In his dream, he wandered the narrow, winding streets of an ancient city. Along the way, he saw an old blind woman selling nuts and grains, and a young boy carrying fresh warm bread to customers as yet unknown to him. Hearing his footsteps and smelling the bread, the woman bade him stop; this he did, bowing theatrically, as was his wont. Speaking in a singing sort of way, he asked after her health, with such a facial expression as to suggest a profound connection between her answer, whatever it turned out to be, and his aromatic wares. Her answer, however, took him by surprise: “That we both live only in the dream of another, I sense you are unaware.” Hearing this, of course, he thought her crazy, though harmless. He also bore in mind that no matter how crazy she was, she was still someone’s daughter and quite likely someone’s mother, and therefore deserving of respect, even if that respect was partially hidden behind a smile. His teeth, at least the cleanest ones that weren’t missing, shone from out his handsome, youthful face. “I had assumed as much,” he said, “and was hoping you would care to explain it.” “You laugh,” she said. “I do not mind. But explain it I can, and explain it I must.” As amused as he was, at this juncture the boy remembered his rapidly cooling bread, and that the cooler it became, the harder it would be to sell. And so his next words were uttered with a little more haste than was consistent with respect and good manners: “You had best get on with it, then,” he said, “because I have a living to make.” Hearing this, the woman smiled. Then, before he even had time to blink, his bread, and the flat, floury board he used day in and day out to transport it, evaporated into thin air. “There,” she said. “Now you have all the time in the world. Even more.” And as she spoke those last two words, she, too, disappeared, along with the nuts and grain she had arranged around her. But that was not all. No, it was not all, because next the place where she had been sitting disappeared, as did the old stone wall behind her, and the tired shops on either side, each with their sorrowful doorway and forlorn keepers and attendants. Seeing all this, or rather not seeing it, he cried out, “What strange, evil magic is this!” But lo, expecting its familiar, proud echo, he heard not his own voice. Then, as if about to call on God, he held up his hand, which was also missing. And yet, somehow, he felt it was still there. “Is it possible,” he wondered, “that the woman was right, and that all of this is part of the dream of another? And if it is, what will become of me? Would it not be best to run?” So saying, he turned, only to discover that the street, too, was gone, as was the very city itself. And then suddenly he felt as if he were drifting in space. Around him were galaxies of stars, planets and moons of every description, hanging all about him like ripe fruit, as if he were lost in the branches of a universal tree. “I am dying,” he said. “Unless —” and for some reason this surprised him even more — “I am he who dreams.” Here the dream ended. Soon thereafter, but what might as well have been a century or more, a beautiful little girl bent down where she found the dream half-covered by the sweet, green, wet grass behind her house. She took it up gently and carried it in to show to her mother, who, as mothers did then and often still do in these beautiful times, was just taking some bread out of the oven. “What is that you have there,” she asked her daughter. “I don’t know,” the little girl replied. And the two were silent a moment, marveling at the existence of such a strange, lovely thing.
Recently Banned Literature, December 16, 2015
Categories: Recently Banned Literature