The dream

There is a place where cheese grows on trees. Great protuberances of Stilton bursting from bark, tendrils of Lancashire spun silk-slim from branch to bracken; Cheddar hidden treasure beneath soft soil.

There is a place where bread flutters on cracker wings, skittling from perch to nest, bearing crumbs for baby buns; where sourdough loaves, too dense to fly, bustle through the undergrowth.

There is a place where rivers run red, where in the height of rainy season rivulets of sticky wine stain windows claret.

It is one of the great cruelties of being that these places are not the same.

The dream

There had been a city in front of him. Matthew knew there had. He had been walking towards it for days as it rose, from glittering spires tilting their tips coquettishly above the horizon into a heaving mass of bricks and fumes.

And then he had napped, because he had walked so long, and he had woken with no thirst and no city. Could he have dreamt it? Ah, perhaps. And so he must have slept within a dream. And so he had yet to wake, and it mattered not if he hushed his hunger with his own left arm.

The dream man

The one Jenny loved was a young man. His name was Gog; he kept the peace. In her sleep, she served him yak pie, and plaited yellow ribbons through his thick brown hair.

Jenny had faith in Gog. She did not know where he was, but she was sure he was somewhere, which was more than could be said for most dreams. He had, she thought, a little green-eyed cat, which he had found while apprehending a trader in bootleg cider. The cat was small through lack of nutrition, but Gog fed it well – as some Jenny somewhere fed him.

The usherette’s daughter

On the third Thursday of every month Diana went to the cinema alone. She bought a bucket of diet cola and another of popcorn, salted. She chose whichever film came first alphabetically, unless she had seen it. Then she chose the next or the next or the one after that.

When she and her husband moved, which they did from time to time because Derek was in witness protection, Diana insisted they go somewhere with a cinema in walking distance. Multiplex or village hall, anything would do. She did not go to watch, only to sleep, and possibly to dream.