Jane Harrison is the Dreamer of Nian. Not that she knew it at first, When Great Grandpa Joel passed the gift down to her he was laying on his death bed, cheating time with every last word he could manage and he didn't bother to go into specifics. But now she's been there, seen the brilliant blue sky against the vivid orange sand. She doesn't know exactly what being a dreamer means, but with Jameston helping her, hopefully she will.
"Let's go!" The car lurched forward. "Morons." Dad whispered.
I stared out the window. I didn't know how I felt. I wasn't close to my Great Grandpa Joel, we only visited on holidays, and even then I mostly played with my cousins. We pulled into the parking lot of the old folks home and hurried inside the building.
"Take your earbuds out." Mom said harshly as we walked though the first pair of doors.
I pulled at the wires sticking out of my ears and stuffed them in my pockets. The woman at the desk unlocked the door and let us in, she knew Mom well enough to not have state our business. I followed my parents across the lobby and down the first hall. The rest of the family was already inside, crowded in the small living room facing the bed that replaced the couch. Great Grandpa Joel wanted us all there when his will was read so that no one would fight over who got what. Personally, I wanted his coin collection, but I knew that was going to Wyatt.
We stood against the wall and listened quietly. The room smelled of cigarettes and old dust. Really, the entire building smelled this way. Grandpa Joel was too sick to read the list himself, so one of his nurse of the day had to. She went through each family, ending ours. I wasn't too excited about getting all of his precious salt and peppers shakers and a shed full of random gardening supplies somewhere in Colorado. Once the nurse finished I looked around the room, I wasn't the only one coming up with excuses to leave. Uncle Tom had a big trip coming up for work and had to start packing, Grandma Lucille and Grandpa Max where moving again and had to clean their house so they could start showing it, but I knew better than to suggest we leave early like the others, Mom wouldn't let me live it down.
"Jane." Grandpa's voice silenced the room.
I walked toward his bed and sat down on the folding chair next to his head, my parents standing behind me. He didn't look to good.
"Hey, Grandpa." I said when Dad nudged my back.
"Hey kiddo." His voice was dry and raspy.
I felt a sharp manicured finger poke my back. Looking over my shoulder Mom raised her eyebrows. "Can I get you a glass of water?" I suggested, though I knew all the dishes in the kitchen where dirty.
"No," He coughed, drool sprayed his hand and he whipped it on his blanket. "I'm fine."
I gulped. I didn't know what else to say. I waited patiently for him to start talking again.
"You know," Great Grandpa Joel coughed again. "You always where my favorite grandchild." I quickly scanned the room to see if my cousins had heard him, but they weren't paying attention. Darn. "You've always reminded me of myself. Which is way I was saving something for you." He coughed again. He sat up straighter and cleared his throat. "Jane Harrison, I hereby pass down to you my blessing. May you be more courageous and wise than I ever was." Chills ran up my spin as his rough hand pressed into my forehead. He took it away just as quickly and dropped a small red box into my lap. "Cecil always loved it, wanted you to have it when you got older, but I guess I won't be around to pass it down for her."
I could feel Mom's eyes boring into the back of my head. "Thank you."
"Now about my gift," He looked at Mom, then back to me. "Promise me you'll tell Jameston, he's a wonderful boy, he needs to know."
"Know what?" I asked. I waited as he took a long exasperated breath.
"It's as real as this is, you have to be careful."
"Don't let him fool you! you go to him, and you bring him down." He said through a coughing fit. "Just do it carefully, you can die there."
I sat awkwardly, worried and scared for Grandpa's saneness. My parents hoovered over me, looking at Great Grandpa Joel. Suddenly the machine above the bed began to beep quietly.
"Nurse?" Dad called.
The blond woman turned from flirting with one of the cousins and walked toward us. She looked at Grandpa Joel and then the computer next to him. Mom and Dad hurried me from the room when they saw the look on her face. I knew there wasn't much she could do, she was more of a student after all. I sat in the lobby while the adults talked for a bit, the little box on my lap. I fought the urge to open it, I knew it was going to be something old, possibly ugly as well, but it was the last thing he gave out, meaning it was something special. Giving in to the curiosity, I opened the lid a crack, just to take a peek at its contents.
"What's inside?" Wyatt asked, the contents of a jar he held clinking against the glass insides.
I slammed the lid down. "I don't know. Probably one of Great Grandma's necklaces."
"Hmm." He turned the jar ever so slightly, making the coins clink again. "Probably, I don't know why the old man would hang on to something like her necklaces though, I mean, you've seen them."
"He just died." I told him. "You don't need to be so insensitive."
"At least I'm honoring his life by enjoying my inheritance." He uncapped the lid and took a breath. I watched his expression turn sour."Smells like an old fart, I'm going to have to get a new jar. Here, you smell it."
"No thanks." I said, pushing the jar away from my face.
"Jane, we're leaving now." Mom's voice said suddenly.
"See you at the funeral."
Wyatt nodded and put the jar back up to his nose. I didn't know what made guys so stupid, but it made me laugh. That night we had the adult family members over to start planning the funeral. They wanted to get it done before fall turned to winter so they could get some kind of discount. I was banned to my room.
"You might be an a dolt," Dad had joked. "but you're not an adult."
