The Dreamer’s Motel had been my place of employment for as long as I can remember. Just a dusty, roadside pit stop, offering only a quiet place to rest and little else. Business has been booming lately. I go on my morning rounds, checking on the dreamers. We serve all who come through our doors. Weathered men and wrinkled women lie still in their beds, newly weds so deeply in love and shotgun couples sleep side by side on dusty sheet covers as their breaths give life to the stagnant air. Runaways, escapees, and the abandoned often find refuge in our arms, the lonesome travelers and world weary wanderers taking up our beds.
Today, we have run out of rooms. There are no more beds. Illuminating the “No” on the vacancy sign, I return to my pacing of the halls, listening to the quiet breathing of the satisfied customers who dream. We cannot guarantee the dreams that will be had, only that we will not wake the sleeper. They sign the dotted line, and we put them to rest. Some occasionally toss and turn, the flickering memory of their nightmares in the waking world chasing them into their sleep. Eventually, they find reprieve. Others sleep in bliss, a loved one beside them or happily freed from the pressures of the conscious mind.
There is a knock at the door, and I am reluctant to answer it. There are no more beds. The knocking ceases, and I think the passerby gone, only to hear the chimes of the counter bell. I return slowly in hopes that the impatient ringing that breaks the once peaceful silence will stop. He is small for his age, arms reaching over the counter awkwardly to reach the bell. Hair matted and eyes dark, the face of a child glares back at me. He points to the neon sign outside. He wants to rest.
Just before I explain our situation to the boy, a light on the desk blinks to life. Room 42 B. I hold out a fresh contract and a pen, and the child readily scribbles a signature. Taking a card for the room, I beckon him to follow, which he does so wordlessly.
At Room 42 B the maids, angelic in their white uniforms and red smiles, finish laying a new sheet on the bed. The little boy enters the room, and lies down on the bed. We watch for a moment, listening as his breathing slows and he begins to dream. I close the door quietly, intent on keeping our promise to never wake a dreamer. We return to our duties, and I see from the corner of my eye coworkers trudging down a different pathway, the sickly, emancipated body of a young man carried away. He died in his sleep. He died dreaming.