David floated through the dreamworld. He searched the world for
something— anything —upon which to anchor his perceptions,
but found nothing. His disorientation was complete. He was alone
in a cosmos filled with light that sparkled as it swept around him.
He breathed in air that was dry and parched and that made the white-on-white
void shimmer with a heat he sensed but could not feel.
He forced his will on the world and gravity returned. It gave him
a sense of "down," but also brought a feeling of precarious
danger. He squinted at the light and it retreated, forming shadows
that coalesced into shapes. More, he demanded, and the shadows began
to come into focus.
Walls of stone dropped away below him, vertiginous and steep, revealing
sheer faces of living rock striated by eternities of wind and rain.
David stood barefoot atop the ledge. He looked up at the broken
light that spun overhead. It united in a blinding sun in a sky as
white as bleached bone. Sunlight cast one of the walls below into
deep shadow while the other burned with radiant heat.
David swayed as he looked down into the darkness of the narrow
canyon. This was a dream unlike any he'd ever had before, and the
first dream he could remember where he knew it was a dream.
The intense sun baked through the curls of his dark hair and baked
his scalp. Sweat leapt to his skin and was borne away by sudden
gusts of a dusty desert wind; a wind so hot it did not cool but
felt instead like the breath of fire. It was the khamsin, the scorching
summer wind birthed by the furnace of the deep desert. David saw
the sun dim. The sky yellowed as the khamsin closed in and filled
the sky with suspended sand.
Voices—dozens of them—rose from the cleft below his
hazardous perch. They spoke in languages he knew, tongues long dead
but somehow still familiar. The rhythm and timbre he knew, but he
could not resolve the meaning. The voices spoke in tones filled
with urgency, syllables rapid, but the words—so tantalizingly
familiar—were unfathomable. It was as if a wall had been placed
in his brain, separating him from the knowledge he knew he possessed.
He saw the word forms, he parsed the syntaxes, but comprehension
of the ancient words eluded him.
Finally, in frustration, he called out.
"Hello!" His voice sounded distant, remote, as if he
were somewhere else nearby, disconnected from his mind.
The chorus continued below, unintelligible and imperative, echoing
up from the deep cleft. He followed the voices as they came from
here, then there, switching from point to point. They rose up out
of the darkness flew into the brassy sky, and then swept down and
swirled around him like the desert zephyr that burned his skin.
He squinted again, this time against the dust and sand from the
"Stop," he shouted, and though the wind continued, the
voices united in a single source of sound behind him.
He turned, his back to the abyss, and saw a pair of eyes wrapped
in shadow. They were large eyes, kohl-rimmed, with irises as black
as the shadows of the canyon depths. Beautiful and sloe-shaped,
they narrowed as the shadow bloomed around them, expanding to form
a figure draped in windswept cloth, like the Arab women he saw so
often in the streets of Jerusalem. The wind pulled at her robes,
outlining her figure—so lithe and insubstantial in the building
breath of the khamsin that David wondered how she stood against
it. Then he saw others behind her; men and women with ancient, desert-ravaged
faces, their bodies robed in black wool and white linen.
Desert dwellers, silent now and look ing at him.
"Who are you?" he asked them in his hollow, far-off voice.
The khamsin tore his words away and he began to feel afraid. He
did not understand this dream. He wanted it to stop. He wanted to
wake up, but he did not know how to break out of this world. "Who
are you? What do you want?" he asked the people before him.
The only answer came from the sandstorm, crying out in its own,
moaning voice as it scoured through the wadi with sand-laden wind.
The sunlight dimmed as the jaundiced sun was obscured. Lightning
flashed and David flinched. He raised his hand against the onslaught
of grit, heat, and wind.
"What is going on? Tell me what you want."
From within the folds of her robe, the young woman of the almond
eyes extended her hand. On her palm he saw the lines of dark tattoos.
He looked at her face and saw there, beneath each eye, three tear-like
dots: the ritual marks of the nomadic tribes.
She spoke to him, her voice calm and present, unlike his own. Though
she stayed where she was, her words came close, as if she was whispering
into his ear. Surprised, David took a step backward and his foot
met the edge of the cliff. He slipped on the hot, sandy stone and
the young woman's eyes widened as he lost his balance and began
David awoke but did not open his eyes.
My God, he thought. What a dream.
Parts of it were still clear, distinct in his memory, and he doubted
he'd ever forget them. The deep canyon. The hot stone. The young
woman's eyes, so long and beautiful, and her hand outstretched to
But other parts had already begun to fade. The voices and their
words had begun to lose their crispness. He concentrated on the
remembered sounds, letting their rhythm and music play through the
memory of the dream. As any sense of their meaning fled, he was
able to isolate the language itself. Semitic, North Central, Middle
Stage. Some form of ancient Aramaic. Why was he suddenly unable
to understand Ancient Aramaic?
In the end, the echoes of the voices faded, leaving him with only
the vision of the eyes—black onyx within white—and the
darkness of lashes and kohl.