Dreams in Another Foreign Land
There is an island between the Arabian Peninsula and Sudan. It is filled with aged, red-stone spires, crowded fishing villages that host perpetually-busy trawlers, and birds found nowhere else. It is wrapped by the clear-blue waters of the Red Sea. The island is home to a curious plant, a weed named “The Abbasid Hook”. You can find it growing between the rocks of the sand-stone-paved streets, out of cracks in walls, and in the shade of the short, scrubby trees which dot the island’s hills.
Eating Abbasid Hook causes vivid, griping dreams. Each person who takes it viciously tosses and turns for the next ten nights. All who consume it suffer through the same ten dreams, no matter how much or little of the plant they consume. These ten dreams are referred to as “The Hook’s Sequence”. They are as follows:
The Dream of Water
You are alone on a wooden raft in an expansive and vast sea. Strange, brightly colored fish swim below you on occasion; there are no clouds in the clear, blue, sunny sky. You drift aimlessly for some time. Eventually, you see another raft (identical to yours) crest a wave some distance away. It slowly progresses towards you. On it is a gaunt man with a long, grey beard; he is wearing tattered black robes. He is lying on his back and inspecting the sky above you. His raft slowly pulls up next to yours and floats along it for some time. After a few minutes of silence, he speaks unto you at length: he tells you how he has floated on his raft for untold years, how he is a man who’s name you know and how he has committed a grievous, terrible sin — one so wretched that he cannot even speak of it. He asks himself, rhetorically, if his punishment is fair. He then says that he cannot know. Forgiveness, he says, is not a rational thing that can be measured like grain on a scale or counted like fish in a net. Neither is depravity, he notes. You ask if he has ever thought of leaving the raft; he responds that he is beyond the point of engaging with those sorts of things. He then falls back into silence. His raft begins to drift away at this point. You wake up.
The Vision of the Hawk
You are in a dense, vast forest that is covered by a misty, warm fog. There are towering trees, glistening with the moisture of the fog, thick and tall grasses that nestle around your feet, and vines linking the trees. You hear something rustling and look up. You see a hawk, perched on a branch, trying to build a nest out of large and floppy green leaves. It is failing to do so. Each leaf it adds causes another to fall off. When this happens, the hawk flies down from it’s perch, grabs the fallen leaf, and adds it back — causing another leaf to fall. It repeats this process for some time. You feel a great deal of sorrow for the bird, and eventually resolve to help it. You gather leaves, shimmy up the tree, then stand on the branch next to the hawk. As you go to offer it the leaves, or to place them yourself, the bird caws at you while flapping and stomping aggressively.
You take a step back, then look at the nest. It is empty. The hawk is also building the nest alone, without a partner. You stop and stare at it for some time. Eventually, it returns to placing the leaves and then retrieving the fallen ones. You watch it and realize it is comfortable in this cycle. Perhaps it is not happy, or with a companion, but the bird knows the cycle. It knows the flight from the perch to the ground. It knows how the leaves fall. It feels at home in the midst of this exercise. You stop, take a step back to consider all of this, then wake up.
The Dream of Sand
You are wearing a white robe and walking in the middle of a desert. It feels like a place you have been before. Birds fly overhead from time to time; you occasionally see a caravan walking atop distant dunes. You are accompanied by the sound of the wind. After walking over several dunes, you find yourself in an exceptionally flat part of the desert. The sand in front of you is smoothed over; the dune-less portion of the desert seems to extend onwards endlessly, beyond the horizon. You stop to take in the sights.
The earth begins to shake. A dune rises out of the calm sands in front of you, then a tremendous marble statue of a winged bull with the head of a man wearing a long, copper crown rises from the dune. It is monumental in its proportions; the effigy seems to touch the sky itself. The head tilts forward slightly and it’s eyes lock with yours. They are mournful and resigned. The head then turns to the side: its eyes seem to look towards the horizon. The statue suddenly starts to crumble. As its wings begins to turn to fine dust, you awake.
The Dream of the Sturgeon
You are walking in an ancient city made of light brown stone. It is a temperate, cool day and you are wearing the clothes of a peasant from times long past. You cross a footbridge bridge over a river that, for some reason, you know to be the Volga. The river is flowing slowly beneath the bridge. You pause your walk and meander over to the side of the bridge to look down at the water below you. As you do so, the bridge collapses: you tumble into the cold water. The river engulfs you, then you slowly sink to the bottom of it. You find yourself standing amid mud and seaweed that is taller than your head. As you survey your surroundings, something bumps in to your back — you turn and see a sturgeon, who appears shocked to see you.
The sturgeon asks how you got here. You respond that you fell into the river. That seems to satisfy her curiosity, so you ask how she got here. The sturgeon responds by telling you how she spawned at the headwaters of the river in the Valdai Hills, nestled by cold water and towering pines. She details her trip down river: how she dodged deviously constructed nets and lures, how she met lovers and enemies and acquaintances and friends amongst the schools of fish she swam with, and how she has leaped over dams and dove through tunnels. The story takes some time to tell. You are awed by it’s breadth; she ends it with “and then I was here”. You ask where here is. Before she can answer, you wake up.
The Vision of the World as it Was Meant To Never Be
Those who have experienced this dream prefer not to discuss it. It’s horrors are overwhelming and it’s story is meaningless. Those who do speak of it do so only briefly; they detail a feeling of being lost in a dense forest while being hunted by some fanged, dark, being-in-the-shadows that is simultaneously close and far away.
