By Tom Foster
It could be great. He agreed, it could be, but dreams were uncertain things sometimes, they could lead one to lengths they weren’t prepared to go. Tossing lightly in his sleep Henry shifted to his right side, feeling the rough blankets covering him slide away just a bit, inviting the chill of the morning just outside his home. He didn’t want to move though, he was comfortable despite the chill.
It would take so little. Perhaps, but then he’d be the one taking all the risk, all that risk for a dream. Even if Charlie really wanted to sell, and there was no evidence to the contrary, Henry knew that the man was asking a great deal. Monetarily it was a steal, he couldn’t do much better right now and he knew it. Hell, most everyone knew it as well, though he had to wonder if they really knew just how much work would be required to pull this off. Somehow he doubted that much.
Many will come. But how did he know that?
The land he’d become interested in was largely untamed, only the most adventurous had thus far made their way onto this long strip of wilderness. From what he heard the storms that washed their way across the lightly wooded areas and scraped along the flat, gray sands of its coastline were quite vicious. Henry hadn’t seen the worst of them as he’d been told, but he could well enough imagine that without cover, any storm coming in off the coast would hit with a vengeance that was almost biblical.
The land will accept what is given. Now what did that mean? Henry shook his head as he allowed this strange thought to pass through his mind, paying it little heed as he tried to turn over in his bed, only to find that he was no longer in bed. The shock of suddenly coming awake jolted him so badly that for several moments he had the horrid sensation of falling, his loss of control frightening him so badly that his heart thudded madly within his chest.
Henry stumbled forward, then to the right, and then finally stopped, finding his balance as he spread his arms out wide, breathing hard as he opened his eyes fully. Blinking rapidly Henry gulped loudly, his senses reeling as he opened his eyes wide, taking in just exactly where he was. What he saw he didn’t fully believe.
The vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean rolled out in front of him, the crashing waves that cascaded towards the dark gray shore roaring with their loud, unknown voices. How had he gotten here? The last he’d known he was still in bed, dreaming of what he could possibly make of the land he was thinking to purchase. It would become something wonderful, he could somehow believe that wholeheartedly, but he couldn’t explain how.
“Some beliefs don’t need an explanation Henry.” He spun to his right, the sand beneath his feet becoming further disturbed as it worked its way between his bare toes, brushing over the tops of his feet as its chill caused ripples of gooseflesh to raise on his arms and legs. A cool breeze wafted by him just then, rippling his sleeping gown as Henry’s teeth chattered, the wind tousling his dark locks slightly as he looked towards the speaker.
The slim silhouette that he saw only several paces away was little more than a patch of darkness, a lithe figure wrapped in shadow that he could not identify. Henry’s heart pounded a little harder despite the obvious size difference between the two of them. He was not the largest of men, but he was easily taller and wider of girth than this slip of a character. Still, he couldn’t advance, couldn’t even begin to demand anything of the unknown figure. Henry didn’t know what to think, what to do, or even what the hell he was doing on the beach, in his sleeping attire, freezing his ass off, and scared almost to the point of hysteria. He’d been having such a nice dream.
“It is a nice dream Henry, one worth pursuing.” The voice that spoke, he finally calmed down just enough to listen clearly, was female, leaving him with an incredulous look upon his face. While he still didn’t know what had happened, or how he’d walked out here in his sleep, Henry knew well enough that the voice sounded young, no more than a girl perhaps. He almost laughed at the absurdity of it.
“Who are you?” he asked, the question sounding almost absurd as another breeze blew by, this one ruffling the edges of his sleeping gown as he clasped his arms over his chest, trying his best to stave off the chill. The girl, she couldn’t have possibly been all that old, didn’t answer for several moments as she continued to face the ocean, her features obscured for the most part by the cowl of the long, elegant-looking cloak she wore. Henry could detect just a hint of something glittering beneath the cloak, though he was too much of a gentleman, or at least he tried to be, to look any closer.
What he could see of the girl was very little really, but from what he was able to view was that she was dark-haired, her locks as black as the night around them, and of pale skin. The contrast between the color her hair and skin was almost astounding, though he couldn’t help but find it somehow beautiful. As the girl turned slowly Henry could feel his heart speed up, as though expecting some ghostly vision or something else entirely. He didn’t know why he would expect such a thing, but he couldn’t keep his hands from trembling in that moment, finding that the expectation of what he would see was almost too great.
