The Book of Dreams was Utterly Forbidden

– The Book of Dreams was Utterly Forbidden –

By John C. Wright

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ONE morn a Peri at the gate
Of Eden stood disconsolate;
And as she listened to the springs
Of life within, like music flowing,
And caught the light upon her wings
Through the half-open portal glowing,
She wept to think her recreant race
Should e’er have lost that glorious place!

— Thomas Moore (1779–1852) 

Table of Contents so far

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Fragment I: Visions of Fire and Ice


I had been prohibited by severe and stern command; every book and scroll in the titanic library was mine to read; all but one. The Book of Dreams alone was utterly forbidden.

Of course I read it right away.


I read the book of dreaming as I slept, its massive cover lined with black, its lock and hasp of human bone. Reading, I saw all time unwinding like a corridor around me, silent, dark, and long, lit by guttering, infrequent flares, and opening to archways which embraced echoless abyssal emptiness.

I dreamt I ran, but with agonizing slowness, as if the air were thick as mud, to hinder and encumber my flesh. And as I ran, I held aloft the sacred key, which shone with silver light, and illumined every place to put my step, and showed as well where darkened fissures gaped.

Behind, a thin remorseless shadow fled after me, pursuing. Taller than the corridor allowed, it stooped. Its eyes were points of fire like the shimmer of malignant stars. I feared to turn and look, but ever and anon behind I heard it flail the darkened air with wings of membrane.

Dreaming, I knew the secret lore of dreams, and understood why I must flee, and why the faceless shadow-thing pursued, unspeaking. I sought the source of sorrow, the reason for the world’s pain.

In desperation to escape the horror, I dreamt I touched a dying waft of flame which fluttered near me with the key. I heard the formless music heard in dreams, and felt time and space unfold around me like a flower. There was a paroxysm of sudden motion, like a bubble shooting to the surface of a troubled sea, and I awoke into a different landscape, and stood upon a world not my own.


It was as if a man in a museum should suddenly step into a painting that he fancied, to find himself surrounded by the objects in the frame, solid, whole, and real, and stoop to sniff the odor of a painted blossom, hitherto imagined. Such a man would have been no more surprised than was I.


At first the world seemed pleasant, generously safe, with an hundred colors in the landscape conspiring to delight the eye. Delightful, despite that the sky was black and starless, for the riot of lights shining from every bush and flower was enough to flood the world bright as day, and earn the envy of a paradise.

Could the solution to the riddle of the world’s pain be here?

Nearby I saw a lovely flower flickering on a stem of glittering gold. I bent my head to wards it, entranced, Its middle was lit white and fringed with jets of yellow-gold; its petals were blue-white and seemed to hiss and sway.

Only when I leaned too close, and felt the noisome heat and choking fume did I realize that the flower was made of fire, and the petals were blue-white with terrifying incandescence.

All around me, the whole landscape was composed of flame, bushes like bonfires boiling, trees with trunks of mingled smoke and ash, and leaves like hissing embers. Knotted vines were made of wisps of smolder shot with knots of flame like buds. And where the heat was grown to its most great, furious flowers flared, open blossoms blazing. Here were flame-red roses, bluebells smoldering blue-hot, and lilies pale with iridescent fire. Everywhere the air was a shaking and vibrating haze, and made the far edges of the glade seem all to dance like things seen underwater.

I dropped down to my knees, overcome by fumes and sweltering hot blasts. I tried to gulp the breathless air, and grew dizzier.

Not far from where I crouched, I saw what seemed a liquid stream happily burbling as it churned along. I painfully crawled forward, hoping to quench my hideous thirst, or dive, and escape the hellish heat in its promised crystal coolness. But, closer, I beheld the drops which splashed up from the froth cool to red-hot drips of metal as they splattered to the smoking ground. The molten metal of the stream was made to seem transparent only by its unearthly incalescence.

Overcome, I fainted.


But unconsciousness was my escape. I found myself once more in flight along the corridor of time. Behind, the black thing silently chased. As it loomed, I threw the key into the next light burning there before me, and felt the restrictiveness of ordered time and distance whirl and melt.


Again I woke. Before me sat a pale white handsome man in grief. His head was bowed between his hands and his shoulders shook with weeping. His hands were semi-transparent like smoky crystal, and I dimly saw his noble features through them, drawn and tragic, contemplating pain.

