A Dream Within A Dream
(Kudos to Edgar Allan Poe)
(Kudos to Edgar Allan Poe)
It’s difficult to remember who you are, what you have done, and where you’re going, but it doesn’t matter- you’re in a small driftwood cabin on a beach, swinging in a hammock built within the shelter, inhaling deep lungfuls of sea air. Pieces of seaglass have been arranged on the white driftwood shelves, catching beams of morning sun. They reflect sparks of blue and green light over the room, and it’s hard to imagine a more peaceful place.
There is something you must do, however, something that you’ve forgotten. It presses, vague and but insistent, on the back of your mind. Somewhere, time is running out. The thought rouses you from your peaceful spot of suspension on the hammock, listening to the waves crash on the shore.
It seems like you spend hours or days walking along the beach, the waves slowly smoothing your footprints from the sand behind you. The sky seems so much higher than usual, somehow- high, domed, and colored an off shade of blue. There is something to do, somewhere, but for you time has been suspended. Gravity has no hold on you, obligations have no hold on you, and you are perfectly content as you are, walking down a sparkling white beach. It stretches for as far as the eye can see.
Before you, in the distance, rises a sandcastle. It must be a hundred feet high, a thousand, a million, but it’s clearly built from sand. And the tide is coming in.
You break into sprint without thinking, run for hours without tiring until you arrive at the great wooden door. It towers, but opens with the slightest push. Grains of sand are rubbed from the walls by the door, spilling over the ground.
It’s difficult to move once you’re inside. Shelves and statues and tables crowd the area so thickly it’s hard to find spaces where you can walk. What you see around you is amazing, and for a moment you wonder if this is what you were looking for. There are carved jade dragons so high they scrape the ceiling, endless shelves full of old and fascinating books- who knows what you would find inside of them? Records from lost or forgotten history? Documents on how to transmute lead to gold? Logs from expeditions that travelled to the edge of the universe and back? You find mirrors that fail to copy you, your reflection only smiling and motioning for you to stay and speak. There are wonders and wonders and wonders but it’s not quite right, it’s not quite what you’re looking for.
Someone calls from behind, and you smile as you turn. Before you stands an wizened man, leaning upon a staff of knurled wood. His eyes shine, deep-set and bright, like sea glass. You’re finally here, he says. Come with me.
He wades through the artifacts thick around you both as if he’s lived here his entire life. As he walks, he teaches you what you’ve forgotten. This is where items of concept are stored, he says. Items that will be, later on in time. This beach bridges the gulf between the possible and the impossible, and you will keep it after it is destroyed.
You follow him up spiraling stairs. A window flashes by briefly, and you can see the sky’s been stained red with sunset. Somehow, the sky itself seems lower, as if it’s falling. The tide is at the feet of the castle.
The sea is reclaiming my home for its own, he said. He must notice the look upon your face, because he adds gently, Nothing lasts forever. The tide will carry us elsewhere.
You don’t understand, but you memorize everything he says with the hope that time will bring his words to meaning eventually. Finally the stairs end, and you reach the top spire. This room is empty, but for a single door constructed neatly in the center of the room, nestled snugly into its doorframe. There is only empty space around it, but there must be a reason why it is here.
You can hear the tide destroying the bottom of the castle, the artifacts within shattering and tearing and being taken by the waves. The floor is beginning to tilt. The old man opens the door for you. You must return home, he says, and never find this place again.
You ask if you will see him again.
I will be carried away along with everything else here, he says with a smile. But it’s possible.
And as the floor falls out from beneath your feet, the roar of the tide filling your ears, you walk through the door way, and