Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 5 –

– 5 –

Tom dreams unsettled dreams.

In them he is a lump of a Loggins. In them he is useless, helpless, he is scrabbling at the outside of the great wall of death while the Yama Kings laugh; he is climbing the inside of a sphere, he is digging through a Möbius strip, he is an ant in a chalk circle, forever turning at right angles to the direction that it really wants to go.

He wakes.

He oversees the construction of the space station. He clutches at his head.

“I do not like this,” he says.

He retreats from building the station. He leaves that to others.

“Cobbling is for losers,” says Tom, praying silently that there are no brownies to hear him, in space. “I shall focus on the life support systems, and the mechanism for stomping; and on reclaiming Hell.”

Unfortunately Hell appears to be empty.

He lowers his experimental spiritual bathysphere into the land of damnation. He tries to rescue all the souls there from Hell. He tries to cast down the demons that rule it, but he can’t.

They’re not there.

There’s just a fiery landscape, and the scattered dead ants.

“Well,” says Tom. “That’s inspiring!”

He tugs on a cord. Stephan drags Tom’s bathysphere back up to his dorm room. Tom steps out. He scratches behind his ear puzzledly. He says, “I pray that the world is not hinting that I am Faust.”

He dreams that the wolf is hunting for him. It is sniffing him out.

“I have seen the ending of things,” he whispers to Stephan, in the morning after. “I have seen Gotterdammerung. Fools are we to think of riding that storm. Fool was I to think of guiding it. I thought I was awesome, Stephan. I thought I was a god. But we are only the mindless tools of fate. We are prisoners of our circumstances. That’s all.”

Stephan rumbles, softly, and brings him coffee laced with svart-drink.

It is an ancient remedy for such dream-weirds as these.

Over the course of the day these feelings pass from Tom. Working with his peers in the House of Dreams — it comforts him.

When the energy begins to pass from one of them to the other — when the black lightning of their inspiration and their svart-drink flows — then they are none of them alone.

And when there is no place for him in their working —

When Amber is hard at her hula hoops, and Harold is mucking about with semiotics, and Cheryl is distracted with matters of boots, and svart-elf technology, and origami —

Then he may at least ride up to the observation deck and watch the world spinning below him, and know that he stands in space.

That is where he is standing when he conceives it.

“I will cut her free from the serpent,” Tom says. “I will make her a hat, and it will stand between them.”

The gravity of the world has slipped from him.

There are no obstacles to such unreasonable concepts. Not when one can climb up a bootstrap and stand amidst all this great Tom-wroth emptiness and project one’s hopes and dreams and hungers out onto space.



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