Language of Dreams



Doctor William Downy received the package he had been waiting for.  The thick, brown envelope he had signed for was filled with pages, carefully assembled by the team of assistants that had accompanied him to the archeological sight he had spent the last two years excavating and analyzing.  Now, his findings had been published and the surviving artifacts had been sent to museums around the world.  His work had been completed and he was planning to take some time off and be with his family before seeking to resume the teaching career he had put on hold.  He also wanted to do some research on his own, free of the time constraints and expectations that went along with being a professional archeologist. The package contained images of a parchment he had not been able to figure out.  He needed time to study the images and compare them to other research.

            The parchment had been preserved in the vault his team had uncovered, sealed away with all sorts of valuables.  The vault had been analogous to a safe, hidden and airtight, and had appeared to have been built underground rather than buried by time.  He suspected that it had been created by thieves for hiding loot.  For unknown reasons, they had never retrieved their stolen property and their loss was posterity’s gain.  He had found the ancient village by studying satellite images of North Africa.  The images revealed well-used ancient caravan trails to the trained eye.  Doctor Downy had compared the trails to other maps and images, seeking out the slight hints of human habitation and selecting the one he believed would be the earliest.  The detective work had been a fun pastime.  Once he had guessed which site was most promising, he put together a presentation to acquire enough grant money to assemble a team and dig.  His work had paid off and the vault had been a big score for Doctor Downy.

            His team could find out little from the remains of the village.  There was not even enough left of the site to be called ruins, so these ancient people who may or may not have made a living off of a caravan trail through the wilderness on the edge of Ancient Egypt would remain largely anonymous.  About all he knew was the age of the site.  It was contemporary with early Egypt, before pyramids and hieroglyphics. Most of the vault’s artifacts were stone or ivory and a few were made from copper ore that was only partially smelted.  The parchment itself had not been a true parchment, although his team called it that for convenience.  It was simply a sheet of crudely preserved leather with images that had been stamped and carved into it and painted. The pictures had been taken before they tried to move it and the ancient leather had crumbled to dust.  The team had done a professional job of documenting it.  Doctor Downy had supervised the work himself while two members of the team had put it together.  One was Sharon Telly, a grad student with a talent for scientific thoroughness.  The other was Mark Lang, also a student, who had strong technological aptitudes and experience with digital imagery.  Sharon had taken the initial pictures from several angles and she and Mark had also created close-ups of the images and extrapolations of artwork that had faded or become misshapen over time.  The images consisted of what may have been hieroglyphic writing, but in an unknown language.  It was less abstract than the Egyptian hieroglyphs that Doctor Downy had previously studied and a little reminiscent of prehistoric cave paintings, although it contained curious, wholly abstract symbols as well.  Hoping for an exciting discovery, he suspected it was a link between hieroglyphic writing and an earlier form. 

            Doctor Downy stashed the envelope in his study without opening it to check it. He had been over the material with his team as part of the process of analyzing the find and knew it well.  He had dinner with his wife and two daughters. The conversation was about their lives and the familiar concerns relaxed him.  After dinner, he helped clean up and spent a little time watching his wife with his daughters before quietly slipping into his study and closing the door. He opened the envelope and arranged the pictures and pages of notation on his desk.  He picked up and studied what might be the beginning of the parchment, assuming that the unfamiliar language was written left to right, top to bottom.  He tried to make sense of the top row of images.  They seemed to be a mountain with a cloud over it, people jumping on a circle, running animals, a person sitting on the ground and a spear.  All concrete images, but their meaning eluded him.  One of the abstract symbols caught his eye.  It consisted of a circle and three squares drawn over each other in an interlocking pattern.  Each of the shapes had something squiggly drawn inside it. Part of it was faded on the parchment and someone on his team had extrapolated the complete symbol on a separate page.  Doctor Downy stared at it for too long.  He flipped through the rest of the images, but he kept going back to that same first symbol.  He would find something else that interested him and ponder it, but he would notice with surprise that he had gone back to looking at the symbol.  It made him wonder why he could not get past it.

            Mrs. Downy knocked softly on the study door and stole into the room.  She saw her husband at his desk, studying a photograph.  She still remembered him as a young man, a mysterious world traveler.  Now, he was fifty-two, with gray mixed into his brown hair and glasses over his green eyes.  Success and age had made both his figure and her own a bit thicker.  She had just put the girls to bed and craved adult conversation. 

            “Will?”  He did not respond.

            “Are you awake, dear?”  No answer. If he really had been asleep, he could not be holding the page of photographic paper he was staring at. Failing to answer was not like him. Normally, when he had returned from a dig, Will enjoyed sharing it with her.  If anything, he was too eager to discuss his work, sharing details that were only fascinating to him.  She knew her husband.  Explaining everything to another person was part of his thought process, his way of working through details.  She had been looking forward to hearing more about the vault.  As he sat there without answering or moving, her spine tingled.  She crept forward, silent in her socks.  She bent over him and blew on his neck, thinking that she would snap him out of it.  Nothing.  She bit him gently, just below the ear.