“You are a man of vision,” the sweet, melodious voice spoke to him, “Such people as yourself are rare Henry, though they are highly treasured among your kind.” That confused him, though as he looked upon the girl’s countenance Henry found it didn’t matter quite so much. The young woman, not a girl after all, was beyond beautiful. From her porcelain-like skin to her rich, luxurious black locks, she was a picture-perfect vision of beauty. Henry found his breath stolen away in that moment as he took in her complete form, awestruck to the point of speechlessness.
The cloak that wrapped around her form revealed little, though he could see that as petite as she was, the woman was quite shapely. Within the folds of her cloak he could see the strange shimmering that had caught his eye only a moment before, the garment she wore beneath the dark covering seeming to catch even the faint light from the stars above as it glimmered brightly against the night.
Licking his lips nervously Henry finally found his voice, “Who, who are you?” He felt not unlike a foolish boy who has fallen in the type of love that is both immediate and fleeting, his body trembling as though with palsy. Struggling to control his own body Henry watched as the young woman smiled, the gesture both warm and inviting as Henry continued to shiver.
“Merely a servant my good fellow,” the girl spoke, “someone who knows that change must come.” As she finished the girl turned to view the opposite direction from the waves, looking upon the undeveloped wilderness that faced westward. Henry looked in that direction, teeth chattering as he continued to hug his arms to his body, wishing he’d at least had the foresight within his sleepwalking state to find a coat or at least a heavy sweater. Even though it was spring it was so damned cold!
He should have been used to such weather. He’d been born and raised for part of his life in Maine after all. The long trip through the seemingly endless stretches of land, the ever-shrinking plains, the thick, lush forests and vast, barren deserts, had shown him a great deal of this country, but once he’d reached this coastline he’d finally come to realize just how wide the world outside his own perceptions had been.
There was still much to discover, he knew this with a certainty that was more hypothetical than anything. Charlie had told him a great deal of the land he was going to sell him, claiming that it always seemed to have a few more surprises to offer even those who’d been up and down its length. Henry had remained somewhat skeptical, though he could well imagine that there would be much to be seen once he decided just how to go about building his dream.
“This land has seen much already Henry,” the girl said, earning a narrowed look as she used his first name, “it has seen war and it has seen peace, betrayal and redemption. Yet it will see much, much more before it is restored to what it once was.” This was ludicrous, standing here listening to the prattle of a girl who didn’t look old enough to have seen more than twenty winters talking about such matters. What could she possibly know about anything?
Henry wasn’t a complete chauvinist, he knew very well that women served a purpose other than to raise and rear children and keep a household. Had that been his manner of thinking his own wife might have clonked him a good one up the side of head with a skillet by now. Through the many trials and hardships they’d come through his wife had helped in more than a few ways to keep their little household afloat. She couldn’t do all the things a man could, there were just some limits that she couldn’t breach, but she damned well could try.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Henry stated, still hugging himself tightly, not letting up on his firm resolve to find out just who this young woman was. There were several settlers already living on the peninsula, though at the sufferance of Charlie and soo enough, at his. The land would be his soon and then, depending on who wanted to stay, his dream would be placed on a fast track. His goal of creating Tinkerville, the name of his new town, perhaps one day a city, would be realized no matter who wanted to stay or leave. He welcomed anyone who wanted to settle, he’d even welcome the natives that reputedly lived at the north end of the peninsula, there was no reason not to encourage good relations between their different peoples.
“My name is of no consequence at the moment Henry, what is important is that your dream be realized. Without your future, the past will not matter.” Henry screwed up his features in confusion at the young woman as he listened, not understanding just what she was talking about.