The Vision of the World As It Cannot Help But Be
You walk amongst a crowded market. In front of you, throngs of people in the clothes of lands familiar and alien to you mix and mingle. As you survey the area around you, you realize that people are dying in the crowd. They grimace before clutching their chests and fall to the ground, or blood from suddenly-appearing wounds hidden by their garments begins to spread across and stain their clothes.
The crowd does not stop. They continue to barter at stalls, scurry by you carrying bundles and bushels of goods, and they step over the deceased without looking down. Sometimes the deceased return to life. When they do, their clothes are free of blood and their faces no longer contort in agony. Sometimes they remain on the ground. You stop, look down at the ground, and then look back up. The market is silent and empty now. Your chest suddenly hurts — you grab it and fall to the ground. Blackness begins to creep in along the edges of your vision. In the distance, you hear the hum of the market beginning to come back to life. The blackness engulfs your vision and you wake up.
The Vision of the Fall of the Kingdom Upon The Sea
You sit along the coast of the isle where the Abbasid Hook grows. You are nestled in the sand, silently eating dates with a aged man. You take time to survey the ocean in front of you; on it, you see a red-sandstone castle with beautiful turrets and soaring spires amongst the waves. You ask the man where the castle came from. He says that long ago, the island had a young, fearless king who sought to show his power and mastery of the world by building a castle on the sea. He spent years upon years building and driving miles-long stone pylons in to the seabed. He then spent even longer to build a platform on top of the pylons. Here, he then constructed his new palace.
But this accomplishment came at a great cost. Many of the finest craftsmen in the kingdom died building the platform and the castle — the sea’s winds swept them into the waves. And the castle’s building was costly: thousands of pounds of gold was spent on construction. This was money that was taken from the populace, but then not spent on them. The castle was built at the cost of schools, orphanages, hospitals, and temples.
This took a toll on the kingdom. Slowly but surely, the kingdom began to produce fewer and fewer wise men. Those it made left. They all sought a place less devoted to spending on frivolity.
One day, some time after the palace was built, the king — who, by now, was old, tired, sick, greyed, and frail — found himself deathly, deathly ill. He called for a doctor. But his courtiers told him that the kingdom had none left. He called for his children, but found that each was on dry land, long ago having rejected his foolish dream of a castle-on-the-water. He looked to the skies, saw nothing save the ceiling above his bed, then died. His couriers departed the castle in silence, boarded their boats, and never returned to the palace. After hearing this, you wake up.
The Dream of the Oasis Upon The Ice
You find yourself in an alien, cold, place. You are wearing a thick coat of fur and on iced-over ground, sitting next to a fire. You stay there for some time. At some point, you determine that it is time to go. You have somewhere to be, but you do not know where it is or how to get there. But you depart the fire nonetheless. As you walk away from it, snow begins to fall. It slowly begins to increase in intensity; winds pick up and whip, then slowly you find your vision is blocked by the storm. This persists for some time. You trod onward despite the blizzard, then suddenly the storm abates. You find yourself looking at the same cold and iced over land, but in front of you is a small oasis. There is a pond with palm tress growing next to it. The pond is surrounded by several clay buildings that seem to be bustling with life. You are overjoyed that you have arrived at your destination. You hurry to the largest of the buildings, then grab the door and start to swing it open. Before you can see what awaits inside, you wake up.
The Dream of the Viziers
You are riding a horse at the rear of a glorious caravan. In the middle of it is a man behind held aloft on a ornate, golden throne carried by four armored men on horseback. The man riding next to you, clad in blue and white robes lined with jewels, asks if you know that a moon of Jupiter is made of ice hard as diamonds and thicker than that the depth of the oceans. You say no. You ask him how he knows this. He says that he read it in an old book, one which was trapped in a wine-cask that fell into a cave he once explored as a child. You ask why he recalls this. He explains that it is his job to recall things for the king ahead of you in the convoy, to provide the king with advice, and to hear the sounds of the storms that form over the ocean of the ruler’s soul. This makes sense to you, but you are confused: why then, you ask is he at the end of the convoy? He looks at you and smiles. He notes that from here, if he decided to cast a spear at the center of the caravan, no one would be behind him to see this occur. But the king knows that that the wise man will not cast the spear, so he remains here. “How does the king know this?”, you enquire. The wiseman smiles again, then looks softly at you before saying “Well, otherwise, I would have no soul-storms to listen to.” You wake at this point.
The Dream of the Finality
You walk in an area you have most likely been before; it is where the leaf of Abbasid Hook grew before it was plucked from the vine. As you progress through the area on foot, a falcon descends from the heavens and grabs you with its talons. The claws pierce your chest and pain shoots outward from your wounds. The bird brings you upward, slightly above the white and fluffy clouds. Fish jump from cloud to cloud. Harps and horns then sound in the distance. The falcon caws as if it were a crow and drops you. You land in a cloud, which catches you partially, but you still feel yourself slowly tumbling backwards. Thunder crashes. Your vision goes dark, and cacophonous sounds, alien to your conscious mind, pound down from the heavens. Their severity and volume drown out your thoughts; you grasp your head in pain. The feeling of slowly falling continues. It begins to rain, soaking your clothes lightly, then you look around. You are, again, where the Abbasid Hook you ate grew. A strong feeling of both sadness and relief, like that which comes when a deeply sick relative passes, washes over you. You then wake up.
The Hook’s Sequence has remained the same since it was first recorded. Each year, a number of curious young men and women from the villages will eat the Abbasid Hook despite the warnings from their elders. The elders tell them that the dreams have no meaning, that each is the same for everyone, and that all who consume the Hook suffer from poor sleep while in its grasp. This does nothing to deter the young people. Drunk on the hubris of youth, some of them will always eat the weed, believing it to be different or insightful or less-than-taxing for them. It never is.