BRING ME A DREAM…
Bum bum bum bum, bum bum bum bum, bum bum bum,
Bum bum bum bum bum… Mister Sandman…
If you remember when these were the opening lyrics to the Number One pop song on U.S. charts, you must be, like me, at least one year older than water. But even if you’re much younger, I wouldn’t be very surprised to find you’ve heard the song. It’s been covered by everyone from the Chipmunks to a German heavy metal band, and used in countless movies, TV shows, commercials, and even (so I’ve heard) in one video game. You’d have to be practically unconscious, or maybe from an alien planet, not to be familiar with it on some level.
Still, not everybody is going to wake up with the whole Cadence recording of “Mr. Sandman,” sung by the girl group Chordettes, running through their mind, lyrics, melody, and harmony, the way I did this morning. As I was reminded, that’s because I went through several months of listening to the song almost daily and almost religiously. Starting sometime in the summer of 1956, almost two years after the record was released – which means a long time after it had disappeared from the pop charts – I managed almost every day to dress up in a manner that seemed to me both mature and enticing, take a few coins from my very meager savings, and walk two blocks to Emery’s Diner, a tiny combination coffee-shop and greasy-spoon, where I ordered a small chocolate Coke and deposited a quarter in the jukebox.
For my 25 cents, I got about fifteen minutes of music, always including “Mr. Sandman,” and also fifteen minutes of indulging in a dream I’d already been granted. You see, once, walking by Emery’s Diner at about 2:00 P.M., I’d seen a fine-looking young man named Sam Kelly, who owned and operated a local car dealership, just stepping in through the door. And although Sam Kelly was at least ten years older than I, and although he probably had no idea who I was, and although I’d never seen him in or near Emery’s Diner a second time, I had it worked out that he was certainly a regular if only occasional customer at Emery’s and would certainly turn up there again soon and would certainly be so enthralled at the sight of me, mature and enticing, sitting at the counter drinking my chocolate Coke and listening to the jukebox, that he wouldn’t be able to control his immediate recognition that I was the very young woman he could not live without.
At the age of fifteen, in those days, girls sometimes indulged in dreams like that. Maybe they still do. And while that particular dream came to nothing, and soon vanished without a trace, I’ve never really given up on dreams. In return, Mr. Sandman has brought me some interesting ones.
Some of those interesting dreams – literal dreams – have been inspirations. A strange nightmare, about a truly scary old woman in a weird, run-down truck stop off an interstate highway in the middle of nowhere, turned into a horror tale, “The Breakfast Rush,” that still gives me the creeps. An oddly soothing dream about two young women, sitting on a deck and watching lights flicker in an old graveyard across a river, became “The Stones,” my first published story. Another dream – this one involving a young woman hiking through a forest and encountering a man chopping firewood – inspired my first novel for Uncial Press, A Glimmer of Guile, in which the strong erotic tension I felt between these two characters becomes both the bond that draws them together and the barrier that holds them apart.
And then there was the dream about a little girl climbing through her second-story window and down a fire escape, running from two strange men who’d broken into her apartment, and hiding under a bridge. That one was the germ of a whole fictional universe, including (so far) four stories – “Niam’s Tale,” “The Stealing of the Signal Cross,” “Ghosts,” and “Battle Royal” – and a novel, The Kura, wherein that little girl, Alyssha Dodson, now eighteen years old, returns to the world she discovered under that bridge all those years ago and makes some unsettling discoveries.
Thank you, Mr. Sandman!
Title: The Kura by Mary Patterson Thornburg
Publisher: Uncial Press
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Romance
Length: 334 pages
Six years ago, when she was twelve, Alyssha Dodson was transported by accident to another world – a world much like her own, but just undergoing its industrial revolution amidst a whirlwind of social change. She found a home there, the brother she thought she’d lost forever, and a boy who loved her, who will in these six years have become a young man, as she’s become a woman. For all these years she’s been torn between her loyalty and love for her widowed father, the promise she made to him that she’d stay in his world, and her longing for that other place.
