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Dream Thieves

If a man is unable to dream, can insanity be far behind? Edward Grimm is a talented wood carver living in 18th century Germany. He has made a fine living for himself carving carousel horses for royalty, but his heart and soul are dark. Grimm has never been able to dream, and loathes those who can. His anger at God for denying him this simple pleasure fuels jealousy and hate toward his little nephew who tells Grimm all of his fantastic dreams. Driven insane by this venom, Grimm seeks out the assistance of mysterious gypsy wanderers who give him the secret of capturing his nephew's dreams.

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Steven Lee Climer

      Steven Lee Climer lives in metropolitan Detroit and is a Ph.D. student at Wayne State University. When not writing, he teaches English at Detroit College of Business and is the college web developer. The greatest joy in his life is his wife, Karen. If you've seen Titanic then you know how he feels about her. 
    His short stories have appeared in over a dozen magazines, including Implosion, The Midnight Gallery, Into the Darkness, and FrightNet. His story "By Any Name a Devil" appeared in the anthology Monsters from Memphis and was named Honorable Mention in The Year's Best Horror and Fantasy by OMNI Magazine, and also recommended for nomination for a Bram Stoker Award. DREAM THIEVES is his first novel. 
    His favorite things: watching the Detroit Red Wings, gardening, spending time with his family, and going to the gym.


"This is a haunting work, not only for the beauty of Mr. Climer's incredible prose, but also for the unusual concept, the deftly drawn characters, and the mood that draws the reader deeper and deeper into the soul of Grimm. I wish I could tell you more without giving away a plot that is intricate in design, as finely carved as Grimm's Zoltan, and imbued with an extraordinary vision. I loved it. Thank you, Mr. Climer, you have added greatly to my collection of great books. Highly Recommended!"

Under the Covers Book Reviews

5 Stars!

"Dream Thieves evokes the feeling of Lovecraftian dark fantasy. Steven Lee Climer's words are hauntingly poetic, his plot masterful, and his imagination seemingly unbounded."

Affaire de Coeur

"I used to believe that Dark Fantasy was just another name for horror, set in strange and blurry worlds. Steven Lee Climer redefined my perception of the genre with Dream Thieves. Dream Thieves earned Climer a nomination for best first novel in 1998, from the International Horror Guild, and it's a shame he missed out. If he can continue to produce material this inventively satisfying though, then I'm sure he hasn't long to wait before some serious recognition falls his way. I cannot recommend it highly enough."

Richard Wright -- Masters of Terror

Chapter 1


I AM A MAN in misery, my bones long replaced by this hard Oak. I am a man imprisoned within this tree, within this sarcophagus, painted and carved.

I can see her, I can almost touch her from here. She is before me, my tangled web of English Ivy curling about her feet. It was not always this way. In the years that have passed, I've almost forgotten what truly brought me to this point in time. I have no regrets, even though I am without the two things I longed for most...

* * *

EDWARD GRIMM squatted by the fireplace in his lonely dwelling that sat far away from the well-traveled paths leading northward to Frankfurt.. He stared into the flames, his coal black eyes void of any reflections. The darkness absorbed the light of the fire, for nothing could be allowed to be so luminous in his presence. Licking tongues of flame in a mocking mouth of wood. All laughing at him, the man who had no dreams. He stabbed at the fire with an iron poker before standing.

Grimm was a tall man when he stood, and wore a shaggy, but small, beard and mustache tipped with white. He was not an elderly man, but he was old in his heart. For a heart with no dream was a lonely, desolate place. He was desperately alone.

Grimm replaced the poker by the hearth and stood. He went to the window and looked out into the winter gray afternoon. He was expecting his brother to come by with his son, Gustov. Grimm loved when Gustov came by, not because he loved his nephew, but because he loved what he could see in Gustov's face; the dreams in the boy's eyes. And try as he might, the hate swelled for the child and consumed any love that existed.

Dreams, Grimm exhaled, such a burden on the human soul. Even more so than those cursed with a void. Until Gustov began telling him the fantastic things he saw when dreaming, Grimm thought he had come to an uneasy truce with his dreamlessness. What a lie, the dark voice in his head whispered. God hates you.

Indeed, dreams were something quite unknown to Grimm. For as long as he could remember, he had never had a dream. He had heard others talk about what they'd seen in their sleep, but Grimm's mind offered only desolation. He heard nothing but faceless laughter.

Although he longed to dream, he knew desire and dreams were two entirely different things. Desire was not inspirational, and often self-motivated. Desire was a lust to quench the flesh or the vices of sin. Dreams were God's visions, gifts bestowed upon those He loved the most. It was true, Grimm had one desire, but he wanted a dream.

He did not desire money, he was comfortable. Grimm earned plenty of money with his gift for carving wood. Others had expressed jealousy because they dreamed of having a skill such as his. He hated those people. What did they know about it? Did they have silent nights in complete darkness? Grimm couldn't image what it would be like to speculate on something as mundane as the weather. Nothing was the truth until it happened, and until it happened it did not exist.

He didn't have a gift as others had often said. There was nothing magical or inspirational at what he did. Grimm imitated what already existed by carving it. When he saw a lump of wood, that is what he saw. Often, he had taken a chisel and mallet and went to the wood, praying that an image would come to him and he would fashion the wood. The chisel always remained cold in his hand, the mallet in the other.

"They are here," Grimm said as he saw his brother, Alexander, and Gustov coming off the main trail.