            Doctor Downy jumped when he felt teeth on his neck.  He was surprised to see his wife in the room with him.  He had been studying the symbol, as if its meaning would come to him if contemplated it long enough.  His mind had gone blank.  The shapes and symbols, and the way they fit together, had held his gaze.  The image seemed to fill his mind.  He put it down and turned to his wife. 

            “Hi,” he said cheerfully.  He stroked her cheek with the back of his index finger.  He felt embarrassed for not noticing her.  She was faking playfulness, but he could see the concern in her light brown eyes.  “I was looking over the parchment.”  He had told her about the vault and the village, after working long hours with his team, struggling to pull every tiny incite from the data they had brought home.  He would have been surprised if she were not bored with the subject. 

            “So that’s the mysterious ancient parchment,” she said to start a conversation. She sat on his desk, looking at the pile of papers and photos.

            “Yes, Rita, there it is,” he answered.  “And I have no clue what it means, or where it came from.”  He gave her a complete photo of the parchment to examine. 

            “I thought it came from Egypt.”  She knew that tone he was using.  He was frustrated, but in a way that would make him more determined.  She looked over the ancient symbols.

            “That’s where it ended up until we found it, but there was an ancient trade route through there.  It could be from anywhere.  We dated it.  It was older than the items around it, an ancient treasure even then.”

            She speculated on the meaning of one of the symbols, a tight spiral that circled in on itself.  That got him started.  He shared his speculations with her, digging through the paperwork and showing her photos and close-ups.  He lost her as he went into detail and her mind started to wander.  Eventually, she invited him to come to bed.

            As he drifted off to sleep next to Rita, Will was still seeing that symbol in his mind’s eye.  He tried to dispel it, but he kept picturing the shapes and squiggles.  He began to dream.  In his dream he saw a person sitting in a cave.  The person was a small, slight man, naked and hairy, with brown skin and black hair.  He turned his head to face Will and smiled slightly, the corners of his mouth turning upward in recognition.  The man’s face was ape-like, reminding Will of a chimpanzee.  His eyes were glazed and he was breathing deeply, in through the nose and out the mouth.  He turned back to what he was doing slowly, as if in a trance.  From the side, Will saw his ears clearly.  They had tufts of thick hair that stood straight up, making them appear pointed.  What he was doing was mixing bowls of paint.  The bowls contained thick substances, like colored mud, in striking bright blue, yellow, black and red.  The man breathed on his hands and they shimmered in the way that heat made the air over a fire wiggle slightly.  Still in a trance, the ape-man picked up four small tools made from pointed sticks and handled them, as if spreading an invisible something on them.  He dipped the tools in the paints and drew on the wall of the cave, making the same symbol that Will had been unable to get out of his mind.  The artist stood back and the drawing shimmered.  A draft picked up, whispering through the cave.  The ape-man glanced back at Will and grinned, showing his white teeth.  Will could not help but notice his long canine teeth and how out of place they seemed in a relaxed smile.  The ape-man’s brown eyes twinkled.  He strode forward through the wall that the symbol was drawn on as though it were a shadow. 

            Doctor Downy remembered the dream when the alarm clock his wife had set woke him the next morning.  He had never recalled a dream before, not in its entirety.  He lay where he was, listening to her quiet movements as she dressed and headed for the bathroom.  He examined the dream professionally and knew what the ape-man was.  It had been a Homo Erectus, a member of the race of near human beings that had left Africa to spread throughout the Old World and some of them had evolved into more advanced Hominids.  They were prehistoric explorers and had been the first people to colonize so many places.  It was an elf.

            As Will lay in bed contemplating the dream, Rita finished in the bathroom and quietly departed.  He rose and wandered to the sink to shave and brush his teeth, still fascinated by the dream, haunted by a feeling of elusive meaning.  He stopped and looked his image in the mirror, the toothbrush still in his mouth.  He felt a sensation of strangeness rising from his insides that he had only felt before when listening to a particularly moving piece of music that made him sit up.  An elf?  His eyes looked back at him, begging for an answer.

