Harvey Hightower laughed as his grandson, Dakota, and his grandson's best friend, Casper, gathered at his feet with the biggest, beaming smiles he had ever seen on their faces. The two were squirming as they sat next to each other on Harvey's porch, arms pressed against each other as they invaded Harvey's personal space as he sat on his rocking chair. The grandfather couldn't hide his amusement at the two's shenanigans as Dakota pleaded, "Please Grandpa! Please tell the story about the Sandmen!"
"Yeah Mr. Hightower! I wanna hear the story!" Casper agreed, nodding his head erratically at his best friend's side. The little, brown-haired boy with blue eyes made a puppy-dog, pouty face and clasped his hands to his chest in hopes of swaying the elderly man. Beside him, Dakota picked up where his friend was going with their begging and mimicked the look instantly.
Together, the two boys whined, "Please oh please oh please~!"
The old man fell into another fit of mirth, tears of laughter streaming down his face. His little black-haired, hazel-eyed grandson and the boy who lived down the street (who might as well be another one of his grandkids, at this point) continued with their pleading, giving him teary eyes as they crowded around his legs. It was easily one of the most adorable sights Harvey had ever seen either of the boys wear.
"Alright, alright!" Harvey told the two kids, making them gasp happily as he gave into their demands. With a grin, Harvey continued, "But ya'll better be quiet while I tell. And stop your squirming!"
The two boys giggled and settled firmly on the ground about a foot and a half away from the edges of the rocker. Dakota and Casper settled against each other comfortably as they looked up at the former's grandfather eagerly, blinking joyfully and barely containing their joy. Though they had quickly quieted down, this did nothing to lessen their beaming smiles that could light the dimmest of rooms.
Harvey nodded at the boys' display of self-restraint and said, "Alright then, I think we can begin now. This is the story of the Sandmen: an organization of people that create and bring dreams to all the sleeping people of the world.
"Every day, people go through life. Adults work at their jobs, kids go to school and learn everything they need to know, and us old people get to have fun." Harvey started, earning a few giggles from the two children. The man smiled before continuing, "At night, when we sleep, we take a break from life and dream about all the impossible things we wish could happen or the things we wish we had done. Sometimes, our dreams are just total nonsense that make us laugh when we wake up in the morning.
"Now, many people think that our dreams come from the deep, dark pits of our minds and that they have hidden meanings to them." Harvey said ominously, leaning forward as Casper and Dakota did the same. Then the grandfather lost all his mysteriousness as he leaned back casually and stated, "All that talk is a bunch of bullshit." Here, Harvey put one finger to his lips and winked at the children covering their mouths at the foul language. The two giggled again as Harvey continued, "No, your dreams are the work of the organization known as the Sandmen. The Sandmen are the people who go to sleep but their souls leave their bodies. They're invisible to normal people and they have all sorts of abilities. The ability shared by all Sandmen, though, is to travel through mirrors. Isn't that cool?"
Casper and Dakota nodded their heads quickly, leaning forward on their knees to get closer to Harvey. They were drinking in every word he said as if the story was being told from God Himself.
Pleased with his audience, Harvey eagerly continued, "The Sandmen are organized by two people known as the Directors. They're a man and a woman that are marked when they die to continue their work with the Sandmen. They work with all the agents around the world and monitor the activity of the agents. If there's a problem somewhere, they're the first to know.
"Under the guidance of the Directors, there are three groups that work to create and bring the dreams to all the normal people. The first group you have is the Dream-Writers. They're the ones that make sure your dreams are crazy and completely bonkers. You know what I'm saying?" Harvey asked the two boys, getting two nods and a few laughs in return. The graying-haired man nodded his head back and said, "All Dream-Writers are weird. It's best to stay away from them and their nuttiness."
Dakota and Casper looked at each other, laughed, and nodded back at the elderly man. Together, they chorused, "Yes Sir!"
"Good boys." Harvey said, bobbing his head in a sign of being pleased. Rocking his chair a little bit, Harvey said, "Next, you have the Dream-Weavers. They're the ones that take the dreams that the Dream-Writers have written, run around the world, and deliver them to the sleeping people. They sew the dreams into scrolls tied around people's wrists before moving on to the next person and then the next and the next until morning comes and they go back to their bodies.
