Hanging Out with the Dream King

Last night as I was putting him to bed, my seven-year-old son said to me, “Mom, I have bad dreams every night.”

Now, usually when he has bad dreams, he comes into my room in the middle of the night to have me put him back to bed. But he hasn’t done that in a long while. So I said, somewhat unthinkingly (and perhaps unfeelingly as well), “No you don’t.”

“I do!” he wailed. “I just don’t always come get you.”


I’ve long been known to spin a quick story, and on this occasion I borrowed a bit of text from another author. Resettling myself on his bed, sitting in the glow of his nightlight, I said, “You’ll have to talk to Morpheus then.”

Even in the dim light, I saw my son’s dark eyes grow wide. He knows when I speak with that particular tone that I am about to impart wondrous information.

“He’s the Dream King,” I explained.

“How do I talk to him?” my son asked with a tremor.

“You have to wait until you’re dreaming. He lives in The Dreaming, after all. Then, when you know you’re dreaming, you must turn to whomever you’re with in the dream and say, ‘Take me to the Dream King.’ And they have to do it.”

“Because they’re his servants?”

I nodded. “He creates all the dreams and sends them out, but he doesn’t necessarily have the time to see which ones go where. So if you think you’re getting more than your share of nightmares, he’s the one you have to talk to.”

As I got up to leave, my son asked, “Mom? What if I forget his name?”

“Morpheus? You can just ask for the Dream King.”

“Can I just call him Dream?”

“Well, usually only his family calls him that, but . . . it’d probably be okay.” Of course, I was thinking Morpheus surely wouldn’t like it at all, but I wasn’t about to worry my son by saying as much. The very son to which I used to read Neil Gaiman books aloud while he was in the womb, and for whom Gaiman drew a rat in a collectible edition of Coraline while voicing the hope my son would be “strange.” (We’ll assume he meant it in a good and kind way.) If Morpheus is going to give anyone a pass—and I’m still skeptical about that—it might be my son. A boy who honestly believes his mother turns into a big, pearly white dragon when no one is looking, and also believes that some day if he’s lucky, he’ll get to be a dragon too. Mr. Gaiman, your pseudo benediction has borne fruit; my son (whose birthday is a few days after yours) is strange and then some.

But then, so is his dragon mother.

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