            After finishing his morning routine, he fixed a hasty breakfast of chicken that had been prepared and packaged for the microwave oven and ate in his study, trying not to leave greasy fingerprints on the photos.  He checked the close-up of the symbol that he had seen in his dream again, but it did not hold his attention.  He was a little disappointed and he went over the photos and notations again.  The dream symbol still meant nothing to him.  He noticed another symbol, a spiral.  He had seen something like it before.  Similar images adorned the barrows, where the ancient people of England had buried their dead.  What, he wondered, was it doing here?  Was it the same symbol, or just coincidentally similar?  He realized that he had been staring at the spiral for hours and scolded himself inwardly for wasting time.  He had sat looking at it for so long that it had seemed to move, forming a whirlpool inside the photograph.  He touched it, half expecting his finger to pass through the image, but the touch of the cool, smooth surface only dispelled the illusion.

            It occurred to him that his fascination with the spiral might put him on the right track.  The other dream symbol had certainly had an effect.  He went to his computer printer, pulled out a blank piece of paper and then found a black marker in his desk drawer.  He sat on the floor and started to meditate.  He knew the technique, an ancient thing used by Buddhist monks.  Used, perhaps, by the Buddha himself, in search of enlightenment.  He would breathe deep and slow, in through his nose and out his mouth.  As he did, he would repeat a phrase over and over in his thoughts.  He wondered what phrase to use.  As he tried to pick one, he questioned himself.  Dream symbol?  It had to be fantasy, it sounded childish to him as he mulled it over in his mind. An ancient scroll with symbols that effected dreams, he knew it was all speculation.  He made a decision, internally.  Even if what he was doing was an exercise in speculation, he would follow through on it.  He had to know where it led.  “Dream spiral,” he thought.  That would be the phrase he would use as he meditated.  He started, controlling his breathing and repeating “dream spiral” in his head, until he felt light, as if the floor he sat on were less real.  He drew on the computer paper, carefully recreating the dream spiral.  Still meditating, he held it up, looking deep into it.  It seemed to move without moving and filled his senses until he almost felt himself floating down the whirlpool.  He dropped the paper and stood, breathing heavily as his heart raced and his hands shook.  While steadying himself, he wondered why he felt so afraid.  That was enough for one day.  He watched TV until Rita and the girls came home.

            That night he dreamed again.  This time, he floated down a spiral.  He accelerated until he was flying through the spiral and into the blue sky over another world.  He could see that it was somewhere else because the sunlight that shone brightly around him was ever so slightly a different shade than on Earth.  He descended, gliding over an unknown landscape.  It was dotted with walled-in areas.  The walls of light brown stone formed neat squares with enough room inside for farmers’ fields and he could see organized colored patches that must have been crops and pastures.  They also contained roads leading to a town or city and he could see the classical architecture that stood near the center.  The squares were far apart and the vast stretches of land in between were unsettled.  He looked at a cluster of brown lumps in a field and turned, flying down for a closer look.  A herd of mammoths grazed in a field of long grass, their trunks pulling the plants and stuffing them into their mouths. 

He put together a picture in his mind as he flew low, inspecting the landscape and its inhabitants.  In between the walled cities, the land belonged to the trolls, elves and goblins.  Troops of them wandered their territories, living as they had on Earth, gathering what they needed from the land without making houses or permanent settlements.  Modern humans lived inside their walls, each an island of civilization in the wilderness.  He inspected a caravan, a troop of mammoths carrying packages of goods escorted by soldiers.  The soldiers carried swords and bows, but were dressed in something that seemed strange for armor.  It seemed to be made of ropes as thick as a man’s arm that had been twisted, dyed and wrapped horizontally around the wearer.  It covered them entirely, except for their hands and feet, on which they wore boots and gauntlets fashioned from a pale metal, which did not quite look like steel.  On their heads, ropes covered the chin, bridge of the nose and forehead, leaving openings for the eyes, nose and mouth while still protecting the wearer’s face. 

            The alarm clock went off, ending the dream.  He rolled over and stared at the ceiling, contemplating it.  The dream had been so very real.  He felt as if he had really visited another planet, a planet that modern man shared with the recently extinct and mammoths were used as pack animals.  He wondered how he could know so much about that place from the brief glimpse the dream had given him.  He had an inescapable hunch that the Neanderthals he had seen were trolls and the Australopithecines were goblins, just as he had suddenly come to refer to the Homo Erectus as an elf the previous morning.  He started to worry that he may be escaping into a fantasy world, but he was excited and curious to find out more.  He got up and joined his family for breakfast.  He could never share the dreams with his family, but listening to the mundane conversation centered him in reality.  Even so, he eagerly waited for them to leave.  The girls had school and his wife had a part time job at the university where he used to teach.  They did not need the money, but she did need a life outside the home.

            As the girls walked to the bus stop a block away, Rita stayed at the breakfast table.  She was dressed professionally and had only a few spare moments to spend on her husband. 

            “You’re quiet this morning,” she observed.  Her tone asked him why he was so distracted.

            He thought about how to answer.  “I’m nuts over my research,” He admitted with a smile.

            “Will, I know you are looking for valuable answers, but you may never be able to translate it.  Don’t beat yourself up.”

