Dennis and the Dream Factory

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Dennis didn’t feel like sleeping. He had gone to bed at the same time every night for as long as
he could remember. He was tired (not sleepy-tired, more like sick and tired) of going to bed
when his parents told him to. So one night, when fall seemed over, but it wasn’t yet winter, he
decided he would stay up!

What Dennis didn’t realize, is that staying awake at night is hard when your body needs to
sleep. He tried everything he could think of to stop himself from falling asleep. He tried counting wolves (if counting sheep makes you sleepy, then counting wolves must surely do the opposite), but unfortunately it made him even more tired. He started to suspect that it was the counting, and not the choice of animal, that made people sleepy.

He tried holding his eyelids open, but that was difficult and altogether odd-looking. He even tried doing math problems in his head to stay awake, but the only thing more boring than solving math problems is trying to think of math problems to solve.

Dennis was just about ready to give up when he heard a faint squeak from his hamster Charlie.
He went over to Charlie’s cage, but it was empty. Dennis followed the sounds of squeaking until he found Charlie on the floor, looking behind the dresser. Dennis noticed that something back there was throwing things at Charlie! Paperclips, balls of paper, and even some legos were flying in Charlie’s direction, as he squeaked.

“What’s there, Charlie?” Dennis asked as he picked up the hamster and peered around behind
the dresser.

What he saw made him wonder if he had actually fallen asleep and not realized it.

“It’s a ... it’s a gnome!” he said. No bigger than Charlie (and no smaller), the gnome wore a
yellow shirt, a tiny pair of green pants, and pointy hat. Had it not been for the pointy hat, Dennis might not have recognized it as a gnome. But, gnome or not, it was being quite rude to Charlie.

“Why are you throwing things at my hamster, gnome?” asked Dennis.
“Why do you keep a vicious beast as a pet, human?” asked the gnome.
“Charlie is not vicious!” answered Dennis.
“Yes he is, and he started it.”
Charlie squeaked in protest.
“More importantly, why are you in my room, gnome?” asked Dennis.
“That is highly classified information, human.”
“My name is not ‘human’, it’s Dennis.” he said angrily.
“I already know your name. And for your information, gnomes have names too!”

Dennis didn’t say anything for a moment, and neither did the gnome. It was an awkward silence
for everyone except Charlie who, as usual, had fallen asleep shortly after Dennis picked him up.
“Well, what is your name then?” asked Dennis.

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“It’s DC. And, I suppose,” said DC begrudgingly, “I should thank you for saving me from the
beast,” said DC.

Dennis was still having trouble thinking of the the furry little hamster who was snoring in is
hands as a beast, but he still replied, “You’re welcome,” anyway.

“You were supposed to be asleep hours ago,” said DC, “and now you’ve seen me. This is bad...
this is very bad. I have no choice but to bring you back to the factory.”
“What factory?” asked Dennis.
“The dream factory,” answered DC.
The gnome crawled up the dresser and opened up Dennis’ sock drawer. He rummaged through
until he found the sock he was looking for. “Oh, I lost the other sock to that pair,” said Dennis
shyly.
“I wouldn’t say ‘lost’,” replied DC as he climbed inside the sock and disappeared. Dennis was
astonished. He had watched DC crawl into the sock, and now he was gone! He picked up the
sock and looked inside, but there was nothing in there. A moment later DC came crawling back
out, tugging a large piece of cloth behind him.
“You see,” said DC, “The only way to get to the dream factory is by sock. You go in one sock
and come out the other. Since you are a human, you can’t fit in a regular sock, so I brought our
freight sock with me.”

As he spoke, DC pulled out a sock the size of a bed. The huge sock was made up of many
smaller socks sewn together. “Socks?! How can I go in one sock and come out of another?” Dennis asked.

“It’s simple,” DC said, “every sock was created with an identical mate- another sock that it is
naturally connected to. Just like you have two feet that are separate, but are both connected to each other through you. Well, the socks we use to travel are connected through magic. All we have to do is get one sock (usually we take them from the washer or dryer) and then we can create a passage way to its partner sock.”

Dennis was still confused. Confused in the way you are when a gnome tells you your socks are
magic.

