Chapter Eleven

Paisley's leg is twitching. Must be dreaming. Hope it is of happier times. Playing with his master. Chewing a bone. He is a great companion. Love him dearly. Tumour Baby sleeping on floor next to him. Noticed slight puddle around him. Have smelt it. Not urine. Has brine smell. Water. Baby is motionless. Breathing slight, but raspy. Like flu. Awful veins, like jellyfish tendrils under skin. 

Angeline has rolled over. Smokey eye still open. Like a pearl. Went to touch it, retreated at last second. Gently kissed her neck seven times instead. Very gentle. She didn’t feel it. Sort of kiss you give a corpse in a casket. I will write tomorrow about what she tells me. Something about being a saviour. More about her dream no doubt. I must at all costs interrogate her fully. I have gained her trust. Used my new technique well. Brekker would approve. I have gained her trust, now I intend to find out my answers, and a little more about Couldwell. She has been in this transitory land for many years. She will know a lot, if not everything. I will get what I can. Upon reaching Couldwell, if I cannot get any more information, I will leave her and the squid baby behind. No need for them. Dead weight. Cannot care for her plight, or journey. I have my mission. Brekker. Lucy. Deciphering the dream. I have promised dear Brekker, to write every detail of the dream down and have not, yet.

Faint ringing has begun in ear. Pulses. Like a siren. I know that sound. We are approaching Couldwell. No signs out of window. Pitch dark. No stars. On horizon I can just make out cyclones. They do not move. Just rooted to the spot. Angeline’s method of using cyclones to count days no longer usable. Stillness in air. Just the warning sign of Couldwell ringing out.

Things I hope await me in Couldwell.

  • Brekker, of course. Haven’t thought about you much in last hours. Concentrating on Angeline, her ocean memory and Tumour Baby. 
  • Hope to find decent rest. An inn, a bed. A drink!
  • Basket and food for Paisley. Maybe bandages for his wound. Dust and wind outside may irritate him.

In truth, I hope the fear of Couldwell I have inside does not manifest. I know nothing of the town. Except that I must enter it. Paisley is by my side. Comforts me greatly.

Going to sleep now. Will not dream. But order things in head. About everything from station until now. Everything ahead. Need to think of Lucy, will focus on one memory to sacrifice. Will be turned to dust by morning. Better to think of something small. Think of important memories later. Ration them. For now. I need to think of Lucy. I will think of the way she opened the letter informing her of the extent of her injuries. Will think on the change in her expression. Not pleasant thought. Happy to have it leave forever and turn to sand, in all honesty. Going to count to 500 now, hope to be asleep by 350.

My dear Master G_

I am leaving you my baby. I named him Alexander. You can name him whatever you like. You may never forgive me for striking you and I hope the gash over your eye heals. The blood stain on your shirt has formed into the shape of a sprig of ivy. Strange formation. 

When you come around and read this, you will be in a rage, but I promise you, dear Master G_ that I did not read your journal, I did not! I did not! I needed to write you my goodbye and my instruction. You see I am going. Soon we will be in Couldwell amongst the Sleepwalkers and that place, from what I have heard, is no place for souls. It’s a place to forget. An oubliette. But I do not have to be amongst them as I am going back the way I came. Back towards my memory. You see I have been met in a dream by a powerful truth. It was so strong and burning. The truth is that I am not here. I am there, in that deserted town far, far away. I am in a dream you see and this dream does not belong to me!

And as soon as I realised that, one single pure and bright memory returned to me. There was no water to this memory, no soggy clothes and dripping walls. A real, solid memory. Out of a void this rose grew back. I have learnt how to regain memory! I woke up from sleeping in your lap in a fever of excitement. I remembered!

I once lived in a town called Pripyat, I was old then – grey, shrivelled…but dry. Pripyat, that old workers town. I remembered there was a man, a handsome man too, who stood guard over the town. He lived in a wooden kiosk and he guarded the town long after it was deserted. I remember being old, and walking to see him. For miles and miles on broken and bootless old feet I trudged. I walked to tell him that he was dreaming...and that dream did not belong to him. It was mine! He was an interloper in my dream. 

And here, now I am in his dream…your dream! I have realised now, after years of walking, holding that drowned baby, caring for Alexander Tumour, I realise that I am in your dream. And I know now how to escape it. I am leaving before Couldwell as I fear that once this locomotive stops, I will become grounded. Stuck there, like all the other Sleepwalkers. I will leap from this train now, and I will walk back. I know each step will take me back to that pier from whence I came. With each step another corner of my mind will dry out and come back to life. Reclaimed land! Even now I can recall the image of a great piece of land I once went to. Reclaimed from the sea. A hotel in the shape of a huge palm leaf. In a desert land, it encroaches into the sea. I can see it! It is my dream! Not yours, you are not in it. Alexander is not there. It is mine. You are going to the very edge of TheNeverRealm, dear fearless Master G_...but you see, you can go there, but you can also come back. And I am just as brave to attempt it. Do not hate me, for I am going alone, back through all this to find my peace. I’m sorry if this makes no sense, but what does when told verbatim the rapture of souls euphoric?

Look after Alexander. I think he is better suited to you than me because I cannot carry him back and I don’t want to. He will cry and dry up. He is a water baby, and must remain a water baby. That is why I struck you! You would come after me if I hadn’t…you would have tried to stop me. Or worse, you would have let me go but you would have forced me to take Alexander Slug Boy with me. He is not mine! I was pregnant in life, not a mother in the dustbowl. Who is he? You may or may not choose to find out. I dry my hands of him, forever. 

Alexander, hate me if you must, but do not come after me. I will see you in my waking life when I return to it, but as my own child, not my burden as you are in this place. I am to leap.

Into eternity from this train, I am to leap. 

Goodbye Dear Master G_



Graham Thomas