Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: John Smith, Martha Jones
Word Count: 1946
Summary: John Smith, a simple schoolteacher at a boys' school, has some of the most amazing dreams.
Pulling his dressing gown close around himself, John tied the sash as he sauntered toward the window of his study. Some days, he mused, it was more difficult to wake up than others, and today was one of those days, one where he wished he could have slept just a little bit longer, so that he could have seen the end of his dream. But it was not to be. He had always been an early riser, and the sunlight in his room, even the weak, cold October haze, never failed to drag him from his bed.
As he thought about it, however, it hadn't been the light that woke him. It had been the dream. That was a common occurrence, his dreams startling him awake, almost as if he were trying to flee from them. But they were most fantastical, and he realised this most recent one was starting to fade away like dreams always do. Hopping over to his desk, he slid into the chair and pulled a leather-bound journal out of a drawer. He turned to the first empty page and, grabbing his pen, he began scribbling down the words and images in his mind before they fled, without concern for narrative, legibility, or even coherence. He had found that the simple act of recording his dreams cemented them in his memory.
Some time later, a knock at his door roused him from his almost trance-like state, and he called, "Enter," without looking up. He continued to write as the door was pushed opened by a dark-skinned maid carrying a tray with his breakfast.
"Good morning, Mr. Smith," greeted the maid as she crossed the room and set the tray on the corner of the desk.
John looked up from his journal and glanced at her and nodded. “Ah, good morning, Martha.” He scratched a few more strokes onto the paper, then laid the pen down. As the maid turned to the bed to start making it up, he moved the journal aside and, standing up, brought the tray in front of him, then returned to his seat. “Thank you very much.”
“You're welcome, sir. Had a restful night, sir?”
He began to spread strawberry jam on a slab of toast as he answered her. "Same as ever, really. I suppose yes, as I'm rarely tired during the day." He took a bite before pouring himself a cup of tea.
The maid had straightened the sheets and blankets and was now tucking the ends under the mattress. "Dreams wake you - unh! - they wake you up again, sir?"
"Yes. Yes," he replied, his thoughts drifting as he leaned back in his chair, warming his hands on the cup. The dream still teased his mind and he tried to capture just a little bit more of it.
"My mother, she always said a mug of warm milk at bedtime will chase the bad dreams away."
"Oh, but they're not nightmares. They're... exciting! Adventures!" John turned to her with a concerned look. "Do the ones I've told you scare you, Martha? Are they nightmares to you?"
She smiled and shook her head. "Oh, no, sir. You just seem worried about them. I thought they were bad dreams."
"Not at all. They're fascinating. This last one, last night..." Setting the teacup on its saucer, he started on his eggs as he spoke. "I... well, I should say, the Doctor, the traveller, but I suppose it really was me... I must have been in China, in the Orient, for I was in a strange land, an opium den, I think, being offered the drug of my choice. I don't know why I was there, for I refused them all. I even tried to stop them from giving them to others, though one, a young lady, sampled the drug and floated away on the wind." He frowned. "There must be a moral in that somewhere.
"But then, robbers jumped out of the shadows and stole something from me, and I chased them into a huge cave filled with floating boxes, as far as I could see. I jumped from one box to another, and... there were people in the boxes. And cats! Cats in boxes!” He laughed a bit before continuing. “You won’t believe this part. One of them, one of the cats, she was wearing a dress and she grabbed my arm and it made me angry, and I woke up! I never did catch the robbers or get back what they took." The thought saddened him more than he thought a dream could. Whatever it had been, it was so important, so precious to him.
He shook his head as he picked up his toast again. "These dreams. After I have them, I always feel that something is just beyond my grasp, something I really should know. Like I'm failing to remember something I ought." He nibbled idly on the bread.
Martha, listening intently, had paused her work and was staring at John with a slight frown, her mouth agape. Noticing this as he looked up, he asked, "Is something wrong, Martha?"
She straightened with a jerk. "Oh, no! I'm fine, sir." She busied herself with the bedcovers.
"That dream, it didn't disturb you, I hope?" Finishing the last of his toast, he thumbed his fork before taking it in his hand.
"No, sir. Not at all." She moved to the wardrobe to select his clothing for the day.