“Walk with me Henry, see what might be, and what will be.” Henry’s frown deepened as he turned along with the girl, looking upon the flat stretch of sand that led back towards the rolling plains of long grass, green shrubbery, and twisted trees. He took one step and-
-was held back by an outstretched hand, grunting as he halted immediately. Looking to his right he saw the girl, though her garments had changed, as had his he quickly saw. Instead of the dark cloak and shimmering gown beneath she was adorned in a bright red dress that extended as far as her ankles, where he could see her feet were clad only in dark brown sandals, a rather curious look with the long-sleeved dress. Looking at himself he could see that he was dressed quite the same, wearing a fine suit jacket with an elegant silk tie and finely creased trousers. He could feel suspenders stretched across his front and back, rolling his shoulders as he smiled slightly, feeling a bushy moustache over his lip as he raised one hand to run his fingers along it. The feeling of the unknown moment did not claim him at that moment, sinking in slowly as he looked around, his eyes widening as his jaw dropped noticeably.
Nothing seemed, there.
“What, what is this?” Henry breathed. He could just barely make out the forms of people, walking to and fro on either side of a gray, wide expanse of what looked like wooden platforms. Looking down at the wide space that separated the platform they stood upon Henry could see the obvious form of railroad tracks protruding from the ground, their gray, iron forms seeming to fade in and out of existence. Blinking several times he tried to bring them into sharper focus, though he couldn’t seem to do so.
“This is what might be Henry,” the girl said, her voice gentle and calm. Looking up from the tracks he could see the ghostly form of a train receding into the distance, to the northern parts of the peninsula. The railroad ran right through the town, almost bisecting the strange, unknown buildings he saw as he turned about. The people that passed him and the young woman were just as insubstantial as anything else, though he could just barely see in their walk, their dress, that they were normal folk, just as he was. Even the warmth of the sunshine that spilled down from the sky above could not aid him in focusing a single item or facial feature among the many people he saw.
“Why, why is it so hazy?” Henry asked, his voice still breathless, not daring to believe that this was real. It had to be a dream, that was all it was, nothing more. Dreams were strange things, they showed strange and sometimes revealing oddities about the dreamer. Henry knew his own desires, he knew what he wanted, but what he saw now he couldn’t quite equate with his own wants.
“The future is always in motion,” the woman replied, “Once it is viewed in any length it changes, because you’ve seen what might be. Things must change, so that you do not know what will be. Things must always change, so that you will be surprised, so that you might create your own path.” Though Henry didn’t fully understand he found that her words made sense, in some strange way.
“It’s wonderful,” Henry said, still turning about like a child in a candy shop, his eyes wide and his mouth agape, “This is going to be my town, my place in history.” He did not see the young woman smile as he took in the gray, hazy surroundings, seeing not the ghostly forms of the buildings or the people, but the dream that he had thought of ever since Charlie had told him what he knew of this place. He saw what could be, what would be, and what he would make of this place. Henry Tinker saw his dream, and it was glorious.
“With great rapture must also come great sorrow, for that is that is the way of this realm.” The words spoken by the young woman did not penetrate his consciousness for several moments until Henry turned to look at her once again, noting that she’d somehow reverted back to the clothing that she’d worn upon the beach. Looking down at himself he could see that he was still garbed in the fine suit he’d been given, though the light that had come from above seemed different now, far more harsh and offering less warmth in some way.
“What happened?” Henry asked hurriedly, turning about as he saw the landscape change, turning from the wooden walkways and platforms, the comforting storefronts and familiar sights, to something that was almost completely alien to his senses, something that he could not equate with the world he knew. There were still buildings, though if he was looking correctly they were made of stone, not wood. There were wooden planks set together here and there, though not nearly as much as what he’d seen before.
His heart raced as Henry saw that the railroad tracks had been covered over by some strange, black ribbon of a material he did not know. The dark path stretched both north and south for farther than he could see, as well as east and west in several locations that were well within view. Buildings that easily towered higher than those he’d seen in the first vision loomed over him, as though waiting to fall upon him at any moment.
The sense of hopelessness that threatened to overtake him at that moment was so terrible that Henry hugged his arms around his torso once more, feeling not unlike a child as he looked fearfully around, not sure what was happening. This was not Tinkerville, it was not the dream he’d envisioned. Turning to his right he felt his eyes widen even further in shock as he noted a garish yellow sign, jutting from the upper portion of a horrid green-colored building that read Longbeach Tavern. Longbeach? Who in all the hells had decided to name this town Longbeach? What a stupid name. Was he even in the same place?
