“Goodnight Dear, sleep well.” The door creaked it’s familiar sound as the door swung shut gently.
“Goodnight Mummy.” Came the sweet docile voice of a curly headed 5 year old as she watched the hall light flick off. Quiet, so quiet, a whisper of wind. The same sound of the wind rapping at her window, there it was again.Being the very curious inquisitive child she was, little Mae decided to investigate the tapping at her window that had occurred every single night for as long as she could remember, which of course, being only 5, wasn’t too long into the past. But also being the cautious, careful child, she grabbed her favorite stuffed bear who was sitting next to the window seat by the large expansive window she was hoping to investigate, of course the bear was for her own protection, she really didn’t need stuffed animals anymore, or at least that what Mae told herself. She crept towards the window that was now being covered by a set of curtains, and she pulled with all her might and the curtains flew open to reveal.. Nothing. Mae was rather disappointed, because she had managed to summon enough courage to explore this unknown sound, and there was nothing there. She looked out into the starry obsidian sky, nothing. She opened the window- the rapping, knocking came the window gently pushed her away from the window. She turned back to the window, and there was a gentle, eyed, bear of a man who was sitting with a large book full of stories, on her window seat.
“Hello Miss. I didn’t mean to startle you. I apologize for knocking at your window, but you see it’s so very cold outside.. And you are the only person who has had any compassion on me.” The girl just blinked at him, clutching the small stuffed bear to her chest as if that was all she needed to protect her from harm. For a moment, she didn’t move, but after a beat her feet padded over to the window and she wedged her fingers under the frame, tugging at it with all her might. Something about the man didn’t seem all that scary, maybe it was the gentle eyes and soft voice. Mae grunted a little as she tried with all her five year old strength to open the window, but it wasn’t budging. The man seemed to sense her discomfort, and knocked quietly on the glass until her young, inquisitive eyes met his. “It’s okay, I’ll pull from my side and we’ll do it together, okay?” Once again, Mae didn’t say anything at first, but she soon nodded in response. At the man’s direction, she used all of her strength the pull at the window, so much that although it opened, little Mae went tumbling to the floor, creating a thump that echoed throughout the house. The man heard the noise and paused for a moment, listening for any footsteps downstairs, and hearing none, climbed into the young girl’s bedroom. Mae, seemingly unphased, hopped up and scooped her stuffed bear into her arms. Her curious gaze slowly drifted up to the tall man that now stood before her. She felt so tiny, even smaller than the child she already was, and that made her clutch the bear ever closer to her chest. Her little white nightgown blew with the wind of the open window, and seeing her shiver, the man went to it and pulled the window shut, closing it so that it made no more noise than a barely audible “click.” He turned around and fixed his gaze on the little girl. “Thank you,” he said in that same soft voice, smiling a gentle smile and crouching down so that he was only a bit taller than she.
“Would you like me to read you a bedtime story Miss Mae?” The man's gentle voice made Mae’s heart relax.
“How did you know my name sir.. Sir.. Mr…?”
The man laughed a deep clear laugh, he paused, no sounds of footsteps.
“No Mr. or sir… call me… “ Here, he paused and opened the book. Mae’s little eyes grew wide in astoundment, as the seemingly normal book’s pages where nothing but sand. Her amazement stopped however, as the sand didn’t move or do anything at all out of the ordinary, it looked just like sand. Plain, old, beach sand.
“Sand? Why is the book full of sand? Mother wouldn’t like sand tracked in here.. Oh please be careful.” The little girl said quite gravely.
The man’s face broke into a grin. “You may call me the SandMan. But dearest Mae, this is not ordinary sand. Hm.. tell me, what is your favorite animal?”
The man went on like this quizzing, asking her questions about what she liked, until finally before he tucked her into bed, (for it was getting quiet late,) She looked at the book one more time. Halfway through the book, the page’s edges where black. She attempted to open one, but the bear like man gently placed his fingers around her wrist, easing her hand away from the dark pages. Mae looked disappointed, and attempted to reach for them again, only to have the book moved out of her reach completely. “But…” She attempted to argue, but the man only shook his head.
“Don’t worry Make, those pages aren’t for children such as yourself,” he said, almost a little sadly. The small girl pouted, crossing her arms over her chest as she curled up under her sheets. The sandman chuckled, a deep, reverberating noise that sounded like the dong of bells. Mae peeped her head out of the covers and looked at the man, who smiled down at her with fondness. “Okay, now I can tell you a story.”
That night, Mae dreamt that she was playing with lions in fields of spring flowers.