“That last part is not as simple- it’s handled by our Autosock Magical Recalibration Division, and the guys who work there are an odd bunch. Anyway, the result is that you go in one sock, and you will always come out the other. That way we can travel from the factory to your home with ease.”
“But, that doesn’t tell me anything! Like why do you need to come here at all, and what is at this factory?” asked Dennis.
“Ah,” said DC, holding open the enormous sock, “climb inside. You’re about to find out.”
Dennis crawled inside the huge sock nervously. It was dark, but smelled much nicer than he had imagined it would (had it smelled anything like his father’s socks, he would have turned around immediately). Dennis didn’t get far before he started to slide. He slid for what seemed like a minute, going faster and faster until he flew out into a large room onto a huge pile of pillows. DC was already in the room beside the pillows, ready to greet him.

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“Welcome to the Dream Factory. This is the Transportation Room. Those socks you see
hanging up there are the socks we use for incoming and outgoing trips.”

A group of gnomes, who were busy working around the room when Dennis flew in, had now
stopped what they were doing and crowded around.

“It’s best if we get going,” said DC, as he led Dennis out of the Transportation Room and into a
large hallway.
“This is the Executive Wing. All of the higher-ups have their offices on the other side of these
doors,” said DC.
“What are all of these paintings?” asked Dennis.
“Those are paintings of some of Remmy’s favorite dreams, collected over thousands of years.
Remmy is in charge of the factory and all the dreams in the entire world. That is who I’m taking
you to see.”
“All the colors are so dark, doesn’t he like any nice dreams?” asked Dennis.
DC paused for a moment and changed his tone.
“Remmy doesn’t care much for those types of dreams. He is the inventor of nightmares.”
“That’s horrible,” said Dennis, “You don’t have anything to do with nightmares, do you, DC?”

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“Here we are,” DC quickly replied. They had arrived at the end of the large hall and were
standing at the entrance to Remmy’s office. It was the blackest shade of black that Dennis had
ever seen. And above it was a sign that read:

“All Ye Who Pass This Crest Shall Find Yourself in Waking Rest.”

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“Should we knock?” asked Dennis. “There’s nothing to knock on,” answered DC, “Remmy
doesn’t have a door. I must warn you. Once you walk through that entrance you will feel like you are asleep, but you are not. Do not let your guard down, because Remmy does not like humans, and he can be very devious.” Dennis nodded and followed DC into the darkness.

The moment he cleared the opening, Dennis felt as though his eyes had shut. He was certain
he was standing on a bed, and his head felt heavy. He was getting more comfortable and more
sleepy by the second. It felt as though a warm blanket had just been put over him (and no
amount of wolf-counting or math problems could help him now).

“Who have you brought with you, DC?” asked a soft but sinister voice.
“This is Dennis. He was awake when I arrived at his home tonight, and he saved me.”
“I see,” said Remmy. “What were you doing awake, Dennis?”
Dennis was so tired that he could barely speak. “I ... didn’t want to. Don’t like ... sleeping.”
“You don’t like sleeping?” said Remmy a little louder.
This woke Dennis up a little bit, and his eyes opened slightly for just a moment. He could barely see what was in front of him, but he thought that he had seen a pair of green eyes.
“Well,” continued Remmy in a soothing voice, “You should come work at the factory then. Time
stands still while you are here, and you will never have to go to bed, ever again. Doesn’t that
sound perfect?”
“Yes,” mumbled Dennis.
“But Dennis—“ interjected DC, but he was cut off by Remmy.
“Excellent,” said Remmy, “You will start immediately. Show him around, DC.”

DC led Dennis back out of the room without him ever really seeing what Remmy looked like. He
could still barely open his eyes when he stepped back into the hall. DC took him through many
other hallways. By the time Dennis had finally snapped out of it, he was standing on a factory
line in front of a conveyor belt.

“Where am I?” he asked.
“I told you not to trust him, but you didn’t listen!” said DC. “You’re on the factory line because
you told Remmy you’d work here!”
“Oh no,” thought Dennis. “What am I going to do?” he asked.
“There’s nothing you can do. You just accepted his job offer. Once the paperwork goes through,
you will be bound to the factory forever. Your job is on the dream factory line, bottling dreams.
I’m sorry.” said DC, and Dennis could tell that he meant it.
“I can’t stay here. I’ve got to stop that paperwork!” cried Dennis.
“Who’s this, DC?” asked a gnome with a black beard.
“This is Dennis,” he answered, “Remmy just assigned him here. He’s going to be working for
you.”
“Ah, a new employee! I’m not used to such a large worker, but the bigger they are the longer
they can work, I always say! My name is Foreman, and I’m your boss. Come on, I’ll show you
how it works, kid.” Foreman started to lead Dennis away.
“I’ll do what I can to get you out of here ... til then play along,” DC whispered and then ran off.
“Your job is to be a dream-mixer. You mix a dream, pour it in a bottle, then set it on the conveyor belt. It’s as simple as that.”
“How do you mix a dream?”
“Excellent question! Now listen up because I will only tell you once,” said Foreman. “There are
three main ingredients to a dream mix. Once it gets delivered to a person it mixes with their own memories and thoughts to make a dream. All they need to do is take one sniff of it. It’s really quite extraordinary. Over here we have the feelings station. Feelings are the first ingredient.”