            “Actually”, he explained, “I think I am making some progress.  It is pure speculation, but it might be a theory.  It will just take time and work.”

            “But you’re so quiet lately and you did not sleep well last night.  You got up and sat on the floor.”

            “I did?”


            “I don’t remember that.  I must have been dreaming.”  He failed to hide the fact that there was more to the story. 

            “You have never sleepwalked before, what were you dreaming about?”  She sounded worried.  He knew he could not lie to her.

            “Oh, extinct animals and exotic cities,” he told her, as if the dreams were trivial.  “Just dreams.”

            “Dreams that get you out of bed and keep you from talking to your children,” she fussed.  He observed that he was not the only one acting strangely.  She did not normally scold him this way.  He wondered what she really wanted from him, but he was also feeling the temptation to head for his study. 

            Rita was looking at him, waiting for an explanation.  “Don’t be late for work.”  Changing the subject succeeded as she glanced at the clock and went to find her purse.  Soon, she was out the door.

            Doctor Downy went straight to the study and dug out the photo of the entire parchment.  He ignored the picture writing and sought out the next dream symbol.  His eyes drifted over the lines of images but nothing stopped him so that he could not get past it, the way the previous two had.  He studied the photo, trying to pick out another abstract symbol. There were a few more.  He put the photo down and rested his face in his hands, wondering if the bubble had burst and the world he had seen had really just been a fantasy.  How could I have convinced myself I was really there?  He spent some time wondering if he had a mental problem, but sat back and relaxed, eventually.  He started to meditate, breathing slowly and repeating the phrase “the next symbol is”, inwardly.  He contemplated the photo again.  He noticed a triangle.  It was a simple symbol that he had barely noticed it before.  It had been carved into the leather precisely, with perfectly equal sides.  There was a single dot poked in its center, which may have been wear and tear on the leather or part of the symbol.

            Will stirred.  He had been staring at the triangle for over an hour.  He felt excited and relieved.  He sat down in the corner of the room with a blank paper and a marker and meditated again.  Then he drew the symbol, the triangle with a dot in the center.  He did not know how long he sat, looking at it.  His legs and back were stiff.  He could hear that Rita and the girls were home and that the TV was on.  As he stood and stretched, he noticed the tiny diamond shapes on the wallpaper as if he had not seen them before.  Geomancy, he thought, the ancient Egyptian magic consisting of geometric shapes that had led them to discover engineering.  Some connection on the tip of his mind had escaped him and his thoughts groped after it. He gave up, figuring he would sleep on it. 

            He decided to spend some time with his family, to bring himself out of his trance.  He wandered into the living room where his daughters were watching a nature show.  Jill was ten, slim and athletic with her mother’s raven hair and soft brown eyes.  She was slumped on the couch with a bowl of popcorn on her lap.  Kathy was six, with her father’s green eyes made striking by her pale complexion.  She turned to look at him with an innocent smile.  Just looking at his daughters brought him home. 

            “Did you see lions in Africa?” Kathy asked.  On TV, a pride of lions lounged in the shade of a tree.

            “No, sweetie, I was not in a park,” he explained, gently.  “We were in the desert, but I did get to ride a camel.”  Kathy nodded.  The TV caught her attention.  “Elephant,” she pointed out.  The narrator explained how elephants grazed and protected their young as a herd of them wandered onto the screen, poking around after food.  A mammoth looked out of the TV screen and its black, bulging eyes gazing deeply into Will’s.  Its light brown trunk hung between two tusks that curved forward and inward. 

            “You’ve seen them in person, right, Dad?” Jill wondered.

            On TV, the herd of mammoths wandered through a meadow, ripping up the tall grass and weeds and pulling leaves off of the bushes with their trunks. 


            “Yes, I have seen elephants, from a distance,” explained Will.  “You don’t want to get to close to them, or lions either.”  He chuckled.  The girls looked to him, expecting a story.  He related one that a member of his team had told him about stumbling across an elephant as he sought out ancient Mali Empire sites in the Congo Basin.  The animal had charged, crashing after him through the jungle.  He had climbed a tree, but the elephant knocked it over. The injured explorer had simply curled up on the ground and waited for death, but the elephant had apparently decided enough was enough and walk away.  Will did not know if the story was true, but that did not stop him from telling it. 

            Rita was next to him.  “Good to see you back to reality,” she whispered in his ear, teasing him.  He put his arm around her, feeling the warmth of her familiar, soft body.  She laughed softly, confused, and led him to the couch so they could sit with Jill.  He no longer saw Mammoths on TV.

