Somewhere behind the wall of gray clouds, the sun sets. The wind rises. The grass in the fields outside town thrashes and writhes. The windows are shuttered, the doors locked. Trees bend beneath the oncoming storm, the leaves fleeing in disarray.
Beneath the wind is a silence. Within the spasms, an expectation.
A deep rhythm strives beneath the storm. Low and steady, it is the plodding gait of a giant, the ponderous ticking of an enormous clock.
It is the oars of the Dreamship as they cut through the air, the rotted wood slicing down, pulling back with the synchronized energy of a thousand slaves. As one, the oars lift for the next stroke. The wind races and the black clouds move like armies in the fog of war, but upon the horizon the dark hull of Dreamship rises slowly, silent and heavy. The thin, patched sails billow as beneath a steady breeze. Relentless, implacable, it glides over the hills and forests toward the town. Blue flames light the portholes and shadows slide across the deck.
There is no one to see the Dreamship in its bleak glory. The rites are complete and the town waits in blindness, each worshipper secluded with his offerings.
They know what it will look like. They have imagined it to themselves many times as they strove to summon it. The sails will be white, the planks polished, the fastenings gold. The sky will be blue at its coming. White clouds will envelop them as they are raised into the sky to sail among the stars.
And so the Dreamship labors on, answering the summons. Its crew gazes with empty sockets upon houses with mowed lawns and clean back porches.
The men and women shudder in their rooms. At long last they will escape this mundane world. They have done away with ancient hopes and with present realities. They have sought the Dreamship long and hard. In it they will be raptured to worlds of their own creation. They will break free of gravity, of physics, and they will set sail.
They hear the rhythm now, that black approach. It stops. The Dreamship lowers anchor. It is suspended above the houses. It skims the chimneys and lays its shadow deep over the roofs. The ropes are lowered. The crew slips down. They open locked doors with a touch. They find the men and women waiting, each in his room, in his sanctuary. “Come,” is the command. Their blades are curved, their hands thin and white, their faces a shadow, an approximation.
The prisoners comply with eagerness. They barely glance at their captors. The Dreamship has arrived. That is enough. Outside, as the wind tears at their clothes, they gaze upon the ship in the night and see the galleon of their fantasies, the fine, well-built boat they have envisioned.
They are brought onboard. Not one is missing. The oars drop, pull, lift. With a groan, the Dreamship begins to move. It rises, heavy, so heavy. The prow splits the thunderhead.
Beneath the crack of lightning is an understanding. Within the roar of wind, a revelation. A deep melody rises beneath the storm. Sharp and powerful, it is the pulse of blood in a heart, the crackle of energy in a lab.
There is no one to hear them wail.