I arise from the dreams, those terrible and turbulent dreams, and look around. Nothing was lost. The paradise was still there around us. Nothing changed.
A touch on my shoulder and I turn around to find the founder, smiling. “Nothing is wrong?”
“No.” I look at the splendor around me and grin. “Nothing is wrong.”
He smiles and leads me to a cliff where I could see everything: sparkling rivers, wide swaths of tropical forests, glorious fields of flowers. Magnificent towers of glass and silver sparkled in the light. Even the sun, a butter yellow disc hovering in a lapis sky, was beautiful. “Is this better than what you saw before you awoke?”
“Much better.” I spread my arms as if to embrace the scene before me. “So much better.” And I fall.
The winds catch me half way down, and I swoop over the swaying leaves and the nodding flowers. I laugh with an innocence I have never known. It was as if I have found the biblical garden of yore. It was so beautiful.
“Even now, there are people who would harm this arcadia.”
I turn over to find myself standing on a field of so many greens I would never get tired of counting them. The founder was standing beside me. “What do you mean?”
“They are, as always, those who do not understand, who do not care,” he say, grief shadowing his Roman features. “They are those who rather cling to what they want than to understand what we need. And what we need is peace.”
We walk a bit before he continues.
“We need your help.”
“Anything you need,” I say automatically.
He looks at me, gauging my words, then continues.
“We are looking for the one who had the audacity to enter into the sanctum,” he says, putting his hands in his pockets. “We have punished the ones who have allowed him to come. But we need more.” He looked at me. “We need you.”
“Of all the ones who have been awoken, you are the only one who has not been Outside.”
I laugh. “But are we not outside already?”
He smiles. It is a beautiful smile. “Yes, and no. It is complicated to explain.”
“Then do not bother,” I tell him. “I will do whatever you want me to.”
Another gauging look, then he extends a hand.
I take it, and the scenery melts, drips like a Dali painting, forming into another place. Tall, windowless, black brick walls stretch to infinity and tiled black and white floors tried to outrace them. Above, shaded lamps cast their harsh, flickering lights, giving shadows that writhe on the floor. Occasionally, thunder, like bowling balls on parquet floors, rumble through the hallway.
In front of me was a gray, featureless door. It looks to be wood, but it shimmers like mother of pearl.
“I will give you the task to help the other two. Find the package.”
“Two things, though,” he says, placing his hand on the door. “Whether or not you find the package, if you find the trespasser, bring him here. I think I know why Number Seven thought he was one of us.”
I nodded. “The other?”
His face darkens worriedly. “Outside, it will be dangerous. The forms we have been given are so fragile.” He places a hand on my cheek like a lover. “Please, my son, be careful.”
“I will,” I promise.
“Then open the door,” he says, stepping behind me. “And come back.”
I place my hand on the knob and felt a wrenching sensation. I shudder as if caught in a high current.
“He needs to go outside,” I hear him say.
The shuddering worsens. I collapse to the ground as the door opens. A rush of cold air tickles my skin. I look up and see the Outside.
This is the outside? Then why…?
I open my eyes.