Jane Harrison is the Dreamer of Nian. Not that anyone knew it, when Great Grandpa Joel passed the gift down to her he was laying on his death bed, cheating time with every last breath he could manage, and he didn't bother to go into specifics. Quickly, Jane is forced to come to terms with her new abilities, and a mission of saving a land she has no responsibility for.
"Let's go!" Dad gripped the steering wheel tightly and the car lurched forward. "Morons. We'll never make it on time."
I stared out the window, watching the streets and platinum colored buildings go buy. I didn't know how I felt about 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 whispered harshly as we walked though the first pair of doors.
I pulled at the wires and stuffed them in my pocket. The woman at the desk unlocked the door and let us in. 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. Everyone knew Great Grandpa Joel was dying, even he knew it, but Dad's side of the family wanted everyone to be there to show how much he was loved when they took him off the machine, even though they were mostly gathered here out of guilt.
I stood against the wall and listened quietly. The room smelled of stale cigarettes and old dust. Really, the entire building smelled this way, but it was even worse here.
Grandpa Joel coughed and everyone moved to help, but the nurse beat them to it.
"Where was I?" He mumbled. "Oh yes, the Harrison's,"
Everyone looked up. Grandpa Joel only had one daughter, who ran off to live somewhere in Colorado, and then all boys down to the grandchildren. Of the seventeen great grandchildren, I was one of three girls, also the youngest of the cousins besides Clair and Wyatt.
Scanning the room for my parents, I quietly pulled my earbuds out of my pocket. It would be a while before my turn to say goodbye came.
He was mid sentence talking about Aunt Jackie's books when he stopped. "Jane." Grandpa's voice turned their eyes on me.
Embarrassingly, I took my earbuds out again and put them in Mom's outstretched hand, her all-knowing eyes shaming me as I walked toward his bed.
"Hey, Grandpa," I said when Dad nudged my back.
"Hey kiddo," His voice was dry and raspy.
I felt a sharp, perfectly 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 three cups held old coffee.
"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, trying to clear his throat as he reached for something underneath his pillow. The nurse tried to push him back down but he wouldn't give. After another moment he pulled out a small red box and dropped it into my lap. "Cecil always loved it, thought it would be the perfect way to get you there."
I could feel Mom's eyes boring into the back of my head. "Thank you, Grandpa. Get me where?"
"Now about my gift," He looked at Mom, then back to me. "Promise me you won't get ride of it, it's special, it can't be yours truly until you've met with the Father's of Time and the Sister's of Glory."
"What can't be mine?" I started to open the box, to try and see if what he was talking about was inside. Suddenly Grandpa sat up and stopped me, holding my hands tightly to the top.
"Not now!" He yelled. "Tonight. Promise me you'll wait until tonight!"
"I promise," Quickly I stood, backing behind the chair.
He took a deep breath. "It's as real as this is, you have to be careful."
Dad moved to help him back onto his bed. "Come on Grandpa,"
"Don't let him fool you, Jane. You go to him, and you bring him down." He yelled through a coughing fit. "Just do it carefully, you can die there."
Mom's hand gripped my shoulder. Suddenly the machine above the bed began to beep quietly.
"Nurse," Dad yelled.
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. After adjusting the oxygen tank the machine stopped beeping.
"I think that's enough," the nurse announced, ushering everyone out of the room. "let's give Mr. Harrison a short break."
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 and possible worthless, but I also knew the punishment I would get if I didn't wait till tonight like I promised. Looking around cautiously, I made sure my parents were still talking, and risked a small peek.
"What's inside?" Wyatt asked, the contents of a jar he held clinking against the glass inside.
I slammed the lid down, getting only a glimpse of a large silver coin. "I don't know."
"Hmm." He turned the jar ever so slightly, making the coins clink again. 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.
Suddenly the women behind the desk ran for the hall, talking nurse talk into a small radio. Everyone stopped, holding their breath. Shortly after an ambulance pulled into the parking lot and the medics jumped out. The blonde nurse met them at the door and led them down the hall.
"He went into cardiac arrest about two minutes ago," she told them.
"Which room?" asked the leader.
We hung on the edge, waiting, dreading to hear the news .
In waves the stages of grief flooded the room, but Mom had the sense to drag us out of the building and leave the chaos for the attendants.
By the time we finished dinner the phone calls started. Mom was a woman of business, a lawyer of eight years, so while Dad spoke to all the family members, she handled everyone else.
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.