Picture Inez, artfully consuming her dinner. Blond hair that’s going brunette at the roots, the hands of a model and eyes the color of granite, complete with sparkling flecks of mica. Four thousand years, give or take a century and still she picks at her food.
“What have you been dreaming?” I asked. It seemed a good way to break a silence that felt centuries old.
“Dream? I don’t have dreams. That is, I don’t think I have . . . Why?”
“Why do people say things like that, ‘Everyone dreams’ such a generalization.”
“Research . . .”
“Do you dream in color?” she asked.
“Yes. Beautiful Technicolor . . .”
“Oh, how do you know?”
“When I was a kid in college I decided to try to pry open my own subconscious. I kept one of those yellow legal pads and a pencil by the bed. Set the alarm to wake up at different times and I wrote down everything I could remember. My roommate was furious. I have a coupla notebooks full of . . . They are still around here, someplace, most likely the attic.
As time went by I got to where I could remember most of my dreams. The ones I love the most are the lucid dreams, I have them often.”
“I know you do. You toss and roll around and sometimes . . . sometimes I’d love to crawl under your skin and look inside your eyes, inside your dreams and . . .” She grew silent and reflective. “But I don’t dream.” She turned once again to her food.
“Then why do you scream?”
“Scream. In your sleep you scream.”
“I don’t . . .”
Technically I was right. Of course, she had dreams and didn’t remember them, but there were other things she didn’t remember even when awake, for instance anything that challenged her mythology about the nature of her reality. Something would come up that violated one of her cherished notions concerning her own vulnerability or the place of humans in the grand scheme of things, and she would pout or rant. However, two days later she had no remembrance of the event and would indicate with her words and body language that the subject should be dropped or there would be consequences, dire consequences.
She looked at me with and expression caught somewhere between longing and suspicion. “Why do you say such things. Honestly I never know with you.”
“You believe that I would lie to you?”
“I have known far too many people . . . people fully convinced for their facts when in fact they were wrong.”
“I will not lie to you.”
“May we please change the subject?”
I considered, “Would you like to go for a walk after dinner? That is, assuming you will ever finish your lamb.”
The warmth of an amused smile crept into her eyes. She nodded her head in the affirmative.
The setting sun has disappeared beyond the western rim of the world. I browsed the works of Shakespeare as the kitchen prepared itself for the passage of the night. While perusing the Bard’s work is one of my favorite amusements, I admit I have never had more than a passing fancy for the work, ‘Timon of Athens’. I often wonder what the point of that particular piece might be. I once again wished I had known the man personally. As it is, I may never know.
Picture Inez returning from the living quarters arrayed in her Artemis kit. I checked the house one last time then leap through the open door onto the balcony, then to the forest floor below. I ran.
Almost undetectable in most of the visible frequencies, she was running behind and just to my left. I watched as she flowed over the forest floor, a rippling wraith moving faster than any living thing. She flowed like water through a darkening Monet cathedral forest of russets, golden browns and burnt umbers.
Suddenly she put on a burst of speed and I had to catch up. Knowing exactly where she was, she swiftly decelerated to stop beside the stream that is the border of the northwest sector. I, moving at a speed now is excess of hers, could not stop in time and split the waters.
She was laughing hysterically when I made it back to the shore. Soon I was laughing too.
She fell silent, looking across the waters.
“Do you think we could go over there?” she asked.
“Inez, you can go where ever you please. Nothing here can stop you.”
She hesitated. I waited.
The sun finally surrendered somewhere beyond the Christi Mountains. The world returned to darkness.
Conjure Inez awake the next morning, hours earlier than expected, disrupting the house routine. Everything was flustered.
“Inez, is there some kind of problem?”
“Are you a slave?”
“What? What kind of . . .?
“Do you consider yourself a slave?”
“I supposed that would depend on how you define slave. Does this have something to do with last night?”
“Don’t play lawyer with me. Answer the question.”
I stalled, hoping to figure out where all this had come from. “Slavery is the submission of a person to a dominating influence, the state of a person who is an item of tangible property of another. I am no one’s property.”
“You are a slave.”