He raised his face to me, and I beheld his fair white face was not quite opaque either, but seemed to shine and flash like diamond. But when I saw his teardrops freezing on the surface of his cheeks, I realized him made utterly of ice, except his hair and beard, which were composed of snow.

All about ourselves were hills of snow, with slender sheer stalagmites rising up on every side, like fountains frozen in mid-gush. The fountains limbs all held a thousand icicles shaped like leaves, which chimed and tinkled in the arctic wind, or clashed like ringing crystal.

My first breath was as if to inhale a handful of daggers, such was the deathly chill in my lungs. I hugged myself, already numbed within my hands, and loosing all sensation in my feet. When the wind came by, it was as if I were being flayed alive. I swayed and almost fell.

“Sir–” I said, teeth chattering and clacking, “For love of God, a flame, a fire, or I am lost!”

“I am the same.” he said in a calm and hollow voice. His voice (how can I express to earthly ears?) was like the tones of a musical organ, or the wind from a hollow cave, and beautiful to hear; but when the chill of his breath struck my cheek, I felt I would die from the frost of it.

He pointed. “I am not amazed to find another loves her as well as I. But you will not embrace her any more than I, even if your dreams are fonder than my own. The voices have told me everything within this garden is my own, mine to name, mine to use for my delight. Everything, but her!”

Despite my anguish, I turned to see where he pointed.

A round sheet, like a shield of ice, hung down from the frozen branches of the fountain, shaped concavely like a giant lens. Another of these huge shields was behind the first, a third behind the second, and so on. And floating in the center of the lens was an image of the landscape I had left behind from my prior dream, the blazing trees, and flowers of bright flame.

But now within the aisles of these trees I saw a lithe and graceful dancer leap and sway. She had a piquant and unearthly beauty to her; long tapered legs, thin and supple waist, graceful arms. But her skin was dark as ash, and her hair I saw was red as flame. And as she twirled, smiling, I saw her hair was flame indeed, with ringlets of pale fire curling gaily from it. I saw her eyes were long and slanted, like the eyes of an Egyptian queen; but the orbs of her eyes were lit with yellow light, and when she tossed back her head to laugh, the inside of her lovely mouth glowed like a hot inferno.

“Sir,” I said, “You do not understand. I come from a warmer clime. If I am not made warmer, I shall surely die.” And I fell to my face in the snow, half-fainting.

The man started up, alarmed. “I shall take you to the boundary between our two lands, though there is danger for me. Alas the risk!”

He stooped to pick me up. To be touched by those hands was torment, they were so icily cold.

Holding me in his arms like a child, he ran; for he seemed stronger than a man of flesh. His joints flowed and froze as he moved them, flickering like water as they bent; and they looked as one would imagine a glacier would look, if its centuries of motion were compressed into a single flick of time.

He spoke aloud as he ran, jogging past hills of soft snow and stands of tinkling trees. I noticed his course seemed set by the line of hanging lenses. “The voices told me the same thing that you said, that I shall surely die if I ever attempt to embrace that bright woman I adore. Her land is nearby; it inflicts me pain to approach it; I feel weakness and dissolution, beyond the mere weakness of unsated love. I contrived the bent sheets of ice you saw to allow me to contemplate her fair beauty safely, from afar. Thus I torture myself. But I had thought she and I the only men alive on all this world. She and I, and the voices. Whence come you? Do you know why the woman I love is forbidden?”

And as he said this, I remembered the mission upon which I sent myself, and why I braved the danger of the corridor of time, and sought to plumb the secret of the forbidden book of dreaming.

“That is why I am come, sir,” I whispered with blue and shaking lips, “To discover this question, this why…”

“What? Then you know why she is interdicted from me?” He cried in a voice of outrage, bending down his head toward mine.

But as I opened my mouth to answer, the deadly chill of his breath struck my face and numbed me beyond what I could withstand. Again, I fainted, and consciousness slowly sank away.

*** *** ***

Fragment II: Lord of the Fifth World


In the corridor of dreams again, I turned, but was foiled in my attempt to return to the earlier light. My strong urge was to help the man of ice, since he had me. But a vast thin shadow rose before me like a swordblade suddenly unsheathed, and spread its wings of darkness like the black unfurling clouds which ride near storms.