From the west he could hear the roar of the Pacific, though as he tried to look in that direction he found his view blocked, the gray sands hidden away behind buildings and trees that were far too tall to allow him an easy line of sight. Henry didn’t know whether to be angry or saddened by what he saw now, the chill that touched him so readily seeking to greedily suck the last bit of hope from him as he turned back to the young woman, seeking an explanation for what he now saw.
She was still standing to his right, though her eyes, which had been a rich shade of blue when he’d first looked upon her, were now completely dark, liquid pools of black that seemed to absorb the light around her, revealing nothing save an empty, yawing darkness that Henry immediately recoiled from. Taking a step back Henry cried out, not understanding what was going on and not wanting to. The young woman’s kind smile was still in place, though from the cast of her feathered eyebrows she felt more pity than warmth at that moment, as though he were some helpless scrap of a boy who could not hope to realize just what was going on.
Henry felt anger then as he matched her gaze, his upper lip, bereft of a moustache any longer, peeling back over his teeth as he growled at her. “What is this?!” he demanded, standing his ground as he glared openly at her, wanting an explanation now, right this minute thank you kindly.
“This is what will be Henry. Your dream will come to pass, though it will pass within time, as will the wonders that will shape what exists now within your mind. From the tiny seed of imagination your town will grow, to this.” The woman spread her arms wide, taking in the strange town around her as she continued to gaze at Henry. He shook his head vehemently, not wanting to listen, not wanting to believe, but a part of him could not hope to deny what she was saying. A part of him knew this felt right, that this was true, but he would not admit it. He couldn’t. That way lay madness, and he wasn’t a madman, not by a damned sight.
“What once belonged to my people will belong to yours, and in time, to his.” The young woman lowered one arm to point her left index finger at a point behind Henry, her tone neutral as he sensed that there was someone behind him. Of course there was, she was pointing at someone wasn’t she? He didn’t want to turn though, feeling as a sensation of dread crept over him once more, chilling him to the very bone as he closed his eyes. He had to look, it was pure and simple curiosity, the same failing of all his kind that had ever been. One had to look, just like the fabled twit Pandora, they had to know what it was that they were not supposed to see. Henry could remember the tale of Pandora and her ill-omened box, the chest filled with all sorts of terrors, nightmares and woes. She had let those into the world unknowingly, her curiosity allowing them to escape to bedevil the many days of mankind, all because she’d just had to know.
It was no different now, though what he was going to look upon was no doubt far worse than anything Pandora had released. How he could sense that he wasn’t sure, but the raising of his hackles didn’t allow Henry to think any less. As he began to turn around the soles of his shoes uttered a grating sound against the gray surface beneath him, the strange stone seeming to crackle as he turned completely. He was shaking, though he tried to still the slight tremors as he stiffened his lower lip, determined not to fear anything that might appear within his dream. It was just a dream after all, there was nothing so bad that he wouldn’t awake feeling foolish for having been afraid. Nothing here could hurt him, right?
He wasn’t so sure when he set eyes upon the individual that now stood only several paces away. Henry’s eyes, already wide with fright, widened even more as he took in the appearance of the newcomer. Upon the strangely transformed streets Henry saw no one else, only this single character, who in truth didn’t look much older than the young woman behind him. He could sense however that the man was far older somehow, older than even he was in a way. That was ridiculous of course, this blonde-haired man couldn’t have been more than in his twenties at best, no matter that he sported a beard and moustache that would have made any man in his thirties or forties proud. The lush, dark blonde hair was neatly combed and swept back from the man’s face, though it spilled across his broad shoulders, while several braids swung to the sides of his face, an oddity that did not go unnoticed as Henry took in his appearance more fully.
The man wore dark blue pants made from some material that Henry couldn’t identify, and a dark black jacket that appeared far too thin to offer any protection from the elements. If he suffered any discomfort however he did not show it, standing tall and resolute as his powerful frame did not move an inch. Henry felt another chill make its tedious way down his spine as he looked upon the man’s face, his heart nearly stopping as he saw the same ebon orbs that he’d seen upon the young woman staring at him. How he could tell this without seeing any hint of iris or pupil within the man’s eyes was unsure, but he knew, the man was looking right at him. The younger man was no illusion, no specter like the others had been, but just as real as Henry was. As Henry watched he noticed in mounting horror as threads of what seemed like silver mist passed through the man’s gaze, there and gone within a moment. He felt his jaw wag as he tried to think of something to say, some horrified oath to utter. All that came out however as a single croak, a pitiful sound that he felt somehow ashamed of as he turned around once more. He wanted to tell the girl to stop this, to take him back to the beach, to let him wake up, to just let him do anything but stand here and face this stranger, to let him be away from this place. But she wasn’t there.
