permutationibus sive resignatis
I had gathered every single spare penny I had, every dollar I’d ever made, every drop of currency I owned. Pouring it all out onto the big, flat, oak table I slammed my hands down and whipped my head upwards to look at the man in front of me. My irises pooled with desperation, practically begging for him to give me what I wanted. He had a peculiar smile on his face, like he’d seen this scene play out one too many times before. The golden glow that emanated from his fingertips spoke whispers of magic.
He flicked his pinky up into the air and smiled as a small, golden flower rose from the tip, only to crumble into glittery dust.
"My dear, you have quite the sum of money," he mused, regarding me with a mere flicker of his gaze, "But I'm afriad my answer is still the same as before." I growled as my fingers curled upon the smooth surface. Banging my fists against the wood like a baby throwing a tantrum, I kept shouting at him.
"You said you provide dreams, and I want a good one! All my life my sleep has been plagued with silence, with darkness. All I want is to feel this! Feel anything! I'm willing to give up everything for you, and this is still not enough?" I madly gestured to the piles and piles of bills and coins stacked upon the table. "Is this not enough?"
The Sandman merely shrugged and snapped his fingers, summoning a chair made out of yellow sand to rest himself on. As he yawned and stretched, I only grew more furious at his nonchalant approach to the situation. Steam poured out of my ears as my face flushed in anger.
"It seems like a lot of money to an ordinary person," he finally responded after smacking his lips loudly, "But these papers and scraps of metal mean nothing to me. Dreams are not for sale." I huffed and puffed at an attempt to calm myself down. I couldn't think rationally if all I knew at the moment was animosity.
"Okay," I murmured, voice hushed, "What can I do to finally have my dream?" The man's lips curved upwards in satisfaction, a proud glint in his pitch-black eye.
"My answer is the same as before: you wait until it comes." I sighed, still not completely getting the memo. Why should I have to wait? I at least had to experience this before everything ended. He must have read my mind, as another reply came immediately after my reaction, but in the form of a question.
"Darling, do you know what the most precious thing in the world is to me?" I grumbled, racking my mind over and over again, not finding one other good answer besides "money."
"I don't know, your lover or something?" I mumbled, shoving my hands in my pockets. The Sandman laughed joyously, clearly amused by my response. With another little chuckle, he sank back into his chair comfortably, producing a small cup. Filling it with a clear liquid, he took a sip, puckered his lips and made the glass disappear with a swipe of his hand.
"I wish, but that's not the case," he said, a slight lilt to his voice, "You're quite the funny one." I grumbled again, not expecting his kindness, but remained silent.
"The answer is time. The most precious thing in the world to me is time." I cocked my head and raised an eyebrow. The statement seemed a little plain to me. Why would he want time? He's immortal, after all. It's insignificant.
"You see," The Sandman sighed, waving his hand carelessly in the air, "Humans have such interesting lives. Yet, the number of years they live can easily be counted by a toddler. It's so short, and a rather dreary thought, but I find strength in knowing that I've been given the responsibility to let them down peacefully in the form of a dream.
"A dream only lasts for a few seconds until it ends. A few seconds of nirvana, I can give to them before they drift off into the afterlife. It's a sense of finally being whole, of being content with the lives they've lived and the experiences they've made. No matter who they were, what they might've done, I can weave their best moments into an amalgamation of happiness. It's what they deserve." The Sandman's tone suddenly turned darker, a grimace beginning to surface on his young features.
"But to those who grow impatient, who don't recognize the true beauty of time, of living and being grateful for every single day they have aren't worthy of experiencing a dream. The world is hard. The world is hard on everyone, it's just the basics. You need to get your head out of the clouds and reflect. We all suffer. We all endure hardships every single day, and whenever it gets unbearable, we feel like it's not worth it to live anymore.
"We throw out the concept of appreciation, of thankfulness and succumb to the tricks that eternal silence gives us. I've seen many people pour their money out on this very table, just as you did, screaming and pleading for me to bestow upon them just one dream so they could float away happily. But every single time I decline.
"Some choose to end their lives miserably, prematurely, without a dream after our meeting. It pains me to see the sight when I saw so much potential in their futures. It feels like there are knives stabbing into my heart, blaming me as the cause of their demise. I still live with it even today.
"But some survive. Some do. They come to me right at the end with tears in their eyes and thank me for proving to them that their time was not useless. Those individuals open my eyes to the world just a bit more.
"And even though I'm stuck giving just a puny amount of seconds to those who are going to pass on, I smile in relief at the feeling of how I'm able to give them a reason to live, even though it's mostly for their self-interest. These dreams that people crave so damn much are what spurs them to run all the way to the end. But what I find ironic is that somewhere along the line, they'll find something worth more than that dream. Something else to keep living for."
The Sandman ended the narrative with a wistful gaze at the room's ceiling, his full black eyes twinkling with the beginnings of tears. He sniffed once and laughed at himself, wiping away the mist with the back of his hand. A few golden sparkles rained down from the contact.
"Now then, I hope I've convinced you enough, darling. Take your money, for I have no need for it. Live happily. Spend your time here wisely. Then, will you truly earn your dream."