Jack looked at the night sky. Now he knew he was dreaming. Stars.
Stars! So many stars! So much beauty! He stood there, neck craned, staring. He lost track of time, lost track of everything. He'd never seen stars before, nor had anyone really. Maybe some of the really ancient ones, the people who were alive before the Change. But not Jack. He'd heard stories, but they did no justice to what he saw.
There was motion out of the corner of his eye. He whipped his head around, fast enough to give him a stinger up the right side of his neck. His ear throbbed warmly. Nothing was there.
But wait. Something was different. He'd stopped moving when he saw the stars, stopped walking at least. But now he was farther along the path. There was some kind of wall ahead of him, stretching out to the left and right into the darkness. Where the wall crossed the path, an archway. Above the arch, a sign: words.
Jack couldn't see the sign well enough to read it, but he walked ahead, under the arch.
He entered a courtyard. The walls on either side of him seemed to curve in just a tiny bit before disappearing. He was in a huge circular courtyard, he knew. He wasn't certain how he knew, but he knew. The path led him forward.
He walked slowly, in a daze. He barely looked down from the sky as he stared in helpless wonder at the galaxies and planets whirling by overhead. His feet moved of their own accord.
Eventually, something rose up out of the darkness. It covered part of the sky well before Jack could see what it was. An endless parade of footsteps, one after another, as he got closer and closer to the center of the courtyard, and the tree.
It was a tree, its branches skeletal and leafless, hundreds of meters tall. Impossibly huge, a full ten meters across at the base. It stood there, in the courtyard, beckoning Jack.
He tried to speak, to hear, to do something. His lips were rebellious, his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. His ears might have been filled up, for he couldn't even hear the sound of his own footsteps on the flagstone.
Dreams follow their own peculiar internal logic. Jack had been brought here to the tree, he knew he had to climb it.