Henry whirled around again, fully believing that it would be the last thing he did, his heart hammering away a mile a minute as he backed away step, gasping in surprise as the man was right there, staring at him still. The man had covered the few paces in total silence, coming right up to Henry without being noticed. Well of course he wouldn’t notice such a thing, he was scared out of his mind, how could he possibly notice? Henry wanted to beg, to plead for his life, but something wouldn’t let him, some force would not allow him to even whimper, let alone speak.
And then, inexplicably, the stranger spoke, “You are Henry Tinker, founder of Tinkerville, later on known as Longbeach, and this day known as Origin. My name is Tyler, though you won’t remember.” The man smiled slightly as he spoke, the gesture doing much to erase Henry’s fear as he felt the sense of purpose, rightness, within this man. There was nothing to be afraid of, nothing to fear from this young man, this Tyler. In fact Henry felt somewhat foolish in the next moment for ever having feared Tyler at all. The man was no one to be feared, he was instead to be admired. He couldn’t reason just why this was so, but it didn’t matter.
“Your town will grow Henry, and it will prosper. There will be times of hardship, there will be times of despair, but in the end the land will be returned to what it once was. And you will have helped to continue the cycle.” The man smiled warmly at Henry, eliciting a similar response from Mrs. Tinker’s son. Henry felt safe around this man, as though Tyler were the best friend he could have had. Maybe he was.
“Will I live to see this?” he asked, already sure of the answer.
Tyler merely smiled as he replied, “No Henry, your time will end long before what you see here comes to be. You will pass on to the next life content, though only then will you recall even a hint of what has happened here.”
Henry appeared crestfallen, “But why? Why can I not remember?”
“You’ve looked upon the future Henry, and now it must change, if only slightly so.”
“Wake now Henry, and build your dream. Let Tinkerville flourish and grow. It will all make sense in the end. The scales will balance.”
He had so much more to ask, so much more to say, but before he could utter a single syllable Henry was yanked forcibly from the dream, his mind soaring quickly back to his waking body as he sat bolt upright in bed, the shadows all around him cloaking the room he and his wife lay in. He could hear her snort lightly beside him, rolling over as she continued to slumber. Henry swallowed as he leaned forward, placing one hand upon his sweaty brow as he blew out a long, silent breath. That had been one hell of a dream, though for the life of him he couldn’t recall exactly what it had been about, except of course the vague sense of what he would want Tinkerville to look like eventually.
He couldn’t sleep any longer, he had to rise and do something, anything, to get his mind working. Always an early riser, just as his family had been, Henry slipped quickly and as quietly as he could into a pair of pants and a heavy sweater, feeling the chill beyond their walls as he kept one eye upon his wife the entire time. She remained asleep as he padded, barefoot, out to the front room of their simple home. It would be much, much more when he was finished, when he’d finally secured the purchase from Charlie, when his dream had been realized. He didn’t even notice the gray sand that trailed behind him as he’d climbed from his bed and made his way to the front room, clinging to the soles and tops of his feet as though refusing to be cast aside. Perhaps it didn’t matter.
* * *
Henry Tinker did see his dream realized. The town of Tinkerville remained thusly named until eventually being dubbed Longbeach, the longest beach in the world. Though such a bold claim was disputed by others, none saw fit to change the name. It was in the year 1922 that Longbeach became incorporated, though by that time the narrow gauge railroad owned and operated by the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company had been serving the peninsula for a little over two decades.
Though the man never did remember his dream, Henry Harrison Tinker did indeed realize his every desire, no matter the hardships and strife that came along with it. He did remember that with every part of history, there is a beginning, and an end. Having seen his dream realized, Henry eventually realized that he was neither, but something comfortably between. And he was just fine with that.