Here's the first from Lena, inspired by the words sleepless, Sweden, and dreamer:
Sweden in January was supposed to be a beautiful experience.
It is beautiful, these fields of white.
It was supposed to stretch my mind. Something about lights, green lights, dancing in the sky. Something about an ancient ship. Viking castles.
My mind is stretched … but too far. I’ve lost it somewhere. Maybe when I sat down and couldn’t make myself get back up, that’s when I set my mind down and forgot to pick it up again.
“How cold are you?”
There is a man here. Yes, he’s been here, but I don’t know how long. He is the one talking. His lips move and sounds come out.
The man’s eyebrows crinkle. He has a nose like Harrison Ford. “I didn’t ask how old you were, I asked how cold you were. But I’m glad to find a language you know, at least.”
I assumed it was his accent that made old sound cold.
“I can’t really tell.” Are my feet even there? I look to make sure, but everything is under snow.
The sky crinkles with darkness at the edges.
“Stay with me,” says the man, patting my cheek. “Don’t be a dreamer now. Dreaming’s no good. You know, Sweden is nicer in the summer. Why’d you decide to visit now?”
Why am I here again? “Studying.”
“Where are you from?”
“The United States, then? In the southern part?”
“Ah.” He nods. “You don’t know how to dress for winter if you’re from a warm place like Florida.”
I shake my head, and begin to speak, but the words evaporate on my tongue. Something about my mother telling me the same thing. Wear your hat, wear your mittens….
“Sleepless,” the man says. “Sleepless in Sweden. They should make a movie with a title like that. Don’t you think that’s clever?” One arm threads under my knees, the other rounds my back. “Let’s get you to a warmer place, shall we? Wake you up.”
With a grunt, he lifts me, snow shoes squeaking.