"Last but far, far from the least, you have the Dream-Catchers. Their job is a very important and dangerous one." Harvey told the children gravely as he leaned forward again. Dakota and Casper leaned closer to the man, eyes wide. Harvey told the two, "Dream-Weavers can screw up occasionally. Sometimes, they're in such a rush to get to the next person that they don't sew the entire dream into a person's scroll. The dreams can escape from the person and run rampant through the world of the Sandmen. The Dream-Catchers are the ones that track them down, capture them, and bring them back to their owner's. However, there are dangers to the job…"
"What are they, Mr. Hightower?" Casper asked curiously, eyes wide in fascination. He was now lying down on his stomach and Dakota was lying on top of him. Both were quiet now and on the edge of their seats.
"All Sandmen need to be back in their bodies within eight hours. Dream-Weavers and Writers work on a schedule. They're always back in their bodies before the time runs out. Dream-Catchers, though, they don't have a schedule. They don't know when a dream will escape." Harvey explained, shoulders stiff as he talked about the danger. "Sometimes, Dream-Catchers don't make it back to their bodies and they can never return to their normal lives."
Dakota and Casper gasped in obvious horror. The black-haired boy lying on top of his friend wanted to say something but, before he could, his grandfather continued, "And then there's the Sandmen's mortal enemy… The Nightmares."
"Nightmares?" Dakota asked, perking on his friend's back. Casper made a small sound of pain at his friend's movements and Dakota settled down again, muttering, "Sorry." Casper forgave him easily.
Harvey nodded at Dakota, his face twisted into dismay. "Yes, the Nightmares. They're the members of the Sandmen that turn evil. They go around the world while people sleep and mess with the writers and weavers work, turning the happy dreams into terrible, awful dreams that make it hard for you to fall asleep again. They're awful people and, once they're caught, they're banned from ever entering the world of the Sandmen again.
"Of course, the evil Sandmen aren't the worst members of the Nightmares. No, the worst members of the Nightmares are the Dream-Catchers that never make it back to their bodies before the eight hours are up." Harvey explained, shaking his head sadly.
"But why do the Dream-Catchers turn evil, Grandpa?" Dakota asked in obvious horror. He and Casper looked like they couldn't fathom the idea of the group members turning bad when they were the ones that hunted the bad people down in the first place. Why would the good guys join the bad side?
"They don't mean to, kids. It's not their fault." Harvey assured, still frowning crestfallenly. "When a Dream-Catcher doesn't make it back to their bodies, sometimes they don't take it well. They go completely bonkers and turn into Nightmares, ruining people's dreams because that's all they know how to do. Dream-Catchers take special time to try and find these Nightmares so they can help them become good again. The Nightmares can be hard to find though."
"Do the Dream-Catchers ever help the Nightmares?" Casper asked, looking on the verge of tears for the people that turn evil against their will. The brunette boy looked up when Dakota hugged him around the neck comfortingly, even though he was on the verge of tears himself. Casper placed one of his hands on Dakota's arms and rubbed the side of his face against the other boy to return the gesture.
Harvey smiled at the kids and their display of affection before saying, "Of course the Dream-Catchers help some of the Nightmares. I even have one such story of them helping a crazy Nightmare!"
Both boys instantly perked at the thought of a story that starred their favorite hero and crazy, misunderstood villain. Harvey's smile widened as he instantly delved into his tale, telling of how one such group of Dream-Catchers banded together completely to track one single Nightmare to bring them back to sanity. The Dream-Catchers barely managed to help the poor Nightmare before they almost ran out of time on their own bodies. However, the story had a happy ending for all people and the two children were appeased. They told Harvey 'thank you' before running off to go play in the yard.
The grandfather watched the two boys playing around in his front yard, pretending to be the characters from his tale. Even though he knew the story would be all but forgotten within a few days by the two, it was still comforting to be able to tell the stories of his adventures as a Sandman without receiving any judgment from the listeners.
Of course, when he told the story, it never crossed his mind that it would have effect on them in the future.
It took me five tries but I finally made a prologue that didn't become so long it's now it's own chapter or I didn't hate it with every fiber of my being. Thank God for small favors.