In a Dream Country

by Bestia Mortale

Something woke me — I think it was  a sound, a throbbing of some sort, or  an infant’s cry. Waking was like coming  into focus, as if I was an image in a lens.  I sat up and looked around, a little  alarmed, but it was a dream. I was lying  in a field in the mist, among a crowd of  sleepers. Others were stirring.

I glanced at the people near me.  They were so beautiful. I tried to examine them more closely and became aware  that until I considered walking, they had  no legs. Until I thought of hair, they were  hairless. Until I remembered about men  and women, they had no gender. And  yet, as it turned out, they had everything  but age.

Someone was moving among us,  chatting and laughing, a beautiful woman.  I realized we all were naked. She came  up to me, smiling. I smiled back a little  shyly as she offered a hand to help me  up. Her breasts were large and small, all  different shapes, every sort of nipple. It  occurred to me that she had countless  arms and legs as well, and heads.

I walked beside her through the mist,  leaving the crowd. I became aware in the  strange light that it was not so much  mist as an intricate pattern of swirls, as  if a cloud of colored dust had been frozen in time. The colors were disturbing,  hard to identify. At first I thought there  was something wrong with my vision, but  everything had a clarity I was unused to.

As we left the field, the mist cleared  somewhat and we walked through a deserted city of strange windowless fortresses, down the middle of streets like  shallow troughs. On either side, instead  of sidewalks, there were sunken channels six or eight inches deep in which  were planted twisted, leafless bushes,  some so large they almost blocked the  street.

The whole effect was disturbing and  would have been unpleasant but for the  sky. The sun — though not the sun —  was vast, and not so bright or hot as  normal. Yet its warmth was full of comfort, its light rich and deep. The cloud  formations — not clouds, either, exactly  — towered layer upon layer, an intricate  landscape of unaccustomed color,  depth, striation and structure. Unlike  normal clouds, the closer you looked at  them, the more detail you could see.  Their beauty in the strange light was so  intense as almost to be painful.

Far in the distance, the land rose  away from us. For a while, I thought we  were in a valley of some sort, but then I  realized that there was no horizon —  the mountains and sky were one.

It was the colors that were most  haunting — bright, saturated hues, like  certain stones in water that grow ordinary as they dry — but not reds, greens,  blues, or anything I could put a name to.

“Where are we?” I asked her. “What  is this place?”

She paused, facing me, her face so  many faces. “This is the underside,” she  said.

“What?”

“Of your city, your world.” I could  not understand. “Come, I will show you.”  She led me down a side street to a little  park, full of the enormous leafless  bushes. In the center was a peculiar silvery translucent mound. When we came  to it, my feet sank in it as if it were liquid,  yet without a ripple.

“Here,” she said, standing beside  me. “Look.” She pointed to my feet.

I saw that the mound had a mirror-like underside in which was perfectly reflected the chthonic sky above my head.

“Look deeper,” she said, taking my  hand and squatting down. I squatted  beside her and peered carefully through  the substance. At first I could see nothing, but gradually I made out tiny pinpoints of light beneath the mirrorlike  floor. “There,” she whispered, pointing,  “My sister.” I saw, inexplicably far below  me, familiar and remote, the moon.

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