In the twenty years Sirrus spent on Spire, rarely a night went by where he slept easily. It was usually because of ideas…a sudden, pressing idea that he absolutely had to write down before he fell back to sleep and forgot about them. A project he should start, a new experiment to set up, or an answer to an ongoing experiment that up until then he hadn't understood. This wasn't unusual, as he spent his entire life that way. Sleep was not something to calm a constantly working mind; it was only a brief rest before thinking up something new and trying it out.
It was easier on Spire to live by these sudden notions. There was no one here to tell him that he wasn't allowed to do that, no one to tell him he had to go back to sleep and forget about it or if it was that important he could wait until morning. It was one of the few things he enjoyed here, working, living, creating, all on his own time.
It was far nicer, if such a word could be attributed to anything on Spire, to wake to the ideas. They at least served a purpose, a brilliant and bright one that could result in something new and useful. The ideas were always vivid and, more often than not, actually did work. The dreams, however…they were not useful. They were not productive, and nothing could be taken from them that would result in a new invention, in anything that would develop a theory or make Spire a better place to live in. Yet they were just as vivid as the ideas. Perhaps it was something about this world…on Myst, his dreams had always been vague, formless, more about feeling than seeing. Here, between the layers of clouds, they were clear, sharp, unforgiving.
He preferred the nightmares to any other kind of dream. They were easily understood, and if such a thing was possible, familiar. He was used to them. They had been around for so long that he felt sometimes it was the only thing from home he had left.
They were also for the most part predictable. Often, the nightmares consisted of the blank faces of countless Narayani dead, their cold, clammy fingers on his arm, pulling him to their grave of dead lattice roots and water while warbling tuneless old folk songs. Saavedro occasionally appeared during those dreams as well. Sometimes as a teacher, with a patient voice and guiding hand as he pointed out each Narayani corpse, floating in the water far below the pink coral clouds, telling Sirrus their names and how they died, how he was going to die. Other times he appeared as he did when they left him on J'nanin…eyes wide in horror, face wreathed in flames, screaming like a wounded animal left to die.
Those dreams he had for years. On Myst and all its Ages, it had been a mere inconvenience. A short walk in Stoneship's clear air and brilliant constellations, a moment hearing the steady night hymns in Aspermere, a brief swim in Mechanical's water…all of those did well to dispel the lingering terror of the dreams and fade them away to he could sleep easily once more. And if those methods failed, there were always others. Needles and powders, all confiscated from the Black Ship pirates, would drown out the screams and faces in a moment of brightness and glory, of divine understanding, euphoria, and exhilaration. It would fade the next day and leave behind only a messy room filled with half-formed ideas scrawled down on paper that seemed brilliant the previous night, but the screams, they faded as well for days, sometimes weeks at a time.
And when that failed there was the wine, and the pills, both of which gave peace instead of frenetic energy, calming his overactive mind and helping to bury the memories he wanted to bury.
Then, waking was easier. He could turn on the lights or open the blinds in the late morning to let in the sunlight. The sheets were warm and soft, the pillow stuffed with down feathers, and a crackling fire would fill the room with warmth and illuminate the myriad of colors throughout his room.
He dreamt of that sometimes here, too. What it was like to be warm. What it was like to sleep in a room, sheltered from the unforgiving elements. A place where the fire's warmth would stay long after it had gone out, where the seasons came and went, where the ocean lapped onto the shore. Where there was change.
He hated those dreams. They were worse than the nightmares.
Other times there were dreams of freedom. Most often it was of a Linking Book on some distant crystal that he passed over in his earlier searches or on a new crystal he found a way to get to. Occasionally it would be someone coming here by accident and bringing a Book with them. Sometimes it would even be father, miraculously alive and having found a way off K'veer, saying he had been gravely mistaken in leaving Sirrus here for so long. He would hold out a Book, the panel glowing in Spire's darkness. Sirrus would reach out and father would smile and nod approvingly. Sirrus' hand would touch the page, and then he would wake, shivering, his thin blanket twisted around him, his hand touching something as if by sheer force of will he could change that something into a linking panel. It was in those few terrible moments after waking that he would give anything, do anything, just to get out of this hellish, unchanging place. And he despised himself for it.
He hated those dreams even more. Hated waking knowing that they would always be dreams. Wanting desperately to carve them from his mind, pitch them over the edge, and watch them drown in green fire from the star.
He built things instead. He created an instrument so large it would almost shake the cavern when played. He built ships and magnets and formed transportation from seemingly nothing. He would carve statues of his father, when the dreams got worse, and shatter them against the rock. Some statues he left where he carved them and would rave at until his voice was hoarse, blaming father a thousand times over for this prison and those dreams. Then he would sleep, ashamed of that momentary loss of control, thankful that there was no other living thing here to witness it.
And sometimes…though very rarely now…he would dream of Anna. She had died long ago, and he had been so young. She knew nothing of Narayan or the countless Ages he decimated, or the books he burned.
In those dreams she was always here on Spire. She looked just as she had before she died, with her gray hair pulled back in a braid and her old eyes showing years of wisdom. Her hands were calloused and veined with age but steady, as they always were, when she drew or wrote or held a discharged crystal.
She wasn't like mother or father when he dreamt of them. Often father would be blind with rage and condemn him to an eternity here for all his crimes. Mother would weep softly and tell father how grieved she was that her youngest son had turned into a monster, or she would merely turn away and not look at him, silently hating him for betraying the family. Or they would both appear dead in some nightmares, their voices harsh and accusing.
It was never like that with great-grandmother Anna. She wouldn't condemn or cry. She would just come here as he remembered and look around at the floating crystals and stars. She would smile and say she was proud of all he had accomplished here, with not a single person to help him, out of almost nothing.
Then he showed her everything. He took her down to the musical instrument and let her play it, because she used to sing such lovely songs back on Myst. He would take her to each crystal island. She would look out of the ship as it traveled through the air, only his magnets keeping them from plummeting to their death, and she would tell him it was marvelous. She would take a crystal and rest it on a grounded object and try to sing along as the pitch left it. She stood in the very top of the tallest crystal, above the upper cloud layer, arms extended just like she used to do during a rain storm. She would smile and say that Spire was beautiful, and it was only in that moment that he agreed.
He hated those dreams the most.