The First Dream
Part 1: Leaving
I know I am dreaming, which is strange because I have never known this feeling before. I have done many fantastic things in my dreams without ever becoming aware that my true self was sleeping comfortably, far from danger's door or temptation's trap. My awareness of this experience is something highly unusual, one more mystery yet to be unraveled. But before any sense of sight there is music. A slow, soft violin playing long, shuddering melancholic notes. This music, or perhaps more accurately, this sound is so dear to me. It has flavored all of my favorite compositions, those that I have personally written and those that I admire most by other composers. By what magic does this muse follow me into my dreamworld? But before I can fully ponder this question, another part of me responds: "Follow you? No, it is you who follow me."
I am flying over a broad and expansive body of water. There is no land for as far as I can see. I look for birds in the sky but there is little to be seen, except for the water. I fly for hour after hour. Eventually, the sun begins its decline but I continue to soar above it all and after all, there is nowhere to land. I awaken, still flying. Did I fall asleep and continue flying? The sun has already risen and now there are more birds in the sky, more life in the water. And now there is land, a small spattering of soil, little more than a pebble in a pond. And this pebble is covered in mist, as if even in this dreamworld there must be care taken to ensure that some secrets can be protected. The clouds prevent me from spying my destination, but I know this land even without seeing it. It is the isle.
There is a man walking down a staircase, within a turret attached to a castle positioned on the edge of the tiny island. This man is carrying a sack, and a large book. He holds the book firmly to his chest and seems to value it more than the sack he has carelessly slung over his back. I have never seen this man before but I know him to be Sorren. He appears of middle age, thin and perhaps not well nourished. Within his eyes are a story. Though he carefully navigates the narrow staircase his eyes are fixed in the distance, towards the sea. He reaches the castle gate and then he is gone, a feather blown high into the breeze, brushing near me. I must not be seen. I land, and then begin to follow.
In the way of dreams, my vision alternates between seeing him in the world and seeing through his eyes. The morning is bright, early, and beautiful. Sorren walks past stunning green fields and gardens, wild animals scurrying under cover at his approach. And then he heads into a clearing and the lady Iona is there, waiting for him, exactly as I knew she would be. The two greet one another, at first casually, but quickly Sorren grows serious. I will not listen to their words for I know what is about to be said. I know the promises that will be made and I know that Sorren will lie down, exactly as he is now doing, and place the book into the prepared hole, then re-cover the hole with the displaced soil, lingering in that position exactly as the King had when he buried his book, his ceremonial offering to his fallen wife and son. Although merely dreaming, my dreaming self is uncomfortable in breaching so private a moment. But as Sorren rises again and moves to embrace the girl I prepare myself for I know not what will happen next. He holds the girl, first timidly, but as Iona is now fully in tears Sorren holds her closer, stroking her hair and whispering softly to her. Sorren weeps with the girl and I look away momentarily. He then pulls himself away, no longer able to look into her eyes. As he picks up his pack I can see that Iona is secretly watching him and I wonder what is going through her mind. A part of me wants to follow her, to follow her back to the castle, to the bedroom of the King. Will she tell him of this meeting? No, I know that she will not and I also know that this dream will not follow her. I am tied to this man who is now trying to compose himself, the man who is now headed off in the direction of the sea, away from his home and everything that he knows.
I attempt to alternate my vision to be through his eyes (I shall call this first person) for I want to see the world as he does but I cannot make this happen. It appears as though even though I will move between these perspectives, that it is not at my will, but at the will of another. I scan the horizon looking for the boat or vessel that I know will be there, waiting to transport Sorren off the isle. But there is no vessel, and once Sorren is out of sight of Iona he heads back into the woods, away from the sea. All that I know of this man is now in question.
I move quickly into the forest but already he is gone and I am alone with the stillness, the ancient and the unknown. I have a sudden realization that these woods were not here when I visited the isle previously and as I look upon their massive, interconnected tangles of trees and vines, roots that plunge deep into the soil, sometimes reemerging, seeking nourishment above ground, where I walk, I feel a sense of remorse, for I know that their time here is short. Can they know it too? Is that perhaps why I feel so unwelcome in this living temple? My reason for being here is to follow Sorren, and already I have lost him. But I have no skills to track this man in a forest I have never even seen before. I must move forward, and so I do. I head north, or what I believe to be north.
