The yeti, realising his error too late, cried out and ran after her, his arms reaching.

The little girl scrabbled for grip but the snow beneath her was sliding, rolling ever downwards. Suddenly she felt the elephant's trunk wrapping around her. With a huge heave, he pulled her clear of the snow and flung her up onto his back. She shook herself and brushed snow clumps from her pyjamas.

Looking down, she saw the yeti staring up at her mournfully. She jumped from the elephant's back and flew down, landing just in front of him. He looked down at her sadly, distressed that he might have hurt her. She smiled at him and gave him a hug, burying her face in his furry leg.

At first unsure, the yeti stared up at the elephant, who nodded and landed just a short distance away.

'It's okay, Mr Yeti,' said the girl. 'It was my fault. You didn't understand the game.'

The yeti patted her awkwardly on the back and gave a low grumble.

'Time to go,' said the elephant.

'But is he okay?'

The elephant shrugged. 'He's a yeti. This is the Himalayas. Of course he's okay.'

'Alright then,' she said brightly, stepping backwards.

She gave the yeti a wave, then jumped into the air again.

The thought re-awoke and tapped at her consciousness. Time. It's time, it said. Not yet, she replied.

She and the elephant flew on, over a monk in his mountaintop temple, over a bear fishing in a stream, through a blizzard of such intensity that the girl was forced to fly beneath the elephant for shelter. And then they were at the beach.

The elephant splashed down, rolling on its back and sighing contentedly as the waves washed over him. The girl waded out to him and tried to splash water onto his tummy. He rolled over, dipping his trunk into the water. He watched her, a crafty look in his eye, then lifted his trunk high and showered her with a fountain of water. She shrieked and giggled.

It's time. It's time.

She frowned, pushing the annoying voice away. She ran through the shallows to the sandy beach, where she stopped to inspect a starfish covered in long hairs. At the end of each hair were shiny beads of different colours. The starfish arched backwards until its face was turned to her.

'Hello. I have a message for you,' it said.

The girl reached out to stroke the hairs, marvelling at the way the light caught the beads. 'I wish I had beads in my hair,' she said.

The starfish closed its eyes and shook itself, transferring the beads from itself to the girl's hair. She laughed and jumped up, running to the elephant to show him, then racing back along the beach, shaking her head to make the beads rattle.

The starfish watched her go, then turned to the elephant. 'She didn't let me give her the message,' it complained.

The elephant looked down at the starfish. 'She is not yet ready to hear it.'

The starfish considered that for a moment, then nodded and flopped back down on the sand. The elephant ambled after the girl, stopping to pick up a shell. When he eventually caught up with her, he gave it to her. She studied it closely, turning it this way and that.

'I wonder who lived in here.'

'A sea pixie,' said the elephant knowingly.

'A sea pixie?' giggled the girl.

'Oh yes,' said the elephant, kneeling down beside her. 'They live in any shell they find, as long as it's big enough. Look, you can tell one lived in this one because it has a little bell on the outside.'

The girl lifted it closer. Sure enough, attached to the outside of the conch was a tiny brass bell. She shook the shell to make the bell ring and nearly dropped it when a pixie appeared at the opening.

'Oi! I was eating my dinner,' said the pixie, mopping his chin.

'I'm terribly sorry. I didn't know anyone was home.'

The pixie looked up at the elephant and rolled his eyes. 'Humans!' he muttered. 'Kindly put my home down, preferably somewhere safe where the shell-eater won't find it.'

'The shell-eater?' said the girl, getting to her feet in alarm.

'Why do you think there are so few shells on this beach?' said the elephant with a shrug.

The girl thought for a moment, then nodded. It seemed a very sensible explanation in the circumstances. 'But where should I put you?' she said to the pixie.

'Not near the cave at the end of the beach. That's where the shell-eater lives. Put me in the dunes. He hates going in there, the grass gets caught in his horns,' said the pixie.

The girl carried the shell and the pixie to the dunes and found a quiet spot, hidden from view. The pixie thanked her and then went back inside to finish his dinner. The elephant scooped the girl up and put her on his back.

'Come on. Time is running out,' he said.

Before she could ask him where they were going, the scenery around them had changed again. They were no longer on the beach, but were instead flying over the sea. Beneath them swam a pod of whales, leaping from the waves and crashing back down again. The elephant and the girl laughed as the spray from the whales hit them, drenching the elephant's bowler hat and the girl's pyjamas.

The elephant flew higher, higher, until they were up in the clouds, shivering in the damp. Then they were higher still, beyond the clouds. The girl gasped as a jet plane appeared. The elephant swam with his feet until they were flying alongside it, peering in the windows at the people inside.

