The damp, chilling grass soaked through the back of my shirt, and as I settled down upon that familiar hill, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I crossed my hands behind the back of my head and gazed up at the tiny punctures of light scattered across the dark sky. It was late, far later than I would usually set out on one of my strange nightly escapades. Remembering that I had to wake up early the next day for middle school caused my brow to wrinkle, nose to scrunch and palms to feel clammy… Or were they already wet from the grass? In either case, I was uncomfortable, the way only a freezing, procrastinating wanderer can be. The wind picked up, the breath of distant mountains tried to push me homeward. The gale twisted and turned around me as if to get my attention… Or perhaps just to simply freeze me further.
Nonetheless, my teenaged stubbornness held me there, and there I lay, hoping to delay tomorrow forever. Suddenly, a star shot through the night sky, a temporal scratch upon black canvas. I wished upon that solitary star, that small hope of mine illuminating the darkness before it. And for what seemed to be an eternity, I watched the star speckled cosmos drift by, like fireflies lazily weaving in and out of enshrouded treetops. In time, the ground was no longer as cold as it had been, nor was it uncomfortably damp. Neither was it quite as lonely as it was before I arrived at that hill. Satisfied, the reverie-like night air carried me peacefully off to home, and off to bed, the way a mother’s song would.
I dreamt vividly that night. I dreamt I was standing on the same hill, pointing towards the East, and as I did, my mind traveled far with the wayward wind, until I reached a searing desert. Towers of light pierced the dunes like needles in a pincushion, the luminous mirage dancing sporadically upon the burning sands. Within the mirage was a hidden city, and as I traveled towards it, the illusion ebbed and flowed, a chaotic tide of alternating shape and colour.
Without pretext, I found myself within the city’s walls, travelling with what I assumed to be students. They all wore green shirts, khaki shorts, and were as excited as popping kernels of popcorn. It took me a moment to realize that I stood several heads taller than the rest, and that I wasn’t just travelling with these children, but I was leading them. And, as if I knew better than I apparently did, I lead them down the bustling, futuristic city centre.
The buildings, made of glass, metal and light, were creations straight out of the mind of M.C. Escher, bending and bleeding into one another in indescribable junctures and designs. Most of the citizenry who chose not to walk somehow flew by with magnetic clothing, some racing up the sides of the bizarre buildings like surfers scaling mammoth tsunamis. We eventually arrived at a run-down bookstore, many of its bricks missing or crumbling away. It stood humbled, yet proud by its simpler architecture. The children rushed into the store laughing and yelling ecstatically – an emerald blur crashing into the small shop. I stood by the entrance, and the owner gave me a warm, gentle smile. I offered an uncertain smile back. The patrons perusing through their selections looked as confused as I felt about the stampede of students. The children piled books as high as they were tall and carried them to the till, and as I walked up to the shopkeeper, my dream abruptly ended, and a new one began.
I was back in the desert, and saw the mirage still flickering and fluctuating. The blistering sun beat down upon my head. I walked to the city once again to find shelter from the heat, and then I found myself within a strange marketplace. A gypsy man softly played flamenco guitar to the right of me, his face obscured by a chestnut Andalusian hat, though I could see a faint glint of the rogue musician’s smirk. In front of me, a man dressed in orange, tattered robes sat on a rock in the middle of the fountain, with a crimson pillow for comfort. He sat still and upright, cross-legged. His hands rested on his knees, palms face up and eyes closed. A contraption similar to that of a giant armillary sphere rotated around the man in a slow, perpetual motion. Dozens of small bald children surrounded the fountain, sitting on pillows of varying colour and quality, imitating the man in the center in both form and uniform. I stood back observing the scene, as one would view the sky meeting the ocean in perfect matrimony.
I heard someone call my name in the distance. Off to the left, several other children who were playing soccer had accidently launched their ball straight at the man in the middle of the small fountain. However, the rotating sphere had knocked the ball back into the water, creating a small splash that hit those closest to the impact. To my surprise, they didn’t react. Still as stone, they carried the disposition of the dead. Again, I heard someone call my name, but could not see who was calling me. I apologized to the meditators and took the ball out of the water to throw back to the kids playing in a tiled courtyard, similar to the ones I had seen in Spain the summer before school started. School? I thought to myself. I became increasingly aware of my hands that were soaked from reaching into the fountain. I was beginning to remember there was something I had to do. Someone called my name for a third time, and with that, I awoke. My eyes slowly opened and I groggily glanced at the blinding red numbers flashing on my alarm clock. Realization dawned on me. “Alexander!” my mother called once again. My brow wrinkled and my nose scrunched, and this time, I was certain why my palms were clammy… I was late for class.