Foreman showed Dennis dozens of buckets with powder inside them, next to a large machine
that was smashing cubes into a fine powder.

“That machine there is what we like to call the Dream Crusher. The gnomes from the Feelings
Laboratory bring us blocks of pure feelings, and we crush them down into a powder, because
one dash is more than enough for a dream. We have happiness, sadness, love, boredom, or
anything else out there. If you can feel it, you can dream it! Unfortunately, ever since Remmy’s
been in charge we’ve had to put fear into dreams sometimes too. Anyway, you sprinkle a little
powder into the bottle and you’re ready for the next step. I hope you’re following.”
Dennis nodded, as Foreman showed him a stand with different colored liquids in it.
“Good. The next ingredient is color. You pick any colors you want. Light colors, dark colors,
weird colors, dull colors, or my favorite- colors that really don’t go together. Then you scoop
them into the bottle with this ladle. The person who gets that mix will see those colors in their
dream. Got it?”
Dennis nodded again.
“Good, now you’re ready for the last ingredient: peppermint.”
“Peppermint?” asked Dennis.
“Yep, peppermint. You take a little peppermint from this container here, and you’re ready to cork the bottle and put it on the belt. Good luck. Now I’ve gotta go check on some other employees.”

Dennis was nodding in a daze.
“Gidget, for the last time that is way too much peppermint!” yelled Foreman as he walked away
to scold a confused-looking gnome.
Dennis was starting to wish that he had gone to sleep at his bedtime. Anything would be better
than being forced by gnomes to work on a factory line.
“I’ve got to find a way out of this place,” thought Dennis. “What I need is a diversion. I need to
something to distract Foreman!”
It was hard for him to think with the Dream Crusher making so much noise.
“I’ve got it!” he said.

That was the moment when Dennis decided he was going to make his very first, and hopefully
very last, dream mix.
He looked through all the buckets of feelings and found the perfect one. It was labeled:
“confusion”.
He sprinkled a large amount of the confusion powder into a bottle. Next he poured his favorite
colors inside: blue, green, and white. He was about to put the cork in until he remembered the
last ingredient.
“I almost forgot the peppermint!” he said.

A dash of peppermint later, and he had made a dream mix, corked and ready to be put on the
conveyor belt. But that’s not where he put it. Instead, Dennis snuck over to the Dream Crusher,
tossed the bottle inside, and went back over to the conveyor belt.

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A few seconds later the Dream Crusher came crashing down. When the bottle broke, the dream mix was released and filled the entire room. Dennis was the only one holding his breath.
Instantly, all of the gnomes stopped working. They were much too confused to get anything
done.

Some of them bumped into each other, but most of them just walked around in circles.
Foreman had stopped yelling at the gnomes. He looked at the peppermint for a few seconds
and then, without a word, started eating it.
Dennis took the opportunity to hop onto the conveyor belt. It carried him out of the room, into a dark tunnel. He didn’t know where it would lead him, but he couldn’t hold his breath any longer, and had to get out of there (the only other time he had ever held his breath that long was when his father took his shoes off in the car).

The tunnel stretched on until the conveyor belt came to an end, dropping him into a huge vat in a large, bright room. He was surrounded by dream mix bottles. When he heard some gnomes
coming, Dennis climbed out and hid behind a pile of bags. The sign above the door read,
“PACKING ROOM.” The gnomes were singing a song:
“Rest your head and close your eyes, meet the sun at morning rise,
If a dream is calm and deep, let it find you sound asleep”
From behind the bags, Dennis watched the gnomes work. They grabbed bottles from the vat
one by one and put them inside of bags, just like the ones he was hiding behind.
“The carrier is taking the next batch out soon,” said a female gnome.“I’ll never understand how one gnome can deliver so many dreams, every night!” said a second
gnome.


Just then a gnome driving a small car entered the room. The car was towing a bed behind it.
The other gnomes loaded bag after bag onto the bed.
“Tell the carrier we say hi,” they said to the driver as he started driving away.
Dennis saw his chance to get out of the room. He hurried alongside the car, still crouching
behind the rows of bags. Just before the car exited the room, he hopped on the bed and hid
among the bags. He sunk between two bags and sighed a deep sigh when he realized that
none of the gnomes had seen him.

