In her dream, Star was walking through a part of the city she didn’t recognize. It would have been a very unusual part of the city that gave way so quickly to a sudden flush of green trees and a bright blue sky. A single tent stood in the middle of a clearing, a wagon parked outside of it.
A tall man with a long nose beckoned to her, “Step up, step up!” he called in a high voice, “step up and see wonders, my dear.”
He held back the flap of the tent and she left the dazzling daylight for the red interior of the tent. A single table waited in the center, draped in dark cloth, surrounded by a circle of rope suspended between iron stakes.
“Witness, witness,” the tall, thin man with a long nose said, following her in and slipping under the rope, “witness wonders, my dear.”
Star leaned against an iron stake and waited to be amazed. She thought she heard music, a wobbly waltz playing somewhere in the city beyond the trees. The man peeled back the dark colored sheet and there, laying on the elaborate wooden table, his head on a purple velvet pillow, was Pocket.
Strangely, in her dream, this was as she expected. She was not filled with wonder, only unease.
“Witness, witness. The sleeper never wakes! Be amazed, my dear, witness wonders my dear, the sleeper never wakes!” The tall, thin man with the long nose lifted Pocket’s arm and drew a bloody line down it with a curved blade. “See?” The tall, thin man with the long nose asked, “See? He bleeds, a living man, but never wakes. Try, try! My dear, shout into his ears, he will not wake.”
Star stepped forward to try and wake him but, in that way that sometimes happens in dreams, she found herself stepping instead out of the tent and into New Babbage. The music was louder, but confused as if the instruments were only playing half the song, and what part they were playing they played out of order.
“Never mind, Never mind.” Said the man standing next to her. “I see you’re busy.”
She turned to tell him that she wasn’t busy at all and found that the tall man with the long nose was not there anymore, but instead a very strange woman dressed in a dress the color of smog, with long dark hair and eyes the exact shade of the Vernian sea in a storm. They were standing on the wall now, looking north to the mountains and Star could see that the woman was angry. Angry that Star had failed to keep her promise. Star opened her mouth to apologize, but didn’t get a chance to say the words because the woman, without so much as a with-your-leave pushed Star off the wall.
Star woke just before she struck the earth, discovering that she had fallen asleep on the hearth where she had been reading a book. The fire had burned down to embers, the icy January wind was pushing at the windowpanes. She picked up her book and straightened a page that had been bent when it fell and closed it. She climbed shakily to her feet, her left leg twinging a little in protest.
Her tea cup was sitting next to the bowl she usually put out every night, but had not touched in several days. She picked the bowl up and was startled when it made a slithering, ringing sound. Inside she discovered a small, pale marble. She held it between her fingers, squinting at it. Something about the pale surface reminded her of Mr. Underby’s confident smile as he gloated about a bet won with the mayor.
“Hell.” She said, pocketing it. “Hell. Hell. Hell.”
She summoned a messenger and sent her to have Samwise saddled while she hastily packed a bag and set about settling her business so she could leave.