v) Abianarin did not dream

Abianarin did not dream. Her sleep was a vast black expanse, with the barest smudges and pinpricks of light and random intervals — impossible to see, scarcely perceptible at the edges of her senses. She floated in this space, an eternity of gentle, motionless rest, until some ancient part of her knew it was time to wake up.

She stretched, yawned, and packed her things. The others were already up, and each one looked haunted — but none moreso than Abia herself.

iv) Fassn slept the night through

Fassn slept the night through. His eldest sister came to him in a dream, her listless, ephemeral form barely distinguishable against the undulating plants that rose up all around them. Fassn blinked. He appeared to be on the sea floor.

“Good to see you again, my brother,” Qulya said. “How many years has it been?”

“Two decades or more,” Fassn said. “It’s good to see me? Now I know you’re lying.”

Qulya chuckled. Air bubbles escaped her mouth and bounced trippingly upwards, to some unknown surface. “Old Ajralan treating you well?”

Fassn scoffed. “He is a father, a son, a wizened old sage. He knows what’s up.”

“Ah, Fassn,” Qulya said, shaking her head. “The question is not what is up, but where.”

A sudden rush of insight came upon Fassn; long-sought illumination, at last! He sat bolt upright in his bedroll, awake and alert, breathing hard, but could not remember what his realization had been.

iii) When Shyan took over his watch

When Shyan took over his watch, Cang dreamed of a great, glowing emerald, flawed but beautiful, fogged, murky, and big as the hills. He stood at its base, which seemed to descend deep into the earth. He rapped at it with his knuckles.

It addressed him.

“Cang,” the emerald said. “Many are the riches meant for you. I am but a trifle. Understand?”

Cang’s eyes were vacant — a thin line of spittle escaped from his open mouth.

“Yes,” the emerald intoned. The air around it seemed to vibrate with the sound. “Riches sure are great, no?”

All Cang could do was nod, gently, his head bobbing up and down in delirious agreement. Outside the dream, he nodded in his sleep, and continued to do so until he was woken by the rest.

ii) Sleep came for Shyan

Sleep came for Shyan. In a dream, she found herself outside a seaside cottage, built of driftwood and thatch. It stood atop a rocky cliff. The scent of sea salt filled the air, and she heard the screeching cries of gulls as they circled above. One by one, the gulls dropped from the sky, dove into the choppy blue ocean without a splash. Many hours passed as Shyan watched for their return to the surface. A bitter wind cut at her skin, but still she kept her vigil for the gulls. The deep red sun set at the horizon, and in the dream, she felt herself returning to wakefulness. As the cottage and cliffs faded from her memory, she saw a gigantic fin cutting the waves, heading fast towards her.

exercise: N1.4

N 1.4

1.

A great glowing clown, fat like the Chinese Buddha, with the same gently smiling face, eyes closed in contentment, stands alone on a dark, vast field. Its white-yellow light is the only source of light in this universe, the only source, and it isn’t strong enough to combat the overwhelming darkness of the scene. A thick rumbling vibration, the groaning of the stretching universe, fills your ears, if you have ears, fills your bones and muscle fibres and synapses if you have them. The great glowing clown in its old-fashioned white frilly outfit with its small conical cap and vacant, pleasant smile, comes crushing down on you in silence, quiet power, as the thrum of the stretching space grows and grows to an unbearable degree. The clown crushes you, you’re dust and atoms if ever you were composed of those things to begin with. You know it’s coming before it happens and it does happen, so slowly that there’s nothing to be done but to endure it, and it happens again the next night, and the next. Sometimes the clown is a giant brown boulder or a soiled workboot of supple leather, but the crushing is the same, always the same. It comes down and leaves nothing, comes down forever until there is nothing but terror and sweat.

2.

You and your family are out in a swamp in a canoe, the water a thick grey-green soup, like mouldy potatoes simmered forever, their former life as a solid long-abandoned, just thick oily matter choked with bulrushes and other swampy plants. Reeds. There are trees in the distance but the water you and your family is in is vast, still, the shore hours away yet.

A mosquito comes to you, buzzing over the milky grey-green filth, and the mosquito is the biggest you have ever seen. Still a mosquito, with its greasy hairs and multi-faceted, lightless eyes. Its proboscis, sharp as sharp, is over a half-metre long and the buzzing of its wings is the sound of a lumber mill at the height of production, so powerful are the thin fibrous wings that keep the great insect alight. It rushes at you and your family in your little canoe out there on all that water, it moves faster than anything its size has a right to, it ignores your family, gunning only for you, that sharp proboscis aimed square at your jugular with the perfect precision of a hunter shaped by infinite years of slow evolution. There is only one mosquito, until there are more, and when there are more there are many, buzzing and flying right for the boat, and when they reach you and your family you know fear like you never have, could never have imagined, and before your blood leaves your body, you know that you’re covered in sweat, wetter than if you had jumped in the lake, you throw your hands up and jerk your head away but it’s far too late; far, far too late.