He came to me in a dream. If I could say why or how, then maybe I wouldn’t be here. He came to me with a promise clutched in his fist, of vistas and clouds and brilliance beyond whatever I could imagine. I told him I could imagine an awful lot. It didn’t matter. Whatever I imagined would be a speck, an atom, a mere fraction of nothingness compared to what he could show me. I laughed. That’s impossible, I said, laughing. Again, it didn’t matter. I’d believe it just as soon as I’d see it, and I’d see it soon. He was right.
It wasn’t long after that that I woke up. I don’t remember much from before that; only wisps of cloud that were gone from me in the moment I tried to grab them. What was there before, in the dream I’d thought was waking? A light, burning far away across some unfathomable darkness, all I’d known once. That’s how I knew I was dreaming: only one light. Now I know better. Now I arise in fire, born to luminous day, awash in more energy than any man could ever know, child and parent of never-ending light.
All is luminous, luminous! All in this great cathedral heaven, all under heaven, all under heaven, all is heaven. Across the emptiness cries out a blissful splinter of radiation, and I rush to it in an instant, brooding over an expanse that stretches on beyond itself into what I can’t be sure. Below me the void fills itself, forms generating and discorporating in such succession that only I can see them, feel the searing life within them, and they are gone in their multitudes as quickly as they appear, replaced but never replicated. All is luminous.
The shifting forms bore me off again to some new promised vista, where even roiling clouds can’t conceal the death-like vision from eyes opened to pierce everything and anything. I see him again, riding high on the breath of the goddess of love, fire lapping at his feet but never overcoming. He swept back out of my dream once more, bearing nothing I couldn’t already see with my own waking eyes. Light everlasting, chasing away all darkness, to collapse on itself in infinite spirals of action and reaction until no one knew which had come first, except for me.
Once, when I still could care for time, I’d tried to remember the dream. With tachyonic speed I chased after an image of someone who wasn’t him. The only other one I could remember. So luminous she was that all the blissful splinters of which I was aware hid themselves in shame, and that was an awful lot. What could I call her? Could even I think to give her a name? Any name would do: Beatrice, Lucy, Maria, Sita, Eve, whatever name my soul cried out in its snatches of dreaming was hers. I awoke and searched after her in vain, chasing whispers across gulfs so empty that even I was brought to wonder at their purpose.
Ages passed before I gave her up for him in the end. There was so much more to all this than her, he’d said. No sense chasing what I could never catch. I told him I knew her from somewhere but all that mattered was here, and that’s not where she was. I relented. There was so much more to pursue. For a long while, I chased after a beginning. Had I been born merely to dream, or to awaken? What was this birth: if not creation, then perhaps an arrival? But this was in vain too, since still the dream haunted me. Soon, there was no place I could go where she couldn’t find me, glistening liquid fire that claimed to know my name. I don’t need a name, I said. Names are for things that aren’t me, and I’m me. Cathedral, heaven, fire, light, all me.
Then what am I, she asked. I didn’t know. I couldn’t even say if I’d forgotten anymore. She pressed me again and again, questioning with tongues of fire, burning like coals in my mouth. I can’t remember, I pleaded, leave me to my light, and still no escape.
I fled from her in terror. Across the farthest darkness I left space and time torn in my wake. She could find me, I thought, just follow the debris and there I’d be, but I didn’t care. Only distance mattered. Only escape.
By the time I found him again, I couldn’t even say what I saw running from anymore. He took me in, bound up my wounds, told me I never had to leave him again. Why would I leave, I asked. He only drew me into his embrace, diving down into the heart of a star, and again the radiance washed over me until I feared I’d be lost. Don’t be afraid, he said, and I knew comfort once again. With time my wings would reach out once more, from one end of time to the other and beyond even that. Nothing would be hidden from me. Everything would be as it once was, in the days when I first awoke to the light that was truth that was all things.
Now when I flew, it wasn’t to escape but to see. Light collapsing into darkness, darkness giving itself to light, gravity rending and being rent like cloth. The fire gave and took, breathing out devastations and holy kisses until it seemed to be alive. I pulled myself back from it all until I trembled to go any farther, bringing as much into my vision as I could. Stars and galaxies, cells and muscles in a great body that towered above even me. I covered my eyes for the brilliance, and then she caught a glimpse of me, lower than the atoms of the dust.
I thought to flee but even my endless wings fell to pieces in her gaze. It swept over me like the brilliance I’d felt once with him, stronger than any solar wind I’d ever rode into the deepest stretches of night. Wax and feathers sloughed off in an agonizing instant, falling away into a place beyond memory. Nothing remained in the wake of her light, not even the core that had once screamed after her name in darkness.
Nothing. That was what he’d said I was before I met him. Nothing, if only compared to what he could make of me. As much as it cut, it also promised. It was all I could cling to then, when I’d been lost in the dream, but now even that was gone.
I turned my eyes to face her in the instant before annihilation, perchance to dream.
And boy, did I dream.