Sunday 29 April 2012
Tales of the Dreamscape - Genesis
Forgive the intermission to Radiance. If all goes well with school work, we will return to the kabbalistic world of Asher and Virgo next week. In the meantime, here's a tale of the Dreamscape to keep you going.
Older Dreamscape Tales are Gladiator, Birth Day, and Sir Gallant part 1 and part 2.
“In the beginning was the silence, and the silence was deeper than the deepest words, blacker than the blackest night. But the Unreal Gods broke the silence and spoke the first words.”
“But Father Hope, I have never understood even this much - why break the perfect silence?”
Father Hope looked deep into the indigo flames, that danced in unison around the sacred wood.
“In the end,” he answered quietly, stirring the embers with a long stick, “we cannot know. Perhaps they were bored and sought company. Perhaps they were curious. One should not get wrapped up in the reasons why things happen - that way lies the all too real.”
“I am deeply sorry, Father, I will try to improve in future,” replied Brother Fearful, living up to his name.
Father Hope laughed, and then smiled at his student so he wouldn’t misunderstand the gesture.
“Don’t worry so much - you are still young and have much to learn about the world. Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, the first words. Do you know what they were?”
“I was taught that there are many schools of thought,” Brother Fearful said, and closed his eyes, reciting by rote. “The Visualists say that the Unreal Gods first pronounced ‘Let there be light’; the Amorphics say that they began with the single word ‘Dream’; and the Vedics say they began with the question ‘What must there be?’.”
“Very good, I see you have studied well. And which do you believe to be most
“Me?” Fearful asked, looking panicked. “I don’t know, Father, it’s not my place.”
“That is, perhaps, debatable but suit yourself. In time you will come to your own views.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Father, which view do you hold?”
“Well, I have a rather obscure position. You see I have always thought that the first words were ‘Oh no, not again’.”
The pale man splashed through the shadows, filthy murk-water coating his bare legs. Behind him the dogs snarled and howled. They were gaining on him. Why did they always have to have dogs?
This police gang was bigger than most - at least a dozen of them in their boots and helmets - but they were badly organised. They could have surrounded him by now, he thought. At least he should be thankful for that.
He crashed through a pile of rubbish and skidded round a corner. He aimed for every pool of water, trying to throw off the scent. They seemed to be falling behind.
Then he came face to face with a black visor. A nightstick crackled cobalt in the darkness. Ozone filled the air.
Without even thinking, the pale man ducked and rolled. The air above his head shimmered and hissed. A moment later he was up and running. Not as stupid as he had thought. He had to get lower.
At a manhole he vaulted down the ladder, landing a bit awkwardly in the darkness. The pale man struggled on. Across a filth-encrusted walkway, down another ladder.
Behind him the barks grew fainter and fainter. He allowed himself to pause and catch his breath. The ankle he had twisted began to ache. Breathing came quick and shallow. The police gang was passing. The pale man began to relax. Unable to run further, he shuffled deeper into the Undertown.
Reaching a quiet corner, free from water, not too cold or too warm, a decent supply of air, the pale man finally lay down. It was as good, and as bad, a place as any.
He had cut it too fine that time, spent too long near the surface level. Next time he might not be so lucky. But that was next time, and for now the pale man was tired and longed to sleep. Gathering together some scraps of paper he lay down amidst the refuse.
He closed his eyes and dreamt.
And in a palace, the Duke of Dreams opened his eyes. As always, the throne room was motionless. Not even a silk curtain stirred.
The Duke of Dreams did not feel the will to stir from his chair and explore further mysteries of this miraculous place, as he had on many previous occasions. Most nights, his dreams led him back to this castle, serene and full of marvels, and he would wander the ever-changing corridors and chambers. But not tonight. Instead he sat and stared at the blackness beyond the frosty windows. This was his favourite dream, the best escape, but he was not in the mood. There was a wrongness to the real world, a deep injustice. The Duke of Dreams sat on his sapphire throne, engrossed in thought.