            He spent the evening watching TV with his family, his work far from his mind. When he did go to bed, he could not sleep.  He stared at the ceiling wondering what he would dream about and listening to his heart beating.  Over the next three days, he left the parchment photos alone, only taking the time to organize them into neat piles without really looking at them.  He was stalling.  Seeing mammoths on TV worried him and he wondered if he needed help.  He spent his time doing related research, going though his books and using his computer to look up articles.  He sought out anything about ancient Egypt, searching for information about the time between the first settlements along the Nile and the rise of the Pharaohs, anything that could have been contemporary with the vault.

            On the fourth day, after spending the morning reading alone in his house, he picked up the triangle symbol he had drawn, tracing the black marker lines with his finger.  He put it together with the other two drawings and placed it on his desk next to the neat piles of photos.  It drew his attention and he saw it shimmer, the way the symbol drawn by the elf in his first dream had shimmered.  The mirage of blurriness hovered in the air over his desk.  He walked hurriedly out of his study to the kitchen sink, wet his hands and rubbed the cold water onto his face.  On the window over the sink, the glass was foggy and the triangle and dot symbol was there, carved into the white mist on the surface of the glass. The fog faded and the glass was clear again.  Will turned away and tried to clear his head.  He went and rested on his back on the living room couch with his feet dangling over one armrest.

            Before he knew it, he was asleep and dreaming.  He was on his back on a flagstone with his bare feet pointed in the direction of a wall that towered over him.  The stone he rested on was part of a road that lay just inside the wall, leading to a gate.  A guard in armor looked down from the battlements, peering at him from between the ropes around his head.  The ropes were dyed blue and covered the soldier.  He held a bow made of something black and wore a quiver of arrows. Will stood, feeling as if he had been caught loitering.  The wall was easily three stories tall, topped with square battlements.  The gate was an arch with a keystone. Inside, he could see a tunnel large enough to accommodate three horses standing in a line.  The wall stretched into the distance and Will figured that the square must be miles wide, contained inside the wall.  Something like a castle, but of larger proportions, large enough to hold plenty of cultivated land.  The granite flagstone under his feet felt cool and comfortable. The road was made up of granite squares on the ground, each square as wide as a modern two-lane road.  On either side were wooden fences.  To his right was an orchard of unfamiliar trees.  They were almost like oak trees with thick, straight trunks, but the fruit that hung where their branches began looked like smooth, yellow coconuts.  To his left was a pasture with fat, red cows.  The cattle were being watched over by a black, wolfish dog that regarded Will with silent suspicion.  As he looked around, Will realized he could see well, even though he was not wearing his glasses.  He was dressed in a gray tunic, a long shirt that came down to his knees.  He wandered down the road, which led away from the gate and toward the inside of the square.  He passed fields of brown wheat and bushes that produced round, black nuts.  He also saw something like cabbage or lettuce growing in neat little rows.  He came to another pasture and a mammoth walked parallel to the fence.  It was brown, with shorter fur than he would have expected, not much longer that a horse’s.  Its trunk hung almost to the ground, between tusks that appeared to have been trimmed, so that they only extended slightly past its face before coming to a neat, flat end.  One eye looked back at Will.  As he watched the mammoth’s casual stride, he wondered who owned the obviously tame animal.  He had yet to see a home, although he could see enclosed, unpainted wooden barns with flat roofs near the field. He moved on, walking down the road. In a field, he saw a man in a white tunic spreading black powder on the ground from a shallow bowl.  His features looked like those of a person from Southern Europe, but slightly different.  His black hair and beard were cut close, as if he shaved his head and face regularly.  He wore a belt, with several small farm implements tucked into neat leather holsters. Will decided not to stare and moved on.

            A rider passed Will on the road.  He noticed the animal first and feared for his own safety.  It was a wooly rhinoceros with a horn at least a meter long.  As the animal came closer, he noticed that the beast was not quite like the extinct, Ice Age animal that Will was familiar with.  It was not so wooly, like the mammoth he had passed, and slimmer, not to fat to be ridden comfortably by the man in the saddle.  Even so, the unicorn was still a large animal, larger than a horse, with a long body and powerful legs.

            The rider was obviously a warrior.  He wore the same peculiar rope armor Will had seen before.  Now that he was getting a closer look, he began to wonder what the armor was made of.  The stuff looked like some kind of cable that had been twisted.  Unlike ordinary rope, it was not made up of fibers, but of one solid piece.  The rider’s armor was dyed blue and decorated with a striking painting of a bird of prey with its claws extended.  He wore a sword over his back.  It was straight, and almost as long as the man was tall, but thin.  The hilt was fancy and adorned with jewels, but Will could not tell what the weapon was made out of, since it was sheathed in a leather scabbard.  The rider saw Will looking and sat straight in his saddle, head held high and proud, striking a gallant pose for the stranger.

