Short Story: The Collector

What a freaking mess, Harvy thought as he leaned down to pick up the last catcher of the night. The glow from people’s dreams was overflowing from strings that held the object together. He knew that once the glow started to emanate from the catcher, hundreds of dreams had already been lost – scattered to the in-between spaces of floorboards or cracks between bedroom walls and the headboards that never fully touched them.

Bucket in hand, Harvy hung the last catcher on the nail, thankful that the head honchos at the collection agency hadn’t seen it on the ground. He’d lose his job if they found out that he had missed another one as it fell in from the sky. But how was he supposed to keep up with all of them? It wasn’t his fault that populations were growing, and the agency refused to bring on another collector. If they really want all of these dreams documented, he thought, they’d better hire another guy or give me a helping hand themselves. He chuckled at the idea of one of the stuffy old executives shuffling around the dream plane trying to mop up some of the glowing ether on the floor from forgotten or lost dreams.

“Ah well,” he said aloud to himself. “Better get on with it.” Settling the bucket on the ground beneath the catcher on the nail, Harvy ran one gloved hand down the object, pushing down the glowing substance – dreams. One by one, the dreams fell into the bucket, causing ripples as they grew in volume. He filled the bucket and then made sure there was nothing left on the catcher’s strings. When that was done, he took off the glove and discarded it into the bucket as well so that whatever dreams had been caught on the glove could be included his documentations. Harvy hated what came next.

As a collector, Harvy had a special gift that the agency was required to capitalize on. He could see the dreams of other people. And not only could he see them, but he could also remember them – document them in his brain and then regurgitate that information to the executives at the agency, if they needed him to. Though most of the time, he didn’t see anything in people’s dreams that he thought needed to be revealed. So he collected the dreams as usual and filed them away – separated them in individual bottles to be stacked on an infinite number of dusty shelves hidden somewhere in the dream plane. Only the agency, he, and the collectors in other parts of the world knew where the dreams were stored.

But none of that was what Harvy particularly detested. What he hated was the manner in which he saw dreams. In order to see dreams after they have already been dreamt, a collector has to gather the glowing substance left behind by dreams into a container – like a bucket – and then submerge his eyes in them. He had to dip his head into the bucket.

This was his 111th bucket of dreams on this particular night – his last bucket, in fact, as he had hit the boundaries of the dream plane that marked his territories. Whatever dreams lingered in the houses beyond those boundaries were someone else’s problem. For now, he would watch these dreams closely to see if he needed to document anything peculiar or interesting from them. He dipped his head into the bucket and waited for his gift to take over.

The first dream was a child’s. Harvy could tell because of the white iridescent light surrounding his frame of vision – the innocent aura of a child’s imagination. It appeared that the child was at a playground, being pushed on the swings by a woman in her thirties – a mother, perhaps? Harvy instantly felt sad, like he wanted to cry. Another part of his gift was being able to feel what the dreamers were feeling in their dream – as if it were him dreaming everything up, whether he wanted to be or not.

The second dream was short – a man eating pizza with three hands. Harvy wasn’t sure what that meant, but it hardly seemed worthy of bringing to the agency for investigation.

More and more dreams passed through Harvy’s mind, like scenes going by when you’re looking out of a car window while it’s moving. Most of them were short – more references to food, people reading or listening to music (things they might have done before bed that were still attached to their subconscious). There was the occasional risqué dream, which Harvy brushed past much faster than others. There was definitely no need to share those dreams with the agency or anyone else for that matter…

At last, Harvy had reached the last dream. It started kind of slowly, with a black film over everything so that all Harvy could see was a glowing in the distance. But what he saw next really shocked him.

He saw himself. He was carrying his bucket, walking down a lane of freshly cleaned dream catchers, all with full buckets underneath of them. He reached a catcher that was almost dripping with dreams and started to complete the process that he was actually completing right now, in real time. Who dreamt this? Harvy thought, watching himself raise a gloved hand to the catcher. He started to feel panicky, which he realized was how the person who had been dreaming was feeling while they were seeing him dip his head into a bucket full of glowing stuff. The dream filtered out into new dreams, which he realized was his dream self exercising his gift right in the frame of whoever’s dream this was.

Millions of dreams poured out of the bucket and into dream-Harvy’s mind, which means that real-Harvy was seeing dreams inside of this dream. The sensation was almost too much, and his heart beat away inside his chest, faster and faster until he thought it might beat a hole into his breastplate and escape his body.

Dream-Harvy lifted his head out of the bucket and wiped at the crust in his eyes – a side effect that happened to real-Harvy after watching dreams (as if he had been sleeping while collecting). Suddenly, a mirror was in front of his field of vision. As he looked into it, he saw someone – the dreamer – looking back at him. It was a girl, barely 13 years old, with raven hair and icy blue eyes. She lifted a finger and pointed at him, as if she could see him, too.

Finally, the dream was over. Harvy panted as he lifted his head out of the glowing bucket. What just happened? What the hell was that? He thought that he definitely needed to take this one to the agency. He took out a bottle from the stash that collectors used for emergencies like this and sifted the dream into the bottle. This is the most exciting thing to happen to me all day.

When he arrived at the agency headquarters, he was surprised to find that they were expecting him. He was ushered into a conference room, where he sat for about fifteen minutes before there was finally a knock on the door. He stood as an executive entered, followed by a girl with raven-colored hair.

It was her. She was the girl from the mirror. He stared at the bottle he had placed on the long conference table. The girl looked at it and then at him without saying a word. She looked confused and scared.

“Harvy,” the executive said, “this is Yessie. She’s our new collector and your new trainee.”

Yessie gave him a small smile and asked, “You’re the guy from my dream, aren’t you?”

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