He couldn’t see where they were headed but he heard the driver whistling the tune that the
packing gnomes were singing. Every once in a while he could hear the driver say hello to a
gnome as they drove by. After a few minutes, Dennis peaked through a small opening between
the bags. He looked at the words above the doors that they passed.
The doors he saw said, in order: GNOME RESOURCES, SOCK REPAIR, FEELINGS
LABORATORY, CONFERENCE ROOM D, and PAPERWORK APPROVAL.
“Paperwork Approval,” thought Dennis, “That’s the one!”

After a quick glance around to make sure the coast was clear, Dennis safely jumped off the
back of the slowly-moving bed. He ran to the door of the Paperwork Approval Room, and snuck
inside as quickly as he could.
The room was small, and there was little light. Dennis saw another conveyor belt, but this one
was carrying papers, not bottles. The belt brought the papers in from a hole in the wall on one
side of the room, and took them out through another on the opposite side of the room. There
was only one gnome inside, and he sat at the conveyor belt, stamping each paper as it passed.
“Hello,” said Dennis.

The gnome did not say a word. He was the first gnome Dennis had seen that was not wearing a pointy hat. This gnome was a good deal older than the others and wore a vest, tie, and argyle socks. As he continued to stamp, the gnome pointed to a sign on the wall that read:

“NO VISITORS”.

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“Please, sir,” pleaded Dennis, “I need to take a look at those papers. My name is Dennis. If you
don’t mind me asking, who are you?”
The gnome continued to stamp as he spoke.

“I am the Stamper, and you are distracting me. I have paperwork to stamp and I cannot miss a
single one. I have just enough ink to stamp every single paper for the day, not a drop more and
not a drop less. You cannot look at these papers. No one can. Now stop bothering me before I
you make me miss.”
“Well ... what kind of papers are they?” asked Dennis.
“All of the papers from all of the departments in the factory are sent here. Could be gnome
complaint forms, nap requests, employee contracts- they all come here,” said the Stamper as
he stamped.
“Employee contracts! You have to let me look,” said Dennis.

“No one may look!” yelled the Stamper. “I don’t even look at them,” he said under his breath, all
the while continuing to stamp.
“You don’t look? But, you’re approving them. How can you do that?”
“My job is extremely important,” he said, looking quite angry, “all these papers need approving,
and without me they would not get approved.”
“If you approve everything, then your approvals lose all meaning. You might as well have a
stamping machine approve them,” said Dennis.
“A stamping machine?!” yelled the Stamper as he slammed his stamp down hard onto a paper,”
A stamping machine cannot approve papers!”
“You’re not even reading them,” answered Dennis, “don’t you think it’s irresponsible? Don’t you
think it’s silly? Don’t you think it’s ... wrong?”

The Stamper froze for a few moments, then shook his head and continued stamping again.
The door burst open and a dozen gnomes with uniforms came rushing in.
They grabbed Dennis and picked him up, carrying him off.
“We’ve found you!” said the head gnome. “You’re going to see Remmy.”
Dennis shouted and struggled but it was no use.
The Stamper had not looked up. As the guards carried Dennis through the doorway, the
Stamper stamped his last paper of the day, and put his stamp down. Right as the door shut, a
single drop of ink fell from his stamp.

The next thing he knew, Dennis was back in Remmy’s dark office, feeling as tired as ever.
“We had a deal Dennis. Why did you leave your spot on the factory line? It took us a long time
to fix the mess you made. We had workers with buckets on their heads and dream mix
everywhere,” said Remmy in his sinister voice.
Dennis didn’t know what to say. His eyes were feeling very heavy.
“And you, DC! You were supposed to keep an eye on him. How could you let this happen?”
“I’m sorry, Remmy. I don’t know how it happened,” answered DC.

Dennis couldn’t believe it. DC was in the room with him! And he sounded out of breath.
“Well, you’re going to regret this Dennis, believe me. Leave it to a human to break the rules ...”
Remmy lectured. As he continued, Dennis felt himself fading closer and closer to sleep. He tried his best to keep his eyes open and listen but it was getting harder and harder.
DC leaned over and whispered in his ear.
“Let yourself fall asleep.”
“What?” Dennis whispered back.
“It’s the only way. I have your dream mix here. If you fall asleep, he will forced to talk to you
inside your dream. It’s the only way to even the playing field,” said DC.