            Will continued down the road.  He reached the place where there was no longer a fence and the street was lined with houses.  It was as though he had crossed an arbitrary line.  Here, the street was crowded with people and he slowed his pace and looked around, trying not to stare.  The people were brown with black hair and had a young and athletic look.  Will did not see a single person who appeared to be his own age.  The men wore tunics with belts and the women wore baggy dresses, almost like sheets with holes for the head and arms.  Will listened to the conversation around him.  He focused on the unfamiliar language, trying to discern its origin.  Not hearing any familiar words, he gave up.  As he stopped focusing his attention on the sound and simply heard, he realized that he knew what they were saying.  Three men were talking business nearby, discussing the cost of goods from the caravans and how much to sell them for in the marketplace.  Another knot of people were discussing sporting contests and commenting on a race they had recently seen.  Still another group whispered political gossip about a royal adviser.  Will lurked and listened in the street for a while.

            The nearby houses drew his attention away from the people.  They were, at first glance, classical in nature, but Will took a closer look.  His trained eye revealed that they were made in some unknown way, as if liquid stone had been shaped into a structure and then hardened and the structure had been completed with wood and glass.  The homes that lined the street faced outward, like town houses, and varied in extravagance.  Will stopped to admire a large home decorated with marble.  The front entrance yawned behind a covered porch with decorative columns and cushioned chairs for visitors.  Will noticed that there was no door separating the porch from the house, but also that two men in armor and carrying swords guarded the entrance.  He also saw that the roof had symbols carved on its face.  They looked to him to be nearly the same language as the parchment.  He read the symbols, somehow understanding their meaning as he had understood the spoken language earlier.  The house belonged to a merchant family, whose name was represented by a tree symbol.  It also stated that transactions were to be discussed at the marketplace, in town.  Something else caught Will’s attention. He could clearly see the pipes of a sewer system leading from the merchant’s home.  In fact, all of the homes were so equipped.  The pipes were made from the same shaped stone as the homes.  Will noticed that some of the more extravagant homes were flanked by small sheds equipped with sewer pipes, situated between residences with a path leading to the street.  Over one shed, he read “visit the master not, when you have the urgent need.”  Will chuckled.

            Curious, Will picked his way through the crowd, heading deeper into town.  He noticed more footpaths between the homes, leading to the street.  Will took one and followed it to some of the town’s more humble dwellings, tucked behind the larger homes that lined the street behind him.  They appeared to be apartments, stacked high with stairways on the side, leading to the interconnecting roofs that formed walkways.  Will took the nearest stairway up and had to step aside to allow a passerby to move along.  From where he stood he had a clear view of the town.  The city, he corrected himself.  It was dominated by a walled palace, a town within a city, connected by broad, straight streets that penetrated a maze of other structures.  In the places where the view was not blocked by taller buildings, he could see theaters, stadiums, restaurants, temples and marketplaces as well as homes.  It looked like a place in which he could easily get lost, so he made his way back down the stairs to the street.

            As he re-entered the busy thoroughfare, the crowd was packed together to make way for a group of a half-dozen trolls, escorted by two riders in blue armor.  By human standards, the trolls were short and very squat.  They wore leather decorated with ivory.  One troll, a woman, looked with curiosity at Will, who looked back, returning the favor.  Her face, like her body, was thickly proportioned and without much in the way of a chin and forehead so that her broad nose was the prominent feature. Her blue eyes regarded him from under an apish brow.  He was frozen with wonder at seeing a living and breathing Neanderthal walking down the street.

            “Look not at these trolls, sir,” the woman next to him whispered.  “Even without a weapon, she would have no trouble parting you from your arm.”

            Will looked at her with alarm.  He said nothing, unsure if he could speak the language.

            “They are here to secure gifts in return for the safety of the caravans,” she warned quietly.  “They are not above demonstrating the need for payment.” 

            Will bowed slightly to express his gratitude for the warning.  As the trolls and their escort moved on, the crowd loosened and spread out and Will was able to continue down the street.  He came to a marketplace, an open area with booths and tables that formed an annex to the street itself. The goods being offered astonished him.  The first booth he inspected displayed metal weapons and tools and the proprietor was hammering at a glowing piece of metal with his back to the booth.  Will marveled at the goods.  There were knives and swords, ranging from small tools to broadswords almost as tall as a man.  All were made of the almost-steel Will had seen in the second dream.  It was pale, almost silvery, and it was something he had never seen on Earth. He took a closer look at one of the swords.  It was as long has his arm, with a thin, double-edged blade that came to a point.  The hilt was wrapped in leather, with a disk-shaped hand guard between it and the blade.  He touched it stealthily, feeling the terrible sharpness of the weapon. 

