Just as Nam had predicted, the storms continued to come in waves. His two strange companions made the best of it quietly, with Nam occasionally spending time between waves seemingly in meditation, which Rogan explained was actually her communing with an “unen” named Ooe, which seemed to be the dove she had conjured from a feather and sent out.
She was searching for enemies, and especially for the phantom that bothered her other conjured beast, the terrifyingly large and muscular black dog named Mord. The beast was large enough that the spook woman could almost have gone out riding it like a horse. That apparition seemed to be patrolling regardless of the weather conditions. It came drifting in like an ink-black cloud hugging the ground every half-hour or so to report, then vanished again.
Perhaps his companions could get by on nearly no rest, but he no longer had the constitution of a twenty-year-old. He nodded off early in the afternoon, lulled to sleep by the rolling sheets of rain striking the pavement and stone walls outside.
# # #
He rarely remembered his dreams anymore, but he had dreamed vivid dreams as a child, which had often alarmed one foster parent after another. Not because they were necessarily nightmares, but because they sometimes caused strange behavior in him, that drove the foster care program to keep him visiting one shrink after another. He had learned to keep them to himself, eventually.
No two psychiatrists gave the same explanation. But the foster parents always added it up to the same thing; the child was either lying or delusional. Dreams simply weren’t like what the child was describing.
The dreams had constant, unchanging elements to them, and one in particular was the central subject. His dreams always involved a woman whom he identified as his mother. Jack could not possibly have real memories of a mother. He had been born to an anonymous ‘Jane Doe’ who passed away during labor.
A caucasian infant boy would normally be adopted almost immediately, but severe early health problems, beginning from birth, prevented it in his case. He had memories of several foster mothers, but far too many for any of them to figure in his mind as Mother.
But this dream figment, this woman with bizarrely-colored hair– unnaturally dark red with streaks of gold– still persisted after all these years as his mother figure.
He assumed she was a fiction dreamed up by the imagination of a child to fill that void. It wasn’t just her hair; she was extraordinary in many ways, especially in the life that she shared with him in his sleep. She was too far beyond what his real mother must have been.
The last time he had dreamed her was on a hilltop in Afghanistan, as she gave him some advice that probably saved his life. Why was she here again, after decades?
“Jack, my boy,” she said, her deep green eyes showing both happiness and sadness. The rock where she sat was a boulder on a desolate beach, which was lined in the distance by a black expanse of sea. Breakers broke out there, their distant sound a bit like the respiration of a distant giant.
The clouds had a red hue… he knew from the memory of those childhood dreams that the color foretold a vicious storm incoming. Massive things in the air that weren’t birds were calling on high, passing overhead as they fled that storm. This woman would not. She walked calmly through the severest storm or blizzard as if it were a warm spring day, and would only respond to his own struggles as a child, trying to follow her, with words of encouragement. Possibly, a helping hand, but only when he seemed in danger of his life.
He had seen many other landscapes here, most of them inhabited by terrifying animals. She had shown him a strange world in his dreams, and she had shown him the strange people who lived in that world. He had forgotten most of it, but what remained was a precious possession, one of the few positive mementos of a lonely childhood.
“I’m here again.”
The woman he had called ‘Mother’ in his dreams responded with a nod of agreement. “The sages forbade it for all this time, but nothing is unchanging, boy.”