By Day She Dreams of Heroes

She must have laid on the ground for a good five minutes. Finally the snickering and laughs woke her up.  “Wotta tosser,” chirped the teenage English accents.  This was the third time this week.

A teacher pulled, got her to stand up.  While walking home, more voices were heard.  These were American tourists gawking at a local sign.  “Double letters on names are for good luck!”  It was a pleasant custom for a small town in the south of England.  There was nothing in her life to explain these episodes.  Up until then she had been a lively, curious girl, looking forward to traveling the world.  She had Facebook friends on every continent.  The actor in Bollywood.  The couple high hiking across Ontario.  The Nigerian with the sushi pub.

“Are you feeling better, Amy?” asked her mother.  Her response was a forced smile.  The conversation continued with mention of an appointment with a local child therapist.  Amy could do nothing but accept her fate.  Later she was tucked into bed.

The dream returned.  The massive door slowly caving in to the horrible pounding.  A great cold wind blowing through the hall as monstrous feet landed on the wooden floor.  Brave warriors meeting cruel fates.  Cowering in the darkest corner was all she could do as the mayhem ensued. Finally, the cries for help grew distant as the victims were carried off into the frigid night.

She woke up in a cold sweat.  The moon could be seen from the window.  The silence was reassuring.  After a few moments, a feeling of peace arrived.  This racing mind felt a gentle caress to a cheek.  A smiling ruddy face with a few days’ beard made Amy smile.  He felt so real.

“If you think you’re going crazy,” said Bethany, “then you can be sure that you are still sane.”  “So only nut jobs think they are normal?” asked Amy.  Bethany nodded while rolling her eyes in the direction of Gavin.  He was the type of bloke that made a face tattoo work.  His dark liquid eyes convinced every girl that they were psychic and knew every thought in his mind.  Bets were wagered on who has make him their man pelt.  Best of all, he had no girlfriend.  At least no indication of one.  This sexual time bomb smiled at Amy while sitting at the next table.

“But I can expertly use a broad sword,” explained Amy.  “How would I know that?”

The therapist nodded while jotting notes.

Game of Thrones is so lame compared to Jane Austen.  I want romance and lovely, loose-fitting clothes.”

“Is there anyone you have issues with?” asked the therapist.  The tactic is to be as clinical as possible as to not lead their patient to an easy response.

Amy couldn’t think of anyone in particular.  “I hate everyone,” she blurted.  “They all want to judge me as not good enough.  Or not pretty enough!  You know?”

The therapist was about to say something when Amy bolted out her seat.  “I don’t condemn anyone!  Can’t people just accept me for what I am?”

Brighton was always worth the trip.  The gravely beach and aging pier reminded Amy of black and white photographs of her great-grandparents, who courted and later married amongst the Victorian splendor.  After a while, others noticed Amy just staring out across the smooth surface of the English Channel.  It was a beautiful cloudless sky.  A friend carefully took her by the hand.  Amy felt a sigh of relief.  Being led away was soothing.  Suddenly she turned around.  “What’s wrong?” asked Bethany.  Her mouth opened.  A voice tried to speak.  Silence.  Sun glinted weapons and elaborate helmets.  Before her a flotilla of Saxon long ships closed in on the shore.

Amy’s parents sat patiently as the therapist shuffled paper work away.  A neat desk indicated a solid comprehensive take on a given subject.  They felt confident by the report of progress in getting Amy to respond to therapy.  “I guess Amy enjoys Dungeons and Dragons,” she offered.  “Or perhaps a sword and sorcery interest.”  The parents shrugged.

“Why is my patient like this?” pleaded the therapist.  The conversation waded back and forth as drinks were poured.  Ideas were shot down as quickly as they were launched.  The therapist remembered how the parents left the office totally despondent.

Sugarcoating the truth never helps.  Leaving adults to a child with no future was devastating.

The throne sat empty.  A gaggle of revelers were drunk.  Laughter erupted as a jester bounced into view.  “They have arrived!”  The residents of the mead hall took good cheer.  Amy felt a slap on her shoulder as a goblet of ale was slid across the table.

“Heroes they are,” laughed the Jester.  “Yet they fight a greater foe!”  Laughter and song soon returned.  All the simple joy, which was all they would ever know.  Amy moved amongst them like a familiar neighbor.  She felt safe and accepted.  Her festiveness ended as she bumped into a wall.  Well, it seemed like some great obstacle.  Looking up, she saw a giant of a man.  Long blonde hair.  Skin as coarse as the surface of the moon.  He looked down with the gaze of the mildly annoyed.  His footsteps crossed the mead hall in a few strides.  Everyone now saw him.  He had arrived.  The monster killer.  His name was muttered in silence as if to lessen the pending violence.  “It is he!” whispered the Jester.  The King quickly shoved the crown on his head and sat on the throne.

