In my dream I know I am falling. But there is no up or down, no walls or sides or ceilings, just the sensation of cold and darkness everywhere. I am so scared I could scream. But when I open my mouth, nothing happens. And I wonder if you fall forever and never touch down, is it really still falling? I think I will fall forever.
That done, I sank into an uneasy sleep wherein I dreamed of an assembly line of pale, bloodless girls walking down an endless dark street and moaning softly for help. Somewhere, toward the edge of my inner vision, a shadowy figure pursued them with long, beckoning arms. Goddamn booze!Somewhere in the midst of this ghoulish girl parade Cairncross materialized and hung a garland of garlic around my neck, glaring at me with his good eye and intoning, 'Go and sin no more.' Vincenzo appeared at Cairncross' side and together they laughed insanely, then vanished in a puff of sulphurous smoke.I made several high-minded resolutions, muttered half-heard but sincere-sounding prayers to all the recently deposed saints, thrashed and rolled clean off the bed.I might just as well have stayed up.
I'd still thought that everything I thought about that night-the shame, the fear-would fade in time. But that hadn't happened. Instead, the things that I remembered, these little details, seemed to grow stronger, to the point where I could feel their weight in my chest. Nothing, however stuck with me more than the memory of stepping into that dark room and what I found there, and how the light then took that nightmare and made it real.
I sit alone in a dead world. The wind blows hot and dry, and the dust gathers like particles of memory waiting to be swept away. I pray for forgetfulness, yet my memory remains strong, as does the outstretched arm of the oppressive air. It seems as if the wind has been there since the beginning of the nightmare. Sometimes loud and harsh, a thousand sharp needles scratching at my reddened skin. Sometimes a whisper, a curious sigh in the black of night, of words more frightening than pain. I know now the wind has been speaking to me. Only I couldn't understand because I was too scared. I am scared now as I write these words. Still, there is nothing else to do.
Then the man smiled, and his smile was a shock, for it was all on one side, going up in the right cheek and down in the left. There was nothing, rationally speaking, to scare anyone about this. Many people have this nervous trick of a crooked smile, and in many it is even attractive. But in all Syme's circumstances, with the dark dawn and the deadly errand and the loneliness on the great dripping stones, there was something unnerving in it. There was the silent river and the silent man, a man of even classic face. And there was the last nightmare touch that his smile suddenly went wrong.