Plugs

I had a dream last night. But Emmot did too, and hers was much stranger; Margery and Constance and I all agreed. I heard it from Emmot at noon, when Maud sent me back to Baker’s, again, for having brought home the wrong kind of bread. I was sore angry, for it’s only Maud’s fussiness that makes the bread wrong. At least this time it gave me the chance to hear Emmot’s dream.

Emmot said: “I dreamed I was in a house, like a lord’s house, only small. There was a window glass, clear as water, and outside snow was falling. But inside it was like summer, though there was never a fire or torch. And such furniture — and everywhere soft pillows.

“Then they brought out strawberries, and oranges — though it was dead winter! — and told me I might have all I wished. And oh, I haven’t said, but there were books in every room. And all the people all had gold and silver on their hands and arms.

“And then… Is this not the strangest part? I asked them who kept the rooms for them, and who did all the cooking. And they said: ‘In this house we have no servants. And everyone has gold and silver, Emmot, and books, and a warm room. And oranges in winter. Even you.’”

“Was it not a strange dream?” she said again. And we all nodded, and went away thinking; or at least I did.

As for my own dream… well, last night I dreamed that my mother was alive again, and the baby too: his face looked like Father’s. My mother laughed and said how tall I had got, and like a woman. She stroked my hair, and said: “Don’t be afraid, my Mariot: I know your secret fear, but put it aside. I shall watch over you, and be your midwife and physician at need, so you and your children will live.”

You see how commonplace it was. We all see our mothers when we’re asleep: Emmot does too, and Margery. (Constance still has her own mother. But she’s supposed to be due again in the summer, so we will see.)

My dream was not like Emmot’s. Mine was only an ordinary thing, with no mystery about it, and none of that strange feeling dreams can give you about how there could be a different world, or what things might be like otherwise. So I know there is no use thinking or talking about it any more.


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Between densely gnarled groves, the ruins of Castle Noland rose on Spindle Mountain against the late sun like a needle one cannot spot in the carpet unless the light catches it or he treads upon it.  The mountain, though stunted, was steep and crumbled in Yul’s hands–a miracle it had lasted.  It would not bar him from his lost father.

Castle Noland lacked drawbridges and doors, so Yul made one, knocking down bricks, some of which decomposed to powder.  Sunlight streamed through the roof and holes in the mortar, illuminating dust motes.  One beam shone on a white-bearded, white-robed old man stooped atop his throne:  like God after the sixth day.  The beam moved, and the old man regressed into shadow.

Was this the same man who sent the child Yul on quests:  Track the Amethyst of Memory to the caves of Kaldan, wrestle the Ruby of No Regrets from the King of Cobramen, hunt down the Cape of No Tomorrows through the thorny jungles of Afterwine?

Yul had never put his mind to quests.  He’d set out but–heavy-hearted–stopped to rest on a stump.  Days passed like a clock’s pendulum.  Soon hunger roused his head, and he’d slink home.

Yet Yul fetched the Ruby of No Regrets by trading plastic beads he’d dubbed the Necklace of Deathless Dawns:  “Death slipped by if you gripped the necklace righteously.”  True, it’d fail, but had they held it right?

The Ruby had never ceded Yul the confidence needed to begin his own life.  Instead, Yul had worried over quests his father shipped him on.  Late in his third decade, he, still questing, paused at a village where the Miller’s daughter drew well water.  When asked for a draft, she gave without reservation.

Twelve decades later, he’s returned, to bring Father to a new home among sheep and grapevines.  Yul stood beside the old man:  his white contrasting with the gleaming ruby ring lolling on the right, wrinkled hand.

“Hello?”  The old man leaned forward, milky white eyes scanning the room.  “That you, Spot?  I’ve a doggy biscuit.”

Yul gritted his teeth.

“I shouldn’t have let you go.”  That last word was a sob.

Yul wanted to shake the man, ask if a lost dog was all he regretted.

The old man’s body shook violently.  His ribs rippled beneath robes, coming and going.  “I loved you like a son.”

Yul wrapped his arms around his father, shushing and humming a lullaby.

The little girl awoke, unbound, aware of a great rolling movement of musculature beneath her. Shapes and curves resolved into the structure of an enormous pachyderm. She’d been sleeping on the back of an elephant.

She looked over one side; its ponderous walking took them both across a frighteningly narrow tree branch hundreds of feet above the ground. She let out out a small squeak; the elephant’s trunk periscoped over its head and seemed to look at her.

“You are awake.” Its low rumbling voice sent vibrations through Anya’s legs and up into her teeth. The beast did not halt in its ambulation.

“Yes,” Anya said. “Where am I?”

“My realm. I am the Olifanz.”

“Don’t you mean elephant?”

“Did I misspeak?” the Olifanz said.

The little girl was quiet.

“Madame Spider delivered you to me.”

“Will you show me the way home?”

“No. But I will bring you to the Turtle, who will. Now be silent, or I will change my mind and eat you up.”

“But elephants are herbivores. I learned it at school.”

“As I said before,” the creature boomed, turning its massive head and fixing Anya with one harsh green eye, “I am not an elephant. I Am The Olifanz.”

“But why are you so grouchy?”

“Because I must deal with incessant questions from little girls who do not belong here. Plus, something behind my right ear has been causing me irritation and pain for months.”

Anya gently lifted the flap of the Olifanz’s right ear, and discovered a wickedly sharp-looking black object lodged in the skin. Tri-cornered, a bit like a shark tooth, and the darkest fuliginous black she had ever seen. Without a further thought, Anya reached down, gripped the tooth in her hand, and gave two quick tugs. The tooth came free, and in the process, one acuminate corner shallowly bisected the fate line on her palm; both she and the Olifanz cried out in unison.

“O! O!” trumpeted the Olifanz, then sprinted forward. Anya stuffed the tooth in the pocket of her jumper and held on, hand stinging. The Olifanz abruptly leapt forward into thin air. Anya screamed as they soared through the spaces between space, a lateral dimensional shift, vibrant colors blazing past her eyes, until, just as suddenly, they stopped, surrounded by a dense bamboo forest.

Before them stood an ancient tortoise, its skin fathomably wrinkled, its shell whorled and swirled with rune-like arabesques.

“As promised,” said the Olifanz, reaching up to snare Anya with its powerful trunk and then place her on the ground, its bulk towering majestically over her, “this is the Turtle.”

“How did we get here?”

“A moment of pure joy,” the Olifanz said, then lumbered away without another word.

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Previously:
00: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
01: The World, Under

Dear Diary,
I caught a little god today running through the back yard and I grabbed it by the foot and I swung it against a rock and its skull cracked, but Momma saw me and wouldn’t let me eat its brains because they fetch 5000 calories in the swindler’s market, she said.
She tried to swap me my little god for a chocolate bar but chocolate is for babies and I said no. Fine, she says, two chocolates, and I said three and then she smacked me on the head and took my little god! It’s not fair. I hate her! I’ll hate her forever! I hate the swindler’s market and I’m never going to talk to her again, ever.

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