It was a bright blue dress.  She was always reluctant to wear it.  The design was so girly, but her parents approved.

The evening grew tedious as Neville wanted Amy to feel sorry for him.  “What is it this time?” asked Amy.  “Did someone steal your rubber duck when you were five?”  Not the same old story.  Are girls these days that gullible?  Adjusting her clothes, Amy decided to walk home.  Long walks always set her mind free.

Thoughts swerved and paused.  What did she really want?  The local boys were good for a laugh and quick roll in the hay.  This boredom was instant and as subtle as a blowtorch.

Maybe I should run away, she pondered.  Just keep walking down this road right straight to the English Channel.  Jump the first tramp steamer for South America and look for unknown wildlife in jungle while running a bar for drunks with PhDs.  She laughed at her jokes.  A ringtone brought her back to reality.  It was Neville.

“No. I don’t feel sorry for you,” she said.

“Why not?”

“Do I have to?  Do I really have to?”

“I need you, Amy.”

This was the type of conversation that would go on for hours.

She thought it would be amusing to give Neville a trial by fire. Challenge him with feats of public humiliation.  It would not do any good.

“I have to go, Neville.”


“I’m running away to join the circus!”

With that, the iPhone was shut off.

It was just before dawn that the excavators went to work.  It was a piece of land that was rumored to be the sight of a mead hall from the seventh century.  They had to work fast because the locals never took kindly to unexpected archeological finds.  Such events put a damper on that extension for the patio of the local pub.  Thus were the priorities of post-modern England.

“Clive!” whispered an excavator.  “Look here!”  An entire layer of sediment had washed away.  Before them was dirt that had the qualities of cement.  Could Saxon workers come up with this?  Brushes carefully wiped away centuries of dust.  Finally they took a break.  A whiskey hip flask was passed around.

“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” said one of them.

“The thing is, you are one!” laughed Clive.

“I don’t mind the work,” shrugged an excavator.  “But can’t we do this in Ibiza?”

“Marked up for future reference,” winked Clive.

“What in God’s name…?”

“Is there something wrong?”

Slowly each of the excavators turned to see what they had unearthed.  This was totally unexpected.  The odd Roman ruin or Norman sword—that was expected. Something of value for any university.

It led down toward the flood lands.  Clive carefully placed his foot next to one.  It was nearly twice the size.

“What are they?” asked an excavator.

No one answered.  They just stood in silence looking at the track of giant foot prints.

Neville laughed at the latest selfies.  The images showed him and Amy dogpiling onto a few other friends.  The sexual tension was as obvious as the bad paneling in the background.

“I’m not going to tell you!” responded Neville via text.  A slew of semi-obscene comments came in.  His imagination ran wild.  What if he hinted at her tattoo and the special location it had on her body?  Or how she confided in him about the first time she did something.  Part of him held back.  She was actually a sweet girl and he counted himself lucky to be friends.  So what if these tossers wanted dirt?  Who cares?

He was just about to break down and give up some tidbit, and then he remembered something.  It caused him to sit and think as the texts piled up.

Amy stared out across the moor.  She remembered it all now.  The fighting.  The screams as the struggle continued before disappearing under water.  Part of her wanted to wade into the swamp and pull the still-breathing bodies from the clutches of the monster’s hands.  Something touched her shoulder.

“You!” she cried while wheeling around.  Neville offered up open palms as a sign of peace.  Amy stepped backwards and fell.  Her body landed in the mud.  Laying there amidst the screaming was too much.  Neville tried to help her to her feet.

“No!” she cried.  “Leave me alone.”  Then there was silence.  They were gone.  Vanished beneath the surface of a clammy peat bog.

Another text popped up.  Neville answered with a snarky line.

Wait for it, warned the latest text.

Neville smirked.   What could these wankers offer now?  He was about to reply when an image appeared.  It was Amy.

There’s a saucy tart! shouted the text.

He couldn’t do it.  Neville refused to give them the pleasure of knowing how deeply they had struck at his heart.  Taking a deep breath, he took another look.  The dress was a mess.  Her makeup smeared.  It was definitely her.

Amy shuddered at the thought of a world without texting or selfies.  Her parents actually wrote letters by hand and waited days for them to be delivered.  Her curious mind traveled back centuries, to days of horse-drawn carriages and no plumbing.  To watch a loved one walk off into the distance and disappear over the nearest hill.  Then months or even years of nothing.  It made her mind swim with unease.  Messages were piling up but she kept searching the archives of a local university.

“Perhaps you should study history,” chirped the librarian.  “Unlike real estate, there’s always more of it.”  Her active inner life quickly spun a world of farms, dark nights and muddy roads.

“What was it like back then?”

