Last night, the vikings were here. I know, because I saw them. It was late at night when they came. Everyone was asleep, and I had sneaked out some time before to take a walk in the woods. I like dark forests, and the sounds in them, so taking late night walks for me was quite normal. In the deeper parts of the forest, there are a lot of noises that only appear when everyone is sleeping. I go to listen to them. I’ve always thought they are the people’s souls when they dream. They come outside to find things to dream of. The forest has many corners, and those corners can remind them of others, and what they’ve done together, and the time they had thought about them while there, and how some footsteps feel like those other villagers with the same nightly dreams. I sneak there at night to see if I can make out what everyone is dreaming of. I try to peek into their minds, to see their thoughts. That might be a way of dreaming awake, I suppose. Perhaps I can even dream in more detail, with more light and attention, with all the perks of being awake, and still be in those fantasies.
But last night was different. Because of the vikings. They came to the village while I was in the woods. I was watching from behind the bushes near the village. I hadn’t gone much far yet. Some of them had torches with them, so I could see the pointy lights coming from the village. I could also see the rough faces of some of the closer ones. I could see their swords and daggers. They were silent at first, until they reached the first houses. Then they all started roaring and ran into the houses of my neighbors. To kill them, I suppose. And to take their golds. I tried to listen to see if the night noises would begin to disappear, but the vikings were loud. Their voices were like veils that covered all the niches of the forest. You couldn’t hear anything else. I reckon they shouted because they were angry, or because they wanted to scare the people. As they kicked open the door of my house, I stood up and walked deeper into the forest to hear more. But the vikings were still loud. For a moment, I wished I could ask them to be quiet so that I could hear the souls roaming. They might not have minded me stranding off in the middle of the night, as they weren’t my family and didn’t care for me, so I guessed I could tell them. But then they might have killed me, so I didn’t. Instead, I walked further.
Near one of the tall trees, those in the more shadowy part of the woods, I saw another boy. I stopped for a moment, out of surprise. There was never anyone other than me in the forest when it was night. Unless someone had gone missing, like the time my brother was lost. Then people would pour into the trees, and you couldn’t hear the noises anymore. And the forest wouldn’t be dark. Torches would always be with people.
I went on to see him. When I got closer, I saw that he was wearing a cloak, as the vikings did. But he was young. He noticed me, but didn’t seem to care much. His eyes were looking up. I walked closer to him to see his face better. He didn’t have a torch, and the moon seemed to be lost somewhere behind the clouds, so darkness wasn’t willing to fade away. I could still hear the vikings shout, but they sounded more distant now. The viking boy spoke.
“I think I can still hear them.”
I listened. “Me too.”
“Do you think they’re dead?”
“But they’re still dreaming.”
We stayed silent for a minute. I was trying to see what they were dreaming of. It was somewhat hard though, with someone else being around. Someone awake, I mean. He said, “They’ll haunt this forest.”
“That’s true. The travelers are going to dream of them.”
We chuckled silently at the thought.
“They’ll wonder who these people are.”
“Yes, and the houses too. They’ll wonder whose houses those are.”
“And they’ll ask each other about their dreams.”
“They’ll talk about the daggers and the blood.”
“And they’ll call their dreams nightmares.”
We fell silent. I could see the moonlight come out of the clouds again, and it lit the boy’s face. He was looking at me. We stared at each other for a minute. Then he turned toward where I had come from. Smoke had grayed the sky above the village. A breeze brought the smell of ash. There was no shouting anymore.
He turned his face once more, to share a last look, and ran toward the village. Bushes and trees shuddered as he went, until they became still. I stayed there a bit longer and listened to the noises. Then I walked back.