I knew I shouldn’t do it. But I was the God of Dreams. If it wasn’t for my enervating machinations, what would humans do when they powered down to rest? Would they simply wake with nonsensical (at best) dreams, without any meaning? Would there be any memorable enough to remember and analyze? Would they even get truly restful sleep? See, my intervention was vital. It was not intrusive. It simply was. Guilt was unnecessary. Even people and Gods (and other creatures) have to dream, and if I happen to personally know them, that should not interfere with my job, my calling, my responsibility. The decision made, I plunged deep into Bear’s dreamscape – and he immediately pushed me right out. Me!
This had never happened before. Not even Gods could control me when it came to dreams, or maybe they just hadn’t tried. This was an unpleasant idea that would put me into a depression that could last a decade if I wasn’t careful. What was Bear? He could not be merely human. Could he?
I pushed forward again, intrusively, shame creeping into my focus. It was owed to me! I deserved this access. What purpose did I have if not to be lord of dreams? I might as well crawl back into the shadows and lose myself, become an idea without purpose, as I had once been eons ago.
Why did he refuse me? Why did I care? I slipped in, ever so quiet, nothing more than a wisp of a breath. There was no response. He is a human, after all. I had to see what thoughts were taking form without my influence. I pushed forward again, another tendril, tiny and unnoticeable.
Bear stood in a classroom. He was in front of a small group of other humans giving a presentation. I looked at the PowerPoint slides and saw information about us! Gods, Muses, and Primordials mixed in with even more information about vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and witches. How perplexing. I pressed myself against the wall and listened.
“These beings exist among us and they appear almost indistinguishable from humans. I believe I have finally met one of them. I had no idea at first, but after he hired me and I began working with him almost sundown to sun up, I am almost one hundred percent sure my theory is correct.”
A person in the classroom audience raised a hand and asked, “But what proof do you have?”
Bear crinkled his face up and paused, thinking. “Well, I’ve noticed slight changes in his appearance. One day his hair will be shorter and within twenty-four hours, it’s several inches longer! I’m almost positive I’ve caught him disappearing and then reappearing several feet away. I have no concrete evidence, and what I have seen is so subtle that I’m not convinced it wasn’t a trick of the eye. I never see him eat food. He never comes to the club before sundown. I’ll keep watching and collecting evidence.”
I left the dream in a hurry. Sweet Mother of Night! This was not good. Had I been so careless? What should I do now? I shouldn’t let him keep working for me, should I? I paced my suite at the God Complex for hours, ruminating over the dream. Sometimes a dream is just a dream, I reminded myself. Bear could just be regurgitating snippets of fantasies or a plot he had watched or read. That could all be true, but I had a feeling this was specific. I needed to be more careful than ever around him.
Bear was a fantastic employee, and I did not want to replace him. I wasn’t sure if the other deities had mortal employees who knew of their divine nature. Did this break any God laws?
The next evening, I headed to Cloud Nine and Bear was already there, preparing to open for the night. “Hey, boss,” he said.
“Hi, Bear. Is everything all right?”
“Yep. We have a couple deliveries that need to be put away and inventoried. Jules is singing again tonight. She’s bringing in a crowd of regulars, and we are getting new people in every night. Uh, hey. I wanted to ask you something. I hope it’s not inappropriate. Do you think we could go to lunch tomorrow to go over a few ideas I have for the slower nights here?” His cheeks turned a shade pinker, and he lowered his eyes. “I mean, strictly for business purposes, obviously. Strategizing and stuff?”
I’ve never been known for picking up on subtle clues. I heard what he said and took every word literally. “I have been meaning to ask you the same thing. You’ve done a great job here, and it’s incredibly appreciated by me. My treat. Maybe noon?”
“Yes! That sounds great. Uh, where should we meet?”
“Do you have any suggestions?”
“How about Captain Stack’s Pirate Grill and Bar?” He said the word bar with an argh at the end, like a pirate, since that was how everyone pronounced it.
“That sounds adequate. I like their burgers.”
“Great. It’s a date. No. No, I did not mean that. I mean, it’s a meeting for work discussion and brainstorming.” Bear rushed off to start inventorying the new deliveries.
He was a strange mortal, but pleasantly strange, and frankly, I didn’t think Cloud Nine would survive without him. However, now I had more one on one time to try and throw him off my trail. I needed to be extraordinarily ordinary. Nothing godly to see here.
