His dream began unbeknownst to him. As the setting was where he lived and the cast composed of those he knew, it was as if he had never drifted off to sleep. It says something about a person when their dreams take them no farther than what they already know. They might be the type who are happy and comfortable with all they've come to know and desire very little, or they might be the type who struggle daily and just wish to get things right. This subject was the latter, but unlike most, no matter how many times he ran things through in his mind, he could never quite figure things out. As usual, his thoughts took him back to where he had grown up and where he still currently dwelled.
In his dream, he woke up believing he had finally achieved a good night's rest. Light poured in through his bedside panes as he took his first steps out of bed. For a moment he reflected on how nice it was to not need to reach for the light switch nor need to rush to reset the alarm. For the past month he had trouble falling asleep in the dark, as though he were not within the safe confines of his own house but rather within the unforgiving limits of the wilderness. He had always slept in this bed, in this house which he had grown up in. The house was not haunted nor was its keeper the protector of some mystery, he just appreciated things as they had always been.
By the time he left to collect the eggs for his breakfast, the rooster had long retired to its coop. His boots picked up and carried the earth with them, leaving his trail in case somebody came looking for him. Although he rose in the sun's early light, the day had returned to the dreary state in which he had fallen asleep. The most intuitive of his animals, the rabbits, retreated deep into their hutches and at last emerged as he passed them. The least intuitive of his animals, the goats, rushed to meet him, their muzzles and bellies stained an uninviting shade of brown. Setting his eggs down, he warily tugged at their beards while he fed them from his other hand. Savoring the moment, they licked his hands clean, removing the stains they had just left. Content, he went on to collect from the rest of his animals before heading out to tend his crops. Then he would enjoy breakfast.
Who would have guessed that this subject, this man who lived so simply and peacefully, suffered in his sleep? This is why we study humans the way we do. Like their dreams, humans are far more than what meets the eye. So far I had a hunch about this man--he had lived a tranquil life, and for that he was generally happy…however he was the type to obsess over the slightest disturbance. To suffer narcolepsy, yet remain unaware of what it was that was troubling him, had made this man forfeit the fight with his nightmare, night after night. How could a man hope to tame a beast he knew nothing about? As kind as this man's day had been, I proceeded to survey on my own.
The scenic dream fell apart when he appeared. He was patched, as though the farmer had resorted to eating him in pieces. Despite his limp he overshadowed the rest of the herd, forcing them to retreat and reconvene in brighter pastures. Never had my work beheld such a lucid nightmare. Resigned to the afterlife, his horns grew crooked yet high upon his head. Needless to say, it would be necessary to take the bull by its horns and remove his crown. He was quite the specimen, one I couldn't wait to welcome into the Menagerie. But I couldn't allow first impressions to get the better of me. To be woken from death by this midnight ram, night after night...this subject would have testified to the most horrible of ordeals if he had not been spared for being unable to remember upon waking!
To sate my curiosity, I grant the black sheep the opportunity to find the farmer before introducing myself. For something like this to be birthed from the mind of such an unassuming man…was it simply the outcome of a guileless farmer having reaped what he had sown? While the dream had been plain and honest, was it wrong to interpret this nightmare just as literally? It was difficult to believe that this black sheep could have ever grazed among the rest…I would need to observe the farmer's response upon discovering it to ascertain whether it had once truly existed this way. At this time, I had become unaware of the whereabouts of the farmer, so I opt to trail the nightmare as it lurked about.
As the midnight ram haunt the grounds the idyllic dream once more gave way to a harsh nightmare. The sky had turned grey, the ground was left muddy, but worst of all the storm dwelt in the sky. On his hunt for the farmer, the ram came upon the boot tracks, and from there, the confrontation was inevitable--he merely had to saunter on. First he circled around the rabbit hutches, which I noticed had been left bereft of food and which needed cleaning. Then, he passed the goats lying in the mud, making it apparent how they had been left abandoned in the weather all this time. At last the nightmare finally came across the house, only to discover it was vacant. The smell of breakfast hung heavy in the air.
Circling around to discover boot tracks, the midnight ram continued on his quest. The trail no longer verdant and lush, the earth swallowed his every step, forcing him to toil on. His underbelly immersed, from afar one might mistake him as an ox just cut loose from a wagon he had failed to ford. As I trailed him safely from higher ground, I was able to make out the farmer first. Even higher still, the farmer sat by, unperturbed, dedicated to shearing his flock. He had beat the weather, for only his boots betrayed stain. Upon noticing the farmer, the ram abandoned the trail and weathered a straight ascent. As though to hold him back, the earth clung to him, sparing the farmer a crucial moment.
Just as the man finished shearing, another sheep bleat eagerly. At this, he offered it an apology, realizing once again that he could not finish all that he had hoped to accomplish today. Following his father's passing, he had decided to take over the farm and now it was his alone. Out here, where he had the whole world to himself, the man felt proud. Everything he needed was here at home; satisfying labor, good company, and most important: peace and quiet. A black sheep in society, the man knew he belonged back on his farm. Suddenly, his reverie is interrupted as he notices a massive black beast advancing toward him from the depths of the ravine. By this time the rest of the flock has fled, leaving the black sheep on his own.
Finally the man and his nightmare meet face-to-face. The man asks the black sheep whether he has come to be shorn. Weighed down by wool and mud, surely it must desire to be freed to graze among the rest of its kind? At that moment, I decided I'd seen enough. Curiosity sated, I step out and inform the man of what he must realize: Just like yourself, he's too proud to admit it, but this black sheep can't take care of himself. Look at his horns…sure, they're to be proud of, but they've grown far too much for him to handle! Besides, as no one has been there for him, he's had to burden maneuvering about under that midnight cloak all the while…
Just as the man's kindness had staggered the nightmare, my words had staggered this man. Peering at me curiously he implores as to what we should do. I correct him as I gesture toward the black sheep, Not us, rather it is you who must help yourself. In your solitude you have neglected what matters most. Like your farm, you have allowed yourself to fall behind because you haven't realized you need help from somebody else. Don't feel ashamed…
Musing over this, shears in hand, the man tentatively makes his way over to the black sheep. Drawing a rag from his pocket, he wipes the mucus off its muzzle and begins to offer it reprieve. The conversation goes on for a long time, and as the midnight cloak falls in patches, the man and the black sheep achieve peace.
The man woke up having finally achieved a good night's rest…and my job was done. Upon his awakening, I led the midnight ram back to my world, for if I had not, he would have dissipated into the dawn as nightmares always do. A source of pride to us both, he bears his horns as his crown. To this very night, he resides in the Menagerie under the classification: Aries.