Dennis was too tired to argue. He laid down on the soft, bed floor and fell asleep within
seconds. DC popped open the cork off the dream mix and sprinkled some onto Dennis.
Inside his dream, Dennis was standing in an open field. There was a dark blue sky and a
mountain in the background. A moment later Remmy appeared. Dennis could now see him
perfectly. He was larger than the other gnomes, with eyes a bright green. His hat was black as
night.

“How dare you fall asleep in my presence! Do you really think that you can battle me in a dream.
I am Remmy, master of all dreams and creator of nightmares!” yelled Remmy.
“I just want to go home,” shouted Dennis, “I don’t want to battle anyone.”

“Well, I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. I decide where you go, and you are not leaving.”
Shackles appeared out of nowhere and locked around Dennis’ arms and legs.
“You see, you will never escape. I can do whatever I want here, all I have to do is imagine it. I
can even be bigger if I want!”
Remmy nearly tripled in size right before Dennis’ eyes.
“What can you do?!” laughed Remmy.

Dennis had to think fast. How could he possibly beat someone as powerful as Remmy. That’s
when he remembered what DC had said, that being in his dream would level the playing field.
That must mean that he can imagine things up too!
“Well ...” said Dennis. “I can count wolves.”
A wolf appeared next to Dennis, growling at Remmy.
“Wolves?” asked Remmy with a bit of crack in his voice.
“Yes, wolves,” answered Dennis

Remmy took a step back.

“And I can count very high...”

Wolves started appearing by the hundreds. Wave after wave, and they all went straight for
Remmy.

“What are you doing?!” cried Remmy, “Get them away from me!”
Remmy ran off with the wolves close behind. The shackles on Dennis disappeared, and his
dream started to fade. He woke up to DC shaking him.
“You’ve got to get out of here. Now’s your chance. It looks like Remmy is stuck in a nightmare,”
said DC.

Dennis didn’t question it. He ran straight out of the room and down the hallway filled with
pictures and offices. At the opposite end of the hallway he found the room he was looking for.
He opened the door to the Transportation Room and found the enormous homemade sock
whose pair he had traveled through. It was hanging from a clothesline (luckily anything hung on a gnome’s clothesline is easy to reach). Dennis pulled down the sock and climbed inside.

After a quick slide, Dennis found himself crawling out of the huge sock in his bedroom. He was relieved to finally be home, but couldn’t relax just yet. As fast as he could, Dennis ripped up the sock.

Then, he took all the socks in his drawer, brought them outside, and tossed them into the
garbage can outside. When he got back into his room, he shut the door behind him and got into bed.

Charlie was sound asleep in his cage. Dennis could hardly believe what had happened. Just as
he shut his eyes, trying to think of what he would tell his friends he next day, he felt a slight tug on his sheets.

“Hi, Dennis,” said DC, as he climbed up onto the bed.
“DC! You’re ok!” said Dennis.
“Well, I just traveled through your father’s putrid sock, but other than that I’m better than ever,
and it’s all thanks to you.”
“What do you mean?” asked Dennis.
“Remmy is gone. It seems you scared him off. See, Remmy might have created nightmares, but
he had never actually experienced one until you sent those wolves after him. He ran away from
the factory, and he’s been replaced.”
“Replaced?! By who?”
“Well according to the Board of Directors, whoever has the most experience with dreams is next in line.”
“And who is that?”

“The Dream Carrier.”
“Who is the Dream Carrier, anyway?” asked Dennis.
“Well ... me. That’s what DC stands for.”
“You mean you deliver all the dreams to everyone in the world?”
“That’s right. And I’ll never have to deliver another nightmare again, now that I’m in charge of
the factory!”
“Oh,” said Dennis, with a sad look on his face. “I’m seriously happy for you. But I guess you’re
here to take me back to the factory, since I wasn’t able to stop the paperwork.”
“The funny thing about that,” said DC as he pulled out a piece of paper, “is that the contract was never stamped. First time it’s ever happened. It means the paper’s worthless. You can keep it if you want.”
Dennis smiled. “What should I do with it?”
“I would line the bottom of Charlie’s cage with it, but really that’s up to you.”
“Thanks, DC.” Said Dennis. “Now, if it’s ok with you I’d like to get some sleep.”
“Of course,” said DC, “it’s been a long night.”

Dennis drifted off to sleep before he could say another word. That night he dreamt of gnomes,
and socks, and beautiful colors, and just the slightesthint of peppermint.