I remember the day Mark Lanson took me up to his house in Cornwall and showed me his trophies.
9 years in a row, he’d won the Silver Babbits Cup for most original dream and you could say that he was a hero of mine and to most people in dreaming circles.
I thought he would be proud of them. I know I was proud when I came second to him, twice, but he seemed quite sad as he showed them to me, as if they were something that was more a source of shame than pride.
“I didn’t bring you here to show off”, he said to me, becoming deadly serious, “I brought you here to give you a warning because you’re still young and your mind is still wide open and fertile”.
“But isn’t yours?”, I asked, incredulous, “The Dream Champion who pulled the Jade Octagonal Universe out of a hat with only 12 minutes to spare?”
“That wasn’t me”, he then told me, pulling out a little plastic round container from his pocket full of odd shaped pills and rattling it, “That was these”.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing or hearing; Mark ‘DreamWeaver’ Lanson confessing to me that he was a drug user and, what’s more, a cheat.
“After the 6th trophy, it started to get harder to dream anything new”, he said, his eyes shifting from mine towards the swirling patterns on the Victorian carpet of his old house, “It was like killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. It became all about winning trophies and impressing people and less about having fun. That’s why, recently, I’ve been thinking about packing it all in”.
“Give up competitive dreaming? Why would you want to do that?”, I asked, honestly at first but then a darker reason started to crawl into my head. I started to imagine how I could use the information that Mark had just confessed to me to steal the next Babbit cup from him.
I think he must have sensed something or seen something in my face; some change, because then he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t you get sucked into the competitiveness of it. I know it looks good from the outside to be number one but winning can come at a terrible price”.
But I didn’t listen, in fact I tried to manipulate him because now I was seeing him, not as my hero anymore, but as a loser. Someone who was all washed up; someone who had had their time in the spotlight and now was acting like a fool and deserved to be played for a fool.
“I don’t think you should quit”, I said, trying to sound like someone who believed in him and really cared about him, “So what if you need a little help. That’s understandable. You’re a creative person and, what’s more, you’re one of the greats”.
Of course, I was only thinking about that first place trophy. I knew that if I could manage to win second place at the next tournament then, an anonymous tip off to the judges about Marks drug taking and I could have him disqualified; then I’d finally achieve my dream of winning first place.
I should have listened to him though. I know that now.
I did win second place to Mark, you see, at that tournament and, afterwards, I made that anonymous phone call to one of the judges but then it turned out that Mark had stopped
taking those pills a month before and had beat me fair and square.
Not only did he pass the drug test and hold onto his trophy but now he knew that I, like the little weasel I was, the only person he had confided in about his drug use, had betrayed him.
Still, he seemed to forgive me. He spoke to me after the tournament.
“I don’t blame you”, he said, “I only worry about where you’re headed. About where Competitive Dreaming is headed”.
Mark quit not long after that and then it was I who started being Dream Champion, winning all the first place trophies and now, like him, it’s me whose taking those funny shaped pills and another young, wide eyed dreamer who is stepping up to steal my crown.