I retreated swiftly, too terrified to feel my fear ’til later.  I remember visions in the lights I passed which I was too preoccupied with panic then to see.

Within the first light, as I passed by, I beheld a tall majestic figure walking in the middle of the air, with wings the color of an hundred lightning-bolts uplifted from his shoulders. Each feather shone and flickered. The figure strode up across the cloud-bank the way a man of earth would climb a hill, and wisps of cloud-mist curled at his feet like grass.

During the moment that I saw him, he was staring down below his feet with vast majestic sorrow, hope, and curiosity, gazing down to where the clouds had parted to display a tiny piece of solid earth so very far below, the only firm land in a world of wind and cloud.


The vision vanished. I pursued my flight to what light glimmered next within the corridor, nor was I surprised at what I saw, for I began to grasp a pattern.

Another vision rose up in my gaze and I beheld a woman lovely beyond all expectation of loveliness, except that her slim body seemed to be made all of shadows and mingled shades of darkness, and her hair which wept back from her brow or hung or floated everywhere was made of strands of night.

She was in a solemn black cavern. The walls were hung with chunks of diamond. Rubies, thick quartz, and enormous globes of emerald hung down from the stalactites like apples hanging from apple-trees. The walls were shot with veins of gold.

In the ceiling was a tiny crevasse, no bigger than a pin-prick, down which a light-ray slanted, dazzlingly white. The young woman crouched near the one white spot which glimmered on the jewel-strewn ground, laying with her legs curved gracefully aside, half-upright on her arms, full breasts pendant, hair aswirl like a nebula. She watched the spot with mingled fear and wonder, now reaching hesitantly toward the beam, now darting her hand away. It was clear to me she was desperate to see the source of the one white ray, but feared to put her eye near the light, thing of shadow that she was, lest she dissolve.


I woke into the next vision which the key unlocked for me, and once more escaped the shadow which pursued me.

I found myself in a garden. Fragrant herbs and flowers clustered nigh the thornless hedges. Stately trees threw shade across the flowering shrubs and fountains. I heard the happy gurgling of little streams which wandered over the lawns, and saw white swans, gliding with slow and silent dignity, afloat on a transparent pond.

I was hailed. “Welcome traveler, and well-met!”

A man of heroic proportion sat at ease upon the lawn nearby, with chest and arms so muscled, and limbs so well-thewed, that I would have thought him a giant. Had he stood, he would have overtopped me by a head. But he sat in the shade with his back against a tree in a pose of calm repose. Nonetheless, the glance of his eye was so intelligent and penetrating that it frightened me.

He was dressed in no more than a rustic mantle, the pelt of some white beast. It hung from one shoulder and flowed down his form, draped with a simple grace, yet leaving his sun-bronzed limbs free.

He nodded with his head, indicating that I should approach. I would no more have disobeyed than I would have resisted the command of an emperor, or an angel. I went.

“Traveller, I call you,” he said, “because it is clear you are not from this world.”

“How can you know this?” I stammered, astonished.

He smiled gravely. “First by your clothes, which are alien and strange, and seem to be woven of fibers from plants– perhaps cotton?– and stained with a dye. Next by your look of wonder and alarm, which betrays how strange my world appears to your eye.

“Finally, most noticeable, by your hair eyes and face, which display no mark of my blood, no sign of my generation.”

“I don’t understand.”

“On this world all mankind is descended from me; and even the sons of my grandson’s grandsons would show in their features my blood. Amazing! Until I beheld you, I never conceived there could be more worlds than my own. How many are there?”

“I have seen five, including my own. I suspect there are more.”

“You must tell me of the virtues and joys these worlds possess, as well as the grounds of your suspicion of their multiplicity. But first, it would be unkind of me not to offer you repast and rest to ease what hungers and fatigues your journey has imposed on you.” And he held out his hand, palm up.

With no noise and no ado, a ripe fruit dropped down from its leafy branch above straight into his hand. He calmly proffered it to me.

“Take. Eat. But wait– I see you are astonished.”

I stammered, wondering. “How did you take that fruit? Why did it drop?”

