If only I’d drank from Be.! The palliative struck me to my core and I whirled back. I fell and next came a supple darkness. The amount of time ultimately lost, I cannot say, but when I returned to consciousness, I found myself in a strange land full of strange beings I could not fathom:
Who were they, I wondered? Why was their dress so unusual, their manner of ornamentation so foreign? I hid behind a column and continued to observe them.
Moments later, he arrived. The arena fell silent, reverent. He glided through the crowd in a manner seemingly incongruous with his impressive mass. Admirers scrambled out from the shadows and plied him with questions, demanding intimate details of his exploits. He was their King! He spoke only of an elixir he had concocted and was releasing to the merchant class imminently. Next, he took his place at the center of the room and sat, hulking like a jungle cat:
It appeared something was about to happen. I waited in a tense silence. What occurred next, nothing could have prepared me for.
Three woman emerged from a blinding light:
They walked the length of the arena and stood at its apex.
They took their places and formed shapes with their bodies. I observed their bizarre ritual with quiet detachment, still uncertain where I was and how I’d arrived there. The women drifted back into the light. Another emerged:
Like them, she followed the gleaming white path to its end, stood and posed. She retreated. She was followed by another:
Even the natives appeared aghast.
It continued. One after the other, they burst forth from light, walked to the apex and paused, as if to consider something vague. Then they retreated and were not seen again.
Minutes passed, though they could have been hours. Anxiety bloomed within me. The music swirled to deafening volumes. Suddenly, the whole lot of them burst through again and appeared for a final turn.
Last, a woman not ornamented like the others followed their path. She stopped at the apex again and stood for a long time. Those around me erupted in applause.
At last she stole away. Things were still again, for a moment. Then lights fell one by one upon the arena and those around me lifted from their seats, as if coming from a daze. I, too, was compelled to move. It was over. The spectacle had ceased–was it a dream? A laudanum nightmare? Was it an hallucination from the depths of myself? I could not be sure.
I returned to the sugared cakes and took a slender comfort in them.
What had happend this day, I could never be sure. What I did know, however, was that I would not be the same.
“…it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice…”