Somewhere in a dreamuniverse, drifts a dreamworld, where the sky is always starry, full of moons. The atmosphere was strewn with drifting trees: ash-leafed, quaking, speckled, fullmoon, weeping, and others whose names conjured booms of something primordial.
There never was a star so close and so demanding by its gravity as to beget the order of daytime and nighttime. No fog, no clouds or lazy spirits of gas to shield the luminous bodies at their lofty distance, but at least there is jazz. The lady in the sky is always singing, up high above the trees, upon some transparent canopy. Her voice rushed through the up-above and struck the trees. Down the bark and through the roots—filamentous at the ends—the softness of the quivering air propagated to the wanderers of the ground, where farms and vertical infrastructure were erected side-by-side.
All were in dreams. Under the steady drumming and vocal of the lady in the sky, snores interjected in the darkness of Jack's room. The guttural tremors reflected among the walls, and this trace of sleepiness was here and there, sometimes noising from the right or the left, at times charging from the doorway as he would expect.
He felt in himself the restlessness that one satiated only by experiencing the world while others were asleep. He recalled a phrase, in the voice of one of the Peregrin sisters: the fabric of the universe. He wondered what this meant. How was the fabric weaved together: weaved plainly or webbed into funnels—or are we the ribs of some expanse of herringbone?
He lifted himself from his bed and ventured through the doorway and through the living space. He unlatched the door and, closing it gently behind him, walked down the winding stairs and reached the yellow and purple dimness of the cobblestone streets.
Past the wheat fields under Mr. Stapledon's care, and farther still from the spiderweb gardens tended by the Peregrin sisters, Jack was surprised to find the bakery lit as it would be during the waking time.
Slowly, he opened the glass door and shook suddenly at the bell above.
‘Quite late, my boy, to be wandering the streets,’ the baker said, pulling breads from the table and into paper sleeves.
‘What nightly impulse has brought you down the road, boy?’
‘At the edge of sleep, I came upon some inexplicable restlessness.’
The baker nodded, without looking at Jack. ‘I know the wonder that may lie behind your restlessness. It is what we all wonder—never in proximity to another, perhaps never in proximity to our own waking selves. But in dreams, the question churns, decorated with mappings that, once inspected in the waking time, no longer bear semblance of sense.’
‘What is the question that bakes in my sleep?’
The baker took himself away from his breads. He lifted his finger to his earlobe and asked, ‘Who is the lady in the sky?’
Jack said nothing.
‘Her ubiquity composes the pulses of our disquiet.’ Again, ‘Who, my boy, is the lady in the sky?’
By slight rearrangement of his eyebrows, Jack bared his uneasiness. ‘I do not know.’
The baker took into his hands a ball of baked bread. ‘Take this boule. And traverse the wheat fields cared by Stapledon.’
Jack took it into his hands.
‘At the end of the wheat field, you will reach the end of the cityscape. There, disturb the earth and bury the boule.’
Jack again rearranged his eyebrows and formed his lips to begin speaking.
The baker told him, ‘Say nothing now. Bury the boule.’
Keeping eyes with the baker, Jack retreated slowly to the door. On the cobblestone, he ran, bearing the boule in both hands, bread-dust staining the edges of his palms and drifting by drag onto his brown shirt. He ran through the Stapledon wheat and found himself at the edge of the cityscape. He knelt and displaced some soil with his bare hands and buried the boule. He waited without measure, then he began counting. ‘Until one hundred,’ he whispered, until he would abandon the wait.
At sixty, Jack looked to his zenith and stepped back. A drifting fullmoon tree stretched its roots downward, through the earth before him. He approached the bark that stretched to the sky, and he put his nose to it. Nudging it, he retreated his hands quickly and stared at his palmprints on the bark, impressed with soil and bread-dust. He tugged the roots, to be sure they were anchored, and he began climbing.
The waking time was still far-off, so he stopped for a time at heights that felt right and inspected the ground below: the fields and industry and the stacks of housing and the stacks of purple shades building up from the horizon. The lady in the sky grew no louder.
High in the atmosphere, he completed the trunk, climbed the branches, and still the lady in the sky grew no louder. Atop the leaves, he walked on the air. There was no lady in this sky, the jazz no louder than below, no giant above these trees and transparent platform that encircled his earth. Who is the lady in the sky?