He laughed at my amazement. “There is no cause for such surprise. I have never done unkindness to this tree, and it has fruit to spare. It gives, that it may take joy in your enjoyment of this food, and also in the hope that you will spread its seeds afar, which are its children.”

The fruit was shaped somewhat like an apple, but paler and oblate, and its meat was softer and sweeter to the taste. I put the seeds in my coat-pocket, resolved to plant them in some fertile soil elsewhere.

“What is your name?” I asked.

“I keep none for my self; you my call me what you will.”

“What? No name?”

“Men use names to distinguish from each other things which are alike. Unique, I simply called myself ‘the man’ with no risk of confusion. Since there is none here but we two, if you speak, I will know you address me, and if I, you. Should a third man approach, we will no doubt adopt a more complex system to accommodate him.”

I could see the conversation was rapidly becoming fantastic. “What do the other men here call you? When they speak to each other about you, I mean..?”

“Many things. Some call me ‘Eldest’, ‘Firstborn’, or ‘All-Father’. Others pretend they are not descended from me, but recognize how my nature is different from their own. They call me ‘Immortal’ and ‘Sinless’. Other of my sons call me ‘The Enemy’.”

“How is it that they call you by these titles?”

“At the dawn of time, I and my wife awoke in this garden; and we were given to understand that all animals and birds, all fruit and flowering plants would conspire to our delight and happiness, but that the fruit of a certain tree was poisonous, and we ought never to eat of it.

“One day my wife beheld a serpent eating of this fruit, or thought she had, and wondered how he could eat of it unharmed. He, of course, had not been truly eating, but merely took the juices of the poison fruit into his mouth, not swallowing, so that he could bite his prey and lick the poison juice into the wound to kill them. If you have seen serpents bite animals and poison them, now you know whence they learned the art. They still dart their tongues out from their mouths in memory of how bitter that first poison tasted to them.”

“What of your wife?”

He shook his head sorrowfully. “The poison entered her, gradually at first, then with greater force. Her beauty dimmed and failed, her body shrank and wrinkled horribly, becoming weak.

“Her intellect, it seemed, grew weak as well, for in her wretched state, knowing death to come, she had no more patience to contemplate and understand a thing before she acted. No longer could she sit a month and watch the moon change shape, nor could she rest upon her stomach for a year, and watch a shrub or tall grass wake, put forth its flower, seed, display, and drop its colored leaf, then sleep. These things have lives much slower than our own. What is a year to us is but a day to them.

“My wife had no time to learn their lives. And she began to act in greater and greater haste, more frantic as the time grew less, with less and less understanding.

“And with no understanding there can be no love. Without love, the beasts, and yes, the trees and shrubs, as patient as they are, began to hate her. She in turn felt nothing but envy and spite for them, more longer lived than she, and began to try to poison them as well.”

“What occurred?”

“She succeeded. The animals began to war among themselves. She bore me many sons and daughters. Life was bitter.”

“Say on.”

He sighed. “Each day she came to tempt me eat the deadly fruit with her. She said it was my duty, or that I would suffer horrid sorrow from the loneliness of outliving her. More than once she tried to slip a peal or shaving of the deadly fruit into my salad, hoping I would eat it unobserved. But I did not eat.” His eyes were clear and guiltless as he looked at me. “I did love her deeply and completely. And she reviled me, saying I was selfish to love my own pureness more.”

“You do not think it selfish to love purity rather than your own beloved wife?”

“I reject the proposition that they are exclusive alternates. Do you assert the best display of love for her would be to join her in her reckless suicide? Absurd. True love does not impel a man to maim himself; the opposite is so.”

“But– what of the animals– did you attempt to save them from her poison?”

“With words and with persuasion only. What could I do? The animals were in my care, I know. But she was my wife.” He shook his head ruefully. “How could I restrain her? Impossible to make her fear me, or anything. I could not break her legs or throw her in a pit. She was my wife.”

“But the animals were innocent.”

“The tragedy of unkindness is not only that unkind folk bring sorrow on themselves and others, but that they create such harms as cannot be healed with human power. They make it so that others cannot accomplish good.”

“What? Do you say you suffer for her sins?”

