Now we have reached chapter 3. This is the section that made me give up on the book more than thirty years ago. It’s a series of dreams, and all the experts insist you should shun putting dreams into your fiction (they were quite clear about that thirty years ago, too). However, as the book is a fantasy, I intended these dreams to foreshadow aspects of the story to come, and one of them was directly relevant to the plot at this point. There are four dreams in this chapter, so it seems only predictable to split the portion over this weekend and next—a dream a day.
Here is today’s nocturnal vision…
The Book of Seasons
From the moment I read the first poem in that volume I had been absently struggling against exhaustion. Today I frequently suspect that the chance which brought my notice, unperceptive, to the copyright was simply that I had lost my grip on the book while dozing; when I reverted to a semi-alert state, that page presented itself rather than one of the first selections.
At any rate, I half noticed that strange date, 2015, half realized that so far as I knew it was still 1974, and then wholly lapsed into sleep, which makes all dates nonsense.
Sleep in any chair is seldom very restful. Most chairs do not prove comfortable residences for the human body after extended periods of time. I did not sleep quietly. Soundly I slept, but not restfully. My thoughts were concurrently agitated, aroused, stimulated, confused and exhausted.
I dreamed copiously. And clearly. Confused but vivid dreams.
I was myself but not myself. I was middle aged, more or less. I was walking, wandering through an ancient edifice, a strangely eerie place built of old worn stone cold to the touch, a peculiar and bleak castle of the mind. I recognized the place; that more or less wakeful portion of my mind, which sometimes comments editorially on my dreams, reminded me that I used to dream of this structure when I was younger. It was a typically adolescent romantic image, a strange and somewhat medieval castle with endless winding corridors and stairways leading nowhere, up and down.
I wandered for a long time through various chambers and halls, which I, distantly mature, recognized as a ridiculously impossible blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with Elizabethan overtones in the woodwork and garnishes of high Baroque. Eventually I arrived in a large, vaulted room. An oaken table sat in the center like a big brown cat, and on the middle of the table was a huge silver chalice too big to hold in one hand. I took it up between both palms, deciding it was another adolescent affectation. Large and very heavy, it was an oversized and chunky goblet, presumably of pure silver, carved all around with strange scenes. Figures, human and animal and combinations of both, danced in an unconstrained Dionysiac progression counterclockwise among the wildly intricate pattern of arabesques. Each figure seemed to bear my face, or the face I thought in the dream was mine.
The chalice contained wine. I sipped — it was a dry, acidic red which left its residual flavor on the back of my tongue — and suddenly I believed I knew the name of this dream castle. I drank (the wine improved some after the first exposure), and I became aware of the origin of the chalice. I drained the goblet and heard small bells chiming clearly.
Across the room a young woman appeared in an entrance I had not previously noticed. She was very good-looking: blue eyes, silver-blonde, quite pale. Her face was thin, her nose narrow. She wore a loose blue-and-white garment which floated nicely against her slender figure as she approached me. She appeared to be familiar somehow, but I knew very well (that logical portion) that I had never seen her before.
She smiled, a lovely smile of course, and she had very white even teeth.
I felt I should speak, but I had no notion of what to say to her. Even so, inane words began to tumble out. I babbled; she smiled, laughed throatily, also lovely.
Seemingly an age endured before I exhausted my chatter. It became quite dark. Eventually, I grew silent.
She took the chalice from my hands. It looked incongruous somehow in hers. Gazing at me over the lip of the cup, her eyes hinting amusement (at me?), she drank. The cup somehow was no longer empty. She returned it to me, and I drained the contents. The wine was now quite pleasant.
I set the chalice on the table and moved close to this young lady. Took her in my arms, clumsily it seemed, and I kissed her.
A kiss is an experience impossible to describe, I believe. One can focus on the physical externals of lips and tonguetips, teeth and moisture, of hands, fingers, arms, breasts and bodies, but a kiss is more than that. And any description which attempts to capture those sensations reads either like a lesson in oral anatomy or an amateur effort at pornography, neither of which is genuinely appropriate. One can also attempt to catalogue the kaleidoscope of internal thoughts, emotions, actions and responses, but such is likely to seem rather silly, definitely incomplete, altogether embarrassing. A kiss is simply wonderful, full of wonder, mute and palpable, perfect. And that is a real kiss; a dream kiss must transcend that infinitely.
At length we parted, and she looked at me, laughing, not mocking. I was embarrassed even so, and confused. Then she was gone. She vanished, utterly, completely, instantly.
And the wine I drank was dust which cold winds blew away.
I always wanted to use that line which ends this post in a poem (perhaps I did; I keep finding things of which I held no memory, it seems). But it sounds so much like something you might hear in a melodramatic dream like this one—kind of like the voiceover to the dream-film—that it feels best in this place.
So another bit tomorrow, the second of the four dreams.