Sometime in the night, she woke to an odd flapping noise, unlike anything she had ever heard in her apartment. She rose and peeked into the darkened living room. Yumiko was not on the pullout sofa bed, and she didn't see Koki anywhere. The heavy flapping came again, and she now determined it originated outside her window, which overlooked the narrow alley. She drew up the venetian blinds and then staggered backward with the realization that she was not awake but dreaming.
Where the opposite brick wall should have been there was vast, dizzying space: a midnight blue sky lit by alien stars over an endless body of inky water. High above and to the right, a huge, blood-red star lit the night sky, and she knew this was Aldebaran, the sun that blazed above the city of Alar. Around it, a cluster of stars — the Hyades — glittered like the jewels adorning Cassilda's diadem. And now, slowly, the rim of the silver moon breached the farthest edge of the Lake of Hali and rose until it resembled a cyclopean eye, its gaze burning through her body straight to her hammering heart.
Then, on the horizon: an impossible array of gleaming, dizzying spires that wavered like ghostly tendrils before taking solid form behind the bright, full moon.
Moments later, it came: the thin, childlike dream voice she had heard before; distant, barely comprehensible.
No. The word only sounded like "doggy." That wasn't what it had really said.
It was still too far away, too difficult to understand. The flapping sound came again, and now, in front of those distant, luminous spires, a silhouette appeared in the sky, its contours vague, imprecise. It was coming toward her, trailing black smoke, as if it were on fire.
A little clearer now, the reedy voice sounded excited. The shape in the sky was no clearer to her eye than the voice was to her ear. It seemed ghostly in its way, surrounded by an aura of indeterminate color. Was this what it was like to be color blind? It was neither gray, nor silver, nor white, nor violet. But it was color.
Now the thing was rushing toward her, and she could see its eyes, burning with that indefinable, radiant gleam. She backed away from the window, knowing the thing was aware of her, had targeted her.
Then a hand touched the small of her back. She spun around and looked down. Standing before her was the child she had seen at the play rehearsal. Even now, she couldn't tell whether it was a boy or a girl. Curly dark hair hung low over big blue eyes, its short, slightly pudgy frame garbed in a pale blue robe. Those eyes were too mature to belong to a child.
The tiny, cherubic mouth spread into an overly huge grin, revealing two rows of polished, very large, very adult teeth.
"Grandmother!" it said.
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