On the last night before the end of everything, the stars shine like a fortune in jewels, enriching all who walk the quaint cobblestoned streets of Enysbourg. It is a celebration night, like most nights in the capital city. The courtyard below my balcony is alive with light and music. Young people drink and laugh and dance. Gypsies in silk finery play bouncy tunes on harmonicas and mandolins. Many wave at me, shouting invitations to join them.
Bhi’ash was a king of the Axe clan. Truthful and courageous, he was renowned for having performed one thousand Black Horse sacrifices and one hundred Fire sacrifices. For his devotion, upon his demise he attained entrance to the heavenly realms and was honored by the Stone Gods. One day, Bhi’ash—accompanied by many other king-mages and some of the Stone Gods themselves—went to pay homage to Agar, the highest of Stone Gods.
We are familiar with gold, says Hume, and also with mountains; therefore, we are able to imagine a golden mountain. This idea may serve as an origin myth for Iram, the unconstructed city.
My assistant said, “You have received an invitation from Holk Xanthoulian. He is embarking on a new menu and invites, and I quote, ‘a select coterie of the cognoscenti to sample its superlative assemblage of tastes, textures, and titillations.’” “He has a flair for the alliterative,” I said. “Sadly, that is true,” my assistant said. “Shall I decline?”
When I finally visit Hugh Everett, it’s 1982. We sit down and pahnah pours himself a glass of sherry and lights a cig before asking me about the purpose of my visit. We’re in Hugh’s bedroom. He’s sitting on his bed, in full suit and tie, taking deep drags from his cigarette. I take a seat in a chair next to the window. I tell him I want to hear about his theory. This isn’t true. I know his theory well.
Once upon a time, there was a princess named Little Snowdrop, who had six brothers and four sisters. Her brothers were ravens, and her sisters were swans. Whenever they wished, they would fly around the castle on their black or white wings, but Snowdrop, not having any wings of her own, could not join them. She could only wave at them from the window of a high tower as they flew by. Her father was the King, and he loved her very much.
I’m fourteen the first time I bargain with the indigo snake. I find it basking on the rocks that are piled against the south side of our house, a lazily drawn line of black, like a cursive letter that has gotten away from itself. It lifts its head as I walk up. “Can you hurt Sam Mueller?” I ask. I’ve taken health class by this point, so I know that I’m not supposed to speak to snakes. There are videos about what happens to the kids who do. But they’re so poorly made, the actresses too peppy and the snakes no more than plastic-eyed puppets. Hardly sinister.
It is the business of the Dream Curator to choose, and at the moment he is doing so. On his left, an uninspiring rococo fantasia on a childhood humiliation; on his right, a fractured symbolist nightmare of mollusks and walls of televisions. Neither is permanent-gallery material, but both tempt him to reshuffle the rotating exhibit space near the front of the museum. He samples them again, and makes the correct decision. Too much beauty in a museum, he thinks to himself, is not necessarily a good thing. And the mollusks will look good in the newspapers.
Even though your creative fiction professor fawns over Joyce, you don’t understand the copy of Ulysses you checked out from the library, so you hide behind it while you stare at your classmate whose skin flickers. His blue and green skin is speckled in spirals of twinkling lights. When you stare long enough, you realize the spirals spin like galaxies. Part of your brain should tell you he is abnormal, but it does not. He stands up and reads his assignment. He reads poetry. This is not a poetry class.
In this universe, the last time we talk is when I return the basketball I borrowed from you. We are seventeen. We’ve known each other for seven years. We’ve vivisected each other all through high school, intent on playing games of cruelties and making up, because it’s how wild animals play and we are nothing if not savages in denim and sneakers. We are always friends and always enemies, though on this day probably more friends than anything. You’d think we’d kiss this once, to seal a parting.