Despite the narrative complexity, Sydney was resting rather comfortably. He was getting enough dreaming done to last him a month.
seven worried thoughts calm costumed clumsy chicken left alone to dream
But he had the nagging feeling that waking would be wise before he got too comfortable. Lacking formal training in walking among the dreamlands, he had to improvise. He needed a way to disrupt the calm, but not so much that it would cause him trouble later.
Then it hit him. The perfect solution.
He imagined he’d find it just behind the next tree. Concentrating, he moved cautiously around the large trunk under the branches laden with fragrant apple blossoms.
And there it was.
A magnificent rooster, sound asleep in a sunbeam.
He snuck up on the rooster, and picked it up. To his surprise, it just snorted a little in its sleep, and ignored him as he carried it off.
Back at his campsite, he set the rooster down near his sleeping form.
Then he prodded it awake, hoping it would crow loudly in surprise.
“Arwwk?” it grumbled. “Why am I under the wrong tree?”
Sydney stepped back. The rooster was talking. “I’m sorry. I was hoping you would be startled enough to wake me from several layers of dream.”
“I suppose. What is in it for me?”
“Satisfaction? I don’t really have anything to offer you, other than this pocket I suddenly notice is full of corn.”
“One pocket of well dreamt corn sounds fair enough. You can leave the corn here. One never knows for sure which of you will wake up or what will happen next. I imagine I’ll enjoy my snack and return to my slumber, though.”
“Certainly.” Sydney emptied his pockets of corn, and even found a pocket full or worms. The dreamlands are an uncertain place, and not for the squeamish.
The rooster nodded in satisfaction, then stretched himself out, ruffled his magnificent plumage, and took a deep breath.
It was just about the quietest noise Sydney had ever heard come out of a rooster that large. The rooster looked chagrined, shook himself, and tried again.
This time the noise shook the trees, the ground, and the very sky.
Sydney felt a lurch as his point of view suddenly snapped to his sleeping form. Then it lurched again. And again.
In time, he settled down and found the orchard looking much like it had when he had settled down to rest after tea with Gwen. Looking around, the formal garden was a few hundred feet away, with its roses in neat rows and the little table groaning under a breakfast spread. There was no sign of the rooster other than a faint echo and one large tailfeather falling slowly to the ground.
Sydney pocketed the feather and wandered back into the garden to see what had become of Gwen.