There may be paths here, beaten down markers to aid the locals, but I cannot see them, if they do indeed exist. Were they here, maybe even a moment ago as Sorren passed through these woods? Did this forest allow him to safely pass and then knowingly close upon itself as I entered? How would I be used? What could this sentient growth want from a dreamer, a man who is not even physically present, but merely a future thought waiting to be born, waiting to live, to love, to be saved? I try once again to gain first person perspective with Sorren, to escape this experience, these morose thoughts, but to no avail. I am alone in the quiet woods, alone with my thoughts, with my my fears, and with the roots that know my people will cut them down. Sorren talked of the courage of the dreamed, of the dreamer. I am once again in awe of this man as I cannot conjure even an ounce of this special elixir. My life, my real life is comfortable, and secure. I seldom find myself even remotely tested in matters of courage. This seldom used psychic muscle will be my undoing in this place of magic for I have now convinced myself that here, in this place, in this time, the people of Man have seen what you, and what I have never seen. It is the world beyond reason.
I continue moving forward, trying to move in a northerly fashion. I have a general sense of the outline of the isle and I guess that Sorren is heading north, towards the port of Ramsey and that, from there, he will sail away from his troubles. Ramsey, or Rumsaa as it is known on the isle, is a very long walk and I wonder that Sorren or I could complete this in a day, but this man must not escape me. This thought, that I could lose him at the seawall, forever, terrifies me. I begin to run, ducking and dancing through the trees that do not welcome me. Occasionally, I can feel them tug onto me as I pass by, attempting to hold me fast, but I push onward, now even more terrified than before. A root rises up suddenly and I lose my footing, falling softly into the quiet, damp soil. But now the soil desires me, inviting me to linger, to lie down and to rest, to free my mind from the fears that are so unnecessary, so childish. “Sleep now”, I can hear it say. I can feel a great sense of calm overcome me. The soil is rich and fragrant and as I nestle into the undergrowth, sleep comes like a drug.
The life in dreams is often strange and incomprehensible, terrifying, but I now know that the dream within a dream is something even more alien. I care not to explore here too deeply the strange shapes that I saw, the shapes that came close to me, inspecting me like a specimen, or something to be considered. These must be the same shapes that Sorren wrote about in his book and now I begin to wonder whose dream is actually being played out here. Is this my dream, or has Sorren somehow taken control over my own visions? This terrible memory that resides in my mind I will try to lock away. Though it comes from many centuries long past, I desire an even further distance so that I shall never experience it again.
And so I awoke from this dream within a dream in this terrified state, and the only remedy for someone like me was to run. I tore myself from the inviting undergrowth, tearing at the tentacles which, given more time, might have made permanent my connection to the fantastic and surreal. I ran as fast as possible now, not even worrying about the cuts and scrapes and lacerations that the jealous forest imposed on me. I had no clear sense of time in this state but I eventually came to see a patch of sky in the distance and as I ran toward this beacon, finally escaping the haunted woods, it was then that this dream once again proved too great for my feeble imagination. Something I could never have imagined then came to pass. As if waiting for me, next to an old, rustic wooden fence railing was a large, beautiful, dark brown horse, casually nibbling on grass and straw. Although it could have run away as it was not secured in any way, it paid no heed of me and instead simply grazed beneath a tremendous, luminous starry sky. I approached the horse, moving slowly, speaking softly, until I was right upon her. Her breath was warm, fragrant and strangely relaxing. She lowered her head and I reached up to stroke her wiry mane. I would never have done this in the waking world and what I did next was even more surprising. As I knew I needed to get to Rumsaa as quickly as possible, I deftly jumped onto her bare back and with a gentle kick sent my new companion into a trot. I have no experience in riding horses but my dreaming self was confidently guiding the mare through the uneven landscape, ever northward, to the port. All about me was quiet as evening was now deep and there were only occasional cottages that dotted the landscape. I looked into the busy, Tyrian purple sky and beheld the majesty of the cosmos like never before. The Milky Way lay bare before me, rocky like a mountain range that one could reach if only there were enough time. Although entirely alone in a time and place that was not my own, I nevertheless felt an awesome connection to ….. A wave of commitment rolled through me like a shuddering. Sorren would not escape me. As we came upon a large flat valley, I gestured for the horse to speed up and then we were at full gallop. I leaned low across her bare back, the wind whipping through my hair and I felt a sense of exhilaration like never before. I may never feel that free again and, for that reason, the terrors of the forest I now reconcile as a down payment on my happiness that night.