The Novel - 3

Yes, this is taking forever. No, I haven’t posted in ages. We are where we are. Let’s move along.

So the novel is ploughing slowly forward. I want to try to post more on this blog, so let’s start with this. I’m not sure it’ll even make it into the book, but I enjoyed writing it as a sort-of-prologue, in the voice of one of the characters.

It feels like a nice way to explore the core premise of the book – that there’s a dimension beyond ours, which can only be reached through dreams. And a way for me to get to know this character – a voice from The Other Side...

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You’ve been here yourself, of course. Oh yes you have, dear rhubarb. The problem is, so few humans understand the nature of the crossing. You don’t even realise it’s happened. Which is rather remarkable, given how obvious that first bridge is most of the time. 

You make it yourselves, after all. And let’s be honest, you’re not too subtle about it. It’ll be something like a door to a new room, a tunnel under a hill, or a gate that opens onto sunlit fields. Plenty of your bridges are exaggerated to the point, frankly, of absurdity. Vast entranceways in towering city walls, for example – mammoth timber gates drawn majestically open by gangs of slaves. That sort of thing.

And often, the bridge is just that: a bridge. Oh, I must have seen every variation there is. Swaying bridges of rope and vine, flung across bottomless gorges. Towering constructions of glittering steel, intricate as spiderwebs, spanning the blue space between volcanic islands. An ancient, moss-softened limestone arch across a midnight stream, blooming from the shadows in a pool of moonbeams; silky water underneath, bright as mercury.

And even then, you hardly ever get it. Even when your mind is waving every flag it can find. Even as it floods the path with light, and throws up signposts all the way, pointing, pointing, pointing. 

There was one young woman, I remember, who made a theatre. Wonderful place – more like a cathedral, really. A booming, cavernous chamber set with terraces of balconies and boxes. Curtains at one end high as waterfalls. 

She passed down the empty aisle between the stalls – they were rows of little golden thrones – and the vast drapes drew slowly back, heavy velvet gathering into deep, luxurious folds, to reveal towering scenery that might have been painted by Michelangelo. (Now there’s a chap who knew exactly where he was when he got here.) 

And she made the crossing. She didn’t bump blindly along the edge, as so many do, like a fly against the window. She came straight up the steps onto the stage and slipped inquisitively between those luminous, suspended visions. As she passed each one she ran her fingertips lightly over the canvas, and it wove itself into a tapestry at her touch. In fact the whole theatre began to mutate – to become something more like a vaulted baronial hall. (That happens, of course: things change in dreams. You know that.)

And almost straight away, she came across the door at the back of the stage (or hall, or whatever it had become). So swift, so apparently assured, she put her hands eagerly on the shapes carved deep into the timber face of the door. It was a scene of tangled roses: stems thronged with thorns, fat heads thickly blooming. Her sleeping mind had set the door in the restless glow of unseen candles: the wooden flowers seemed to shiver, as if in a breeze. 

And she opened it. Swung the door wide and came through. She found us. 

But even then, she didn’t understand. Even when she felt that unmistakable resistance every human encounters at the crossing. You know the sensation: like wading against the current of a river, or striding into a driving gale. There’s a sort of gravity that drags you back towards your world. (Yes, I realise it’s not gravity. But you try explaining this in ways that make sense.) 

The point is, you have to push quite hard to get across – and she did. She passed over the bridge and found herself here, among the mountains and cities and scattered debris of countless imaginations. And she couldn’t see it. She missed the truth of where she was – even though we made contact, and tried to show her. 

Fairly soon, like so many, she wandered back across the bridge. It’s easier in that direction: the gravity, or current, or whatever it is, is with you. It almost carries you over. Your world welcomes you back – and it’s a relief to return. I understand.

But what a shame to come so close. To stand in another world and think it no more than a peculiar dream. Like meeting a ghost, or an extraterrestrial, and mistaking them for a fishmonger. 

Ah, well. Perhaps all that frustration makes it sweeter when one of you finally sees us, and our dimension, clearly. For me – still relatively new to this, of course – there is nothing quite like the expression on a human face when they begin fully to appreciate the journey they’ve made. To accept the truth of where they are. And to ask themselves, properly, who I might be.