The farmer climbed down from the tractor carefully, its engine stopped now, the metal pinging from released heat. He wiped his brow of the summer sweat with one hand, then shaded his eyes with the other against Taosi's brilliance, looking back to see his small son approaching along the path by the side of the road. He'd stopped to see what his son wanted, and almost looked at his watch, but then he grunted and dropped his other arm. Now that he'd stopped anyway, his stomach was reminding him that it was almost lunchtime. Why not take a break, he thought. A few minutes either way wouldn't make much of a difference to the crops. Pausing to kick some of the mud off his boots against the tractor's tire, he stepped out onto the pathway and began to head back toward the farmhouse.
His son met him halfway down the dirt track to the house. The father reached down and swept his son up into his arms for a giggling hug, then set him back down so they could proceed back to shelter from the heat of the day, a hot meal, and a cool drink. He walked slowly so that the boy could keep up easily. "Have you had a good morning, son?" He asked.
The boy nodded solemnly. "I have, Papa. Enrique and I played tag, and I helped Mama with the baking. Oh, and I had a daydream, too. It was really vivid this time, and pretty scary. Mama said I should write a story about it; then I could let the story do the remembering for me, and I wouldn't have so many nightmares."
"What was the daydream about?" the father asked, doing his best to keep his voice and expression interested, but otherwise neutral. The alarm he and his wife felt whenever his boy had one of his daydreams was something they tried to hide from the lad. It might have been different if his son's daydreams didn't always seem to be about misfortune or deliberate harm... or if they hadn't had a distressing tendency to show up in the news a few days later. Still, at least one life had already been saved by the warnings. He and his wife had had to conclude their son had a gift, albeit a double-edged one. The toll his daydreams took on him was sometimes terrible to behold.
The boy clutched his father's hand a little more tightly, but he needed no further encouragement. Talking about his daydreams seemed to be theraputic for him; by now he had realized they would bother him less the more often he talked about them. "It started out nicely. I was flying, Papa, just like a bird. It was fun to see all the people down on the ground, they looked like ants! But then I started flying higher and higher, and as I got higher the sky got darker, and soon I was flying through blackness. I couldn't see which way I was going, or how fast I was going. But then I turned around, and I saw our sun; it was tiny, Papa, just like the people got small enough to be ants! Then all the other stars came out, everywhere I looked, just like they come out at night. Our sun was only a little bigger than any of the other stars in the sky, so instead I turned around again and there was another sun nearby. This one was orange, and a lot bigger than the stars, but it still didn't seem very big to me."
Inwardly, the farmer breathed a sigh of relief, hoping that meant that whatever trouble the dream presaged was far enough away that it would never bother him and his. "What happened then?" he asked.
"Well, that's when things started to really get scary," his son answered. "I got this feeling that something wasn't right. There was a patch of... something. It was black all over, so I could hardly see it, and it slid between the stars. But when it slid between a star and me, it shimmered, and I could see that star's light shine through it, in lots of colours. It felt... wrong, somehow. Like it didn't belong. It seemed to change shape every time I tried to look at it. But no matter what shape it had, no matter what colours it borrowed, it always felt wrong, and every time it changed I got a little more scared of it. But that wasn't all. It was hungry
"The darkness was hungry?" asked the boy's father. That relieved feeling? Gone now, he thought.
The child nodded, his eyes far away. "Yeah. That was the scariest thing, I think. The little orange sun had a lot of things growing around it, like branches from a tree, and the darkness was hungry for it, so it stretched out toward the sun. The darkness didn't want the sun, but it did want what grew from the branches. You know how dandelions have seeds that fly in the sky? The little orange sun's branches were like dandelions, and all these tiny seeds were flying around the sun on their feathery wings. The darkness was hungry for the seeds. It wanted to swallow the orange sun and everything around it, so the seeds would became part of it. The seeds would pass into the darkness, and through, and come out the other side, but they would come out all wrong. They wouldn't be all feathery anymore; they'd be all black and gooey and shiny instead. And when the darkness had done all that, it would move on to another sun, leaving behind only black seeds, to grow into a dark plant."
"Oh," the man said faintly, troubled by the ominous portent, but having difficulty following the more abstract aspects of the daydream. He wasn't sure what more to say.
Still, his son was fully in the grip of the tale now, and neither noticed nor stopped his recount. "The dark plant is all wrong, too. It's like a weed in the garden. It wants to grow everywhere it can. Mama says we have to keep the garden clear of weeds or they will choke out the good plants we eat. The dark plant is like that, and the darkness in the sky is like a bad gardener that plants weeds instead of good seeds to grow food. In my dream, I knew they both needed to be stopped." The boy shivered, coming in close against his father's leg for a hug.
The farmer knelt down on the path with his son, and held him close. Clearly his son was now out of the grip of the dream for the moment, but he realized the significance of his son's last statement. If whatever the darkness represented needed to be stopped, did that mean it could be stopped? He looked into his child's eyes. "Son, did anything happen in your dream to show how the darkness could be stopped?"
The boy shook his head, then lowered it, eyes downcast. He looked at the dirt of the track, unseeing, for a few moments, while his father continued to hold him close and offer what support and affection he could. Then his eyes widened, as if he'd caught a glimpse of something unexpected. "A road. A road in the sky! If the darkness travels on a gravel road to nowhere, then nowhere is where it will go," he pronounced, then looked at his father, with a sudden delighted smile, as if he'd just been given a surprise treat.
Good, brave little boy, his father thought, tears forming. "Come on, let's go find your mama." And he picked his son up in his arms, stood, and began walking as fast as he could back home. He had no idea who, but someone needed to know what his son had told him.