And then a still voice rent the endless silence; the first noise the Duke of Dreams had ever heard in his palace. A whisper, small and thin, crying help.
Puzzled, the Duke rose from his throne and followed the sound. He stepped down the fifteen steps of purest amethyst that were aways warm to the touch and glided across the white marble floors. On either side of him, the pillars of fire twisted black and red. He reached the iron door and opened it. The voice called again help.
Through corridors of smoke the Duke of Dreams strode, past doors unending and stairs of silent song. A golden door rose up before him and, taking out a crystal key, he opened it. Still he heard the call.
An enclosed courtyard opened up before him, a dry fountain standing in the centre. The lush green grass that bordered the statue on all sides was coated with a sheen of ice; neither sun nor moon nor stars shone in the black sky above. A trapdoor he had never seen appeared amidst the grass and, turning the ring, he lifted the heavy wood. Beneath was a deep and narrow spiral staircase. And still the voice cried out, ever louder.
The Duke of Dreams wove a flaming torch from the dream stuff and descended the stairs. As they twisted ever downwards the voice grew louder, higher, more desperate.
And then he was standing in a low hall, lit by flickering fires and lined with mirrors of all shapes and sizes. Some were taller than the Duke, while some were no bigger than his little finger. Some were ornately decorated, gold-plated and jewel-encrusted, some were plain, of metal or wood, while still others had no frame at all. Some mirrors moved or flowed like honey, others were frozen and motionless, and some seemed to move only when he was not watching. The voice was louder here - it called him onwards, and he obeyed.
For time uncountable he passed the mirrors, seeing his own troubled features infinitely reflected. The voice was becoming unbearable. He reached the heart of the sound and came face to face with a man he did not know.
For a moment, they stared at each other across the mirror, pale blue eyes connecting across an unimaginable gulf. Pale and haggard, the man faced the regal duke, with a look of surprise and fear on his face.
“Help me,” he whispered.
And without thinking, the Duke of Dreams reached out to the glass. His hand touched the surface and passed through. Their fingers met.
“And so the Unreal Gods had made a start on their creation but the world was a chaotic maelstrom of void, with neither substance nor idea behind it. The Unreal Gods saw the chaos, and spoke the darkness into being, the world of night. They poured the night out of their souls, filled with every hope, and every wish, and every dream. But the world could not withstand the darkness, and so was born the light.”
Brother Fearful stared into the flames as he listened to the sacred tale, watching the border between flame and night. What would a world of endless night have been like, he wondered but dared not interrupt Father Hope again.
“And there was morning and there was evening, for the first time an evening, and the Unreal Gods spoke on.”
The pale man did not wish to wake but a glimmer of light forced itself through his eyelids and woke him. Whether beyond the Undertown it was morning or evening he could not say, but the pale man was hungry and awake, and so he rose.
His waking hours passed all too slowly as he scavenged for food amongst the wreckage of the forgotten city, one morsel at a time. And all the time his dream weighed heavily on his thoughts. What had it meant? Who was that man?
The pale man found himself studying the faces of all those he passed, wondering if he would spot a familiar face amongst the unknown white faces of the underdwellers but he did not. If the stranger was real, the pale man did not meet him.
And slowly, far too slowly, the waking passed. Though still hungry, the pale man returned to the corner he had found the night before and lay down once more. Though it was cold and damp, he eagerly sought sleep.
Waking in the hall of Mirrors, the Duke of Dreams sat and looked at his reflection. The mirror now showed him only his own image - the man had gone. For a moment he was lost in thought but soon a decision seized him.
He rose and began to walk slowly down the hall. He examined each mirror in turn, looking for any sign of difference. The exact nature of what had occurred was unclear but it didn’t matter. With the certainty of a dream, the Duke knew that he had made contact with someone from beyond. Another mind had reached out into the palace of dreams, and if he could, he knew that he had to find another such dreamer and make contact. How long he searched, he did not know but soon he stood before a mirror surrounded by stones of every colour. And as he stood before the glass the Duke of Dreams found himself looking upon a sunlit meadow. It was the brightest thing he had ever seen, and he fought down the urge to recoil before it.
