“Thirteen O’Clock”

Thirteen O’clock is a time that is not on the clock, because no one has ever witnessed it…consciously, that is. It’s at night. And it’s the time when you dream. Some people do not meet it every night, as some sometimes sleep dreamlessly. But wings and dragons all enter your head when you are fast asleep and the clock strikes thirteen.

It comes at different times, depending on when you are asleep. It can never be seen on a clock because no one can be sure that it exists; every time it comes for them, they are not awake to see it. Boys are tucked into their bunks dreaming of cowboys, guns, and outlaws. Girls are in their canopied beds seeing sugar plums and princesses dancing in their heads. And perhaps high school boys dream of nothing in particular. Perhaps they dream of video games and skateboarding. High school girls, of course, dream of crushes and dance parties. You know, those silly things.

Where do they come from, you might ask? Do they all come from your head? Perhaps, but have you ever thought of why children have more exciting dreams than teens or their parents? Their toys run the Dream Machine. And that’s where it all begins.

As six-year-old Linda falls asleep this clear night, her toys spring into action. The little inch-tall dolls in her dollhouse and all of her stuffed animals in her closet—everything she deems valuable and real becomes just that—valuable and real. The ballerina in her music box begins to dance. The stuffed cat begins to purr and bat at the window shade. Even Luna, her favorite fabric doll, sneaks quietly from the bed and jumps from the edge. Luna is dressed in a blue-checkered jumper with a white shirt and black shoes, like she always is. Her brown yarned hair is braided in pigtails on each side of her stitched face. She has a white lace bonnet. Luna, quite awake now, begins her walk to the door.

Linda’s four-year-old brother, Billy, sleeps down the hall. His remote helicopter soars around the ceiling fan and below the bed. His play cattle get rounded up by the cowboys on their wild horses. His little people driving cars around his racetrack wake up, and they start their engines. One of which is Billy’s favorite—a wooden racecar driver painted in red, blue, and yellow. Little black dots are for his eyes, and a bit of fluff is on top of his head. The boy calls him Thomas.

Thomas starts his engine but he doesn’t start right away. He waits for the pretty girl in the jumper to appear in Billy’s doorway. And she does. Luna peeks in and spots young Thomas waiting for her by the pit stop. She smiles and runs up. Thomas grins. Jumping into the race car, they drive onto the track. The engine speeds up. Luna holds tightly onto her bonnet. Thomas suddenly drives off the track and towards the wall near Billy’s bed. Before they hit the wall, it opens up and leads on. The two dolls race through the quiet country road as the wall closes in behind them.

The road leads through green, lush fields covered by the darkness of night. The road comes into a small town. It has intersections with signs pointing to Dream City and Snoring Street and Sleepyville. The streets are lined with cardboard apartments and foam shops and a basketball court made of a shoe box. Very few are out in the quiet streets. Dolls walk dogs and pick the best fruit from the stands in the market. Thimble trash cans and pencil lamp posts line the main road.

Thomas’s red race car zooms through neighborhoods and market streets towards Dream City, where the night shift is beginning. The city is ahead. The quiet, suburban town turns into the metro land of Dream City. Before them is a giant red tunnel. Instantly, the car lifts off the ground as Thomas ejects the wings. Up into the air they rise. Luna actually smiles—she can feel the wind in her face.

Through the tunnel, they emerge into the brightly painted city with massive cardboard and paper plate buildings. Restaurants have tables with soda umbrellas, sitting out on terraces. They overlook the busy streets. The subway is made from building block bridges and small milk cartons. Dolls walk below through the park. There are fuel stations both below and in the sky on platforms. The city hums with the sound of jet engines. Cars race beneath them on the road. Jets swirl through the sky, as Thomas and Luna whiz through the open air.

The two dolls land in the knee of a building shaped like a robot. On the twenty-sixth floor awaits the Dream Machine—the one that put that dream in your head last night… probably.

The town clock strikes thirteen. Billy and Linda are sound asleep.

The toys know you better than anyone else, since they know who you really are when no one else is around or watching you. They see your imagination and the things you truly love. They take these things and, as your toys, they send you wonderful things to your mind when you sleep. The Dream Machine is programmed to your mind, and it allows toys access to the part of your mind that shows your dreams. And it is the toys that make your dreams.

Luna makes Linda dream of a world filled with cotton candy clouds and chocolate-marshmallow rivers, with fields of strawberries and lemon drops. Luna even sees her smile, as she dreams of tasting them. Then a castle—a castle of gumdrops and candy canes—stands high amidst the clouds. Out comes a handsome prince clad in mint garments with a chocolate chip crown. Linda sees herself in a pink frosting dress with a marzipan tiara. Her slippers are made of sprinkled raspberries.

