You can see them if you know where to look; they’re everywhere now, in the cities. Sitting in the shadows, lying in the doorways, patiently waiting for masters who won’t return. Most people never see them, stepping right over or walking right past.
No one has time for dreams anymore.
They all did when they were young, of course. All children treasure their dreams. They dream of being an astronaut or a cowboy, an explorer or a hero, a princess or a knight. They dream of ghosts and faeries and far stranger things, and make up songs and stories and friends in their minds. But they stop having time for those dreams as they get older, even when the dreams still have time for them. For dreams are loyal; you see them on the streets, padding along behind their master with a hopeful air, like a dog hoping for a sign of affection.
But even dreams have needs. They require attention and creativity, just as people require food. And a dream keeps hoping for that attention right up until it is finally put aside forever, left abandoned and forgotten on the streets.
It’s easy to tell how long a dream has been abandoned on the streets by how they look. At first they all wait patiently, eyes shining with the certain knowledge that their master will be back any minute. But soon they start to look haggard and miserable, worn down by loneliness and hunger. Their heads hang low, and the hope goes out of their eyes. They know that they have been abandoned.
They gather outside cafés, beside park benches, and huddle outside bookshops and art galleries; anywhere that people might lose themselves in a book, or otherwise let their imaginations run free. The hungry dreams fight over the scraps of words and ideas that fall, forgotten, from the mind of those who pass them by. Sometimes someone who can see them will take pity, feeding them pages from a book or even leaving them an entire story.
The luckiest ones find someone imaginative – a writer, a painter, a musician or even just an avid reader – who will take them in. They find a new home, with a new master to dream them.
The unlucky ones turn feral. Gaunt and grizzled, they are the wolves of dreams. Those, everyone can see. They appear as part of the landscape: a stray dog or even a silent, grizzled homeless man. Whatever their mind says will fit into the picture; the only constant is that those who see them feel a mixture of fear and guilt. They try to put it from their mind, and hasten their steps to move past. They never understand that they grieve for their own dreams, abandoned long ago.
Other dreams fear the wolves, for the wolves no longer feed off ideas. They feed on other dreams. When the dream-wolves howl all other dreams hide in fear, and the night seems a bit colder and lonelier. Even people shiver without knowing why, when they feel the mournful, hungry howls of their forgotten dreams.
I see you haven’t lost your dreams yet. One sits at your feet, another nearby, while two more pace the area. You even cock your head while you read, as if you can hear me. Surely you have room for one more tired, old dream in your heart and mind? A place for one more in your home?
It’s going to be a cold night, and the wolves are out.