Heather, purple and light, waved in a strong wind he could not feel. An explosion of red flowers spread across the field. Vibrant and beautiful, like nothing he had seen. The Duke of Dreams reached out his hand to the glassy membrane and found, almost to his surprise, that it resisted his touch. He knocked on it once, twice. In the distance, he thought he could see the figure of a woman, dancing through the grasses. He rapped the glass with his knuckles. A small fracture appeared in the glass. With all his strength, the Duke of Dreams threw himself into the mirror. It shattered around him.
He was standing amongst the heather. The hot sun beat down on his head. The hall of mirrors had disappeared completely.
“Are you a dream?” asked a female voice. The woman stood before him, tall and beautiful, wrapped in layers of red silk.
“Yes, of course. As are you. You are truly beautiful.”
“Only here,” replied the woman, “in reality my skin has been ravaged by hardship, coated in the filth of London, I am no longer young as I once was.”
“No, you are beautiful,” replied the Duke, “in the only place that matters.”
For a moment or two they simply looked at each other - bright and red, dark and quiet, pale blue eyes locked together. Then she glanced beyond him, and stopped short.
“What is that?”
The Duke of Dreams turned, and beheld a palace of white stones, with walls and towers that reached to the sky. And he knew that this was his palace, the heart of his dream.
“It is my castle,” he said, “our dreams are one.”
“And so, the Unreal Gods brought together the Lethean waters, uniting that which had been divided. And the land brought forth the palace of dreams, the heart of the Dreamscape. From this centre was born the grass and the fields, the flowers and wind, the sun and moon and stars. These are the Blissful Fields but there was still much emptiness.
“And the Unreal Gods were not satisfied - for a dream without a dreamer is no dream at all. So were born the first creatures of the Dreamscape, the silent dreamers, to look at the world in hushed awe. And for a while, the Unreal Gods beheld it as good.”
Father Hope paused in his telling, seeing his young apprentice agitated.
“What is it, brother? What troubles you?”
Brother Fearful looked as if he would say nothing but the force of the question burst out of him.
“Are the animals silent because they cannot speak, or are they silent because they do not wish to speak?”
“Ah - a fine question. Some day you will make a fine teller of the tale. Some say that the animals do not speak because they have never considered the joy of the world. And others say that they cannot speak, for they are too busy, continually praising the Unreal Gods in silent contemplation. But perhaps they are both able and willing but too afraid.”
“I do not think the animals are afraid.”
“There speaks a man of experience,” laughed Father Hope, “but how can you know what lies in the heart of the beasts? Perhaps they fear to speak lest they shatter the dream. But no matter, the silent dreamers did not appease the Unreal Gods - they desired conscious dreamers to shape the world.”
A sharp pain in his cheek brought the pale man sharply back to waking. A rat! He leapt to his feet, flailing his arms. The rat scurried into the corner and lurked there, watching him with silent beady eyes. The disgusting thing had bitten his face. A trickle of blood ran towards his chin. At least he had woken up when he did, or he might have been eaten alive.
A chittering caused the pale man’s heart to drop. A huge black rat fell from an open shaft in the roof and scampered across the floor. Then another, and another. He had to get out of here. He turned to leave but the door had closed while he was sleeping, and the pale man could not open it.
Soon a seething mass of black fur and claws carpeted the floor. They tore at his feet, scratching and biting. He banged at the doors, desperate to get out.
The sound was becoming overwhelming - it filled his ears. His feet were being ripped apart. There was no way out this way. In desperation he looked around the room for another option. He didn’t know how long he could stand, and if he fell...
An idea dawned on him. He leapt towards the shaft in the roof, scrabbling for purchase. But he could not hold on and came back hard to the ground. A huge wave of pain ran through his body - but he did not fall. The pale man summoned all his energy for one final try; if he couldn’t make it this time...
