At this, another one of the bright people approached us, saying, “All is now ready. Come.”
Without further speech the two of them led me through the crowd to a sheltered spot beneath the shadow of the great throne. There in the heart of this place of glassy rock and ice I saw a patch of soft green, where grass and fragile, trembling flowers grew, and a quiet spring of water came bubbling up from under the ground.
“Here in this shaded place,” said one of my guides, “you may rest yourself from all that has gone before and prepare for things yet to come.”
I was glad enough of the opportunity, and lay down at once, pressing my cheek into the young and tender grass. My eyelids grew heavy and I felt myself slipping into sweet darkness. Just before drifting off, I managed to ask, “How am I to prepare when I don’t know the way?” But the fragrance of the grass, the music of the spring, and the warmth of the patch of earth on which I lay soon overpowered me, and I was asleep before I had an answer to my question.
As I slept, it seemed to me that I dreamed. And in my dream I looked and saw the eight-legged horse and his rider galloping along the black horizon, sharply silhouetted against the rising red glow in the sky behind them.
“It’s Christmas morning!” I thought. “It’s just about to rise.”
Then I jumped to my feet and cried, “Wait! I will follow you if only you will wait for me!”
With that, I began to run; but in the next instant I realized that the earth had fallen away beneath my feet and that I was falling from a steep cliff into the dark sea below. In that moment the wound in my heart grew suddenly cold as ice. I kicked with my legs and groped wildly with my arms in panic as down, down I fell into the murky depths.
And then I awoke. Raising myself on one elbow, I heard the gentle music of the spring and the mellow voice of my first guide saying, “Rise. Come.”
Still trembling with the cold shock of my terrible dream, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and got to my feet. Then I paused, reluctant to leave that place beneath the throne. It was like a little bit of Spring in the midst of that blue and wintry world. The throne itself was faintly radiant, though I did not think that it was the source of the warmth I felt, for its glow was cold and pure as starlight. In spite of this, the air around it was light, warm, and redolent of the scent of flowers. Everything within me wanted to stay, to sink again into the sweet green grass. But as I stood there hesitating, my guide called to me once more.
“Come,” she said. “The hour is growing late.
And so I followed.
* * * * * * * *