I lay on my bed listening to the hushed mumbling of the conversation. Uncle Randy's wife was yelling about something, but she quieted down when she realized I wouldn't be sleeping this early into the night, and Grandpa Phil naturally had a loud voice, so I wasn't going to be able to fall asleep for a while just out of pure curiosity. I picked up the little red box from my night stand and switched on the lamp. Mom had to get groceries and Dad had to work, so naturally I went with Mom. The empty ice cream carton in the trash by my door was the evidence of my mistake. I flipped the lid and peered inside. It was a necklace, one I had seen several times in my life. Great Grandma Cecil always said the ugly thing was passed down to the youngest girl, but since they didn't have any girls for two generations, and my Dad was the youngest in his family, I got it. I set it back on the nightstand a take a book from the shelf. So much for my excitement, Wyatt would be so jealous. It wasn't long before they decided it had gotten too late to finish and packed up for the night. I switch the lamp off and fluff my pillow. Mom and Dad came in to check on my one last time before retiring to their own room. I wasn't close to Great Grandpa Joel, but I was going to miss his deviled eggs during the holidays.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the light that burned my face. I stretch, my whole body aching and shivering with the cool breeze. I reached for my blanket, but my hands filled with gritty dust. Suddenly a shadow covers my face, something rough droops across my body. I open my eyes a crack, a woman crouches in front of me. She's dressed in many layers, the tips of her long black hair brushes the orange sand. I sit up and look around. Other than the short train of wagons passing a few feet away, all I can see is the brilliant blue sky and vibrant orange sand against it. My heart begins to race.
"Siz yaxshimi?" The woman asks, drawing my attention.
I shake my head. "It's just a dream." I tell myself, taking another deep breath. "It's just a dream." I pinch my shoulder and close my eyes.
"Uning kimligini so'rang." Says another voice.
"Hey," I stare at the woman, my heart sped up at the familiar word. "qaerdan kelding?"
I shake my head and press a finger to my temple, trying to tell her I don't understand. She stands and speaks to the other woman.
"Biz uni olib ketamiz Prophet?" She asks.
The other woman considers this for a moment. "No, biz buni bilmaymiz." They look at me. "Jameston bo'sla da."
"Jameston." I repeat after them, my voice sounds desperate as I speak the name. I think back to Grandpa Joel. Where was I?
They look at me. "Jameston?" The older one asks.
I nod my head.
"Biz uni olamiz." She says to the other one. She kneels back beside me. "Maya." She points at her chest.
"Jane." I say.
"Jane?" She copies and points at me.
I nod. She smiles and puts her hands on my shoulders. I hold the blanket close to me, it seems it's just the two women, not counting the other carts, but it still makes me feel uncomfortable without any clothes on. Maya is shorter than I am, and walks with a slight limp. She guides me into the large wagon behind them, inside is packed with odd and colorful things. She pulls out a red dress and holds it out, showing me the full length. It has short puffy sleeves and was made in different layers to make it look more loose and flowing. The waist was sown scrunched, making it stretchy. I hold it with one hand and the blanket with the other as she pulls out a pair of loose brown pants. Handing the last of the outfit to me she leaves, holding the curtain closed for my privacy. I take a breath and let the blanket drop. The red dress's neck line is high enough to cover the petticoat's, and the pants puff out under the edge of the skirt. The dress it's self is rather light and warms with my body heat. When I've got the clothes on I open the curtain. Maya stops me from exiting the wagon and pushes me back inside. I stand in the middle of the tiny space as she opens multiple boxes, looking for something.
"Kenishca!" She calls.
The other woman enters and the two talk for a moment. Kenishca points to a box in the corner and leaves. Maya takes the lid off the box and pulls out a complicated piece of material, it takes me a moment to realize it's a black leather corset. I put my arms through the shoulder straps and wait for Maya to adjust and tighten it. Maya grabs my shoulders and turns me around, she looks at me with the eyes of a mother, as if she's taken me in as her daughter. She adjusts the neck line of the dress and pulls the sleeves under my shoulders. She smiles and pushes me outside. I follow them around to the front of the wagon. A boy sits on the wagon seat, his hat draped over his eyes.
"Alex!" Maya yells.
The boy pulls his hat back and sits up, he couldn't be much younger than twelve. He covers his mouth with a slight cough. Kenishca helps me up onto the back seat of the wagon and Maya climbs up next to me. On the bench in front of me, Alex whistles and the wheels begin to turn. The cart isn't strapped to any animal, nor is there anywhere for it to have an engine, but it rolls on. As the boy's pitch changes the cart moves differently, speeding up and getting back in it's rightful place with the rest of the company, fourth to last, and then slowing down to the pace of the other carts. Alec stops whistling, but the cart rolls. I assume his final note acted like a cruise control for the wagon.
I don't know where they expect to go, I imagine a vast city filled with people. When I blink I expect to be there, like it is with the rest of my dreams, but the endless ocean of orange stays before me. The cart moves on, the sun walks lazily across the sky, casting different shadows of the wagons on the ground. We ride for hours, the heat changing with the time. I try to think of some reason as to why my self-conscience would choose such a lifeless setting to make sense of my day.
Soon the sky turns a pale yellow, fading into a dark purple. We stop for only a short time to eat, since I'm the new member of the company Maya shares her cup with me. For dinner small bread rolls are passed around, along with a small platter of raw vegetables for each cart. I bit into the roll as the company begins moving again. The outside is hard and almost black, but the inside is pale and fluffy. Wheat shells not fully ground get wedged in between my teeth as I chew.
After a while I begin to feel sleepy. I change my position, trying to wake myself up. Above us stars have started to blink back to life. I catch myself nodding off and turn to Maya. I try to sign to her my sleepiness and she nods her understanding. She unties the strings that hold the curtains together behind us and directs me to follow her. On the floor she sets down different patterned blankets and a thin pillow. I smile and nod my head to thank her. As she leaves she clasps her hands around mine and kisses my knuckles. I lay down. I close my eyes as the cart slowly rocks my body back and forth.