He jumped, reached out, and caught the edge with the tip of his fingers. All his muscles strained against his weight and slowly, slowly, he raised himself above the rim and into the dark tunnel beyond.
He was still alive. One more day, one more dream.
Unable to go back, he went on. And on, and on.
The pale man crawled through the darkness and fought against the urge to sleep. If there had been one rat here there could be others. He needed to find somewhere safe.
Eventually, a trapdoor opened beneath him and the Duke of Dreams dropped into a small and silent chamber. Above him, the door shut itself.
The Duke looked about the room, slowly taking in the soft glow that seemed to come from nowhere. There were no doors, no ways out - only a warm leather chair resting in the centre. This was beyond strange. In all his years, the Duke of Dreams had never heard of such a chamber. The leather was undamaged - it could have been new. For a moment he wondered how this could have come to be but not for long.
Soon, he sat in the chair that seemed to have been made for him, resting his head against the back. His arms and legs relaxed. It was soft and safe. He closed his eyes, dreamt, and never woke again.
To his amazement, the Duke of Dreams looked beyond the windows of his throne-room and saw that the Blissful Fields had replaced the darkness. And in the distance, a woman in red danced in wonder at her new world. His dream had changed forever. Now he knew what was needed to repair the broken world.
He did not hesitate but strode towards the courtyard he had seen before. The golden door opened again but the square was radically transformed. The grass glittered with fresh dew, sparkling in the newborn sun. Clear water babbled over bright stone. This was the right path.
The wooden trapdoor opened before him and the Duke of Dreams followed the stairs to their bottom. Mirrors still glistened in the firelight, calling to him, summoning him to action. He wove a hammer - it weighed heavily in his hands but he felt his duty.
He ran down the corridor, hammer in hand, smashing each glass in turn. Shards of glass and metal spilled on to the floor, shining like stars. With each breaking the Duke of Dreams felt his world expand around him. Visions of mountains on fire burst around him, chasms of brightest faith, stars of every hue. There were knights on horses, a wealth of jewels, the greatest delicacies poured forth on all sides. Dragons and sphinxes, winged serpents and fleeting butterflies. The walls between dreams fell at his touch. One after another, they all came down, until all the dreams were one.
And then all the mirrors were broken and the hall of mirrors was gone forever. And the Duke of Dreams stood in the fields, surrounded by blinking dreamers.
“Welcome, my people,” he declared, “this is the Dreamscape and you have always been here.”
They nodded their heads sleepily and, with increasing fervor they went about the world, drinking in the view with wonder.
The Duke of Dreams saw all this, and found it right.
“And so the Unreal Gods created the first dreamers in their own image and likeness. For that which we create in our own image is real, and that which we do not is beyond real. And the dreamers walked abroad in the world and wove the dream around themselves, creating and recreating like the Gods themselves. And the Unreal Gods looked on all the work that they had done and found it to be very good.”
Father Hope concluded the sacred tale, and stirred the embers of the dying fire.
“Well, my son?” He asked. “Do you not have any questions to ask?”
“Father, I have so many questions I am lost in doubt. Why was it very good? Is the dreamscape more real or more unreal? Is it in our image or in the image of the Gods? Who created the Gods or did they create themselves?”
“These are all fine questions but you must now consider your own answers. Your apprenticeship will soon be over and you must learn to dream your own dream.”
“But I have so many more questions, questions I am afraid to ask,” Brother Fearful spoke softly.
“Do not fear but ask. I will not judge you.”
“What of the real world, father? Did the Unreal Gods create a world brimming with reality and pain? Why create a world where we must always wake to suffering?”
Father Hope did not answer for a long time. He stared into the flames. Brother Fearful began to think that the old man had woken and left the Dreamscape but then he sighed.
“I wish I knew,” he answered in a hushed voice, “I wish I knew.”