You Can Cry if You Want

Though the speaker is mine, I did not create the Sandman or his realm. That honor goes to the Dream-Weaver himself, Neil Gaiman. Since I'm not making any money from publishing this, it's all right. But credit was due to whom credit is due. Even though he'll probably never know, I want to thank Neil for making me take a totally peachy keen, very, very personal train of thoughts and turn it into a story I couldn't be more proud of. Thanks, Dream Guy, I owe you one :).

I don't know why I wanted the stories. I didn't give it any thought when I wanted them. There's only as much space in my mind and stories filled it all up. But I wanted them, with a passion, with a fire, with anger. I wanted them with a fever of the kind that eats you up slowly at night, when you dream about the man with the strange, burning eyes...
I don't know why I wanted the stories. Maybe it was my escape. Maybe it was my punishment, my penance. Maybe it was my pick-me-up, just toss everything aside and fly without the burdens. Maybe it was just my personal insanity. Insanity, psychotic knockout mind-bomb, brainblizzard, insanity, delirium, the stories.
I wanted them enough to tear them out of me. But somehow, they just never came. I caught each tale by the tail and they all got torn out, leaving bloody stems, leaving scribbled lines without an ending, without a purpose, short and narrow with nothing connected to them, the plot pooling in ugly, sticky stains and no end in sight.
Is it written in some big book that writing and agony go hand in hand? I don't know why the stories didn't come, maybe I just wanted them too much.
I was fifteen, a tall, gloomy girl in a leather jacket. My hair was long and wavy, rich and beautiful, when I wrote it right, but the stories didn't came. It was sticky and a silly brown shade, changing with the passing seasons. My body was concealed so deeply in the black, loose pants and the T-shirt screaming out "Dreams make no promises" no one including me cared how shapely it really was. I could never get more than gauntly thin, long, angular limbs keeping close to home, hands stuck in pockets at all time, fingering for a release, for the pen. I was pale and brooding. We could've been cousins, him and I.
Somehow I didn't get around to make friends. Frustrating hours in front of the screen gave me bad manners and a funky attitude not even the lowest of hormone-crazed nerds could deal with. I had the bad habit of talking about dead rats, science fiction and a castle made of shining dreamstuff in the middle of dinner, in my family dear's face. The results don't need much explaining. My mother resolved I was growing up, so she just let me go on, go deeper and lower. And stupid me, I never said a word.
I was too busy with the stories. They never came. I would grab onto them, and they would simply move just inches farther away. The effort of moving these inches was wrenching. I'd forget about it and go to sleep.
I don't know when it was that I started to think crazy thoughts. I'd go daydreaming in the morning sun, thinking about the abyss and the edge and the nicely colored pills in my junkie pals' hands, and everything would just get lost in ugly black nothingness, dripping like oil and covering the hands, the eyes, the heart, like ink. I didn't want to think about ink.
I don't know why I wanted the stories. I didn't want to find out. I was obsessed with finding out why they wouldn't come. I didn't want to write - I wanted to weave. I wanted to be like Neil, or Douglas, or someone like that. I wanted to write about wonderful otherworlds, about fantasy and nothing dark and creepy, sleepy dragons among scarlet clouds, black orchids, super heroes, a shiny spaceship plunging into hyperspace, into infinity, into superspeeding rollercoaster maniacal impossible ride, into the abyss. I wanted to write about his eyes and the stars that shone through them on me, but he'd seem to close them whenever I started.
Somehow it never occurred to me to give up, to rest a while, not to take it so heavily. Just take the sliver off my soul and stop the damn cutting, but I wanted to get in, as far in as possible, make my way to the heart of it, I wanted blood in the ink, wanted to give my stories life. And I never noticed my own life were being slowly taken away.
And those nicely colored pills in my junkie pals' hands started to seem more and more attractive, the more I fell deep into the blackness my life seemed to be melting into. The stories were light years away now. I wanted to write about the sunset, about the couple kissing in the backseat of the car. I wanted to write about the outcast kid's first home run, about the fifteen years old who won the Nobel Prize. And when nothing came out, it all shattered into bloody slivers that slipped through my speech and my behavior and cut anyone who got too close. I wanted to reach out to him and tear the burning eyes out.
When I went over the top, everyone were too cut and wounded to care.
My junkie pals were lying in a semi-hip around me with their blurry eyes staring off into infinity. Human waste, the scent of fear and tears, of escaping from reality.
The pill didn't tickle down my throat. The tickles started later. Then the shivers, then the screams. Then the pain. And then, I was someplace else.
The castle was familiar because I've seen it before, every night when I went to bed, wetting my pillow with the blood that went into my tears instead of my ink. I've seen it reflecting in my computer screen, screaming from my pages. It went everywhere along with my nonexistent creativity, hunting me like the ghost I was becoming, never letting go.
And him... he was there too.
He was slightly paler than I remembered him, and much, much taller. He would've towered over me if he weren't just sitting there like something straight out of a crazy dream. That's what it had to be, some crazy dream. And suddenly I didn't feel so much like waking up.
He just looked on at me with these creepy eyes of his. Black. I used to buy the craziest sunglasses trying to get the same effect but it was never it. My lousy attempts with my hair seemed rather pathetic now, too. In all ways, there was nothing he could be compared to, only himself.
"You're him, right? You're Morpheus. Lord Shaper, Dream King, Prince of Stories, all these stuff..." Was the only thing I could think of to say to him.
