When Dreams Collide

by Wm. Mark Simmons





He awoke with a splitting headache.

That he awoke at all and with his head seemingly intact was enough of a tradeoff for the moment. He lay quietly, waiting for the temporary nausea and disorientation that usually accompanied program entry to pass.

And became aware of soft hands and a bawdy sea chantey.

"What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor" is an ancient maritime ditty and has suffered various interpretations over the centuries. Riplakish was familiar with many versions of this particular song but he had never been treated to such a lewd and licentious treatment of the lyrics in his life. Compounding its naughtiness was the fact that it was performed by a chorus of feminine voices, taking a lascivious delight in the raunchier portions of the verse.

Getting his eyes to open proved a difficult task. His head was swimming and so, apparently, was his body. Water encompassed him--seawater, he decided by the sharp tang of salt on his tongue. Yet he seemed to be breathing normally.

He was reclining so that his upper torso was supported by someone’s lap and a gentle hand stroked his face as a voice just above him hummed along with the gleeful chorus.

He forced his eyes open and focused on a face.

He closed his eyes and tried opening them again. Same face: old, long white hair, long white beard, bushy white brows, long, aquiline nose on a seamy old face. And skin the color of honeydew melons.

The old man spoke: "You girls leave off that caterwauling! A god can’t hear himself think!"

Riplakish caught a glimpse of nubile flesh amidst an explosion of bubbles as the chorus scattered in a dozen odd directions.

He turned his attention to the hand caressing his face: pale but not aquamarine, delicate webbing hammocked the fingers at the first joints. Tracing the arm on up, he found a second face: young, pale complected, surrounded by streaming silver-gold hair, sea green eyes, lips the color of coral. Beautiful. The lips spoke: "He wakes, father."

The old man nodded gravely. "And what will you do with him now, Thetis?"

"Care for him until he is better."

"Another stray? The old man sighed and rose up. "Hephaestus! Dionysus! Zeus! Why don’t you marry that nice boy Peleus?"

She scowled. "He is a mortal!"

"He is a king."

"But still a mortal!"

"And your new plaything is not?"

"He came from the skies. I told you of how he was borne to our kingdom in the teeth of a flying horse!"

The old man shook his head and twin white clouds of hair and beard swirled majestically. "That does not make him a god."

She smiled prettily. "But it does make him interesting." She looked down and caressed his cheek. "Tell me, skywalker, do you think I should marry?"

As soon as he found his voice he discovered that underwater speech was as effortless as breathing for the moment. "Not unless you want to," was his cautious response.

"You see?" the Nereid told her scowling father. "God or mortal, he is the first man I’ve known who is not intent on marrying me to himself or some other!"

"This one is not for you, daughter. He is a True Spirit."

Her eyes widened and Riplakish suddenly felt like a Blue Plate special. "Oooh!" she cooed, "now that is even better than a god!"

"Zeus says--"

"Oh, Zeus says this and Zeus says that! Mr. Big Shot with his thunderbolts and his ‘I’m king of the gods’ routine!" she huffed. "But one little prophecy and he’s running scared." She rolled her eyes. "Honestly, how Hera ever puts up with that smarmy, overgrown playboy--"

"Poseidon wants this marriage, too," the old man reminded.

"Oh, Poseidon! Don’t get me started on Poseidon!" she raved. "You think so bubbly much of Poseidon, why don’t you sic him on one of my sisters? There’s fifty of us to choose from, you know."

The old man held out his hands as if to ward off her words. "I know, I know!"

"You can just go tell Mr. Chicken of the Sea that if he thinks that silly prophecy gives him the right to play matchmaker without my say-so, he can just take that trident of his and shove--"

"Nereus!" a new voice called. Everyone turned and Riplakish tumbled off Thetis’s lap in the process. A man was swimming toward them. Since his lower torso merged with a large fishtail, he was making quick progress.

"I bring word from Ortygia," he was saying. "Sibyl wants to see the skywalker!"

By now Riplakish was more or less on his feet and discovering that his makeshift clothing was but last night’s memory. His only attire consisted of a shell pendant that hung from his neck by a thong. By comparison to the others, he was practically overdressed.

"‘Ware, skywalker," cautioned Thetis as he examined the miniature conch, "that talisman, my gift, is what permits you breath and speech in our domain. Do not remove it while you are sub marine."

"Thank you," he said absent-mindedly. While it was natural for godlings of the Greek mythos to dress au naturel, he was already calculating his chances of finding a decent pair of pants. Underwater and miles from shore, the immediate prospects were not so good.

"By what name are you called, skywalker?"

He wished for a mirror. "Riplakish. Riplakish of Dyrinwall," he answered, no longer as sure as he once would have been.

"He is one of the Makers, Thetis!" The Merman was quite excited. "Sibyl says there have been three Worldshapers and that this Riplakish was the first!"

From the look in Thetis’s eye it was evident that Peleus had just gone from "uninteresting" to "out of the question."

"Apparently the Sibyl of Ortygia has counsel for you, lad," the old sea god added.

The Merman nodded. "She says your life is in danger! She says three powerful enemies plot your destruction!"

Three? "She drop any names?"

The Merman shook his head. "Nay. But she said the unmaking of the world will continue unless you stop it."

Nereus placed a hand on his shoulder. "Best go, lad! When the Sibyl summons, there be import for many. I’ll lend you a mount." He looked over at the big, burly Merman. "Ethyl will guide you to Ortygia."


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