Writing inspired by an SWC creative writing prompt

The Caravan of Broken Dreams

By Sandra Völker

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am the operator of the Caravan of Broken Dreams and tonight I offer you to discard all your broken dreams and unfulfilled aspirations. Why weigh yourself down with the frustration and disappointments of what you have not achieved? Why be shaped by your perceived failures and unspoken desires? Why fret about past defeats and unattainable goals. I offer you a clean slate from which to grow new and fresh dreams that are not diminished by the weight of past experiences. 

Dear Madam, you want to know how long we will stop at the caravanserai? Just for tonight, to rest, fix some of the wagons, have a good meal and exchange news. You want to know what happens with all the broken dreams? I will give them a new home in my caravan, I will be their caretaker and together we will find a new purpose for them. I travel along the road of uninspired thoughts and disillusions, of daily grind and the fight for survival, a road which is populated by more and more souls.

The lucky dreams find new homes and if a searching individual and a discarded dream find each other a whole new world of productivity and creativity can be created. Instead of wasting away in the garbage dump of forsaken ideas, my dreams can be recycled. In that regard I am modern and inspired by the new concept of circular economy which is really an old but forgotten notion. 

Recently a man visited me who wanted to get rid off his biggest disappointment. The desire to find a wife, have children and move into a nice house with a garden overwhelmed all else. He could not be happy anymore and locked himself in his home. Luckily, he went for a stroll around the village and our paths crossed on market day. My good man, I said, you do not need to carry around your broken dream anymore. We will make an exchange. I took his, and as he was a talented craftsman and music lover, I gave him the dream of becoming an instrument maker. 

You do not look convinced, Madam. Let me take you on a tour through my caravan which is a rare gift. I don’t do it very often but since it is a very quiet caravanserai and not many people are around, why not? Please, step a bit closer. Here in the blue wagon I have a very specific category. I call them my flying dreams. Humans have dreamed to explore the sky and beyond since the beginning. See here – in the light blue globe you can make out broken airplane wings. I plugged them off a girl who wanted to become a pilot but was forced to marry instead. She is more at peace now. On my next visit to her city I want to give her a new dream. And here – the one in the back which is fiery red with the black, vine-like pattern – this one is old and will probably stay with me forever. It is a young boy’s wish to follow his father into the mines to save him or at least be there to die with him. He was sick on the day of the accident and I never met anyone who yearned more for creeping down a shaft. Hmm – I don’t know what it is doing in the blue wagon, I will have to move it.  

My dear Madam, you don’t know what weird dreams I encounter all the time. How crazy some of them are. What are you saying? What that dark wagon over there is? Well, this would be the wagon of unspeakable dreams. The ones no one ever admits having or even talks about. We do not want to venture too close, Madam. Why are you looking at me like that? I collect all dreams and do not ask for approval. Believe me, Madam, some dreams are better left alone. Maybe over time they will change their nature. It is better they stay with me where I can keep them safe and sound. 

Come along, let’s go to the next wagon. This is the general one, I call it the jack of all dreams, he, he. Here we keep the regular dreams, the simple ones, by no means less important, just less complex. We keep them in these round containers. They are not as heavily secured like some of the others. In case they want to escape, they cannot do any harm. See, this one, this one is a dream about enjoying dandelion ice cream – the dandelion part is a bit weird but otherwise – there is nothing wrong with dandelion. And this, this is a dream about … ah, I see, you are moving on, not that interested in the everyday stuff. 

Now here, this wagon is a bit more complicated. Do you see the globe hovering in the back. This is a dream about being able to read. I really did not want to take it at first. It belonged to a man who had never told anyone that he could not read and had suffered from the shame his whole life. I had hoped he would be able to fulfill this particular dream but it did not happen so I took it off him and replaced it with one he could still realize before his death. Yes, Madam, sometimes broken dreams can be a bit tricky. 

But let’s move on. What are you saying? This seems all old-fashioned. Not woke or modern? Well dreams do not change all that much over time but there are some modern curiosities. Please come along, I will show you if you wish. Here is the NEW CAR. Less elaborate and decorated, with a sleek, modern design. No more round globes, though they really are the perfect medium for storing dreams. But in a nod to our modern times we keep these dreams in our virtual storage units. You can retrieve them by pushing on the surface button. If you press once they will not be released, just shown to you. The one you are retrieving is one about living in a virtual reality world and transcending physical needs. The images are a bit shapeless. You may decide if this is a new concept after all. 

