A Game of Lives
Author's Note: This chapter is a bit slow, maybe. I think the whole thing is running a bit slow. Anyhow, Helen is mine.
~Chapter Two-How does one go about making conversation with the king of Dreams?-Denial is not a river in Egypt-Kindly Landladies-The gift~
I waited all day, that day. Sat, in university classes, in the library, in my apartment. I sat and formulated something to say to that. 'I don't wish to lose.' Fine. Don't wish it.
As soon as I thought it respectable, I put my head on the pillow and went to sleep. Not too late, not to early. I should have been worried about that; my excessive tracking of time. It should have been one of the signs that I had been looking for. Denial.
And sure enough, he was there.
"Greetings again, witch-woman." he said in that inky deep voice of his.
"And to you, Dream-Lord." I swear, on the gods, he almost looked pleased at being greeted.
"Why do we keep meeting?" I asked again.
"Do you wish it to stop?"
And part of me said, 'Yes, it's dangerous to meet one of the Endless.' And another said, 'No!' and a third part said, 'Does he?' I was upset with myself. I hadn't been so conflicted since the roman empire. It wasn't in my nature to be conflicted.
"And if I don't?" I said warily.
"Then it seems only proper that we must converse."
"Whatever you wish. You are my guest."
"I thought you were here because I wanted it."
"That is also true."
"Tell me...what do you do?"
"What are you doing?"
Fine then. I'll play this game. "I work in a library."
"You read them as well?"
I snorted. "Of course."
"I must admit that it has been ages since I walked in my own library and read."
"Why?" I'm immediately interested in the library, but it seems base of me to ask to see it.
"I was away-and after that, I was busy."
I file this for later interest. "Ah. Well, you should take it up again."
"I mean to. What kind of books do you like?" he asks, trying not to sound that interested in what books I liked. I thought it was some kind of trick question.
"I've read almost everything, and I like books for being books. I read a lot of mythology and art books and the classics."
He looked out to the ocean. "Which one is your favorite."
"The one you enjoy more than all of the others."
"I don't think I have one. No, wait. There is one. The Divine Comedy, by Dante. What's yours?"
"I have read many books."
"You don't have a favorite?" I said mockingly.
He glared at me. "The Tempest." And then turned right back to his dream ocean.
"It's a good one." I say. I remember so clearly, feeling daring by this sudden confidence in one more powerful than I. It had been ages, and I still remember as a younger one, spouting off to authority to prove myself worth. A sudden remembrance, that that was how I gained entry into the coven. Ah. But, back to the story, that was what I did then.
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and all our little life is rounded with sleep." I quoted, with an eyebrow up.
"With a sleep." he corrected, and looked at me, with a smirk.
I paused and looked at him again, and much softer. "Yes. With a sleep."
On reflection, that was where it all started. Not the earlier conversations, or the meetings on the cliff. Or maybe I delude myself even now into thinking that. But after that, our meetings were different. We'd chat long hours of my sleep, about books and literature and art and history. It never once occurred to me that I had a side of him that no one else in the universe did. I suspect, if I had, then I would have felt more subconscious about it.
It was, quite possibly, the most unusual conversation ever. Not that it was continual, of course, rather, it would start whenever I got to sleep, and end whenever I woke up, only to be started again as soon as I fell asleep again.
I knew that whatever my problem was, it was getting serious. Even I am not that stupid, and once, when I started speaking to him in the middle of the day, I knew I had a problem. And I had to get help.
"Hey, Larissa." said my landlady, who conveniently lived on the first floor. She was a kindly woman, of about thirty, with blond shaggy hair and a dreamy attitude about her all the time. Most evenings, she sat outside her door on a plastic chair, and talked up the residents as they came in. I seem to remember overhearing once that she just loved talking to people.
"Hello there, yourself, Helen."
"You always come home so fast. You don't even check your mail most of the time, just tromp up to you room."
"I know." I looked at her. When one has a problem, one needs to talk to it with someone, as much as it isn't in my nature to discuss my problems with others.
"What happens when you think you are spending too much time with a person."
"Who? Your boyfriend?"
"What? No." She looked confused as soon as I said it.
"A person." I supplied, while wondering if that was the correct word.
"A friend." she said firmly.
"I suppose." was my response.
"A male friend?" she asked pointedly.
"Yes. He is male."
"Well, in my experience, there has to be a reason you feel uncomfortable around that male friend. Why don't you tell me what is making you uncomfortable?"
"I spend too often talking to him, and when I am not, I find myself thinking of him." I paused.
She smiled then. "Oh, Larissa! That's sweet. A crush."
"Whatever you say." she said, a smug smile on her face. I remember conflicting thoughts as whether to smack her or tell her it wasn't so. I ended up glaring.
She continued anyhow. "You know, I'm a hopeless romantic, dear. So sit down," she said, and pointed to another folded plastic chair by the wall. "and tell me all about him."
"I have to go." I lied. She looked at me kindly. "Well, ok, dear, but some other time, ok?"
"Yes." I said, and beat a hasty retreat to my room. That night, I didn't fall asleep right away, but rather, sat awake thinking. Just staring at my ceiling, unwilling to fall asleep, and unwilling to do anything else.
The following weeks were much the same; work, sleep, work and sleep. Every day, I walked by Helen twice and she smiled, and sometimes inquired about my 'friend'. And I would go to the library, and try to stay on task, and not drift off into his realm. I'd bring books home, and try to read, but I couldn't keep away. There was something about his voice, about the conversations we had, that made me keep coming back. And as far as I know, he didn't notice it. But he did keep coming back.
Then one night, I showed up, and he was sitting on a chair he had made for himself.
"I have something to ask." I cocked my eyebrow, but inside I was shaking.
"Say it then." I said, with I hoped more calm then I felt.
"For many months now, I have enjoyed your company. It has occurred to me, that conversing with you would be easier if you were here, in the Dreaming."
"I'm here now." I said.
"I...I meant all the time. Not just nightly."
I was shocked, and part of me was secretly excited. He wanted to talk to me more than he already did. And, he wanted me here.
I stammered out the best answer I could. "I...I need to think about that."
He looked slightly disappointed. All the same, he reached up and plucked a small sparkling object out of the sky, and regarded it for several moments.
"Take this then." he said, and I stepped closer to him, and took the object from his hand. It was the daintiest rose quartz crystal, that shimmered with the slightest movement, hung on a tiny silver chain. I tentatively put my hand out to take it, pausing, and then I scooped it up, brushing his palm. It was the first time I had ever touched him.
"If you change your mind, hold the crystal and ask for me."
I nodded, and curled my hand tightly around it then. I remember the first feel of it, as tiny as it was, yet infinitely strong. It wouldn't break easily.
And then I woke up, and as soon as I did, I looked at my hand, where the tiny crystal remained. Smiling, I unhinged the hasp and put it on.
Lucien sighed inwardly. The volume he held made him remember some things he would have rather forgotten, but all the same, he found it interesting. A side of the previous Lord of Dreams he had never seen before, and likely never would have. He knew how this story ended, however, and wasn't sure he wanted to hear the end of it again. But, he'd started the book, so he had very little choice now, didn't he.
Onwards to Chapter Three