Everybody has secrets, dark corners of yourself you’re not willing to share and I have mine. He’s an eight year old boy who prefers to sleep with the light on and quivers at the monsters under his bed just like any boy his age, but this boy has more reason than most to be afraid. His name is Theo, he’s been marked by Morpheus for an eternity of nocturnal horror and it’s entirely my fault.
I’m rarely seen by humans, but Theo has the sight. He would gurgle in his crib and watch with enquiring eyes as my sand convinced him to sleep. His joyful smiles would greet me as a friend and he looked forward to my visits. As he grew, his fledgling speech dubbed me ‘Yam Yam’ and he became the bright point of my miserable existence. He came to understand my eternal task like no other and would ask for dreams of dinosaurs and racing cars. As he matured, we enjoyed creating fantastical worlds where he was the all-conquering hero. The smile on his sleeping face filled the void in my soul.
I selfishly enjoyed my secret interaction with Theo, all the time knowing I put him in peril. He allowed me to be part of his life and I repaid this friendship by exposing him to my jailor. I’m not the Sandman by choice or by lineage, it’s my penance for long ago betraying Somnus, the God of Sleep. I am fated to roam the Earth from dusk until dawn, never again seeing the sunlight, ensuring that hours of sleep and dreaming are forced upon the Earthly population and the underworld can roam freely. Even my father, the God Helios, the embodiment of light itself, could not reverse my eternal banishment to the Underworld.
Morpheus is my counterpart. Where I bring contented sleep, his eternity is to bring nightmares and he goes about it with relish. He follows my path in the dead of night to bring terror and torment to my sleeping subjects. He alters the contented path of their sleep to one twisted in tortured agony until they awaken shaking, sweating and scared, destined to relive their ordeal during their waking hours and questioning the boundaries of their sanity. Morpheus is also Somnus’s son, his third in command and the discoverer of my secret.
My contentment is forbidden by Somnus, it’s part of my eternal punishment. Instead of reporting my actions and my preference for this one child, mocking me became his preferred course. We play a high stakes game each night where Theo is the prize. Morpheus believes he has the upper hand as he sneaks in behind me and fills Theo’s day with terrifying flashbacks. He does not know I return to my small charge and undo his actions.
It pains me to watch over Theo tonight from my shadowy vantage point, Morpheus has already visited. He writhes in his sleep from the terror planted within, the rate of his little heart increased to the point he pants in his sleep and sweats as if running for his life. I could be executed for interfering in Morpheus’s work, he carries out the desires of his father but in this case he acts as a renegade for his own gratification. I must chance that his wrath alone will fall upon me if caught. I hope I’m right.
Theo is marked because of me, he suffers because of me and I promised him in his disturbed slumber that I would lay down my life to protect him from this pain. I reach out with all seven senses and satisfied I am not observed, I slip silently to Theo’s bedside and hold my cool hand to his clammy forehead. He jolts slightly under my touch and I scatter sand over his dreamscape. He calms visibly as the demon terrorising his sleep is expelled into the breaking dawn.
He sleeps calmly now and curls into the foetal position he’s always favoured. I feel the pull of the Underworld drawing me away from the emerging sun and I leave my young charge to wake and face the carefree day he deserves, promising to return tomorrow and every day after that to right my wrong.