Thomas sees Billy dream of standing proudly at the stern of a mighty ship. It sails through the mighty waves as the crew works tirelessly below him. He’s dressed in a pirate hat and coat with brass buttons and heavy boots. A green parrot squawks, soars, and perches on his shoulder. The blaring sun beats down on the tired crew and Billy paces the poop deck. The saltwater sprays his face and the lookout spots land ahead. The stretch of island is far, but it is covered in palm trees and crystal sand. “Land ahoy,” he cries out noiselessly. And the crew works to his proud content.

All these things the toys put into the Dream Machine. They can see the children’s face, as they sleep and see the things they improvise.

If toys, then, can see your deepest love and passions, why are there nightmares? Why do children wake up, crying and confessing that they had a bad dream? This is not the toys’ doing. The children have these ugly thoughts in their own heads. Sleep is meant to be peaceful, and it is the toy’s job to try to keep all other things away during the night. They do their best. But sometimes, the child doesn’t let a horrid image leave their mind. The thought or image will stay in a child’s mind and intrude upon good dreams, making it difficult to remain a “good dream”. Let’s take Linda’s dream a night or so ago for example, about the beach. A thought of drifting out to sea in a float and never being heard from again—it intruded her picture of a perfect beach, ruining it. Luna still has trouble getting that thought out of her head.

Nightmares are a pain, and dreams are all fine and dandy, but there’s something more. There are also those random things you see in your dreams, where you’re not quite sure why they’re there. Those quirky, strange things you see—why do you see them? That’s simple. Even toys, you know, have a good sense of humor.

A couple weeks ago, Billy had a dream about driving full speed in a video game. The object was to dodge the obstacles and complete laps again and again—3-D graphics and everything. The obstacles in the game were simply blue lightning bolts. But, seeing as that was slightly boring, Thomas put green lizards in their stead. And he also gave Billy an orange tabby with wheels, instead of a bright green race car.

Luna also had fun with Linda a few nights ago. Linda was dreaming of a beautiful wedding with her as the bride. Everything was perfect, except Luna decided to make Linda’s mother have a beard. Once Linda reached the front of the church, ready to her pronounce vows, she discovered that she was supposed to marry Billy!

But, of course, when you are dreaming, everything seems normal. So Billy and Linda don’t even know the difference when small jokes like that arrive.

So what about teenagers? What about those kids that don’t play with toys anymore and growing into adults? Well toys never forget their first owner. Even when they’re thrown away, toys make their way to Dream City at thirteen o’ clock. They work the Dream Machine and still strive to put good dreams into their kid’s head. But alas…children will eventually ignore their imagination, thinking it too childish. The older the kid gets, the harder it is for the toys to give them good dreams. Then, sadly, the child grows up into an adult. And toys, everyone knows, must leave their owner completely when he reaches adulthood. So whether a toy is thrown away, or passed down to another owner, the toy never forgets to give dreams to his first owner along with his current one. Toys are quite loyal, as some forget and fail to recognize. They are so much so, in fact, we cannot even fathom it.

Many say that we have five to seven dreams a night, give or take a few. Some say that each night brings a long, continuous dream, where we wake up and only remember parts of it. We don’t really know. But the toys do. My point is: the dream stage is quite extensive. Thirteen o’clock is the longest hour of the night. It is an eternity to everyone—from the toys to the ones who sleep through it. Luna and Thomas feel as if twenty hours has gone by, and not just one. But when the end nears, they shut off the magnificent machine and leave Billy and Linda to their dreamless sleep.

Thirteen o’clock is nearly finished. Luna and Thomas jump back into the little race car.  They fly past the city and drive through the quiet town. The dolls in the big city and on the sides of the road all begin go back inside, as the day is their night. The hole in Billy’s wall opens up again, and the car zooms back into the silent bedroom. Billy’s nightlight in the wall is the only thing that flickers. All the toys are frozen back in their positions. The racetrack is frozen and Billy’s soft breathing echoes through the room. Thirteen o’clock is over.

Parking the car in its spot, Thomas jumps out and helps Luna out of the car. Before he freezes like the rest, he kisses her hand and bids her goodnight. Her stitched face smiles back.

Luna hurries back to young Linda’s canopied twin bed. Crawling back onto the soft sheets, she snuggles into Linda’s small arms, where she had left them. Linda breathes calmly beside her, with a smile on her face.

The clock strikes one.

~J.L. Cordova

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