Now, on her eighteenth birthday, a hit-and-run victim found dying on a Granville street says her name and gives a policeman a strange object that can only mean trouble and danger for her brother and her friends. Alyssha has no choice but to go back.
When she gets there, she finds changes she’d never expected…
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Now the group was close enough for people to see the alilalu for what they were, and she heard murmurs all around, along with gleeful shouts from children. To eyes accustomed to seeing riders on chialau, the Wind Beasts seemed to dwarf the men mounted on them, except for one rider near the right end of the line who appeared to be a giant. Alyssha edged forward to see if she could make out some details.
Which one was the prince? Surely he would be dressed a bit more grandly than his companions, but in fact they all seemed to be wearing the same costume, long, flowing cloaks and big soft hats. The dramatic uniform looked suspiciously like something the Kardl she remembered might have dreamed up. But all were alike, and the men’s faces were still indistinguishable. Most seemed to be neither very light nor very dark in complexion. Kardl could be almost any of them.
Suddenly the big man on the right gave his alila a kick with both heels, and the creature broke into a gallop. The other riders scrambled forward, but the first alila, a jet-black stallion, was too swift for them to catch up to it, and it thundered toward the crowd as people around Alyssha gasped and moved back.
A few yards away, the rider reined his alila in, swung down from its back, and hit the ground running. He was a huge, powerfully built young man running full tilt, his black cloak whipping out behind him.
He was making a beeline for Alyssha. Instinctively, she took a step back, startled and uncomprehending. But he closed the distance between them in a matter of seconds, and suddenly she found herself caught in a bear-like embrace, lifted off her feet and spun around in circles. Astonished, she began to fight, kicking and pounding, and heard a version of her father’s voice coming out of her mouth: “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
The other riders, who’d caught up with him at last, reined in their nervous mounts and stared in consternation. Without letting go, the man stopped revolving and laughed delightedly.
“Alyssha! It’s me!” he said. “Don’t you recognize me? It’s Kardl!” He reached up and whipped the strange hat off his head, to reveal a shock of copper hair as bright as the Duchess’s flame-bush in Granville. It had not dimmed perceptibly in nearly seven years.
And of course it was Kardl. Those years disappeared from Alyssha’s consciousness in an instant, as did the crowd around them, her prim speech of welcome, Shan – especially Shan – and everything else in both universes but the two of them. She flung her arms around Kardl and kissed him so hard that he staggered backward. Recovering his balance, he returned the kiss with enthusiasm. After a little while Alyssha came back to her senses, at least to a sense of the interested crowd, which would definitely have something to talk about if this greeting were to progress much further.
Horrified, she managed to pull away from him. In a low voice, she said the first thing that entered her head: “For God’s sake, Kardl, stop! Put me down! Kardl, I’m going to be married in ten days!”
Mary Patterson Thornburg was born in California, grew up in Washington State, moved to Montana when she was 18, and spent many years in Indiana, where she studied and then taught at Ball State University.
Her dream was always to write fantasy stories and novels, but she didn’t get started until she and her husband moved back to Montana in 1998. When she’d finished her first story and it was published, she took off running and never looked back. She’s had stories in Cicada, Zahir, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange, Weird, and Wonderful, among other places. Two of her short stories earned honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (2006, 2008), and “Niam’s Tale,” in the July/August 2010 Cicada, won the SCBWI 2011 Magazine Merit Honor Certificate. Her first fantasy/romance/adventure novel, A Glimmer of Guile, was published by Uncial Press in 2014. Her second book for Uncial, The Kura, came out in April, 2015. An Uncial Novel Byte, “Ghosts,” was released October 14, 2016, and a second Novel Byte, “Battle Royal,” is scheduled for release in January, 2017. Both “Ghosts” and “Battle Royal” are set in the Kura universe.