As he ate his breakfast, John slid the journal nearer and flipped through it, glancing at a couple of pages. “You know, I wonder…" Spinning his fork in his hand, he tapped on a page with the handle. "If I were to expand on these, add a bit here and there, to flesh out the narrative, I could write these as fictions. Not this last one, of course; it was too incomplete, too fragmented. But some of these longer dreams, they could serve." He righted the fork and cut another chunk of egg. "This one here, for example: in the far, far future, watching the end of the Earth from a sailing ship in space. They’d be nothing much, really - adventures, boys’ stories in the future and the past - but I flatter myself to think they’d be akin to the stories of Mr. Wells." He paused, staring at the journal, his next bite halfway to his mouth. "I wonder, where does he get his ideas? Does he dream like I do? Whatever his inspiration, it must be extraordinary.” Continuing his meal, he turned a few more pages.
Martha returned with an armful of clothing and laid them out on the bed. “Oh, no, sir, you mustn’t do that.”
Surprised, John questioned his maid with polite curiosity. “Why do you think so, Martha?”
Alarmed, she stuttered a bit. “They, er, they're just stories. Silly tales, not worth your mind, sir. What would the headmaster think of you writing them?”
John smiled at the maid with tender affection. “You are always so kind, looking out for me, Martha. But I assure you, even if I could get them published, which is highly unlikely, there is little chance they will attract any attention. And if they do, the credit of being a successful author only enhances the reputation of a teacher, even if he only creates silly boys' tales. Do not worry yourself. There’s truly little chance that I will actually put pen to paper.”
"Very good, sir." Martha paused, her eyes glancing about the room unfocused as if she were making a decision. Her voice was tentative as she resumed speaking. "Though, I was thinking, sir, maybe your dreams mean something? Like that doctor says. You know, that one in Vienna. He says dreams come from what you're feeling deep down."
The teacher stared at the maid, astonished. "Dr. Freud? Now where would you have heard of something like that?"
She shrugged. "Oh, you know, I hear things. People talk, and don't mind old Martha, sir."
He inhaled sharply as he realised he hadn't thought of that before. "I suppose you must do."
"It was that teacher, back at King Edward's School. The science teacher." Martha busied herself with straightening the teacher's desk as she spoke, but watched John out of the corner of her eye.
For a moment, John could not remember who she was talking about, but then an indistinct image of a man formed in his mind. Ah, yes, him, he thought, then paid him no mind. The man was someone he’d almost forgotten. That John remembered was enough for him; he'd learned that trying to remember more was rarely worth the effort. "Oh, yes, I know, the science teacher. Can't remember his name, for the life of me."
Martha continued talking as she worked. "Mr. Hall, sir. He talked about the dream doctor once. Said dreams are symbols, that they tell you what your mind is thinking beneath it all. You just have to figure out what it's saying."
"Hm. You may have a point there. Let's see. An opium den where I'm not taking what's offered? Maybe life is giving me something dangerous and seductive and I need to stay away? What could that be?" He dropped his napkin on the tray as he sipped the last of his tea.
"Oh, I don't know, sir. He said the dreams are hard to figure out, that the symbols are not what you think they are." Martha motioned at the breakfast tray. "May I take these, sir?"
John nodded. "Oh yes, but leave the fruit, please. Well, it's something to think about, in any case. I should see if Mr. Philips has any books by Dr. Freud. At the very least, it will be a fascinating read."
Piling the dishes onto the tray and placing the apples on the desk, Martha hid her expression of devious satisfaction from Mr. Smith. She had again successfully deflected him from thinking too hard about the true origins of his dreams, and the distraction this time seemed to be complex enough to hold him at least for a while; she knew that Freud’s methods both took a long time to produce results and were unlikely to reveal anything of significance. She didn't know if her efforts were truly necessary, if she needed to prevent Mr. Smith's questioning of his vivid dreams to keep him from discovering the truth, but this at least would alleviate some of the anxiety he was having about them.
"I'll be taking the things down now, sir." Martha picked up the tray and turned towards the door.
"Yes, thank you, Martha." John opened the day's newspaper and began reading as Martha slipped out and closed the study door. After a couple of minutes, he glanced at the door. "Well, Dr. Freud may be able to tell me what my dreams mean, but that doesn't mean I can't try my hand at creating entertainment from them whilst I wait for such an analysis."
Tossing the newspaper aside, he snagged the journal and flipped a few pages. "Ah, here's one to start with. Great spider-demons from under the earth, threatening the whole of humanity." He glanced at the clock. "I've two hours before my first class. I might as well make a start." Pulling a few sheets of paper from his desk drawer, John smiled in anticipation of his new project and began to write.