Nguyễn Đức Nguyên translates from the Vietnamese original “Nhặt Mộng” by Nhã Thuyên
Soon after Pandor opened the secret compartment, not only human maladies such as pain, hunger, illness, and vice came tumbling out … but Dreams also overflowed. People rushed after Dreams to collect. One picked up Dream of Plantation, another garnered Dream of Sex, one quickly plucked Dream of Literature; a person snatched Dream of Death and immediately collapsed into a coma.
A little boy came upon two Dreams: Dream of Person-In-Love and Dream of Poet. He inspected them in amazement. Two Dreams, both were soft, alluring and translucent like pieces of candy. He put them in his mouth, started to smile but then spat them out. They were cool and sweet like pieces of chilled watermelon, but they soon turned bitter, the taste of certain medication that his mother used to bury inside a banana for him to take whenever he suffered from high fever.
Not quite knowing what to do, the boy plaited the two Dreams together to make a little plaything, and kept it inside his shirt pocket. Once in a while, he took it out to play by reshaping it into different figures. From that day, he often smiled to himself, compulsively sketched pictures or wrote stories on any spread of sand he found. He did not realise that he was altogether both a person-in-love and a poet combined.
Some unlucky ones could not pick up any Dream, they sat dejected. Many became harsh and unyielding in their outlook on life. Most particularly, there was an account of a young man turning into a lunatic, half walking, half crawling, half crying, half laughing, forever screaming: where is my poem? Where is my love?
The young man was barely 20 years old. When all the Dreams flowed out, he tried all his might to gather Dream of Plantation and Dream of Fame… Unfortunately, while he was dodging and weaving amongst the Dream chasers, Dream of Poet and Dream of Person-In-Love, that somehow already deposited in his shirt pocket when Pandor opened the secret box, accidentally fell out. And with a stroke of good luck, the little boy picked them up.
We don’t really know if the boy would continue to play with those two Dreams or boringly discard them once the fun is gone, but we do know the 20-year-old young man forever loses his mind….