Dreamed 1984/3/4 by Chris Wayan
I live on a desert world where the skies are a clear, cloudless blue. Brilliant moons and stars at night. We scan the sky and study the heavenly bodies closely; our most advanced science is astronomy, and not simply because the air's so clear. We need an accurate calendar and long-range weather prediction, for we depend on seasonal rains to swell the few streams from the mountains, so we can irrigate our fields. We always keep an eye on the skies.
Otherwise, we'd never have noticed the new birds. Silver-blue, matching the sky superbly, and high up, wheeling over our fields. They're strange and stiff; never move a wing.
Our weather observers are able to triangulate a couple of sightings, and the results are alarming. Not large birds wheeling a mile or so overhead; they're many miles up, and therefore house-sized, if not village-sized! These are not birds, but made things--great kites or gliders or sky-boats. They're spies, possibly scouts of some invading fleet! We can't be sure, but we watch the skies uneasily, looking sharply at every bird.
On summer day I'm hiking with friends in rolling hills, all dry grass and creekbeds and scattered stands of oaks. Suddenly the world blinks... and we're in another place. No, the SAME place, for the hills are nearly the same topography, but the land is much wetter, greener... A parallel world--our world with ten times, a hundred times the water. Huge white clouds with soft edges tumble by, covering most of the sky. The air between is blurry with mist and steam rising from the damp woods--trees thrice the height of any at home, and dense as a riverbottom, even here, up-slope.
Over the hill come hunters! A race of giants, nearly two meters high (we rarely grow taller than one). We crawl into bushes and watch them ride past. They're dressed richly as some medieval aristocracy, blow great brass horns, and generally seem to be having a fine old ritual time. They point weapons to the skies as if they're hunting birds. But their shooting-targets are bright red little helicopters that dart and tease them. Childishly easy to spot--how can this be a challenge?
The hunters notice us, and haul us out. We're frightened at first, but they seem friendly enough. They show us the 'weapons' they hunt with: telescopic cameras. You shoot pictures of the targets, and the sharpest and best centered shot wins. A nonviolent form of hunting!
But then I see a gleam of blue-silver behind a cloud. One of the bird-ships! I point, but they don't spot it in time, and explain it away: "you're new to this world; it's only natural you'd have trouble interpreting this rich new panorama, after the stark poor world you came from."
They take us into town. I scan the sky sharply, as always, and through the trees catch glimpses of two more bird-ships... The giants barely NOTICE the sky! Understandable I guess: It's so unrewarding, as a rule--hazy and cloudy and broken by trees.
In Giant Town, I try to convince their government of the threat. They're polite but skeptical. I think they see us as children or primitives, due to our size and lack of machines.
Hiking with a giant friend one day, up a forested slope, I have an inspiration. The floor is littered with brick-shaped, yellow-green lumps of a luminous moss. Duff breaks down here very quickly, releasing energy, so moss can glow. Very handy for night hiking, I'm sure. I pick up several bricks and hold them in front of me and ask my friend to spot me from a distance. He can't--the lights break up my body too much. I explain "That's what happens to the sky here. Clouds, tree-branches. You can't get much useful data from your sky. But we evolved to rely much more on eyesight, and to scan the skies. You spotted us under a bush because you scan the ground more; we scan the skies." For the first time, my friend half-believes me.
But the military gets more skeptical as time passes. Some say openly that we're just deluded, and wonder if we even came from a parallel world at all. They want us to prove it by going back through the door.
We return to the area we came through... and find a strange sight: a ziggurat of water. A sort of stepped pyramid, where each level is a low dome of water pouring perpetually down. Above this giant fountain or mountain or whatever is it, hovers a wooden roof, stepped in much the same way. I don't see the point--what's the roof for, to keep the fountain from getting wet?
They tell us "The door home is at the top. Climb the fountain!"
I don't believe it can be done--slippery, curved slopes made of what seems to be just rushing water. What footing underneath? And we're so small--what's knee-deep to a giant is up to our waists; we'll never prevail against such currents.
But some of the others get a running start and leap on the first level. It bears their weight! Up they go. I follow. It's rubbery, but it can be balanced on. We climb up, helping each other. Near the top, the world starts to flicker; some of my friends have already blinked back home. I hope this convinces them we're telling the truth about what we see in their skies.
I'm the last now... balance alone on the top water-dome, and--
NOTES IN THE MORNING
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