            He moved on, seeking more wonders, and came to a booth displaying small figures and decorations of stone, ivory and horn.  The woman behind the booth gave him a welcoming smile.  He noticed that her dark eyes were glazed and her breathing was deep and controlled.  She was in a trance and as he watched, she touched a lump of stone, the same light brown stone that the buildings were made from.  The air around her hands shimmered and she shaped the stone with her fingers as if it were putty.  She picked up a small metal tool and began to decorate the figure by etching a design. As her attention was on her work, Will reached out and touched one of the figures on display, a sculpture of a man and woman sitting across from each other, their arms elongated to form the edge of what looked to him to be an ashtray, made of the same stuff she was working on.  The stone was solid, smooth and hard.  It did not feel like something that could be shaped by hand at all.  Will moved deeper into the market.  He came to a horizontal wooden pole spanning two small stone columns, with nine rhinoceroses tethered to it.  A nearby sign on parchment displayed prices for “unicorns bred for riding and racing in accordance with the finest tradition, over ten generations different from the wild beasts.”  Unicorns, Will thought, contemplating the slew of legends and rumors he knew of the mythical beasts.  He looked them over.  They were slim rhinoceroses, very much like the prehistoric wooly rhinoceroses Will had seen fossils of, but obviously tamed and shaped by breeding into something a man could sit comfortably on.  The fossil rhinoceroses did have the same oversized horns that the unicorns sported, curving upward and longer than a man’s arm.  These were even sleeker than the ones he had seen soldiers riding on as he had come down the street.  It occurred to Will that they must make for an awesome cavalry.

            Something moved behind him and to the left and Will turned.  His own fear shocked him into a straight posture as the creature he saw, harnessed and chained to a pole, moved its body to look at him.  It resembled a black, hairy tarantula the size of a man.  Its two bulging black eyes and six smaller ones regarded Will and the parts of its vertical mouth that held two long, curved fangs rearranged themselves eagerly, as if it were reading the menu.  It was sitting behind a booth, next to a slim, sharp-featured man who leered at Will with derisive humor.  The massive spider moved its front legs, placing them on the surface of the booth and displaying its underbelly.  It tugged at the short chain attached to the harness of white rope that kept it where it was.

            “Welcome, stranger!” the thin man called to Will.  “I see that you are interested in my spinner,”

            “Is it not dangerous, having that creature in so public a place?” Will asked, blurting out the question.  He paused, realizing that, somehow, he could speak the language.

            “Not at all, kind sir,” the thin man leered.  He reached over and stroked the spider’s back, running his fingers through the quills behind the creature’s head.  It settled down.  “He’s tame, of course.”

            Will noticed the booth.  Coils of smooth, white cable were on display, as well as cables that had been twisted into ropes like the ones used for armor, and even clothing made of silk as thick as wool. 

            The proprietor, still favoring Will with a predatory leer, noticed the attention he was giving to the merchandise.  “All his,” the man commented with pride.  “Surely a sorcerer like yourself has fine spinners of his own, but this one was made with four generations of growth spells and fine breeding.  It takes much labor to breed one so big.  I could offer him for stud, for an adequate price.”

            Will regarded him thoughtfully as his mind connected what the merchant was saying to what he was seeing.  “Sorcerer?” Will asked, ironically, gesturing to himself.

            The man favored him with a skeptical look.  “For the sake of the gods, sir, you must be an old and powerful sorcerer. You have a foreign look, with your light skin and green troll-eyes, and only one of awesome power would dare to travel between kingdoms on his own.  I mean no insult, but you must be centuries old, to be immune to youth spells.  Hear me and know that I am not a fool.” Other shoppers were watching the exchange.

            “If you believe me to be such a master of sorcery, why be so impertinent,” Will countered.

            That dispelled the man’s unpleasant leer.  “Please pardon me sir, I suppose the life of a showman has made me coarse in my ways,” he apologized.

            The man next to Will cleared his throat.  He wore a fancy tunic, decorated with formal artwork.  “If you be not such a sorcerer, than who would you be?”

            Will decided to try to explain it as best he could.  “I fell asleep and woke up here.  I may still be dreaming, I know not.”

            “Dreaming is a fine way to travel, but how is it that we can see you?” the merchant questioned, his voice dripping with smugness.  Will almost felt the eyes of the people around him on his person as they watched him for an answer.

            “I know not,” Will explained.  “I was studying a piece of leather with ancient writing and began having strange dreams of another world.  This world.”

            “The next time you dream, bring it with you,” a small woman suggested.  “A dreaming scroll that can produce such an effect would fetch a fine price in this market.”

            “Where is your home, then?” asked the man in the fancy tunic.  “When you are awake, I ask.”

            “America,” Will answered.  The place name was different in their language, an unfamiliar word.

