• Published 17th Mar 2015
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Riverdream at Sunset: a Manuscript - GroaningGreyAgony

Lord Dunsany has a curious adventure in the Lands of Dream, in a realm where beasts can talk and the sun rides low in the sky.

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I believe that the work of any author should stand by itself, so I decided to withhold one particular about the discovery of this manuscript until the end.

Among the loose pages at the bottom of the box which contained this manuscript, I found a singular object, flattened as if it had been used as a bookmark for decades, and now bent and damaged from being knocked about loosely in the box. It is a feather, eight inches in length, and dusky orange in color, streaked with yellow. It has been cut for use as a pen and the shaft is blackened with dried ink. I have compared the tip with the writing on the last few pages, and have little doubt that it was used at least in part to compose the work.

I have not shown it to any ornithologists. I know that they would find it had not belonged to any earthly bird, and I do not wish to present them with a riddle that they can never answer. Such things rest easier in the hearts of poets and fools.

For, as the years pass, the Lands of Dream grow more and more remote. Even within Dunsany’s lifetime, he reported difficulty in repeating his attempts at access. I think the doorway that he found to that land is barred forever, so that while its light may still reach us in some manner, direct passage may never again be regained. We as a species have sought other ways to reach beyond the fields we know, and these paths may lead to strange worlds among the distant stars, but only across silent gulfs separated by times that span many human lives. We have exchanged our familiar dreams for a stranger but unreachable reality.

Of course, it may be that the prophesied doom has come to pass, and our comprehensive star-searching instruments, or the rising skepticism of her subjects, have undone the work of the celestial mare and ended her realm of dream like a burst bubble, and what reports we now receive are simply the photonic ghosts of what happened in impossible years past. During the times when I am convinced that this is so, I grieve for what has been lost...

And yet, as I write, pressing buttons on an electro-mechanical contrivance to record my words, my eyes return to the feather. I take it up at times and feel its powdery dryness, and perceive the smell of a remote summer still detectable despite the odor of age-browned paper. It had its own tale to tell in its own way, and though it shall not fly again save in fancy, it did what it had to do in the time allotted to it, and its presence tells me that perhaps, like the ever-propagating lights in the sky, my own efforts may last for a time beyond my span.

And perhaps the fact of our awareness, the existence of a new generation being fed upon wonder, is itself a sign of hope. I cannot tell, and perhaps it is not my place to say.

Lord Dunsany had but a decade before my birth begun his long silence, a silence in which I shall join him in but a handful of decades hence. It is a sort of inverse choir in which we all shall eventually take a part. With this in mind, I encourage you, reader, however vainly you do so: make noise, make noise while you can.