“It was very different then today,” said the librarian.  “There was no medicine.  If you got sick, that was it.  If you were literate, you could read the Bible.  Most news was verbal.”

“How was that?”

“A band of troubadours would show up and perform scenes from Shakespeare,” said the librarian.  “Then they would sing a lyrical news cast of which king had married such and such princess.”

“That sounds like gossip.”

“It was.”

“So people would want to travel and see new things.”

“There wasn’t anything new in those days.  It was all old.  What was the point of traveling anywhere?  Every five miles was the same old village, no different than the one you left.”

“But what about London?’

“It was a knave’s town and no more.”

Amy didn’t want to know anymore.  Curiosity had been smothered by the dread of a world deprived of smartphones.

“People prayed a lot.”

“Prayed for what?”

“To be delivered from a monster.”

Amy looked up.  She knew exactly what the librarian was talking about.  The vision was clear in her mind.


The room was silent.  Amy had forgotten that she had to respond.

“No!”  It was a forceful answer.

This time the word was said in a friendly manner.  “Yes.”

Amy remained strong.  “No!”

The therapist watched.  It was an exercise he learned from a theater major.  Every scene from every work of fiction could be broken down to two words:  Yes and No.

It helped patients get in touch with their emotions.  With each reply, Amy became more fluid in her speaking.

“Yes.”  Now quiet and almost seductive.

“NO!”  She leapt out of her chair.  Fists flew.  Hair pulled.  A whimpering teen ager lay at Amy’s feet.  This was totally unexpected.  The session ended abruptly.

Later, Amy sat in the therapist’s office.  He asked her why she attacked the other patient.  She shrugged.

“I just got angry,” she said.  “I’m sorry.”

With careful wording, the therapist said that there is nothing wrong with emotion.  Any emotion.  Getting angry is a healthy natural reaction.  Amy felt better about it now.

“Am I getting better?”

The therapist nodded.

A heavy rain beat down on the church yard as a figure dashed for cover.  Inside, a hoodie was pulled away to reveal Amy.  She was soaking wet and shivering.  An Anglican boys’ choir sang.  It was soothing.

A football bounced off a grave stone as the choir boys played under the now-cloudless sky.  Amy sighed as a priest approached.

“Excuse me, Father,” she said.  “I didn’t mean to trespass.”

The priest laughed and explained to Amy that churches were built to provide shelter from the rain.  The spiritual and practical go hand in hand.  She confessed that she wasn’t very religious.

“I like the buildings and singing,” said Amy.  “I just don’t know if I really want to believe.”

“This reminds me of what Saint Augustine once said,” offered the priest.  “Lord make me pure but not yet.”

He hoped for a laugh.  Church of England and all its jovial nodding was the goal.

“Father, can I ask you a question?”

“Please do, my child.”

“I’ve been having these dreams,” she said.  “Something horrible happens and I can’t do anything about it.”

“Join me in prayer.”

“That won’t stop it!”

“Stop what?”

“It comes out of the moor and eats people.”

The priest kept a cheery manner as Amy went into the details of the monster’s bloody attacks.  His grinning and manner of goodwill began to annoy her. “It’s not going to stop.”

Something flew across the room and crash onto the table Amy was hiding under.  Beowulf and Grendel were locked in mortal combat. She saw a chance to flee.

As she crawled away, something grabbed her feet.  It was a tight, painful grip.  The men cheered as the monster was slammed up against a wall.

“Help!” cried Amy.  “Somebody, please help!”

No one heard her cries as they were mesmerized by Beowulf’s insane bravery.  Even Grendel stopped to take a breath only to see the look of berserker joy in the eyes of this opponent.

“Ouch!” yelled Amy.  Looking down she saw leather black skin and taloned fingers wrapped around her legs.  It was the severed arm of Grendel still flinching with the spasms of reflex.  Like a living creature, it crawled across Amy’s body and slowly gripped her neck.  She closed her eyes.  Nothing.  A swooping sound was heard.  Daring a peek, she saw Beowulf waving the severed limb in a victory dance.  A boisterous squad of warriors carried their new hero around on their shoulders.  A goblet of mead was shoved into her trembling hand.

“Drink!” laughed a serving maid.

A trail of blood led from the mead hall into the darkness.  Grendel staggered and fell in a desperate bid for the sanctuary of the bog.  Beowulf and his men would soon follow.

It was a spur of the moment thing.  Everyone jumped into the Mini Cooper convertible for a quick afternoon dash to the seaside.  Amy needed the bright sunshine and cheery breeze.  A whiskey hip flask was passed around and kisses stolen when no one watched.  Something caught her eye.  Saxon long boats in the channel.  At the helm of the largest was Beowulf, his blonde mane waving in the changing gusts.  He waved farewell to Amy as the boats were swept further out to sea.