The sun shines over the river. Nathan climbs out and lies down on his towel, his skin is instantly dimpled with goosebumps from the breeze lightly dancing with the water along the more sensitive parts of his body. Brian also comes over, lying down on his towel. Nathan watches him, but he keeps his eyes averted, not looking at Nathan. Nathan sighs, and falls asleep, leaving Brian to work it out on his own.
In his dreams Nathan is walking through a vista filled with hardy, low-growing bushes and grass, sparse trees, and a yellow-green color to the plants contrasted by the dark rocks scattered everywhere. Most of the plants seem to be growing out of the rocks themselves, and there’s very little soil. Nathan is having problems breathing, but he forces himself to stop, stand still and take a few deep breaths of the cold, arid air. The sky above him is a deep, almost black blue color, entirely clear of clouds. He looks around the empty landscape a little more, hoping for some sort of animal or guide. Finding none, he keeps walking.
Progress of any sort in this environment, Nathan finds, is difficult. Every couple of yards he has to stop and regain his breath. Still the landscape is devoid of obvious life. Nathan reaches out, trying to feel the world around him, listening to his proprioception. He knows there must be life here; life has proved itself to be everywhere, regardless of hardship. He senses nothing and sits.
Sitting gives him a chance to look at himself, to see the heavy hiking boots he’s wearing, the high-altitude climbing pants and jacket he’s wearing, his bare hands at work in the world. Nathan thinks that his hands should be covered by thick gloves, and the dream opens up before him like a flower, shedding the barrier of scripted observation. Aware that this is a dream now, Nathan looks around again.
“Honorable guides of the dream-realm, I ask for your presence,” the words are whispered into a drying breeze. The very air here is quiet, hushed, reverential. It demands the same from Nathan, and he obeys out of respect.
Standing up, Nathan sees a llama, or an alpaca, coming up towards him from the northwest. His horizon is close, as the mountain he is on rounds away and down in that direction; other mountains rise up behind the immediate horizon. The South American Camelid approaches him fearlessly and stops a yard away, it lowers its face to eye level. Nathan speaks.
“It seems I am lost in your mountains.”
“Not yet,” the guide responds. The mouth of the “animal” moves in an articulated and human way, its teeth clacking together on the “t” sounds and making them echo. Nathan has had enough training to ignore it, but the mimicry is uncanny. “You will be though.”
Nathan nods. “What brings me here?”
“Events will come to pass, things that happen,” the animal spits, “You will come here for guidance.”
“Why have I come here now?”
“To see and to know. Your work here will be dangerous. It is best you are prepared.”
“Thank you for your warning, auspicious guide.” Nathan nods, and as the animal turns away he wills himself to wake up.