He nodded and I decided to keep my questions to a yes and no basis. I didn't want to hear his voice, that booming, echoing, drifting sound. I knew I'd prefer dragging my fingernails on a blackboard.
"You're him... the real honest-to-god fucking Sandman... and none of this is real." I was beginning to chuckle then. I tried to tell myself I wasn't bitter. Finally I was seeing him, the real god, treasurer, creator of the stories I wanted so much, and it was just a dream, a twisted hallucination I was having while on drugs and thinking about my ruined, pathetic world, dreaming I could never go back to it.
He nodded again. Some part of me thought he would smile, then I thought how ridiculous it would be, and how wounding.
"I can't believe this... I'm standing in the Dreaming, in the real, actual dreamworld or whatever... in front of a real 'god'... and it's all a fucking dream." I rose from my crunching position, spreading my arms wide and laughing a bit. Walking around a few steps, taking it in with the horrible knowledge that I was dreaming again, and none of this would ever go on the paper or the computer file. It'll all be gone when I wake up, and my mom will punish me for trying the "hard stuff"...
Then he said that line that made me cry for the first time since I knew I had to.
"You know you can cry if you want."
I stood there for a while, just staring. I don't know if it was his voice, or the shattering, twisting, screaming realization that it was finally, finally real, or knowing it was a dream too. But I just stood there for a few minutes. My eyes, my miserable, sunken, empty eyes locked on his dazzling gaze. Then the tears came.
And with them came a horrible crushing sound.
Then I was crunching again, on my knees, and there were glass slivers all around me. They weren't small anymore, but as large as my fist and more, and they weren't even metaphorical. Finally I saw what was really happening to me, I saw that while it was just a way of speaking, just an image, just a dream, it was so very real, these things could kill.
They could kill me.
I looked up at him again.
"Why don't you give me the stories?" I asked. I swallowed the tears. I wanted to look him in the eyes with all that was left of my pride asserted. "Why can't I do it? You know how much I want them. You've gotta know. Why can't I have them?"
He didn't move an inch. At least, I don't think he did. Maybe it was something in the way his eyes were twinkling like twin stars, maybe he whispered something. I don't know. I'll never know. All I know is that next happened the terrible, nauseating thing, the thing I wake up screaming when dreaming about even now, ten years later.
Out of nowhere, my world was colored red, and I just grabbed the nearest shattered sliver of my soul and I leapt at him. I'll never, ever forget the cry he let out when I waved the razor-sharp glass and struck him with all my strength.
I staggered backward. The sliver was clean of any traces of blood, but he was in agony. I didn't have to look at the wound or listen to the gasps to know. I didn't care much. I closed my eyes, and prayed to wake up. In the darkness I made for myself there was no sense of time, and eons passed until I heard him speak.
"That's why."
I opened my eyes carefully. My head was filled with horror scenes. A part of me wanted to believe I killed him. A part of me wanted to die myself.
He didn't seem to be hurt. He didn't seem to be angry. Just stared at me with these eyes, these horrible eyes of his...
Understanding came in a flash. That was why. Why nothing seemed to go right, why the stories ran past me. That was why my whole life had gone so horrible. I let the sliver of my soul that hurt the Dream King fall from my hand. If it wouldn't have, maybe I would've killed myself with it.
But it did, and I didn't. I didn't want to hurt myself. I didn't want to hurt anyone anymore. I didn't want the blackness I surrounded myself with. I tugged at my raven-black shirt, at my stupid leather jacket that gave me the stupid Goth image. I tore out the crazy things I held my hair together with. I let my tears wash off the dust and black-and-white make-up. There, in the dream, I let go of all my pain, of all the frustration. I understood the stories didn't came because they didn't like a fake, miserable company.
Then he finally rose from the seat and walked toward me. I looked up and our gazes met. His eyes didn't seem to frightening all of a sudden. He offered me a thin, eerie hand and helped me up. I felt like a little girl.
He let me press my face to his chest and cry.
I don't remember exactly what came next. When I woke up, I was in the school's backyard. I ran home, away from my junkie pals, away from the rainstorm outside and straight into the silence and the storm in my heart. That night, I didn't dream.
I got rid of my jacket. I rearranged my hair in a simple, lovely way. I never put on any make-up that made my eyes big and depressing. I found new friends, I hanged out at the mall long enough to get enough clothes so I won't have to wear black every day. For a week, I didn't touch a pen or a keyboard. I never went near drugs again.
A year later I was throwing my head back and cheering when my short story, "You Can Cry if You Want", won a nationwide competition. Three years later I finished high school with fourteen fan fiction awards and fifteen chapters of a fantasy novel. Ten years later, I'm on the top of the bestseller list. Whenever I get stuck or start feeling down, I return to the same dream.
"You can cry. Do not be afraid of the tears." He told me. "You want the stories. The stories don't like it when people try to take them by force. The stories don't like it when the people who call them take their hesitance as an excuse to hurt other people. The stories don't like sad writers."
And as Prince of Stories, he was right.
So when I get stuck, I don't wear black and hang out with junkies. When the stories don't come, I lean back and dream. When I'm sad, when I'm angry, I write about it without being afraid of facing the pain, so the pain goes away.
I'll never forget how Dream took me to his realm in a drug trip. Hope can come from very unexpected places, in very unexpected ways. I'll never, ever forget other people's blood doesn't hide tears. And most of all, I'll never forget I can cry if I want.