The Castle And The Mirror
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In a letter addressed to an old friend:

We dreamt that castle, together, on that day beneath the trees. You decided that it would be pink, with four high towers on each side, and walls made pretty with roses and vines and lace. And we returned to our houses to find it there, in the space between our roofs, hanging in the air. Your mother said not a word, nor did she seem to notice its presence; I suspect mine did not either. I blinked, and saw a bird fly through it, passing through neatly as if it had not been there at all.

It was real enough to touch. You reached out with your hand, crouching on the roof later that night in your pajamas, and flaking pink stucco came away in your fingers. I took the ladder from the garage, and laid it out against the balcony of my room, letting the other end rest against the ramparts. Together, we gingerly crossed the ladder and scaled the walls, only to find it empty. It rang hollow like a plaster cast, and its door was like plywood sealed shut. Its roses were merely paper. It was a false castle, a gilded castle, suggesting everything yet containing nothing. So we left it there, and returned to our beds, and slept. You said that it would be there when we woke. I believed you.

I did not tell you that I saw it in my sleep that night. I didn't want to, afraid that it would cease being real to only me, and, like a secret, rot in the light of its being shared. But the dream is dead now, and its remains are but plaster dust scattered in the wind.

This was the dream:

It came to me as though shrouded in a cloud, emerging from the edges of the dream. In life it was small, and without the magnification of youth I now realise that it was no bigger than six feet on all sides, a pathetic thing, really; in the dream, it towered above me in all directions, such that even as I craned my neck any which way, I could not take in its breadth, or its height. Its walls did not flake: they were of solid garnet, and the roses and vines and lace were real, flapping in the wind (it must have been a windy sky) with a substantiality that defied the world of the dream. All else was haze; I do not remember much. Set into the castle was a massive, weighted door, made of stone, and as the clouds parted it opened for me, and I went in.

In the halls of the castle I became aware of my own nakedness, and the cold, still, air that hung in the corridors like a void. The walls were unbroken and smooth, with the occasional lit torch. The flames were silent, and produced no warmth, yet in the logic of the dream I do not remember shivering in the slightest. Slowly, I drifted through countless turns and staircases, and large, blank halls that stretched endless above my head like a sky. In one room I spied a fountain, in another, a skull; I did not stop for either, for such dream-signs held a special kind of fear in the mind of my childhood. I walked, and I walked, towards some intangible goal, not knowing where I was going, or why - for such is the nature of these dreams.

As I went, the air around me became even colder, and seemed to hang heavy with an immaterial veil. I began to perceive a vague sense of uneasy premonition - not dread, but akin to it - suffice to say, a kind of trepidation bordering on revelation. The time that flows in dreams is not the time that flows in abject reality: it is the time of myth, of narrative, that flows only as the journey dictates it to do so. And so I walked without haste or caution, nor did I pause to stop, and the sound of my bare feet on stone echoed at a constant pace throughout the halls.

After many steps, and many turns, I perceived that I had descended more stairs than I had ascended, and that my journey was coming to a close. Presently I arrived at the end of a hallway, where a vestibule awaited, shrouded by a thick, heavy curtain. Its edges radiated faint light, and as I drew closer I could hear soft voices in the distance, emanating from a place beyond my reach. Holding my breath, I drew the curtain back with all my might.

Brightness assaulted my vision. I shut my eyes, but found that it could not erase the image before me. Nor could I turn my head; it was as if my neck had been held straight with iron pegs. In front of me, I discerned what I thought at first to be a throne, but was actually a mirror, or the semblance of one, radiating with the light of many pink suns. I saw roses, and vines, and my face, reflected in the light, though in the glare I could have sworn that the face was somehow yours, too. Symmetry broke; it opened its mouth, and leaned forward to whisper words into my ear.

I did not hear the words. At that moment, the dream broke apart. I remember awaking in my bed, blinking, with the sun in my eyes, and I leaned out the window to find that the castle was gone.

We never spoke of it again. You grew, then I grew, then we both moved out. The houses that the castle hung between went to other families, other people, then a developer; the space we dreamt it in became the inside of walls. I began to forget about the castles, both the illusory one and the real, but lately I've had reason to try to remember. In my idle moments I have thoughts of endless hallways clad in stone and soundless flame, and I wake up nightly in a cold sweat with pink dust on my palms. Sometimes, on the edge of sleep, I hear a voice, or see a light, and imagine myself trapped in a lighted mirror, waiting to whisper the words that I have never heard. Other times I am a boy again, wandering the halls of the impossible castle, naked, never stopping, never faltering, and always, always walking.

I wonder when they will finally meet again, and if I will hear the words when they do.

- M.

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