In my dream, I was my character in a video game I’ve been streaming recently: Addy_Daddy, the notorious space pirate from Voleron IV. Having just narrowly escaped a fate worse than death in the interrogation citadel of the Galactic Inquisitors, I was flying at just below hyperspeed toward the gateway that would allow me to escape the Affilis system and return to my secret base with a cargo hold full of ill-gotten space booty.
It’s not a simple matter to pilot an Aethra-class scout vessel while both dodging the blaster fire of pursuing Inquisitor interceptors and firing my own rear guns at them in self-defense, but I was doing a pretty bang-up job if I do say so myself. My shields were holding, and I was steadily thinning their ranks as my pursuers exploded behind me, one by one, in spectacular balls of fire.
Just as I was about to reach the map marker that indicated the position of the interstellar gateway, however, someone grabbed me by the arm. This was somewhat unexpected, as the Aethra class scout vessel only supports a crew of one, and it would have been impossible for an intruder to have gone unnoticed in such cramped quarters.
“Daddy,” a voice said as the grip on my arm tightened.
“That’s Mr. Daddy to you,” I shot back, not able to take my eyes off the rear view screens for fear of being disintegrated by the remaining interceptors at my tail.
The unseen intruder began shaking my arm, and the edges of reality blurred. I felt my consciousness begin to slip, and there was a sensation like I was being torn across some sort of interdimensional boundary. Reality warped around me, and I found myself… at home, in my bed.
“Daddy, there’s a gnome in my room.” It was Byrd. She was still shaking my arm, “Hurry, you need to come look!”
Reluctantly, I pulled myself from the bed and followed Byrd down the hall to her bedroom. She stood in the doorway and pointed at a small pink figure standing next to her bed. It was as she had said: a bearded, floppy-eared gnome. Just kind of… standing there, faced into a corner.
“Where did you find that thing?” I asked Byrd.
“Right there, Dad.” She walked around to get a clearer look at its face. “It was just there when I woke up.”
I will admit Byrd can have a very active imagination, but it’s not like her to outright lie about anything. If she said the gnome was there when she woke up, it most likely was. That’s when it struck me: today was Harvestfest. I’d heard stories about the gnomes that would appear in some people’s homes once a year on this particular day, but I’d never experienced it myself. I recalled also hearing that if you gave a gnome gifts, it might reward you in return.
“I think he wants something,” I said, wracking my brain for an appropriate gift for a house-invading gnome.
Byrd ran from the room and quickly returned with a bowl. “Here you go, Mr. Flops,” she said, placing the bowl in front of the unmoving gnome. Inside the bowl were the half-eaten leftover remains of a salad that had been served as part of dinner a couple days prior. “Is it OK if I call you Mr. Flops? I think it fits you.”
I’m not sure when it happened, or how, but I noticed the gnome had dropped a small packet of seeds after being presented with the gift. I don’t know where it came from exactly, or how, but I’m certain it wasn’t there before Byrd presented the salad bowl.
Byrd noticed it as well, and did a little dance in celebration of the gnome’s acceptance of her offering, and then picked up the seed packet and put it in her pocket. The then sat down in front of Mr. Flops and began telling him that they were going to be very good friends, and talking about how much fun they were going to have together, and asking for details of what sort of ingredients Mr. Flops would prefer for future salads. While that was going on, I decided to look around to see what other surprises might have been left around the house while we slept.
By this time Nalani was up, and was getting rather curious about what was going on. and why Byrd was suddenly best friends with a garden sculpture. That’s when I glanced through the window and spotted more of them out on the front lawn. I grabbed another leftover salad from the kitchen, and a cup of coffee, since that was the last salad in the fridge, and motioned for Nalani to follow me outside.
I placed the mug of coffee in front of one of the two gnomes outside, and handed the salad to Nalani, which she placed in front of the other. Then we waited.
For the longest time, nothing happened. Nalani was looking at me as if I’d lost my mind, and for a few moments there I was pretty sure I had. We were standing on the front lawn presenting gifts to inanimate objects, after all, which is not generally a sign that you’re in possession of all of your faculties.
“What’s supposed to happen?” Nalani asked.
I was just about to respond when, just like in Byrd’s bedroom, the gnome I was standing in front of inexplicably dropped a seed packet. Just after that, Nalani’s gnome dropped one as well. Our gifts had been accepted.
Byrd came out and collected the packets, her floppy-eared new friend cradled in her arms like a newborn. She introduced Mr. Flops to our two new friends, and then arranged them in a loose semi-circle near the mailbox.
“It’s a nice day today,” she said. “You gnomes should spend some time playing outside.” Then she took Nalani and me by our hands, walked us back inside the house, and closed the door.
When the door had closed, she sighed heavily. “We should leave them out there,” she said. “Those things kind of creep me out.”
There would be no dreams of intergalactic piracy that Harvestfest night. There were only nightmares of uninvited gnomes, invading my home and demanding tribute from my terrified children as they stared at me with blank, unblinking, dead eyes.