If I take the hall to the right, I enter my own private daydream. If I take the hall to the left, I have no idea what’s going to happen. Hmm. World domination? Or who the fuck knows?
Normally I would have ran to the left at once. But I have a migraine. My face feels like it’s been split with an axe. And I have another dream already waiting for me to finish writing it down. This wasn’t the time for a new adventure, and I knew it.
I step to the right. Familiar themes wait for me. A cool emptiness echoes behind me. I take note of what I’m wearing. Formal military gear with a overcloak. I wrap the expansive cloth around me.
Just a quick peek.
I turn around and swiftly march down the left branch of the corridor. First thing I noticed was the material the enclosed hallway was made from. It wasn’t quite metal, but it wasn’t quite stone. It was very cold and smooth but wasn’t painted. It had a gunmetal gray tone to it, with a hint of blue undertone, and it smelled like a freshly cleaned rifle.
As I continued down the hall, the light dimmed as the only light source was now far behind me at the entrance to the corridor. I could barely see the outline of shapes when I stepped from the hallway into a large expanse.
I came to a full stop. I could not see anything before me. My ears told me the entrance to the hallway was still behind me. But I heard no echoes from anything to my side, before me, or above me. I remained still for several breaths. The pain of the migraine was seeping into this place, making my right eye water.
“Who calls for me? And by what name am I called?”
I hear something like stone sliding against stone. Something massive is before me, a hundred feet away or so, and slowly moving closer. The movement stops, and a solitary spotlight is lit about seventy feet in the air.
There is a massive wall of dark colored stone that is now returning the echoes of my steps. Carved into the wall is a statue of an individual. I can make out stylized braids, and a wrapped loincloth. The style reminds me of Abu Simbel. The face is a human one, slightly rounded, thick lips, and unknown to me. The light bounces off chest bulges, but I could not tell if this was a muscular man, or a small-breasted woman. The arms are straight down, the fists slightly clenched. One foot was forward, but everytime I tried to determine which one, they would switch positions. The statue was at least fifty feet high.
The migraine surged and the pain brought me to a knee.
“My apologies. I can barely see you. I am under great stress in the Waking, and I already have another dream waiting to be written. I can not guarantee I will remember anything further that happens here with any level of completeness. I beg a boon, that our meeting wait until both issues have been dealt with.”
I heard no voice, external or internal. There was no sound. There was no indication that I had been heard, much less answered. But I was suddenly filled with an understanding that the request was granted, and I had been wished a good recovery.
The light dimmed as the wall and statue began to recede. The light darkened, and the hallway behind me became brighter. The walls themselves were glowing slightly. Not so much to cause pain, but enough that I could see my way back.
I walked down the hall back to the entrance to the corridors. I still had the option of dropping into a daydream. But I was tired, and in pain. I chose to leave the corridors entirely and fell into a deeper sleep.
Deeper sleep gave way to deeper waters. I felt myself soaked from the waist down, lying on some above surface rubble. Plants were growing over the stones, and were starting to grow over me.
“Go back to sleep, Friend. You were resting well.” I look up to see the Gardenmaster’s huge eye focused on me. An ambulatory root rises from the waters to rest gently on my back.
The cool water draining from the root refreshed me. “Yes. I was. And I still am. Just not as sleep as I was before. Tell me, Friend, what was here? Sometimes I can see carvings on the collapsed walls. There was another civilization here, yes?”
“There was. And now there isn’t. And they shall never be again. Not of the kind that builds stone walls, such as yours do. Does this bother you?”
“Sorta. The folks that made this piece of wall thought themselves the height of culture and superiority, and now they’re gone. But they’re not completely gone. Because the wall still remains. Yes, it’s in pieces, and covered over in plant growth, and for cultural purposes all but destroyed, but the wall still remains. And as long as it remains, the culture that built it remains, only in shadows and wild speculation.”
“You worry about your species.”
