He was sitting at a table, which was strange and polished, smooth as a calf’s nose. There was something in front of him. It seemed to be made of a grey metal, with a couple of dozen black squares, each with a symbol or a letter on it. Above it was a kind of mirror. But it did not reflect his face. Instead, it shone like the moon. But there was no face on this moon. There were more glyphs, colors, images of things he did not understand.
He looked at his hands, perched over the black squares, touching them in patterns, moving his fingers at times to swipe and strike a surface below the squares where there was nothing.
Now he saw his hands, but they were not his. They were somehow older he could tell, because they were thick, but they were smooth under the veins, like a child’s. It was disconcerting, seeing these old-young hands, of a man or a woman he wasn’t sure. But in either case, they should have been more callused, rougher, weathered. It was disconcerting. He felt odd. He knew he was dreaming.
Usually when he knew he was dreaming, he could do amazing things. He could fly, or carry a horse, or jump from mountain to mountain. But what was this sort of dream? It made him feel lost.
Now he could see the room he was in, out of the corner of his eyes. One side there was a mirror, or a fire, within which he saw people moving about. A foreign-looking highbacked seat and a lamp which shone flickerless. Not a large room. Boxes and equipment of various types were stacked along the room’s edge.
On the other side, large white containers and a window. All he heard was a buzzing noise, and air coming from a hole in the floor. It was pleasant. His belly seemed swollen, as if he had gorged himself. It pushed against the table like a bird on a nest.
Then he woke up. He was sweating under the furs and had laid on his arm so long it had fallen asleep. He rubbed it. The family was asleep still in the hut, the deep breathing around him unbroken.
He thought he would have liked to piss, but that would have woken someone up, and he didn’t want to do that. He also didn’t want to get out from under the warm covers and walk out into the cold mountain night.
He laid there for a while, the urge to piss and the desire to sleep fighting each other. He tried to fall back to sleep by breathing steady and deep, and thinking about the dream he had. He had always been a good Dreamer and he was getting better at it. He tried to imagine it all again. The strange room. The belly against the table. The moon-mirror and the young-old hands tapping on the black squares.
He was back again in his dream.
The fire-mirror on the side of him was not buzzing now, as much as it seemed to be speaking to him, in some language he could not quite understand. Many of the sounds were familiar, and some of the words were much like the Taanen tongue. But it was mostly nonsense, and with the images of people doing odd things with objects he could not recognize, it frustrated him, so he looked away.
On the table, he saw a basket, filled with what he realized was food of some kind. Their land had only small berries in season, chokecherries, currants and wild strawberries and blueberries. A couple of times he had eaten crabapples in the lower villages. But these things in the basket, they looked ridiculous and nasty, especially one object in the basket looked like a bunch of curved yellow penises.
This dream was mad, because nothing made any kind of sense. At least in other dreams he recognized what he was looking at.
He saw other objects on the table, paper with writing on it. An unbelievable amount of paper, perhaps 10 or 15 pieces. He could not read it through he knew he should be able to. And then he saw three small flat boxes, and stared at them. It took him a moment, but then he realized they were books. Books were very valuable things.
He had only seen books in two situations during his life. One of the larger villages had a small collection of about ten rotting and faded books that had become impossible to open and read, which were protected in one of the shrines. And of course each of the holy teachers had their own large handwritten book they carried with them, wrapped in leather, filled with the ancient knowledge they protected with their lives and accursed to any hands but their own. The holy teachers were the only people who were really good at reading and writing anyways. But these books on the table were as odd as the old-young hands he picked them up with. They were smooth, bright, new. He opened the book he held. And they were not handwritten by any man. The lettering was so perfect it must have been done by a spirit.
Suddenly a loud noise came from the fire-mirror, and it made him drop the book. A buzzing red band scrolled along the base of the mirror. Something bad was happening. He knew it. He pissed himself.
He woke up in the now-damp furs, breathing hard and afraid.