“Time is a finger pointed at itself,” AwDae informed Priscilla. This Priscilla. Not the real one, no. The one ey created. The one ey dreamed. “That it might give the world orders. The world is an audience before a stage where it watches the slow hours progress.”
The cat purred to em.
It was wrong to instruct a cat to be anything other than a cat, so, despite the dreamscape’s submission to eir whims, Prisca remained Prisca. There was no influencing felinity.
Similarly, it was wrong to puppet one’s friends, and so AwDae had remained in silence, in solitude. No puppet of Sasha telling em that ey was stuck. No need: if there were any doubt to the fact, it was dashed upon meeting the bug which had trapped em here. That porcelain-faced daemon who need not guard the entrance for the entrance had been destroyed.
No, not destroyed; its very existence had been negated. It had never been. There was no going back because there was no going, and there was no back. This was the world as it had always been. This is the world as it will always be. And yet…
“You seem kind of frozen, kind of stuck, in a few ways."
Was ey stuck? Perhaps, yes. If so, then so be it. Ey would sleep. Ey would dream.
And ey would make. Ey would create. Ey would forge, not hone. Ey would build the world ey would live in, if this was they world ey was to die in. Ey would have it be precisely as ey would want. And why not? ey told emself. In this end of days, I must reach for new beginnings.
So ey created.
The far wall of eir London flat was gone now, opening out onto the open space behind eir childhood home. The comfort of one home leading directly out onto the comfort of the next. The smooth hardwood floor, worn almost to softness by decades of use, transitioned smoothly to shortgrass prairie. Ey could sit at eir desk chair — remolded to accommodate a fox’s tail — and watch the turbines turn laconically in the breeze.
When ey slept, and ey did, ey would bring about sunset. Had the day been clear, clouds would move in. Not many, but enough to pick up a riot of colors as the light dipped from white down through yellow, orange, salmon, red, purple… And then the sun would be down and ey would sit on the threshold of the two worlds, of the two times and two universes, and enjoy the scents and sounds that night brought em. Dream senses. Heightened senses as a fox might have.
And then ey would bring back into being the wall between the worlds and sleep. Ey would find eir room the perfect temperature. It would be cold enough that ey would need blankets, but not so cold as to be uncomfortable. And Prisca would come curl up next to em. And ey would pet her while she dozed. And ey would sleep without dreaming.
Ey would wake again however longer later and walk the world. Who knew how long ey slept. Who cared? What meaning had time? Had ey been lost for days? For years? Ey did not count. Did not keep track in some tally carved in stone, for ey was not trapped. Ey lived for hundreds of days in there, for dozens, or mere hours. Ey was completely free. We are the motes in the stage lights, ey promised emself. Beholden to the heat of the lamps.
Ey would wake and walk the world. Ey would walk the valley in that prairie. Ey would fall to all fours and dig eir fingers into the soil. Ey would poke eir snout into the tickling stalks of grass and breathe the scent of life. Dear the wheat and rye under the stars.
And the sun would rise.
Ey would dream emself into a new shape. Ey would dream emself beyond this amalgam of human and fox, and there would be no rising from all fours. Ey would be a fox, then, and eir name was unspeakable by those who walked on two legs. A fennec out of place and time. Displaced to here, in the middle of North America, displaced to now, this meaningless moment. Ey would be a fox and scamper between the tussocks. Ey would come across a stream and drink of cool water. Ey would lift eir gaze to find an old-growth forest of oak and maple. Old-growth! Imagine. Ey would scamper between the trunks and through the humus and moss, for those were things that must be in a forest.
And then ey would break through the forest and come upon a pebble-strewn beach. A beach! Here! In the middle of the continent. What wonders dreams held.
And then ey would rise to two feet once more. Ey would be AwDae once more. Short, lithe, a memory stronger in so many ways than that of RJ. Who was RJ? A vehicle for AwDae? AwDae, a slim two-legged fox clad in a cornflower blue skirt trimmed with embroidered dandelions. And why not? Why not be clothed in something comfortable and soothing?
And ey would walk the beach in the summer heat, teasing the tide line with eir steps. The water, cool, would lap against eir feet playfully, leaving the fur damp and clinging to eir skin. What was missing, hmm? Ah yes, gulls. There, above em, gulls dreamed along with a breeze tinged with the salt-tang of the sea. Cry, gulls, cry.
And perhaps the sun would grow too hot, for was that not what the sun did on beaches? But look! There in the distance, pebbles faded to sand and, towering above that sand, shady palms. Ey would sit and look out over the ocean, and there, dreaming above the waters, a squall line crossed.
And maybe ey would go home. Maybe not. There were no obligations. What mattered time, after all? “If I walk backward, time moves forward,” ey reasoned aloud. “If I walk forward, time rushes on. If I stand still, the world moves around me, and the only constant is change.”
And perhaps the world was moving around em. What cared ey? Had ey been able to influence that world, to enact any sort of change, perhaps ey would have. Had ey been able to share this knowledge of viruses and routines, of stolen votes and stolen lives, perhaps ey would have.
But ey could not. All ey could do was dream.
Dream spires of color rising from the sea in graceful arcs. Dream the rattle of dry grass. Dream the scent of new rain. Dream the sand beneath eir feet. Dream the names of all things. Dream a slow descent into fractal madness.