The girl laughed and pulled faces at them, but no-one saw. Some slept, some watched the in-flight movie, some chatted with their neighbours, others played games, but none of them saw the girl and the elephant flying beside them.

At last, giving up on the plane, the elephant carried her back through the clouds and soared across the ocean towards a grey smudge on the horizon. The girl sat up, the wind fanning her hair behind her. She squinted ahead. At last, the smudge was large enough to be seen properly. It was a land of ice and snow.

The elephant slowly dropped towards the ground, coming down in the snow a few steps from a large polar bear. The bear rose up on its hind legs. As the girl jumped down from the elephant's back, the bear held out a paw.

'Welcome. This is the last stop on your journey. Have you enjoyed yourself?' said the bear.

'My last stop? But I don't want to go home yet. Can't I stay a little longer?'

The bear smiled and shook her head. 'No, not this time. But the journey never truly ends.'

The girl turned to the elephant but he had already gone. She looked back at the bear sadly. 'He never even said goodbye. He didn't give me chance to thank him.'

'He understands. He didn't need you to say it,' said the bear.

'He looked after me,' said the girl, wiping angrily at her eyes. 'I thought he was my friend.'

'And so he was. But now he must go home too.'

'I don't know how to get home without him.'

The bear reached down and took her hand, then pointed out to sea. A large ship was pushing its way through the ice towards them. 'It's time,' she said. 'Time to go back to the world of humans.'

A man shimmied down a rope ladder flung over the side of the ship and hurried across the ice to them, tugging a coat about him as he ran. He stopped just short of the bear and lifted his bobble hat deferentially.

'Your grace,' he said and bowed.

'Good morning. I trust you had a good voyage?'

'Most enlightening m'lady. I believe we may have found the answer.'

'That is excellent news. I shall look forward to your report.'

'Answer to what?' asked the girl.

The man smiled and knelt before her. 'Just a little problem her grace has. Nothing to worry about.'

The girl looked up at the bear. 'You have a problem?'

The bear looked down at her. 'The world has many problems, child. That is why one must always keep ones eyes and mind open. But now, it is time.'

The girl looked at the man from the ship. 'Are you going to take me home?'


'Do I have to go?'

'Yes, indeed.'

The girl blinked and when she opened her eyes again they were onboard the ship, standing in a small cabin. The man stood in the doorway, holding his bobble hat in his hands.

'It's not grand, but it's warm and the food's good. Let me know if you need anything,' he said, then he turned and hurried away.

The girl walked to a small dresser in the cabin. Above it hung a mirror, crudely framed and marked by its years at sea. The girl stared at her reflection. She frowned. The face looking back at her was that of an old woman. Her hair was white and the skin along her jaw was soft, her eyes were shrunken and rheumy. She looked away, shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of her youth.

A picture on the wall above the bed caught her eye. It was a painting of an elephant wearing a bowler hat. It was the very same elephant who had escorted her on the journey. She stepped closer, reaching out to him, desperate to see him one last time. One last time. One last …


She blinked.

'There! I told you! Did you see?' said an excited voice nearby.

She tried to turn her head, but found she was unable. She blinked again. A tear trickled from her right eye.

'See! You had to see that, surely?'

An unseen hand mopped the tear away with a tissue.

A face appeared in her vision, staring down at her. A bright light swam into view, then disappeared.

'It's a miracle,' muttered the face.

'I told you! I told you! I knew she'd come back to us.'

She tried to speak but could only rasp.

'Don't try to speak. You've been asleep for a very long time,' said the face.

Nevertheless, she tried again, managing only a croak.

'I've got to let Mother know,' said the voice in the background. 'Ma? Ma it's me. She's awake! She's come back to us,' the voice choked off with tears.

She looked up at the face, hoping for a clue, finding none.

'It will start to make sense in the coming hours. Try not to worry,' it said.

She closed her eyes and slept again. This time there was no elephant. No bear, no yeti, no grappi. There was just nothing.

She awoke to find herself in a room filled with people, all smiling and laughing. They seemed familiar. One, a man hovering rather nervously at the back of the room, carried a bowler hat. And then she realised, the wise and gentle elephant, the elephant who had guided her through the dream state, was none other than her father.

'Hi Dad,' she whispered.

The room fell silent. The man with the bowler hat stepped forwards, his eyes filled with tears. 'Hello my pixie,' he said. 'Welcome back.'

'You were a wonderful elephant,' she said drowsily, then fell back to sleep.


© 2014 Kay Lawrence.

line Gangang
24th October 2014

I know the story is deeper than my comment would suggest but it does prove what I mean when I say that a bed is at its most comfortable just when it's time to get up.



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