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Dreamtime

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The Dreaming is wide and would take many years to cross.
It has boundaries only because he wills it so.

(You know this, in the way of dreams).

He doesn't, you think, look like much of a King. Skinny and long-limbed, a faded black t-shirt and hair spiked by careless fingers. More of a sketch. Or a shadow, with stars falling constantly through the hollows of his eyes. Summer stars.

You had your first kiss in summer.

There are grand names for him, that much you know, but none of them seem to fit. Should you curtsey? You don't curtsey. You stand there with your hands stuffed into the pockets of a jacket that you loved and last saw when you were fourteen years old. You forgot it, hanging in a classroom and, when you went back for it, it was already gone. You mourned that jacket with a pure heart, but then you bought another and moved on.

But you still remember how you loved that jacket.

"You may call me 'Dream'," he says.
You have a feeling that this makes you, in some small way, special. Or, at least, you want to believe that it does.

"I'm just here about work-experience," you tell him. "I need to see how it...works."
He says nothing to that at all.

It all makes perfect sense, at the time.

*

You journey without journeying; it would be difficult to explain to anyone who was not there. It does not involve anything as simple as forward motion. Simply: you are brought.

And he is at your side.

At some point, he obtained an overcoat. It cannot decide what style it wishes to be. It shifts and he turns up the collar against the chill.

"What would you like to see?" he asks.

You think about it for a moment.

"Everything," you say. Which is not quite the truth, but which is as close as you can get at the time.
"Everything would be difficult even in perfect cirumstances," he says. You're waiting for him to say something else, but he doesn't. You think that, maybe, you're getting the hang of conversation with him.

But it might be too early to say.

*

There is a city somewhere near the edge of his realm where it always winter and always Tuesday and you are always in the process of forgetting something that used to be important but isn't anymore. A raven circles and then descends. The blue is the exact colour of human eyes on hearing bad news.

"He's in there, boss," says the Raven.
He sounds like he smokes at least sixty cigarettes a day. Without filters.

"Wait here," he says. "It would...not be wise for you to accompany me inside."

He might seem friendly, but you know better than to argue. You know this in the way that you know that that dream about your mother was not really about your mother and that sex dreams are never really about sex.

You wait.

"Just visting?" asks the Raven, settling on a nearby fence. "Hanging out with the boss man?"
"Work experience," you say.
"I did work experience once," he says. "For about five minutes. Didn't really work out."

The wind is cold in the city. You shiver in your jacket. Across the street, a woman weeps without eyes. As you watch, she covers her face wtih her hands and turns away. When you look back, the raven is still watching you.

"What are you really?"

He gives you a very human sort of look.

"I'm really a raven," he says. "But nothing's forever, right?"

It seems like a long time before Dream reappears. The overcoat has become a close-fitting motorcyle jacket. There is a red mark blooming on his cheek. As you watch, it fades away to nothing.

"Rough ride, boss?"
"My business was problematic, but it is now at an end. You may go, Matthew."

"Thanks, boss. Little lady's waiting."
"I would not let her hear you call her that if I were you, Matthew. Eve is extremely powerful."

You might be imaginging it, but you think that he smiles.

*

You have been here before. You have been here many times. You have spent hours lonely in this city and you have come here, passed beneath the great columns to the glass-covered atrium and drunk tea but mostly sat with a notebook and felt surrounded and, feeling surrounded, been comforted by that.

The British Museum is very different by night. Or in your dreams.
It's night-time when you get there.

"In a place like this but not this, lives the ghost a of a blue whale," he says, as you walk. You've already noticed that the heels of his boots make no sound on the tiles. "It swims in the great dome of that place, and it dreams of things like surfaces and tides." He looks younger, suddenly, here in this place. "In a room here sleeps the last earthly remains of an Egyptian Princess. She dreams of the Nile, slaves with fans made of feathers and reeds, the scent of palm oil and the weight of gold rings. Once, she was famed for her beauty. Now, she hides from mirrors. What she does not understand is that everything changes."

And then you become aware of her.
She's browsing the gift shop. She's a girl of no older than you, black hair and heavy-eyeliner, a flare of tattered skirt. Long earrings. A flash of silver between small, high breasts.

She glances over her shoulder In her hand, there's a photograph of a woman with sad, marrying eyes.

"Hello, you."

This time, he definintely smiles. It's not much, but it's there.

"Sister," he says.

They embrace. You pick up a pen from a display and slide it into your pocket without thinking about it.
When you look back, she's looking at you.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but you can't be here for this part," she says, pulling away from him gently. She is possibly the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. It's not entirely to do with her face. She comes to stand right in front of you. She tilts her head. Her hair slips into her eyes. "I'll give you a gift, though - do you want to know when you die?"

But you're already waking up.
And who wants to know that anyway?

Who wants to know for certain...
Anyway. You're already forgetting as you drift towards the surface. Something makes a noise in the house below you. You roll over and then you

END