“Nothing remains forever. Your body will die and decompose. The flesh will go quickly. The bones will take a little longer depending on the method of disposal. The wood frame of your house could be destroyed in an afternoon’s fire. Metal rusts. Stone cracks. For as many examples of ‘ancient’ cultures your peoples have placed into museums, there are hundreds, even thousands more items that did not survive the first year after being discarded or lost. As much ecological damage your species is doing, when you look at it in my time-frame, it is late at night. The partying will end soon. The long night takes all. The dawn brings something new.”
“When you were young, these ruins were already old.”
“Yes.” Ke pulled some of the plants off the stone and rested them on my back. Their roots quickly entangled me and held me to the stone. “This does not bother you?”
“I’m using you as rubble. I am treating you as something disposable. Something beneath me.”
“You never have. I’ve watched you. You don’t throw the rubble around as a private whipping post. And you’ve always been gentle with me, even when your lotus buds invade my flesh and grow out of my mouth. If I was beneath you, you would not have rescued me from your kin, nor taught me how to use this place to help me deal with my Waking world.”
“Is that all it takes to make you think you are worth something to me?” Kir regarded me with kir large eye. “I use you. I taught you how to use this place, for what you cast off feeds my plants. Even now, as you are lying there on the stone, my plants take from you. How do you know I don’t regard you as an intelligent pet?”
Ouch. “I… don’t.”
“Then I should correct that.” Ke moved all the plants off of me, and gently picked me up from the stone. Ke lowered me onto kir rootmass so that I was sitting crosslegged on kir with my legs half in the water, and my back to kir. “I would never allow a pet near my [very young offspring], no matter how tame that pet may be.” Ke reached over my head and placed a small and tightly budded plant in my hands.
The roots of the plant suddenly waved frantically. I lowered it so the roots were in the water. The Gardenmaster’s arm thick roots wrapped gently around my shoulders and waist. The small plant relaxed and wrapped its roots around my hands and interlocking with my fingers. The Gardenmaster rumbled a low frequency sound that I felt more than heard. The waters around us danced from the energy.
The leaves that comprised the bud quivered. Slowly they began to open. The tiny roots held my hands tighter. I caught myself humming in harmony with the Gardenmaster. The green leaves opened, revealing a tight flower bud. The blue and green lotus flower opened fully in seconds, revealing a black eye with silver irises. The tiny globe was the size of a golf ball. The pupil was slitted. It turned around so that the slit was aligned with me. I watched it adjust focus wildly for a moment before discovering control and focusing on me. The silver iris turned a deep blue.
“[My offspring, this is Friend.] My friend, this is my [offspring], who has opened kir eye for the first time in kir life today. You are the first [sentient] ke has seen, ever. And I am glad that you are here for this. You have earned this. No pet will ever sit where you are.”
I cried. Happy and humble tears. But I cried. The youngster looked past my shoulder to see kir parent and waved tiny roots around happily. The Gardenmaster hugged me gently. The youngster released kir hold on my hand and scrambled quickly up my arm.
“Ke can’t float yet?”
“Not yet. Ke wants to touch your eyes. Can you bear this?”
“For my friends, yes, I can.” I held my eyelids open as I did not trust my body’s reflex to abstain. So gently, so lightly, the youngster caressed my eyes and tasted of my tears with kir roots. Ke presented kirself for me to touch but I was afraid. “My human hands are not gentle on eyes.”
The Gardenmaster rumbled again, and the youngster wrapped its roots around my neck and squeezed gently. “Today, my [offspring] has learned where humans are vulnerable, and to treat that vulnerability with respect.” Ke sounded so proud. I started crying again. The youngster unwrapped kirself and fell into the water. I quickly fished kir out and set kir on my shoulder again.
“You might want to tell Junior that humans cry for many reasons, and not just physical pain.”
“Yes. It will be a process.”
I was suddenly exhausted again. But I wanted to remain with the Gardenmaster and kir offspring. “Rest, Friend. Two eyes will watch over you this day.” Ke pulled me against kir rootmass and entangled me in kir roots so I would not sink nor float off. The youngster scrambled to the peak of my body and wrapped spindly roots as best as ke could.
With such good company, how could I not sleep well? I slept very well. Very well, indeed. So well, that when I woke up in the bar, I was still in good spirits.