“I never spoke of sin.” He said gravely. “I say only this. Groups of my sons come to me every now and again to settle their disputes. They at times play a game called war where they murder each other in large groups to gain exclusive use of certain pieces of land they are too impatient to share. Often they want my blessing or advice in this, or ask I be their war-leader, because I have never offended the metals of the earth, and therefore swords and spears, in deference, refuse to injure me.

“What can I do? They are my sons, and I wish to please them and to guide their growth. But I cannot. Do you understand my state? For me, good consists no longer of doing good simply, joyfully, without pain. With such men, good consists of avoiding greater evil by embracing littler ones.”

“You do not seem saddened by the tragedy,” I observed. “Your resolution in enduring your despair is admirable.”

Yet in my secret thought I knew this creature was too shallow to feel much grief, or any great, sincerely-felt emotion. He had divorced himself from human life, it seemed.

As if he penetrated to my thought, he smiled in derision. “Why should I inflict myself with sorrow? The wrong done is not mine. Despair is likewise alien to me; the mood produces neither benefit nor joy. Why indulge it?”

For that I had no answer. But I thought it a self-admiring and callous bit of speech.

*** *** ***

Fragment III: Of Shadow and Light


He smiled gently at me. “I can see that you and I have different natures. You are like my sons. I do not know if your world had a forbidden tree, but I suspect that it had something of the kind, and that you transgressed. Consequently, your moods, your nature, and my own will never find a mutual agreement. You will fail consistently to understand me; shortly you will grow to hate. Therefore perhaps before you leave my world, you will sate my curiosity, and tell me of your own.”

“Wait– a final question. Why didn’t you burn the poisonous tree?”

“I sat and communed with the tree until I understood it. Its purpose is only to live and to enjoy the sun. Its own fruit do not poison it; nor is there malice in it.”

“But? Would you spare a single tree in balance against the weight of all the world?”

He laughed at me with kind joviality. “Should I have become a murderer to prevent my wife from murdering herself, she who had the wisdom and patience enough to save herself had she only troubled to think on it? The tree did not steal her will away. She harmed herself by herself of herself. I did not grant her the power of volition: it is not mine to take away. I condemn no one.”

I concluded the man as callous as a stone, self-righteous in the highest degree. I did my best to hide my thought, but he smiled a bitter smile, and so perhaps he guessed it.

“Now tell me of your world,” he asked.

“But I have one more question.” I said, “One of the utmost import and urgency, the very reason why, indeed, I began and still pursue this quest. If I may…”

He shook his head. “But you may not. I fear you lack the patience to tell me all I crave to know, and will not, unless you have a compulsion to endure my company, unless, in fact, I draw you onward by my silence, and thereby goad you onward by your hope and curiosity. Already you have taken strong dislike to me, and wish to leave as quickly as you may; you have put our hopes at odds, so I can satisfy you only once you have sated me.”

“Some might think your attitude most impolite.”

He shrugged. “The littler of evils.”

So I told him of my world, of the library in which I lived, vast beyond imagining, with row on row and rack on rack of bookshelves lining the infinitude of branching stony corridors.

I spoke of the titanic sitting-rooms, empty save for me, surrounded by the towering shelves and balconies of books, and lit by arching windows taller than tall trees, cut with quaint panes of diamond glass, or figures made of colored crystal.

I spoke of twisting labyrinths below, filled with volumes, portfolios, octavios and tomes.

I spoke of the small room which contained nothing but a single monstrous libram taller than myself, squatting on a massive pedestal of gold.

I spoke of the huge pillared staircases sweeping down through story after story and level after level of the mighty library, with bookshelves built even into their balustrade.

And I told him of the books themselves. Delightful just to speak on them! Volumes of Theology leathered in the flayed skins of martyred saints; quatrifolios of smithcrafty and metallurgy made cunningly of metal foil; books on gemcraftry inset with diamond carbuncles, which, when held to light, made their words appear on farther walls; books on alchemy which only could be read on application of certain chemicals to the fabric of their pages to make the inks appear; studies on optics and lens-grinding whose print grew ever smaller with each page; books on poison only to be opened with long-handled tongs; and the texts on astrology, with diagrams and letters wrote in phosphorescent inks which could be read at night.

He asked me a thousand questions, and every answer generated a thousand more. We spoke until the sun had settled in the west and all the stars came out. Only when I was nodding and yawning did I protest.

