08. sleeping giants
dreams of a distant future
after the static, the sleepers arrived. they came from above the clouds, like lost mountains, and nestled into the earth as if they had always been a part of it. from the abdomen of each, a cord, stretched endlessly into the sky.
the landscape enveloped them. river tides lapped at their feet, and pine trees sprouted from the ridges in their stony skin. bogs formed in the hollows of their eldritch bodies. they dreamed as they slept - an unceasing stream of words and images and affects, perceptible only to a rare few.
the static had long since silenced radio communication, but the sleepers brought with them a strange blessing. they acted, in a way, as antennae, forming a tangled field of leylines between them. this was how communities would be grown. this was how people would share stories, across mountains and rivers and chasms. in the shadows of giants, a living network of thoughts.
ii. the listener
she travels from island to island, dream to dream. the rivers stitch these places together. an endless tide of rememberance and forgetting - lethe and mnemosyne. the water flows both ways. her mind is never quiet, filled with the echoes of dreams - her own, and those of the sleeping giant in whose shadow she walks. she can hardly tell where one ends and the other begins. she is bound to the sleeper, attuned to their inscrutable thoughts in a way she cannot explain or understand, burdened by the weight of something no human mind was ever meant to hold.
iii. death dream
always coming apart, always pulling at the seams. the earth is streaked with chasms cutting deep into stone. in her dream, the sleeping giant was her, but there was no breath or heartbeat in her mountainous body - just a silent corpse looming over the valley. in the dream, she climbed up along the ridge of her own back. she pressed her ear to the ground for a pulse that wasn't there.
she woke as if from epochs of sleep, stiff and aching from oneiric travels. she could feel the same familiar stream of thoughts in the air. through her window, she could see the slightest quivering of the ridge - the ebb and flow of breathing, where the sleeper lay dormant, but alive.
iv. the ferry captain
the longer she was a ferry captain, the more she felt that folklorist was a better title. the river carried everything - goods and people, flora and fauna, and not least of all stories. she often said that the river was more story than water. each passenger that came aboard brought a wealth of lore with them, whether or not they knew it. the river's swaying rhythm had a way of making even the most taciturn passenger prone to spinning a yarn or two.
there was the mushroom farmer, who told her the story of the little island with the standing stone, and how it had been erected long ago to mark a tragedy no one could quite agree on the details of. there was the engineer, who told her about the ruins of the old lighthouse, and the time he visited them as a child, and found a fragment of the lens hidden among the rocks on the beach. and there was the listener, who didn't talk much, but told her about a dream she had, where she climbed up the umbilical cord, up through canyons and buttresses of cloud, through fields of living stars, to the place where the sleepers came from.
v. dream body
she enters the dream like entering water, slipping into the subtle current. in the dream she is awake, but her sleeping body is there as well, towering over the splintered hinterlands. she walks away, following a ribbon of black water. the forest floor is flooded. the ground is a mosaic - an ancient patchwork of spiralling sigils,
partially obscurd by silt and algae and roots. trees break through the ceramic. she cannot shake the feeling that she is walking across the exoskeleton of some primordial titan, buried under the swamp countless ages ago. perhaps the sleeping body of another dreamer long before her.
she would sometimes find herself gripped with a sorrow whose origin she couldn't quite place. it consumed her like a fog, leaving her unmoored and directionless, like someone who has entered a room and forgotten why they went there in the first place. she wondered if the sadness came from the sleepers. they had always struck her as tragic creatures, in their own ineffable and wordless way.
what was this place to them? were they lost, somewhere far from home? perhaps this world was nothing more than their shared dream, and when they awoke, she would cease to exist. the answers didn't matter. what mattered was the rain on the soil, the groping tendrils of the squash in the garden, the music of the river playing against driftwood skeletons on the shore. this was how she would guide herself through the haze.