Once the girl was put safely to sleep, the Sandman exited quietly, leaving a pinch of sand behind for Mae to find when she awoke. He slipped out the window, closing it behind him, and leaped the full story from her bedroom down to the frost covered lawn below. His dark eyes scanned the abandoned street and all the dark houses that surrounded it, and he smiled to himself. There was nothing he loved more than bringing joy to people, but just as the thought came into his head, he glanced down at the black bordered pages and flinched, the smile vanishing from his face.
There wasn’t a day of his long life that the Sandman wouldn’t regret distributing the nightmare. It turned out worse than he’d expected, and it was a lifetime ago, but he’d never, ever forget that night. It was cold, just like tonight, and-
His thoughts cut off as if he couldn’t bear them any longer.
The sandman continued to visit Mae regularly, always bringing with him stifled laughter and wonderful dreams full of magic and light. One night however, the sandman waited outside Mae’s window for a moment, and watched the now blossoming beautiful...womanly body that was sleeping peacefully and undisturbed inside her room. She was 17, He sighed… and knocked quietly at her window. Mae woke up immediately to the very dear, very familiar sound of her sandman knocking at her window. As he watched her throw off the covers of her bed, and grab a oversized sweatshirt to protect her from the cold that was going to soon sweep in when she opened the door for her Sandy, he realized with a sad and heavy heart, that she had to experience a nightmare. He had held it off long enough… It would be like a living death to him to put her through the bad dreams that awaited her.. At that moment, was when the Sandman knew he had fallen in love with Mae.. and the dear sweet child.. She’d never know.. He would always be the big bear like SandMan… though in reality.. As time went by, he grew a bit shorter.. And his hair became darker, wilder, longer, his deep kind eyes where the only things that stayed completely the same. She wrenched open the window and flung her arms around her dearest Sandy. He loved the warmth of her embrace, in his mind he had nicknamed her Sunshine, because she was the ray of hope and joy in his life.
“Oh Sandy!” Mae whispered as she kissed his cheek, “Why haven’t you visited me for so very long? I’ve began to miss you,and even have gotten worried.” The true look of concern on Mae’s face made Sandy pause and look down on the girl's face. Her deep green eyes sparkled with love.. But romantic love? Paternal love? Sandy couldn’t tell which. He shook himself and sat down on her bed, the story book in hand as always. Mae threw herself on the bed, her red curls spreading all over Sandy’s lap. He laughed deeply, and looked down at the smart bright girl who looked up at him, eagerly awaiting the amazing adventure her Sandy would take her on tonight. She looked at him so fondly.. He managed to focus at the very pressing, very sad matter he had to deal with. He gently opened the book and flipped the pages until he reached on the the dark, smudged pages. He took a deep breath, and put his hand around Mae;s dear sweet hand.
“Mae… What frightens you?”
The girl's face turned from joyful to puzzled. “Why are you asking me that Sandy?”
Sandy swallowed and spoke again, his voice serious, deep and very grave. “What do you fear the most.. Darling Mae?” His eyes looked down at this strong, yet young woman. She held his gaze, then dropped it, as she said, “Do i have to answer that question? Do i really have to Sandy.. Dear?” Sandy nodded silently. Silence, which had seldom happened ever before between the two, filled the room. After a long moment, Mae spoke, but her voice was so low, that Sandy had to lean very close to her to hear.
“What I fear most….Is losing you Sandy.” She didn’t look up, but one single tear slid silently down Mae’s face, and fell onto the dark charcol page. The tear linger there for but a second, then with a sickening sizzle, the black sandy paper swallowed the innocent tear. Sandy’s heart melted at those eight quiet words. His gaze followed the tear that had landed on the merciless blackness of the paper, and immediately wished he could take it back. The thing that Mae didn’t know, was that what Sandy feared most, was losing her. There was a long moment of silence where neither one of them spoke nor looked at each other. “Alright Mate,” he finally said, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Lie down.” Mae silently obeyed, situating herself under the thick comforter that separated the two, and curling into a tight ball. Her breathing was soft, but shallow and quick. Sandy gently took her hand as he began telling her a sad story.
Mae woke in a cold sweat, her cheeks wet with tears that she didn’t remember crying. Her heart was still beating quickly, but when she looked over, Sandy was beside her, her hand still in his. He smiled at her, and Mae leaned in to hug him, but when her skin touched his, she felt not the warm comforting presence of a friend, but the course, rough sensation of old sand. A quiet gasp escaped her lips as she leaned back to look, but there was nothing she could do. Sandy continued to evaporate before her eyes, until there was nothing left but some granules of dark black sand. She screamed.
