Short Stories About Imagination | Dreams

These stories will have characters with rich inner lives or those with imaginations that tend to get out of control.

Some stories take place in a dream or have a dream-like quality.

See also Fear

The Wish | Roald Dahl

A young boy tries to make his way across a carpet, imagining it to be full of hot coals and snakes.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty | James Thurber

A mild and ineffectual man has a series of daydreams while accompanying his wife on her weekly errands.

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The Witch | Shirley Jackson

A young boy on a train tells a stranger that he saw a witch. The man humors the boy and then tells him a story about his own little sister, which upsets the boy’s mother.

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Sredni Vashtar | Saki

A ten-year-old boy, Condradin, seeks refuge from his cousin and guardian by playing in a tool shed. He has two pets there, a hen and a ferret. He imagines the ferret is a god.

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Imagined Scenes | Ann Beattie

A young wife, a nurse, cares for an elderly man at night. The man tells old stories, and the narrator imagines things in her sleep deprived state.

The Invalid’s Story | Mark Twain

The narrator recalls a train ride where there was a mix-up in the cargo being transported. Not knowing the contents of the boxes, his imagination runs wild and torments him.

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The Night Face Up | Julio Cortazar

A man on a motorcycle has an accident. After he’s given an anesthetic at the hospital, he dreams he’s a Motecan Indian fleeing from Aztec warriors centuries ago in Mexico.

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The Great Good Place | Henry James

George Dane is a successful writer with much responsibility and work to do. Soon after he feels like he’s experiencing a rebirth into a great good place, somewhere charming and peaceful.

Read here (Page 224)

What I Have Been Doing Lately | Jamaica Kincaid

An unidentified and unnamed narrator answers the door but doesn’t find anyone there. After having a look around, the narrator goes on a dreamlike walk.

The Mummy’s Foot | Theophile Gautier

A man goes to an old curiosity-shop looking for a paperweight. He finds a mummified foot – the foot of the daughter of a Pharaoh. He’s satisfied with the purchase and goes out eating and drinking with his friends.

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A Way Out of the Forest | Maara Haas

Rouga and Arnie, young siblings living in poverty without much adult involvement, make a game out of their situation by pretending they live in a tent in the cold and are waiting for provisions.

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities | Delmore Schwartz

The narrator dreams he is in a movie theatre in 1909. He watches a movie about his parents’ courtship. He reacts strongly to several parts of the film.

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An End to Dreams | Stephen Vincent Benet

James Rimington is under anesthetic for an operation. He dreams of his personal and professional history, including all the stepping stones in his path to success.

A Dream of Armageddon | H. G. Wells

On a train, a man starts a conversation with the narrator about dreams. He says that he has recurring, vivid dreams that are killing him. He dreams he is a different man living in another place, and he always dies in the dreams.

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Maud Martha and New York | Gwendolyn Brooks

Maud daydreams about New York – all the expensive things to buy, the tasteful homes, the fancy food, and the arts and entertainment scene.

The Coffin-Maker | Alexander Pushkin

Adrian Prokhoroff attends an anniversary party where there is a lot of drinking. The men poke some fun at his profession of coffin making. He gets angry and it affects his sleep.

Read “The Coffin-Maker”

Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams | Sylvia Plath

The narrator is an assistant to the secretary in the out-patient ward of a hospital. She is responsible for typing up people’s dreams and complaints about life. She becomes obsessed with transferring the hospital records to her own bible of dreams, with Johnny Panic as the god. One day the director catches her with the official records.

Read “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams”

The Dream | O. Henry

Murray is in a cell on death row. The time for his execution is almost here. He talks to his friend Bonifacio in a nearby cell. He is also visited by a reverend.

This is O. Henry’s last story and is incomplete. An editor fills in some information at the end.

Read “The Dream”

A Bread and Butter Miss | Saki

Bertie and Odo are discussing which horse they should bet on in an upcoming race. There is no clear favorite. Sir Lulworth adds to the confusion with an insider tip. When Lola says she dreamt of the race, everyone is attentive.

Read “A Bread and Butter Miss”

A&P | John Updike

Three young women wearing bathing suits enter a grocery store. The manager warns them to be appropriately dressed next time. Sammy, a teenage clerk, doesn’t mind, and imagines who the girls are based on their appearance.

Read “A&P”

What the Moon Brings | H. P. Lovecraft

The narrator has a surreal walk in his garden. The moonlight seems to be affecting his perception. Flowers that blow into the nearby stream look like dead faces.

Read “What the Moon Brings”