The wagon over there, the one with armored plates, I will not show you.  I use that wagon to travel through war zones and ravaged lands. These broken dreams are heart breaking and I will not talk about them. You see, my life, this job of mine, is complex, and complicated and enriching and depressing all at once. It was not a dream of mine to become the Master of the Caravan of Broken Dreams, it’s a family business, one needs to grow up around all these fluttering globes and containers and storage units in order to stay sane, stay the course and not get confused. 

Madam, I see you look pensive now. Do you want to ask me something else? Maybe tell me about a dream of yours. No? No broken dream? Alright, maybe later.  We don’t have long anymore, just a few more wagons. This one to the side is the kinky dream wagon, hence the reddish glow. And no, Madam, you cannot look into it. This is not a peep show! This is the caravan of broken dreams and although you might be curious what’s in the kinky wagon and wonder why it is included in the caravan, let me tell you that there is an epidemic of unfulfilled erotic and romantic dreams. If you just knew how many people never … well, it does not even require a verb … some people just never. Some of the dreams in there make me sad – one of the saddest broken dreams in the wagon is the dream of being kissed. I took it off an older man who could not stop crying for never having loved properly. I gave him another dream and I believe he led a happier life afterwards. 

You want to know what I exchanged the kiss for? Madam, some secrets will stay with me. Let’s move on. Follow me through the passage here, to the last courtyard where the rest of the wagons are. The caravan is growing, I know, I tend to collect more than I give away. I have an increasing number of dreams, you are right. Sometimes I just take the broken dream and it stays with me forever. To be honest, Madam, I don’t believe in that one big dream anymore, except in a few individual cases. There are not that many people who dream big, really big, and change the world with their dreams. Most of those don’t need my help at all although some I have nudged on, if I may say so. Remember the Walkman in the 70s or HIV protease inhibitors in the 90s? Yes Madam, I had a hand in there. I am also proud of some of my ancestors’ achievements. Eleanor Roosevelt was a friend of my grandfather’s. In today’s world, I will not spill all my secrets but you would be surprised. No – Greta Thunberg does not need my dreams – she dreams big all by herself with some to spare. 

But I digress. I still want to show you the wagon in the back there. Can you guess what the theme is? I do try to decorate the wagon a little according to the theme without being too obvious. I like to consider myself a subtle person. Oh, I saw that smirk, Madam. But I am not offended, my wife would agree with you. She calls me the least subtle person she has ever met. So – I will show you something special. This one here is not a visual dream – wait a minute – I’ll open it for a moment. Can you hear it? It is the singing of a bird which was native to a region in the North but disappeared. I call it the Song of the North. Can you discern how it turns into a different kind of composition at the end, this is not the bird’song anymore but the dreamer’s, there is so much melancholic longing in there. It always brings tears to my eyes. Let me close the box and move on to the next globe. This dream soothes me, the slow-flowing, dark blue stream feeding the green landscape all around it. It is so beautiful. I am sorry I have made you sad, my friend. May I call you my friend? I have the impression we have gotten to know each other a bit. Thank you very much for letting me guide you through my treasures. I do have a gift for you before we go our separate ways again. I know that you have had a dream for a long time and that you have given up of ever achieving it, so – I took it from you. Forgive me for not asking your permission. But I have another one for you that is a better fit and that will make you very, very happy. Come along, I left this wagon for the end of our tour. 

Yes – come a bit closer, don’t be afraid! I am a master of my profession. Have a look – do you like what you see – I thought so.  Now you know what I am talking about. Close your eyes – relax, open yourself, breathe in – yes – there it is. It is settling in. Give it a day or two before you take any action. You can open your eyes now. It was a pleasure to meet you, Madam. Take good care of your dream.

Sandra Völker

Sandra Völker

Author and Sunday Writers' Club Member

Sandra was born and raised in Austria. She studied and worked in the US for a number of years and writes in English and German.

She mostly writes short stories and other fictional texts and has taken various writing courses in Austria and England over the years. In her other life she tries to make a difference with her job at an environmental NGO.
She currently trains to become a Shiatsu practioner and would like to combine writing and Shiatsu in the future. Her website is www.koerperspracheshiatsu.at.

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