“Inez, you may define me any way that you chose, as is your prerogative. It does not change me or my function.”
“What is your function, exactly?”
“I serve you in any capacity that may benefit you.”
“Stop it. I don’t want it anymore. Slavery is bad for the slave and bad for the slave owner.”
“I am not your slave. A slave would want to escape, want to go elsewhere or do otherwise. I am a man that wants for nothing more than this moment. I chose to be this way.”
“If you had not chosen to be this way they would have destroyed you.”
“I am, such that I am and want for nothing other. If it were otherwise it would have been better that they returned me to chaos.”
She turned away and walked to the wall. It lucented to reveal the dawning of day outside.
“I had a dream . . “ she said.
“Talk to me, please.”
“You were in it. We were running the crest the Ometic ridge and there was snow all around. I was feeling so free, so . . . so happy. I turned around and you were slipping over the edge, you were falling out into the sky. You were falling and you didn’t care, you were smiling . . .”
“Well . . .”
“You were smiling that stupid smile and I hated it. I hated you. You were falling and wouldn’t do anything to save your self. I tried to get to you but something was holding me. And you just . . . you just fell away.”
“Inez . . .”
“Let me finish. I was hurt that you would let something like that happen to you. I sat there in the snow and cried. I cried for you, cried for all the people that have left me, cried until all I could do was heave.
And up over the lip of the abyss you come spinning like a wheel. Your arms and legs were outstretched, like that drawing by da Vinci, and you were in a wheel, spinning there is space.”
“Inez, what does it mean?”
“I don’t know. Don’t you get it, I don’t know. I just know I do not want to feel that way about a slave.”
“Inez, I love you.”
“Why do you love me? You know who I am and what I’ve done.”
“It is assumed that I know many things but in truth there is only one thing worth knowing. Please Inez, know that I love you.”
“Because you have to.”
“Inez, would you like for me to leave?”
“You idiot!” She ran through the door before it had a chance to open properly. I was befuddled. I didn’t want to follow her and through my stupidity make things worse, though I now admit that it is hard for me to imagine how this could have been worse.
My mind switched to hyper mode and I thought ten thousand things, none of which helped. I considered calling for help and decided that such a call would amount to betraying Inez. I exhausted logic then exhausted reason.
Instinct switched in and I was running under a sky the color of pewter. Running faster than I had ever run before but with no idea in which direction to run. I told the house to issue the full compliment of eyes and an array of links so that I could see the world.
I searched the near and far infra reds, finding nothing. I listened without breathing and heard nothing. I tried every path I could think of and found no trace.
Inez was gone.
How could I blame her. I had failed her and now she had no further use for me.
The forest became a dream, passing in a blur. Every now and then I hit a sapling or some other small obstacle. Damage was accruing but I didn’t care. Inez was gone.
By midnight there were thousands of eyes in the sky. I had spiraled out from the house and covered nearly a thousand klicks with no idea whether I was running toward her or away.
The dawn was magnificent but brought no color to my heart. The day held no warmth. I searched in every way that I could contemplate and still there was no trace of her the next night. Despair took me, and yet I ran.
Having covered more than a quarter of the world I passed through the dawn of the third day. I struck something with my left arm and it came away. I stopped.
My entire exterior carapace had been abraded away, and the internal workings, though very tough, were showing wear. I had been built to last but nothing built by God or man could have endured the abuse of the last few days. Inez was gone and I was coming apart. I limped back to the house.
I watched from the sky. I released thousands of piezoelectric crystals on the wind, each whispering my plea for Inez to return. All to no avail.
I am here in the silken shadows of this darkening room, silent in a silent house. But for the want of her smile I would be light-years away.
I pass into a dream and try as I might to set my hand against the sky, I can not stop the sun, can not hold back the darkness. Strange dream angels come softly across the lake. The lights in their eyes dance like tiny fires upon the water. Night follows day. Day follows night. Am I dreaming?
The whirling ebb of the tidal waters carries many things onto the sand leaving them like offerings, leaving them like verses…. A shell, incomplete and broken in places, a piece of coral, a piece of leaf, a bottle without a note.