            The man chuckled.  “America?” He repeated the exotic name that Will’s mind was somehow translating.  “Every child knows that the place is a myth!”  Will thought for a moment, trying to give his mind perspective. These people had no trouble believing in sorcery or dreaming oneself from place to place, but believed that the American continent was a fairy tale.

            “Do you jest, or is this a fraud of some kind, sorcerer?” the small woman who was asking eyed him with suspicion.  “I would have you know that you are not the only person who can cast as spell here about.” 

            Another person behind Will spoke up.  “You would not be the first to come to our kingdom with a scheme, either.”  Will was about to explain that he was not asking for anything, but he spun around to face his accuser first.  He landed on his living room floor with a dull thump and his left foot caught on the arm of the couch he had been sleeping on.  He stood, steadying himself and then hurried into his study.  He had to read the scroll before his dream was forgotten.  The picture writing was different from the Aveiron language, much like reading a book in medieval English, but he could make sense of it.  He now realized how the symbols were arranged.  He read them bottom to top, starting on the left.  He read it several times, then retrieved pen and paper from his desk and wrote down the translation as best he could.

            “Five millennium ago, a sorcerer-king from a noble line of monarchs ruled a powerful island city.  His subjects enjoyed both the luxuries provided by sea trading and the fruits of knowledge.  So it was until their neighbor grew restless.  This neighbor was a volcano who made a cloud of smoke and the land trembled with such fury that the buildings of the island city collapsed.  When the trembling stopped, the people argued.  Some wished to find a new home, believing that it would be pointless to rebuild the city, only to have it fall when the ground shook again.  Others thought that it would be foolish to abandon their fine city and the life of luxury it had provided for its citizens in favor of toiling in a foreign land, all because fear had chased them away.  As the sorcerer-king heard the debate and consulted his seers, the land trembled once more and great canyons that let in the sea had opened within the land before it ceased.  The sorcerer-king took possession of all sailing vessels and ordered them to be filled with his people and to depart.  The vessels fled in all directions, by wind and oar, leaving the king and scores of brave citizens behind.  The sorcerer-king then went to his library and sought out an ancient and difficult spell.  He used it to open a door to the sky world which the Elves had fled to in the time before time, taking with them both beast and seed, when forced to make way for men.  He struggled to hold open that door until all of his people had passed through and this noble act did cost him the last measure of his soul, leaving his corpse in his palace to be entombed below the sea when the ground shook once more and his kingdom sank, never to rise again.  The travelers built a new home on the sky world and were prosperous again.  Thus were born the kingdoms of Aveiron.”

            Doctor Downy read the translation, feeling as though he had finally scratched an itch.  He knew this would be his secret and that he could never go public with this discovery that he had dreamed up.  Still, he had to wonder if it were a real place, or just some fantasy of his.  He worried that he might have gone off the deep end into a pool of insanity.  He could still remember the vision of mammoths he had seen on TV.  He recalled colleagues that had come up with unacceptable theories about magic or aliens or whatever and wondered if this was how it happened.  Not wanting to think about it, he pushed that doubt into the back of his mind.  He went back to work on the scroll, choosing to connect it to reality in the hope that, if he finished the job, he could stash it away and get on with his career.  The scroll had mentioned that the Elves had fled to a sky world.  Therefore, some of them had escaped extinction by using a mysterious power to travel between worlds and had taken mammoths, trolls, goblins and more with them.  Fate had given them plenty of time to establish themselves before modern man followed them.  Sifting through the papers, Will found the scientific data on the age of the scroll and did the math.  The island city had been destroyed between eleven and thirteen thousand B.C., making it older than the earliest known human settlements, older than civilization.

            If the ships had sailed in all directions, not just toward land, there must have been land in all directions.  Knowing where the scroll had been found, the island city must have been in the Mediterranean Sea and that entire area was unstable, plagued over the eons by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  He came to a decision, seeking to conclude his maddening research.  There was a massive volcano near Knossos and Crete, which could have easily become restless.  It had erupted in later years.  Satisfied with his information but certain that it would never be accepted as truth, Doctor Downy put the data back in its envelope along with the drawings he had made of the dream symbols and the translation. He locked it away in his desk. He thought that, perhaps, he could secretly use it as a guide to an acceptable discovery, one with data he could publish.  He went back to the living room with a book, knowing that his wife would soon be home.

            That night, Rita Downy stole into her husband’s study.  The dream she had had was troubling her and she could not sleep. It was the same, the fifth night in a row.  She had seen an ape-man drawing a symbol on the wall of a cave and then walking through the wall.  The symbol had been one Will had shown her a picture of, one he was trying to decipher.  She was disappointed to see the empty desktop.  She knew she could not ask him about it directly and tried to come up with a more subtle way to find out where he had put his research.  She stopped herself and went back to bed, wondering why she was so preoccupied with seeing that symbol again. It was silly.



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