There was a time, I’ve heard it said, when the Dark City was as real as most places, and realer than many. Then the dreams, which had always been prone to slip across the border for quick glimpses of the town, began staying longer and longer, and some settled, finally marrying among the natives and establishing families.
I’ve found that folks from places where you’re not likely to meet a dream buying small clothes and bicarbonate over the counter have peculiar notions, thinking of them, when they think of them at all, as somehow vague and gauzy, unfocussed and unfinished. All I can say is that the dreams in the Dark City were never like that, but rather grim figures, prone to wearing dark clothing. They were, they are, responsible dreams – the sort who’d remind you a hundred and seven times in the course of a night that your bill for steam was due in two days and that your only hope of paying it was selling your grandfather’s howitzer and hoping you could get a good price. I wouldn’t mind meeting a flittery dream or two, but I never have.
When I was young I could hardly walk down a street without some dream or other stopping me to fix my collar, or sadly remarking that it wasn’t my fault that I wasn’t a patch on my brother, but I could at least try.
While they don’t generally look for trouble dreams are often armed, like theologians. Dreams and theologians don’t mix well, though shootouts are nowadays rare. Still, I had a cousin, of sorts, who was both. He was a dramatic figure, in his long red theologians cloak, and his copper spurs made sparks on the street in dry weather. He vanished a while back, and everyone figured he had disproved his own existence, with the Argument Ouroborian, until someone brought word that he’d been seen across the border.