He pulled the door open in anticipation of Alexander's knock.

"Good afternoon, brother. It's good to see you." Grimm bent to the blonde six-year-old. "And how is Gustov today?"

The child hesitated, shying slightly as Grimm's shadow fell upon him, "hello, Uncle."

Alexander unwound the scarf from his neck, "It is such a blustery day. Thank you, Edward, for watching Gustov while I go to town. It has been difficult, since his mother passed away."

"I know," Grimm replied.

Although they were brothers, they looked remarkably different from each other. Alexander's eyes were large and brown, his mouth, pleasant. He was a good looking man, a loyal husband and father. His children were beautiful and healthy; Grimm had no children. Alexander's wife, when she was alive, was warm and caring; Grimm had never experienced a woman's love.

Every time Grimm saw Alexander and his family, he seethed as memories from the past tortured him. Alexander was the golden child, Edward the dirty throw-away. Memories could not be confused with dreams. Much like desire, memories were devices of pain and suffering. God ensured that Grimm had a limitless supply of bitter memories of his father's harshness. Alexander's charmed life was the stabbing reminder of what he did not have, nor would ever have.

"I shouldn't be too long, " Alexander said. "Please make sure he stays out of trouble, he's a mischievous one, my Gustov."

"Don't worry about him, he is in good hands." Grimm looked down at Gustov and pulled the boy close, pinning him to his own body.

Little Gustov has so much to tell me, Grimm thought to himself. No doubt, he will be in gentle hands no matter how much he wanted to destroy the boy.

What a waste for a child to have such dreams. Why had he been forsaken? Grimm's thumbs squeezed down on Gustov's tender shoulders. He could kill him here and now, destroy the dreams altogether and return to ordinary misery. No, he told himself, he had to have more of the child's secrets. Tell me what you see, boy...tell me what you see....

They watched as Alexander bundled up once again. He left the cottage, and soon disappeared around the first bend in the dirt road.

Grimm leaned toward Gustov. "Well, what have we to do today?"

He paused and looked into the boy's innocent eyes, as if to steal his soul. He tried hard to love Gustov. Perhaps he did, in some way, but his jealousy overpowered his compassion.

"Ah, yes, I remember. You were going to tell me a story, something you had dreamed."

Gustov smiled at his uncle, "Can I see the work house, please? I want to see the carousel horses again!"

Grimm paused, he knew if he went along with the boy's wishes he could get him to speak. "Certainly. I started a fire in the stove, just in case you wanted to go out there."

Grimm took Gustov by the hand and they walked through the tiny house, which consisted of only three rooms; a kitchen/dining area, and two bedrooms. Between the two bedroom doors was a third door which led to the workshop out back.

Gustov could hardly contain himself when Grimm opened the workshop door. "Have you made any new ones?"

"Yes, for King Leopold in Scandinavia," Grimm said.

Gustov tugged at Grimm's shirttail, "can I see it? Can I play on it?"

"Of course, of course."

Gustov gaped. He stood before one of the carousel horses for which his uncle was famous. "It's the best one yet, Uncle!" he exclaimed, stroking the shiny, black leg of the stallion.

"Thank you." Grimm lifted little Gustov onto the steed. "How does he feel?"

"Like the finest show horse ever! Better than any of the circus horses!" Gustov took the reins in his hands.

Grimm watched the boy's smiling face. Ideas and fantasies were swirling upon it, "would you like to see the drawing he came from?"


Grimm walked over to a small workbench that contained all his carving tools and bits. There, he located a pencil drawing made by one of the king's artists. Grimm envied the artist who could see this beast in his mind.

"Here it is." Grimm took it to Gustov. "This is the king's favorite horse. He asked me to carve a carousel horse from this picture."

"He's a fine horse, uncle, but not as good as this one!" Gustov shouted and pretended to dig in with his heels.

Grimm studied Gustov. He could see that expression on his face again, the look that drove Grimm to the point of insane jealousy. "What would you do if you had this horse in real life?"

Gustov's brain raced with fantasy. "I would go to the Schwarzwald and find the green dragon that father told me about. Father tells me the story at night about the green dragon of the Black Forest."

"I don't think I've ever heard the tale. Why don't you tell it to me."

"In the Black Forest, there's a castle belonging to an ancient queen. The king went out one day to kill the dragon, because it was killing all the animals and burning the trees, but the dragon killed the king before he could kill the dragon."

Grimm was fascinated. "Yes, yes, go on."

"Then, a bad king came to the castle and kidnapped the queen, who was the most beautiful woman in the land. He took her to the dragon, and said the dragon could have her, if the king could have the castle and land, and if the dragon would never kill anymore animals." Gustov paused for a long breath. "The dragon answered that if he could keep the castle and the queen, the bad king could have the land. The bad king agreed, and the dragon now sleeps in the dungeon of the queen's castle and guards her so she can never escape."

"And you would go kill this dragon?" Grimm asked.

"Yes, because whomsoever kills the dragon will set the queen free, and win all the land for himself, and be king."

"Would you like to be king?"

Gustov touched the hard black points of the horse's mane. "I would love to be the king."

Grimm smiled and lifted the boy from the horse. "Would you like to name him, Gustov?"

"Can I?" His eyes were as bright as points of sunlight.

"Yes," they stood together and look at the steed's face.

"I don't know." Gustov studied the tall head and face. The mouth was ferocious and lined with red paint. The eyes were angry and dark. For a moment, they almost seemed real.