Delma and her nightmares

Delma swam swiftly through the cool water. But she felt strange. The water wasn’t crystal clear as it usually was. It was murky and filled with a stench. Suddenly she couldn’t breathe. She tried to raise her head from the water surface but some force was pushing her down.

“Help!” she cried.

Delma awoke with a start. It took her a while to get accustomed to the darkness. The full moon shone in the night sky. She could hear herself panting while the crickets made their creaking sounds.

“It was just a dream,” she thought to herself. Her heart was still pounding. This was the fifth time she had had the same dream in the past fortnight. The dolphin could not fall asleep and when dawn broke she was relieved.

She had a quick breakfast and swam her customary laps around the lake to feel fresh. She made her way to the Aquatic School glad to have something to distract herself with.

“Delma!” cried Luke the lake trout, Delma’s Science teacher.

“Why are you napping in my class?” the teacher asked with a trace of annoyance and amazement. “Are you unwell? It’s not like you to be sleeping in my class.”

Delma mumbled an apology but her cheeks burnt with shame. Her sleepless night had made her drowsy.

After school, Delma was about to head off homewards but Luke stopped her. “If you are ill maybe you should consult a doctor, Delma?”

Delma shook her head solemnly, “No, Sir! It’s nothing to worry about. I will rest today and I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow.”

That evening when her best friends Din Din the dinosaur, and Dazel the duck, came to meet her at the lake, they were surprised to see Delma looking haggard.

“What’s the matter?” asked Din Din, his brow furrowing in concern. “Are you unwell?”

Delma sighed. She shook her head. What could she say to her friends, that a few nightmares were scaring her? She was supposed to be Delma — the lake protector. Strong and unshakeable. She couldn’t bear to be considered a coward.

“I…I haven’t been sleeping well,” she said finally.

“Why?” Dazel persisted, her alert eyes scrutinising Delma’s features.

“It’s nothing,” Delma forced a smile. “How was your day at school?” “Thank the Lord, weekend is here,” Din Din let out a sigh of relief. “I want to spend time in my garden and just unwind!”

“It’s pond clean up time again,” Dazel shared ruefully. “So, I’m going to be spending the weekend cleaning up slime! It’s become tough at the pond now that the fire ants have made their home there. We have to be very cautious not to get them worked up.”

The friends chatted happily but Delma was brooding. The weekend loomed before her and there was no school to distract her. How would she survive these two nights? She wished desperately that she had a family.

When night fell, Din Din and Dazel bid her farewell. Delma ate her dinner halfheartedly. She couldn’t fall asleep even though she felt exhausted. When her eyes began to droop she would wake up with a start. Finally, by midnight she could bear it no longer.

She swam in the dark water which was lit by the moonlight. Soon she reached the caves where Olly the octopus lived. Olly was the ex-principal of the Aquatic School and Delma’s mentor and father-figure.

“Who’s there,” came a voice from inside the cave.

“It’s me, Delma,” the dolphin replied.

Olly hurried out of the cave. “Delma! What’s the matter? Is everything okay?” What are you doing here at midnight?“ the octopus said, putting his arm around Delma.

Delma’s eyes filled with tears at her teacher’s compassion. “I…I was wondering if I could spend the night here with you and Mrs. Olly?” she whispered through her tears.

Olly peered at her. “Of course, my dear! It’s your home. Come!”

The octopus led her into the deep cave located near the reef. Mrs. Olly was too kind to ask any questions. Olly sat beside her reading and soon Delma fell asleep.

In the morning when she awoke, Delma was startled to wake up in an unfamiliar place but the events of the previous night came flooding back. She had slept without having a nightmare!

“Good morning,” said Olly kindly.

“Good morning, Sir” Delma replied. “I’m so sorry to have disturbed you last night.”

“It’s absolutely fine,” Olly said. “Come let’s have breakfast.”

“Sir, please let me explain,” Delma said.

“Only if you wish to share with me. Otherwise, there is no need for an explanation,” Olly said. Delma felt a rush of gratitude for the old teacher. “Sir, I am comfortable sharing this with you because I know you will understand and not judge me. I have been suffering from nightmares since a fortnight. It’s the same dream again and again, that I’m trapped underwater. It has made me terrified of falling asleep,” she blabbered on, relieved to say the words aloud. “But yesterday night when I came here I slept soundly.”

“My dear, Delma,” Olly said with a smile. “It’s okay to be afraid. You and I are mortals and we all have our fears. You have always had a fear of being alone as you are separated from your family. These nightmares are probably a manifestation of the fear of being lonely.”

Delma listened intently. It made sense. She felt as if a huge burden had been lifted off her heart. But what is the solution, Sir?“

“The temporary solution is that you move in with me,” Olly said in a matter of fact manner.

Delma was overwhelmed by the generous offer. “Sir…I couldn’t impose… “

“Delma, this cave is big enough for even a creature like you to live in. My daughter is married off and it’s just Mrs. Olly and myself. We lead a quiet retired life. It would be nice to have someone young around,” the octopus said with a smile.

Delma rushed towards Olly to hug him, nearly knocking the breath out of him. “Thank you so much, Sir!” she whispered.

“You’re welcome, dear!” the octopus replied.

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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