“Sir–” I said, “You have asked me all these questions, and would continue, I suspect, as if you had a thousand years to spend on every topic (which, I must admit, perhaps you do). But for myself, I only have this single day, for when I fall asleep, I once again confront the Book of Dreams. And knowing of my world as now you do, you understand what it means that its cover is absolutely black, that its lock and hasp are human bone!”

“It means it is a matter absolutely never to be known in life, to be unlocked at death. It means that to open up the book is certainly to die. Why did you open it?”

Angered, I said, “And should I have let the unknown remain unknown? Nowhere, in all the culminant omniscience of the Library, nowhere, in all the books and folios, librams, tomes and volumes, was there a clue, a hint, a footnote or notation to explain the why of it. Why? Why had I been given a book forbidden to me to read?”

The golden man smiled (as if amused) but did not answer.

“If you know the answer, speak! I now have seen a multiplicity of worlds. In each there was one flaw, one source of temptation, one source of discontent. Why? Why should Perfection be so marred?”

He smiled and said, “Like all such answers, it is too simple to be explained, it can only be understood! Nevertheless, listen: If there were no temptations, and hence no wrong acts, there would be not merit in doing right, and hence no difference between right and wrong.”

“But why must the wrong so easily be put into our grasp? Why this pointless test?”

“It is not the world which test us, but we ourselves. Even in the midst of paradise, a discontented mind will find wrong enough to do. A mind content will find a paradise in hell. My wicked wife is dead, my sons are evil murderers and madmen. I live in a poisoned world. Yet I am happy; I take joy in life. Why? It is my duty to do so. So long as I am free from sin, and sovereign to myself, that duty shall nowise be neglected.”

“Why was the book put in the library?”

“No matter why. If it had not been, you would have found some other book with which to be discontent.”

“What? Should I have been passive? Should I have learned to love my ignorance?”

“Why not? I am certain that somewhere in this multiplicity of worlds is a garden of people living totally in bliss and ignorance, who are forbidden to approach the Tree of Knowledge even as you, living in your world of omniscience, were forbidden to consult the Book of Ignorance.

“It does not matter what the matter is; if you learn contentment, you will be content, despite all the world can do. If your learn discontent, you will be vexed, despite that you abide in paradise. The world will not make you what you are. You will.”

I looked upon his face, and found it hateful. He seemed so smug, so supercilious, so self-righteous. “I cannot accept your vapid doctrine.” I announced. “I will not quit my quest until I find a reason for the world’s pain.”

He laughed at me as if perhaps he thought me mad.

“Then go pursue.” He said, “I knew you would reject my word. I could see it on your face before you ever spoke.”

I went away from him with no farewell, and found a tree under whose spreading limbs I found a spot to rest. Pulling my coat grumpily about me, I closed my eyes and slept.

Immediately, my demonic pursuit again harassed me. Immediately I fled. Up I held the sacred key to light my way. Its blazing rays showed the dim corridor before me. But no matter how I turned or held the key, the shadow which pursued me always came upon me from the other side. I swung and turned. The shadow swung and turned as well, not allowing the key to come upon it.

I remembered the words of the golden man. I held the key behind my back. The shadow stepped in front of me.

It had my face. And when I laughed, the shadow laughed as well, although its breathy voice was no more than the echoes trailing down the corridor.


With no pursuit, I was resolved to retrace my steps to the origin, and close and lock the book of dreaming once more with the sacred key, thence to wake forever once again within my cherished library. But as I walked, I thought, perhaps, I ought to warn the man of ice concerning what I’d learned.

And perhaps more than this as well. There were an endless multitude of lights in the corridor about me, and also many dark and empty spaces.

When I looked into the flicker of light which held the world of the man of ice, I saw him. The dancing woman made of flame embraced him, and her flames began to gutter, but he did not let go of her. A wash of steam came up and hid the scene from view.


And my shadow came and whispered in my ear, “What now? Your friend has perished from a lack of sound advice. There are a million worlds around you, all with men as good as he. Will you leave them to their fate, and do what the golden man advises? Can you now go home, and be content, knowing others suffer whom you might have means to save?”

As I watched, I saw the flair of light before me dim and open to a black and empty hole.