When I arrived at Captain Stack’s, Bear had already gotten a table for us and was looking over a menu. I made sure to wear my scummiest jeans and the most ripped, stained band t-shirt I could find. I had bedhead and hadn’t brushed my teeth. I wasn’t sure how this would quite make me any more ungodly, but I hoped it would make me look less attractive than a God.
“Hey Morpheus! What’s up?”
“Nothing. How are you?” I picked up a menu even though I knew exactly what I wanted. I always got the same exact thing. I may be creative in the dream world, but in the mortal world, I was a creature of habit.
The server came over. “Hey, I’m Trish. I’ll be your server. Do you know what you want or should I start with drinks first?”
“I am ready. Are you?” I asked looking at Bear. He nodded and I told him, “Go for it.”
“I’ll take a medium-rare burger with pepper jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mustard. With fries. No mayo or onions, please. Oh, and uh, to drink…”
“Get a beer if you want. I’m going to.”
“Okay, a bottle of Guinness.”
“Great,” Trish said. “And you?”
“I’ll take the exact same, but with mayo and onions included. Extra onions. Thank you.”
She took our menus, and we sat quietly fidgeting, until Bear broke the silence. “So, about Cloud Nine. I heard about this improv acting troupe from the college, I think we should invite them to perform.”
“Definitely,” I agreed.
“And I was thinking we should do more poetry readings. I think you should perform, too.”
“Me? What would I do?” I shifted in my chair. The server brought our beers.
“Well, you write poetry, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but it’s not that great.”
“What? Of course it’s great.”
“I’m not really a fan of performing in front of crowds. I’m more of a watcher, an audience member, more of an observer.” Sweet Mother of Night, I was babbling. Definitely not godly. This was not good.
“Okay. We could maybe have a contest, with the winner getting a semi-regular slot or something?”
“I like it.”
“I also think it would be kind of cool to start taking photos of our regulars with Seabiscuit and hanging them up around the bar?”
“I like that idea, too. That’s great.”
Trish brought our burgers and we started scarfing them down. We didn’t talk again until we were finished. Our plates cleared, I ordered another round of beers.
“So, Morpheus, I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Oh, what’s that?” I think I was sweating for the first time. Was this going to be the moment he asked me if I was a God?
“I actually expected you to say you couldn’t meet me here at noon.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, I never see you during the day. Like, ever.”
“I’m not a fan of bright sunlight.” I fiddled with my napkin and adjusted my sunglasses.
“Yeah, exactly. This is the first time I think I’ve ever seen you eat food.”
I was getting confused. This is not where I thought the conversation was going to go. Never see me during the day, first time seeing me eat food? Oh, wait. No way.
Bear laughed. “I thought I was going to have the Twilight vampire conversation with you today. But, it looks like I just have a huge imagination. I’m sorry.” He chuckled.
Bear thought I was a…vampire? Better he think me a vampire than a Greek God, right? Could I do that to him? This was ridiculous.
“You thought I was a vampire?” I chuckled back awkwardly.
“Well, I know it’s crazy, but I feel like I’ve seen some weird things you do, like moving really fast or changing your appearance. It’s probably all in my mind.” He shook his head like he was trying to dislodge his fanciful theories.
“Oh. Yeah, I’m pretty normal.” For a God, that is.
“Yeah, I have a big imagination. I’ve always wished there was more to this world than just the boring day-to-day surviving and working and blah blah blah. You know.”
I didn’t know, but I couldn’t tell him that. I think I was safe, though. For now.
Trish brought the bill, and I paid, thanking her. Captain Stack’s had great burgers and fries. As a God, I could have had another serving, but I refrained because of my present company.
“I think you have some great ideas, Bear. If you’re okay with it, I’d like to promote you to assistant manager.”
Bear’s jaw dropped and then he grinned. “Is that okay? Uh yeah, it’s okay. Thank you!” He reached across the table to give me a hug. I met his embrace and clumsily patted his back.
“You’re welcome. You really deserve it.”
We said our goodbyes and that we would see each other later that night at work. I would have to see about hiring a new employee to take Bear’s place. Business was picking up, and we really did need another person to help. I felt something I couldn’t quite put into words as Bear walked away. I had learned something that day – I liked hugs.