September 3406 CE
Maria’s residence, Quest Continent, Garden (Tarazed IV)
The eyes of the Dream Now sparkle, radiant in sunlight, as dreams of the past shatter into the vision of golden-red morning. The night’s dreams, unseen but still present, remain as real as the sunlight but no longer participate in the moment-to-moment emergence of reality. From a secret place the dream-to-be sings to the Dream Now, a quiet song from somewhere just beyond the Dream’s awareness.
The Dream responds with motion and intention. Sheets are suddenly on the floor rather than on the bed. The form they had covered is upright and moving swiftly. The Dream’s smooth flow becomes a tempest of ocean waves in a storm: battered and confused, bursting into whitecaps. Shattered fragments reflect on the smooth surfaces of itself as it collides with other forms and concepts—closet, clothes, computer—the sea changing its entire nature from one instant to the next, sorting objects of awareness and incorporating them into the Dream.
Facets of the Dream reflect endlessly in searching black eyes and the deep silence within the Dreamer. For a moment—a single, bare mind-instant—the forgotten memories of the Dreamer shine in the light of awareness where previously there had been nothing but the Dream.
The computer whispers; text and diagrams and flashing lights move across the screen. Black eyes widen; scythe lashes climb toward long raven hair. A chaos of expressions from emotions long forgotten crashes, tsunami-like, across the Dreamer’s sunlit face. She cries out wordlessly, not from any specific thought or emotion but from the sudden shock of returning self-awareness. Her voice reflects through the Dream and returns to her as echoes from the stone walls. The dream-to-be softly sings of memories yet unborn.
She turns off the alarms. Silence returns. She sits staring at the screen with warm tears rolling down her cheeks. The soft susurration of ocean waves outside the half-underground house catches her attention and she follows the sounds with mind and breath; ujjayi rhythm sweeps her back fully into the Dream—self-awareness fading again, replaced by pure Being.
Black eyes drift closed; mind opens and returns to the dreams of the past to reflect on the endless Dream.
The past lives again as a half-forgotten memory emerges as the Dream Now…
Hard metal tines exert steady, precise, irresistible forces as they are drawn between rows of plants bearing fruit. Black soil crumbles and breaks. A Dream of ocean sounds sings a wordless melody as she works to prepare a new row. Her song rings out through the clear morning air and echoes back from nearby rocks.
Somewhere in the Dream there is a smile.
A plant growing in the wrong spot is gently extracted, lifted from the ground in a cascade of falling black dirt and dangling roots, and laid carefully on a similar pile at the edge of the garden. The smile changes, becoming a look of love and determination. Another tool is selected from the row of implements at the edge of the cultivated square of soil.
A shovel bites shadowed holes in the earth and dirt rains down onto a conical pile that resembles the volcanoes gently smoking on the northern horizon. The unearthed plants are picked up and placed into the holes; the rich soil is returned and patted down gently around them. Water is sprayed from a squirt bottle; when the bottle is empty it is opened and dunked into a bucket. Water gurgles in and spits bubbles around the slim, strong, dirt-caked hands holding the bottle. Once the transparent container is full, the fingers deftly pick up the spray attachment from the bottom of the bucket, reattach it, and reset the spray control in a single unbroken motion. Water squirts over the newly replanted greenery in a shower of mist that catches the sunlight and scatters it into a rainbow.
A new arc of colored light—blue-and-violet end so faint as to be nearly invisible—appears with each flex of the fingers on the bottle, emerging, dancing on the breeze for a moment, and dissolving into shimmering bits. The Dream becomes fascination as each motion draws the gleaming hues from the air—but only for a moment before dissipating again with the mist scattering on the wind and the larger droplets raining on the thirsty plants.
Laughter—with the plants watered and the tools returned to their place at the edge of the square of black earth, the Dream forgets the garden for a moment and squeezes delighted rainbows from the air, dancing among them until all is forgotten except the falling colors. Cool breeze from the ocean down the hill catches the mists and sprays them against pale skin. Bound black hair is freed from the strip of orange cloth tying it back, allowed to blow in ebony waves on the wind.
Soon the bottle is empty. Fingers flex a few more times, but nothing happens except the spitting noise of forced air and the spurting of a few random droplets. The rainbows fade back into the dream of the past and the dream-to-be whispers the possibility of refilling the bottle and dancing with rainbows forever—or at least until nightfall when the Dream becomes star-studded blackness broken by the light of the vermilion moon.
The tools are returned to the house and put away; the animals of the night have a taste for metal and to lose the tools to tend the garden could mean the end of the Dream. Food is plentiful in the jungles to the north, true, but then so is the treacherous terrain of plant-covered, slippery, jagged rocks that might cause sprains or fractures or other injuries. As long as the Dream has lasted, it is terrifying to consider even the remote possibility that its end was even possible. She is confident she could fall down the nastiest rocky slope in the jungle and suffer no substantial injuries—she is strong—but the Dream has not lasted this long by taking unnecessary chances. Nor would she start—she has a duty to survive.
The last living human on an alien world.
A gasp as numbers fall instantly into place and the unsettled feeling she has had for the past few months is explained. As the import of the answer strikes, she cries out wordlessly and falls to her knees in the soft green-black grass surrounding the garden. The bottle falls and rolls; her eyes follow it until it comes to rest. The song of the ocean below whispers in her ear as the Dream reminds her of the day it started. Of the purpose her friend gave her with her last breath.
The news has reached Earth. The Situation Transmission from the Garden of Eden Colony, four hundred sixty-one years ago, would have reached Earth just six months ago—just before she had last replanted her garden.
Her muscles fail her and she falls bonelessly to the side; she catches herself reflexively with one hand. The impact drives her fingers several centimeters into the soil beneath the grass. She lowers herself the rest of the way to the ground, wipes her hand, and rolls over onto her back. She stares into the bright turquoise sky flecked with high cirrus clouds. The moon is straight overhead; a fat, blood-orange crescent in the golden-red afternoon light. Beyond lie the stars. Her eagle-sharp vision can make out three of them—Sham and beta Sagittae and delta Sagittae—even in daylight when the clouds pass over the sun. She turns her head a little and her gaze follows an imaginary line through the clouds and through the great black of the void between the stars. Past golden Alshain and silver Altair to a yellow sun invisible in the darkest night, even to her sharp eyes. Around that sun a blue world dances with a dark gray companion, much smaller and farther and dimmer than Garden’s great orange moon but still bright enough to light its mother world with silver on a black night. She dreamed under that moon, once… lifetimes ago…
Night has come again. The stars of Garden fill the sky. The Dream’s rainbows are now only sparkles and her awareness diffuses into them. This time there is no laughter, only tears and the desperate hope born centuries earlier.
Will they send another ship?
Surely they will. The Solar Space Service will not let a cry for help from one of their own go unanswered—even a cry so strange and unbelievable as hers.
Only her companions in eternity—the quiet ocean waves—dare answer her, whispering something… she cannot quite make out the words.
She starts to drift off into dreams of the past. She looks up at the scarlet volcanoes on the moon overhead and, for a moment, is puzzled. Recently, she has seen something. She is sure of it. Have they already sent someone? She shakes her head. Not possible; it has not been long enough. She cannot dismiss the feeling that she is not quite alone but she cannot justify it either.
It is probably only her desperation.
Please do not forget me… as I already have…
She closes her eyes and lets the thought drift away, and surrenders again to the dream of the past, just as she has every night since she became but a Dream…