Mae jolted awake to the sound of her own screaming, and looked over to see Sandy still there, sitting beside her. So that had been the nightmare. “That was horrible.” She whispered, staying put in that tight ball she’d fallen asleep in. “Never show me that again.” Her tone wasn’t harsh, just hurt, but it broke Sandy’s heart. Mae looked up at his face to see tears running down his cheeks. “I’m sorry Mate,” he whispered, squeezing the girl’s hand and rubbing her back gently. She turned around and flopped herself right up against the boundary line where Sandy laid. He didn't move, but he could feel the warmth and the heat radiating off of her, infectious, beautiful, forbidden to him. A tear formed in his eye and before he could take the many centuries long reflex to pull the tear back, it fell onto the pillow. Mae with a sadden face pushed the border aside and reached over to hold the sand man, but he pulled away before her small hands could touch his cold, lifeless skin. She looked at him with something like defiance, and maturity. For the first time in the Sand man’s life he felt powerless. She grinned at him sweetly, and gently put her arms around him. Warmth radiated over his body. Life memories emotions seemed golden and warm again. Mae pulled away, and said in the most sweet voice,
“Sandy, I am going to kiss you.”
What Sandy expected was their ritual kiss on his cheek, but that isn’t what Mae had in mind. She gently kissed his cheek, and his forehead.
She pulled away then asked, “Might I kiss you again dear Sand Man?” Her eyes filled with wicked delightful mirth.
The Sand man for the first time ever, blushed, and answered, “If that is what you wish my dear.”
Mae laughed and said, “No, it is what I’ve dreamed,”
Next, Mae leaned forward and kissed the tip of his nose, then his chin, but just as her lips were about to touch Sandy’s, she felt a jolt, and all of a sudden the comforting presence of his body disappeared. She pulled back and looked up to see Sandy sitting straight up, his dark eyes fixed on the thick comforter. “What is it?” She whispered, sounding once again like the small child he so dearly loved. The sandman slowly turned his head to look at her, and when their eyes met, there was a spark of something that she’d never seen in Sandy before. “Sandy…” Her voice trailed off and she almost receded back under the covers. His gaze was so intense she could barely handle it, but she needed to figure out what was so different in his expression.
“Mae…” He whispered, his voice a little scratchier than usual. “I can’t-” he stopped himself there, and looked down at the comforter again. He seemed to think for a moment before slowly nuzzling himself under the blankets that had previously separated them. He laid down and pulled Mae close, just holding her small form in his arms. He closed his eyes, and memories flashed before them, and he saw a little girl, giddy with excitement and happiness. When he opened them though, he looked down and all he could see was the beautiful woman he had in his arms. Mae’s head was resting against his chest, but her eyes were open and she was wide awake. She seemed to be thinking, but about what, he could not know for sure. His heart filled with an immense desire and began to pound uncontrollably, but he closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He opened them again, Mae was here with him, the way he had wished for and desired for so so long.. He wanted to…
“No.” He said sharply and pushed himself out of the bed, and he immediately started pacing.
Mae was hurt she looked at the man, and said with tears in her eyes, “I am so sorry Sandy, I thought you wanted this.. But,-” ‘No my dearest I do want this more then… anything.. “
Mae stood up and placed her hand on his shoulder to get him to stop pacing. Sandy turned and stared full on into the most kissable lips, and beautiful face he had ever behold. The temptation became too strong. The kiss seemed like a blissful eternity, followed by more kisses until Sandy vaguely realized that they were on the bed.. And they were in dangerous territory. He disentangled himself from her arms, and before she could protest he made her fall asleep. Afterwards, he put her to bed, more gently and more.. Lover like then before. Before he turned to go, he gave her one small kiss on her forehead and still lips, then ran out into the night.
Mae waited for a month.. Day after day she would fall asleep on her window sill of her new apartment, where she had previously told Sandy she was moving too. Every Night, she slept through with no dreams at all. No glimpse, no sign of her Sandman.
Every night, the Sand man fell asleep in his cold empty marble framed bed, which was far big enough for Mae and himself.. Every Night, he would look in her book and watch her cry herself to sleep. His heart was broken, but he couldn’t go back. It was for her own good, if anything had happened he never would’ve forgiven himself, but this… this was almost worse. There she was, her cheeks wet with tears, lying by herself in her bed in her new apartment. Sandy closed his eyes and rolled onto his back. He knew he was still deeply in love with her, and this month apart had felt like an eternity. He knew he couldn’t go back, but he needed to.
One week later, before he could tell himself otherwise, he pulled himself out of bed and placed the book of Mae’s dreams into his cloth bag. He took a deep breath, seemingly composing himself before he hopped out the window and headed to Mae’s small apartment.