I began slowly to walk towards my home, my paradise, resolved to resist temptation, resolved to be content. But as I neared my perfect home, I glanced inside another flame.


There I saw a sad brown man made entirely of dirt and soil, with tears of crumbling dust falling over his cheeks. He leaned to gaze into a pond where a mermaid swam, encircled by her floating clouds of hair.

Each time she came above the surface to him, she began to choke within the air, and fell back to the water, eyes wild with anguish. Each time she fell, the splash would send flying drops of water up; and where they struck the man of soil, a little piece of him would melt to mud, and fall into the mater, making it unclean.


I stepped through the gate of dreams, confronted the brown man, and said, “What is the cure for sorrow except to sorrow no longer? Put aside your longing, and be content.” He looked at me with sad brown eyes, face wise and grave. “If you believe the words you say, why do you stray so far from home, man of another world that you are? Why don’t you stay at home and be content yourself?”


Having no answer, I returned down the corridor.

My way home was blocked by a supernatural creature with eyes brighter than twin suns, crowned by a swirl of lightning, robed in dazzling glamours. He lifted up vast wings as I approached, wincing; and the blade of every silvery feather quaked with incandescence. The silver wings spread to fill the corridor, and mirror-like, doubled and spread the light his body shone. Half- blinded, I put up my hands before my face. But I could feel the heat and smell the burning smolder of his sword.

“Cherub!” I cried, “What justice is there in this horrid puzzle-world you have made? What purpose and what point? Do you now block my egress back to my utopian calm home? And why? I cannot, without hypocrisy, preach contentment to the people who suffer here.”

 Nor will you be content returning home.

I looked into my heart and saw it was so. “But why? why did you make the world to make contentment not possible for men?”

I did not make it, nor is contentment possible for me. I sought to seat myself above the Highest, but stooped down instead. Leaning from my throne within the world of light, I looked, and I saw the world of darkness, needing enlightenment, and, stooping, entered here to salvage what I might, embracing thus the one thing forbidden me. I am the light-bringer, the light-bearer, and cannot do otherwise.

Outraged, I cried out. “Then is the world a pointless hell, and inescapable?”

And he replied, For so long as you pursue pleasure and contentment, it is. The fault lies not in the world, but in you.

“What then must I do?”

 Your duty.

 And he lowered his wings and stepped aside. I did not see him disappear, nor have I ever, for, as I watched, dazzled, he seemed to spread himself to occupy each flame, each star, each flicker of light of any kind all around me. At no point since that time have I beheld any light, however dim, and been unaware of his absence.


I do not know of what my duties consist. I am not a soldier, to save others by the sword, nor a surgeon, to save them with a scalpel. The only tool I wield is a pen. I come from a world of knowledge, raised, fostered and companioned all by books. The art by which I hope to do my part to ease the world’s pain must be persuasion.

I wonder at the cherub which I met, for his words even now echo in my soul, and seem to spread a venom and a discontent. If my duty is to save infinity from infinite temptation, I must forever fail, and forever stand accused. A curse on my conscience! Its word is discontent.

Somewhere in this library is a book quite opposite the Book of Dreams. I imagine it now, a book of wakefulness and day, the Book of Light, which tells of the origins are order of things, the history of peoples, of slavery and salvation, and rich with songs and proverbs, parables, laws, and prophecies of things to come. A book not of dreaming but of solid truth.

For if the Book of Light is but a dream, a vision without substance, then all is dream, and the Book of Dreams has poisoned me with dreams, making all reality unreal.

You who reads these words, which I have written in the Final Language no man can fail to understand, I charge and compel you to escape my fate. Leave be the Book of Dreams, however fair those dreams may be. For good cause it be forbidden.

Seek in your world the Book of Light. I know not what form it takes, but even as the Book of Dreams is a book of delight, and of death, the Book of Light is life, abundant life, and yet it delights no wicked man. You will know it by how it is hated.

I have set my hand to this manuscript which I shall fling down the corridor of time in a brass casket, (perhaps to its utter terminus, a world of ignorance, antithetical to mine, where only knowledge is forbidden) in hope that being found and read, its warning and promise might be heeded. I now take my hand away from this manuscript, which, concluding with this sentence, ends.

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Watch this space next week for another tale of wonder, fancy, or phantasmagoria!