Awethu’s parents left him in the downstairs guest room, where he’d slept the night before. He always had a room to himself. He always had to lock the door. Too many warnings about what a sneaky cousin might do, tossing water all over him, as a prank. “They don’t understand how dangerous it is,” his mama always said.

Awethu wasn’t clear on the dangers, himself. Here he was, lying on the bed, feeling fine. Better than fine. In fact, this was the best he’d ever felt, as if he was more him than he’d been before.

“Awethu, come home,” the breeze whispered.

Except that wasn’t right. Couldn’t be. His parents had shut the windows before they’d left the room. Even so, he got up and checked. Yes indeed, the windows were shut tight-tight.

“Awethu, come back. We miss you,” the breeze purred. It was slightly louder. More distinct. As if it was a woman beckoning him close. But the only woman around at the moment was Mama, and she wouldn’t do that. Nor would his aunties or grandmother. His little cousins could never pull off such a voice, and Inami, she wasn’t the type to joke around. Not like that.

A tiredness washed over him. Not exhausted, as if he’d exercised too much. His body was still zinging away, as if it was healthier than it had ever been before. This was more like a thought, telling him he was sleepy. That everything would make more sense if he nestled down into the pillows and shut his eyes.

Oh, how he needed to shut his eyes. So bad, right now. Never had pillows looked so welcoming. Cosy. The perfect place to be. He had no choice but to obey the pull, and lay down.

“Awethu,” the voice whispered. It felt as if a hand drew itself across his face, shutting his eyes. “Awethu, come see.”

Sleep snatched him in its grasp. It carried his soul over to a boat that floated on inky currents. There was only one occupant, a large, dark man, whose wide shoulders dwarfed Awethu’s. In his mighty fist, he held a three-pointed spear, a trident, which was twice Awethu’s height. But most disturbing, the passenger only had a blur where his face should be. No nose, or mouth, or eyes, or beard – a fuzzy oval, nothing more.

Not a word could emerge from Awethu’s soul-self. It was as if he had given up all choice, like a leaf swirling in a river, carried downstream, as Sleep set him inside the boat with the faceless man. Once his soul-self was safely sitting in the vessel, the faceless man plunged the pronged forks of the trident into the inky depths beneath. The boat surged forward, crossing unknown distances, towards an indistinguishable destination, through twilight-purple air.

A thought, oh so far away, where Awethu’s body slumbered, asked, “Where are we going?” But the soul-self was content, and unalarmed.

“Awethu,” a voice beckoned. “Look. Come look at me.”

Awethu’s soul-self turned, scanning for the owner of the voice. But all he saw was inky, swirling depths below the boat, and the twilight-purple air, which was growing hazy, as if a silver fog was rolling in.

“Awethu,” the voice purred. “I am here.”

The faceless man raised his trident out of the inky deep, and pointed it low to the horizon. Awethu’s gaze followed, and there, amongst the swirly darkness, was a woman’s face, with eyes that matched his own.

“Awethu,” the strange woman said, “don’t you recognize your Mama?”

***

Tell us: Awethu is having a weird dream. Do you believe dreams have a purpose? Or are they nothing more than our brain playing around as we sleep?