Mae lay in her bed, unable to fall asleep. She tossed and turned, but her thoughts always returned to the same place. She missed her Sandy, and more than anything else, she was afraid that she’d scared him off. What if he never came back? What if that nightmare he’d showed her so long ago had been a foreshadowing of their future. Mae buried herself inside her covers and curled into a ball, she couldn’t handle these thoughts anymore. No, Sandy would come back, she just knew it. She stifled a sob and turned over, a light glowed from underneath the space where her curtains spilt her window. A shape formed she knew she fet the presence of something supernatural. A light, beautiful dove floated past the window and settled right on the bedside table next to Mae. She was curious, and not at all frightened, so she slowly reached out to pet the pretty bird when it took flight, Mae was entranced, and followed the bird. She didn’t even know the bird was leading her outside, past her neighbors, past the country road outside of her town, out into the mist and fog filled fields. Mae stopped when the bird disappeared. In its stead, was dozens of slightly smaller, less regal looking dove like things, all surrounding her. Mae stood there in awe, her heart pounding from travelling so far, but she didn’t care. There was this amazing, supernatural presence she felt, something familiar, but something she hadn’t felt in a very, very long time. She stared at the birds, watching them peck at the ground all around her. A slight breeze moved the flyaways of her hair over her eyes, and she reached up to tuck them behind her ear.
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this at ease. Every night for the past month, she’d cried herself to sleep, tossing and turning every which way. But now, now she felt as if she were being cupped in someone’s hand, watched and looked after - safe. Mae hadn’t even noticed that her eyes had started to droop shut, and she shook her head to jolt herself awake, then proceeded to lower herself into a sitting position on the grass. Her gaze lifted to the sky, and twinkling above her were the most magnificent stars. They looked like planets, all large and glowing and majestic. Another breeze passed by, this one more intense, and she thought she heard a whisper, someone calling her name, ever so gently. Her eyes opened and Mae became alert, turning her head to look behind her for the source of the voice, but it seemed to have disappeared just as quickly as the wind. Suddenly, the earth underneath her trembled, as if a huge horse or stampede was running at immense speed. Mae looked around for the source of the sound, when she was picked up harshly by the waist by some invisible cold yet burning hand. She was thrown across an invisible beast, probably the source of the tremor from the earth. Now up until this point, the moon had been behind a cloud, it now broke forth with it’s beautiful melancholy rays of milk white splendor. No longer where the mysteriou rider and it’s beast invisible to mae, they transformed into twisted knots of pure horror and fury. The huge mountain like man was handsome, but in a terrifying way if you looked at him from the side he seemed handsome, but if her turned his head, a huge slit like smile took up his whole face, with needle like teeth by the thousands that clustered inside his black mouth. Mae screamed, and then she heard the voice of Sandy. She fainted immediately afterwards. Cold, wet, but warm and safe. She opened one eye to see the sandman wiping the blood off of her face, she looked up… Stone walls.. A big beautiful bedframe..
Mae tried to speak, but her voice only came in the softest of whispers. She wanted to say so many things. She wanted to ask what had happened, how long she’d been asleep, and where Sandy had been all this time. Seeing his face was like seeing a beam of light in a dark room, and for a moment she feared she was dreaming, but this didn’t feel like a dream...this felt absolutely real. After what felt like forever, she finally managed to speak.
“Sandy…” She whispered, her eyes half closed. She reached up to touch his face and let out a sigh of relief when her warm skin came into contact with his. A small smile broke out on the sandman’s face, and he gently took her hand and placed it back onto her chest.
“You need to rest,” he said gently, in that deep, comforting voice that Mae had missed oh so much, she then realized that she was lying on a bed, one of the softest beds she’d ever felt. He was sitting beside her, holding her hand in one of his and stroking her forehead with the other.
“Sandy,..where have you-” Sandy cut her off by putting a gentle finger to her lips.
“Shh Mae,” he whispered. “Don’t speak, just rest. One day you will understand everything, but today is not that day.” Mae was so mesmerized with the sound of his voice that she didn’t fight back with her usual stubbornness. All she could do was stare at his face and feel the comforting feeling of his thumb moving back and forth across her forehead. She awoke. Finally, she was clear headed, and she awoke as if from a very long nap. The room she was in was big and huge, with many paintings and vases full of flowers that bloomed only during the night. She opened a window, and let the cool, spring mist in, the environment was that of the English countryside, wet, cool, green for miles and miles. Mae turned from the window to a certificate near the window sill. It read, “Certificate that allows Sand M. to practice and take over the role of nightmare keeper and dream keeper.” Mae was surprised that she wasn’t freaking out. She got a little chilled though, and went to the large dark mahogany wardrobe for something to slip over the light slip nightgown she was wearing. She dug into the full wardrobe and brought out a dark warm robe, so large that it dragged on the ground. But mae didn’t mind, at least it was warm. She walked out into a large beautiful ornate hallway with thick carpets lining the ancient stone floors, and many beautiful candle chandeliers draped over the large twenty foot ceilings. She managed to find her way into the dining area, where a hot meal of her favorite food was sitting out of her with a note.
Author Notes: to be continued..