The desert threatens to engulf the elf and chestnut trying to walk across the dune to their right. The sand billows around his feet and cloak. The horse seems to be having quite a difficult time finding purchase on the sand. It is determined to follow its master.
It seems to be a nice desert, but all the sand in the air only adds to the unease felt at watching two beings cross a barren expanse. What had they done to be led to that pure beige? Where the boredom of the colour brown was bleached away by the merciless sun – or was it the cumulative bones that turned to powder and were stirred into the earth to lighten the desert?
But who could tell in the throes of sleep? You simply knew some things, or felt inklings of thoughts leading towards knowing. What sense did chronology make in dreams? I was only here to see what my subconscious wanted to show me, and neither of us knew why we were in the middle of what was happening or why it was at all. It was the essential disconnect between the I and me in dreamland. Only the organ-brain knew, and only the scientists knew what it knew in order to do. The dream was a blur, retrieved amidst fading away to inaccessible depths by a survivor scrabbling amongst ruins – clasping what details remain to the bosom. Arranging the fragments like a jigsaw, eyes clenched shut in concentration. The way to the dreamstate already forgotten upon waking.
The elf was alone now. The hood of his cloak fell back to reveal orbs of polished marble, the scars around them long scabbed over. The horse had only been alive for a second. Maybe it had been a millisecond or a minute. Who could tell?
The rider continued walking, black shreds of cloth dragging away from the equine skeleton. What remained of it, anyway. It was bleeding white into the beige already. The leather saddle remained intact, the stirrups flicked around by the wind. A few steps away from the top, the elf turned to sand. Bones and cloak and all. A weak little beige puff mushroomed.
The elf’s hands were deep in an aquatic torrent, the waterfall surrounded by strips of vibrant vines, ivy and… the transition was anything but sudden, a natural response to inquisitiveness. Perhaps the subconscious providing a kindly tidbit of information, but never a whole answer. The cupped hands drank sand, and the rocks behind the water had never been anything but a colossal dune. The resurrected horse, or this could be the past – harrumphed at the outstretched arms and waited for him to come to his senses.
The unease was growing, transforming into the fear that knows it is far from actual pain. There was a forest, the green of it darker than that of life, a green poisoned by yellow and black – alive for the wrong reasons, springing from the wrong sources. A green that was generating shadowmist. This forest had something to do with the rider. I could hear the horse galloping and knew it had galloped from one end of it to the other.
Dothrakis. The witch. A familiar name for a familiar place. My subconscious switched gears and took me into her lair, vertically down a cave bulging with moss. The tunnels seemed to lead deep underground, and we shot into the depths on a rollercoaster to see what the rider had stopped. The light was switched on with the terrifying hesitance of a character in a zombie movie. A mottled emerald-green raffia with skin stretched tight, the spindly bony spine of an alien for a stem reared like a snake, its red-flecked petals giving way to a Mandelbrot set of a mouth that changed direction in the now flickering flashlight. The yellow that shot through the green were its fangs, and we hit reverse at full speed. Well, nobody’d said the witch had to be human. Not an innocent need-driven zombie; a mindless monster that might – a being that lets you know you are its prey. An unease on seeing it in dreams, death in reality. You are no hero. The elf had done the job for you. Sealed the witch with a binding through the forest she was rooted in. Feeling a wisp of a feeling, of riding through the borders of a warped antediluvian jungle with a shimmering silver braid.
What kind of content had I consumed in the last few days? Or was it something my subconscious had decided to discard on its way to long-term memory? A LoTR rerun sprinkled with some Game of Thrones, metamorphosed into a short cinematic of my own struggles? Perhaps the witch was the dreamstate embodiment of something I was struggling with, dealt with through my metaphorical musketeer. The rider crumbling in the desert, blinded by the witch’s thorns.
Why hadn’t he said anything? Madness? Heroism seemed a thankless job. Some word that contained connotations of nobility flitted around. The details that I clasped to my bosom kept unraveling, in symbiosis with the meaning I kept imbuing it with, an eternal fable that could be used anytime. Perhaps that was why I remembered. I could analyze it into symbolisms of my entire life – the past, present, and future. Work this memory in wherever I needed it to fit, like a tarot pull. Or maybe it was something I needed to work on.
Maybe the parts we don’t remember are the ones that change us.
Abhiram Kuchibhotla is a graduate of the Manipal Centre for Humanities and writes short stories and poems drawn from the web of Indian society. His pieces have been published in the IWP anthology Exodus and Chaicopy.