Listen to the river – The girl who heard dreams

by May 15, 2002Stories

There was a girl in our village. Her name was Sayuri-san and she heard dreams.

If you went down the river bank, where the mists are thick, you might have seen her shape, crouching between the rushes, head cocked to one side, listening. But no one stayed too long, or their mothers would come running out crying “Kira-chan! Time for lunch! Come in and wash your hands!”

The odd thing is that no one made fun of Sayuri-san. They didn’t laugh at her, or call her mad. In fact, they were very respectful, and treated her like an adult, whereas she was just a little older than me.

Once I went and spoke to her and asked her how to hear dreams. She sat in silence for a while, thinking it over, then said “Kira-chan, if you want to learn, you must listen. Do you know how to listen?”

“Yes!” I cried happily, “Oh yes, Sayuri-san!”

But I didn’t know how to listen, so she had to teach me. We spent a lot of time together, until I thought I could hear snatches of conversations in the air, or images in my mind. We spent so much time together that I started calling her Sayuri-chan. She didn’t mind. She also taught me how to catch bad dreams and destroy them, so that people didn’t sleep bad nights.

“Now, Kira-chan, you are going to listen to the dreams of Gorochi.” I giggled. Gorochi was a merchant and all he found interesting was gold.

“Right. Imagine Gorochi. He is in your mind. Now imagine him flowing through the mists here. Imagine him as a mist. Now…what do you see?”

I concentrated, and suddenly I was thrown into a world of bright sunshine and green grass and white flowers. I saw Gorochi in front of me. He was running with a delighted look on his face. I looked to where he was running, expecting to see riches, gold or the such. Instead, I saw Shoki, the girl who delivered the milk pails, but dressed in a beautiful white kimono picturing great golden dragons. It was tied with a light blue silk obi embroidered with small lotus flowers. Her beautiful long black hair was piled up on her head, fastened with little silver clips with pearls on them. Two silver dangling earrings, which I could not quite make out, hung from her lobes, and she carried a silver fan with silk webbing. She flapped it in front of her face and smiled.

Then the image was gone. And I looked into Sayuri-chan’s face. There was a twinkle of amusement in her eyes. I gasped.

“All this time we thought he was an unfeeling heartless old trader!” I cried, grinning. “We never would have guessed!”

Later that day I saw Gorochi picking up his milk pail from the doorstep. He opened the top and breathed in the aroma, then took a few sips and smiled dreamily.

“Did you dream of sweet milk last night, Gorochi-san?” I called, and quickly hid behind a hut as he went bright red and looked around for the owner of the voice. I felt a little guilty, but it didn’t matter.

When I met Sayuri that evening, she gave me a sharp slap on the face.

“How dare you taunt someone like that with your knowledge?” She hissed, eyes furious. I backed away, frightened and ashamed. She grabbed my arm. “Never, ever, let me catch you speaking or using your information away from the riverbank, do you hear? Am I making myself clear? Am I?”

“Yes,” I squeaked. I hung my head in humiliation. She let my arm go and started walking toward the bank.

When I started to follow, she said, “You needn’t bother coming tonight. Go think about what you have done.” And she disappeared into the mists.

I ran home, crying. I ran past my mother who cried earnest concerns at my demeanor, up the stairs and into my room, jamming the door. I lay down on my bed and wept. Slowly, whether because I had cried myself out or from a long day, I fell asleep, expecting violent nightmares, but I had no dreams that night.

In the morning I heard a furious knocking at my door. I got up, still in yesterday’s rumpled clothes, and opened it. It was my sister, Jakaro-chan, with urgent news.

“Sayuri-san has disappeared! Sayuri-san has gone!” She ran down the stairs.

I ran after her, and found myself in the street. There was a great chatter, and someone was trying to find Sayuri-san’s parents. But Sayuri had no parents. No one even knew where she lived, except by the river.

So we all went there, but the riverbank was empty. So they all rushed back to the village, leaving me there to cry. I watched new tears drip into the water and wash away.

“Why?” I cried, thumping my fists on the floor and looking up into the sky. There was a bird circling there. I watched it go round and round, round and round, circling and circling. I got dizzy, and fell to the ground. My eyes slowly closed, and I fell into a deep slumber.

I had a dream. I dreamt that Sayuri came to me, told me not to cry. She said that she didn’t want me to weep, but to remember her.
“Remember me,” she whispered, “Remember me.”

There is a girl in our village. Her name is Kira-san and she hears dreams.


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