Side A – Nia
A dread and uncertain future lay ahead of her but Nia refused to feed any more of her worries by conjuring up more thoughts about it. Sometimes it’s not about planning for what’s to come. Sometimes it’s about being present for the moment that you’re in, she decided.
The blazing fire on the dreamlit beach seemed to agree with her.
“It’s not usual that we can talk like this. I think? Or is it?” Yasgrid said, her eyes taking on a distant, searching quality before she turned back to gaze at Nia. “I wonder, will we’ll remember any of it in the morning? Or do we do this often and our time here fades away with the other dreams we have in the middle of the night?”
“I don’t know,” Nia said, feeling something was amiss. She didn’t feel threatened, but rather out of place somehow. “I’m wondering if this even is a dream?”
“It has to be. Doesn’t it?” Yasgrid asked. “I know I went to sleep in the guest room in Marianne’s house and I don’t think either of us has learned how to move our bodies like we can with our awareness.”
“I know, but think about it,” Nia said. “When has a dream ever been this consistent? Nothing has changed around us since we got here. And this place…it doesn’t feel like a dream. I can smell the smoke of our fire. I can feel the heat of it. I’m pretty sure if I reach my hand into it I’ll get burned and the only reason I’m not testing it is that, if I’m wrong and this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up yet.”
Yasgrid turned and looked at their surroundings, her eyes narrowing as she considered the ‘dream’ she was experiencing.
“I smell the pines, and the chill of the north wind,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about those but, you’re right, they’ve been here all along. Even the sand under my feet, I can feel it so clearly. It’s more than a memory. I think?”
“That we’re having this conversation at all is kind of proof,” Nia said. “I can’t recall ever being this lucid in a dream before.”
“Are we physically here though?” Yasgrid asked. “And if so, how did we get here?”
Nia let the idea roll around in her mind.
“I don’t think our bodies are here,” she said. “This is something else. If I think about it, I can sort of hear our hearts beating. They sound like they’re at rest and they have that mix of both near and far that they’ve had since we switched.”
“Ok, I think I can feel that too,” Yasgrid said. “Is this place like the one where found King?”
“No. This is a very different sort of thing,” King said.
He hadn’t been there a moment earlier. Nia wasn’t sure where he had been – still hiding in her shadow perhaps – but he moved onto the beach with them as easily as he’d moved anywhere else and seemed just as home there as he did everywhere Nia had ever seen him.
Side B – Yasgrid
King wasn’t a cat. Yasgrid knew that as instinctively as she knew gravity pulled you down and fire was hot. And just like gravity, she knew that King was inescapable, and just like fire, she knew he was dangerous.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Nia said and reach down to scoop King up into her arms.
It wasn’t a wise move. It could have, Yasgrid believed in that moment, ended Nia in a particularly spectacular fashion.
Except King didn’t seem to mind. If anything, the raised vantage point seemed to please him.
“This is unfamiliar,” he said, shadowy whiskers twitching as he scented to air, searching for something Yasgrid hesitated to guess at.
“I think it’s new to us too,” Nia said. “I take it we’re not in your world?”
“This is not mine,” King said. “But it is interesting. Have you explored it?”
“We’ve been talking here, around this fire,” Yasgrid said. “We could walk along the beach I guess but I don’t know if the trees up there are a place we’re meant to go.”
“Why, what’s out there?” Nia asked. She was absent mindedly stroking King’s fur.
Which was weird. King didn’t have fur. King didn’t have substance.
Yasgrid wanted to ask what, exactly, Nia was holding but something held her back.
Words have power. Be careful what you give them to. Be careful what you choose to define. She knew all of that, though the knowledge had never been taught to her. Instead it came, on its own, from the same unconscious pool which shared Nia’s memories with her, but without any source save a broad feeling of warmth and understanding.
King sniffed and shook his head before settling back into Nia’s arms to enjoy her attentions.
“The past,” he said. “The trees shelter what has come before.”
“Is it dangerous?” Nia asked.
“Always,” King said and raised as paw to groom himself.
“In that case, I am fine with staying right here,” Nia said, sitting down in a fluid motion, with King on her lap.
“Here is dangerous as well,” King said. “But the fire is pleasant.”
“Do you know where this is?” Yasgrid asked. “Or how we got here?”
She didn’t expect an answer, but King surprised her.
“This is not a where,” he said. “It feels like a place because you have made it so. On its own, without you, this fire would cast no light, and the stars would stand as guides to nothing.”
“So is this a part of us then? Like something inside us?” Nia asked.
“This is you,” King said. “But it is not limited to what is within you. This is eternity and the end of forever. It is what makes you the terrible monsters that you are.”
“Makes us what?” Nia blurted out before Yasgrid could fully consider King’s words.
“Monsters. Nearly the most terrifying of monsters,” King said. “You know that is what you are, do you not?”