“These are the cities I have built as I slept, in my dreams,” Le Aaiun said. “My life. But when I wake for the final time, or when I sleep deeply into the final sleep from which there is no return, it shall be as nothing. A passing fancy on the wind.”

“We do not know that there is any world beyond the dreamlands, or that we are not fully awake ourselves,” replied Ad Dakhla, the scribe. “I also do not know that there is any higher wakefulness on the Dreaming Moon, beneath the gaze of perfect, immortal Vloles.”

Aaiun turned to him, her face pained. “Why would you say that? The City of Bronze is proof positive of the dreamscape.”

“I say it because the thought that everything I have dedicated my life to, and all the books I have written, will pass into nothingness when this dream ends,” said Dakhla. “I cannot believe this.”

“Why not?”

“What should I live for, then? And what are you doing, working on your own book, if you think it will crumble to sand upon your waking?”

Aaiun turned away. “Some stories have to be told,” she said. “Regardless to whom, and how. They rip their way out of you like a primal howl. It scarcely matters who hears, who remembers. All that matters, in the moment, is the telling.”

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