Stepping through the portal into the brilliant void, Lily had felt herself fall in all directions simultaneously. As she did, the other Lily merged with her. It was a seamless combination; she understood at once that she was not gaining any knowledge or traits she did not already possess. Yet she sensed that something had shifted...her point of view, perhaps.
She fell apart, she fell together, and for a timeless moment of equilibrium she hung at the center of everything.
And then she stood next to the path.
Tall grass swayed on either side, sweetening a breeze that pleasantly balanced the warmth of the sun overhead. The path was a narrow track mowed through the meadow, and apparently kept clear by the tread of countless feet. Solo hikers and couples holding hands strolled along the path; a couple straight off of a sporting-gear website passed her, smiling and nodding at her as they went.
The meadow seemed to go on endlessly, and, if she decided to follow the path, there was no obvious difference between left and right. She wondered whether Matt had come this way, and what he would have decided to do. (She smiled to herself; Matt, not Matthew. Was the other Lily, or maybe the new Lily, speaking?) In her sessions with Matt, Lily had found him reluctant to express preferences; when she pressed him, he would provide snap answers that seemed calculated to surprise or occasionally shock her, rather than let her know his true feelings.
It was irritating, and that was probably his intent; his inner self was heavily guarded, and no wonder, given his background. With home, family and school all stripped away, all he had left was what was inside. That was strong enough to pull him through his past more or less intact, and passionate enough to pursue a future, but it was not something that was shared easily.
She realized that she hadn’t thought much about how Matt must have felt about his portrait of her. She had been so embarrassed herself that she hadn’t considered how disturbing it must have been for him to be exposed in that way. His other Visulex creations were in some sense coded, abstract rather than concrete images and phrases; they required translation through the medium of their sessions. In contrast, the portrait was striking in its clarity. It must have been horrifying for him...no wonder he had hidden it.
Yet, he had still kept it, and in the end he had showed it to her. She smiled at the thought.
Lily realized she was drifting, and tried to focus. She looked at the path again. This couldn’t happen in the real world, she thought...it wouldn’t be a question of left or right – it would be east or west, or north or south, directions that had meaning because they told you not only where you were but where everything else was. In the dream world, it was just left or right, which told you nothing.
But what signposts should she be following here, anyway? She had been floundering since she first arrived in this world, Harte’s “aleph-two,” because there was nowhere to begin. It was futile to try to track Matt as if he were a missing person in the real world. How could she pick up a trail, when there was no reason to believe that there was even such a thing as geography here?
Symbols and transformations, juxtapositions and double meanings, these were the signposts of dreams, but there was no frame of reference. What did the meadow mean, what did the hikers mean? The dream world tantalized her with signs and prophecies, but provided no way to follow them, no path.
Lily blinked. No path...but of course there was a path directly in front of her.
Of course left or right told her nothing, she realized, because they didn’t matter. They couldn’t matter. The only thing that made a difference in a dream was choosing, one way or the other, to follow the path that was offered. She wanted to find Matt, so she chose to follow the path.
At the completion of that thought, without a transition or any sensation of movement, Lily found herself standing in the middle of the track. She couldn’t tell which direction she was facing, except forward. So she began to walk.
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[Go to Chapter 13.2]