Monday, March 31, 2008

Pretty: Stars

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.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pretty: Hangover

Jack walked in a cold, dark place. Broad flagstones made a path that stretched before him. He looked back and saw more of the same. He knew, somehow, that there were walls not too far on either side of him, but he could not see them. His vision faded into inky blackness after a mere three meters.

"Okay, it's cold. That's normal. Dark, not so strange either."

Jack wasn't normally much of a mutterer, but sometimes you had to get some ideas out in the air. Operational security in his line of work meant that you never said anything you didn't need to say. But still, he had said her name, hadn't he? Right before he...


Wait, where was he? Jack looked around. He remembered going to sleep on the couch. Well, to be honest, he had passed out. But that was the last thing he remembered. Here he was, wearing the same clothes he'd passed out in, standing on some kind of path in the dark. He couldn't even see where the light was coming from. He just knew that he could see what was near him, but there didn't seem to be any kind of torch or glowbe. Strange.

"I could be dreaming, I suppose. But, usually when I dream, there are more pretty ladies around, right? And I don't smell so ... funky."

This was a lie. When Jack dreamed, or at least when he remembered his dreams, they were terrible, filled with staring and accusing faces. He drank so he wouldn't dream, and he drank so he could forget his dreams, forget the reason why he drank. A lie, but he can be allowed a lie every now and again. Jack had been through a lot, and he didn't entirely deserve his nightmares. Not entirely. His hands had been tied through most of that unpleasantness.

"So, what? Am I awake or asleep? HALLOOOOO!"

The darkness around him had a way of eating sound. There were no echoes whatsoever. Maybe the walls weren't as close as he thought. He looked up.

The sky was starlit and filled with beauty.