The Noonday Sun shone gray light through a gray sky, scorching a desert panorama of desert gray.
Winds ebbed and flowed through gray valleys, continuously rearranging each gray slope, grain by gray by grain.
Not a tree, nor house—neither road, nor sign—broke the broad sweep of the Nowhere Land—a very gray and dangerous place for traveling.
* * *
The dune was covered from base to summit with a trail of hoof-marks, wagon-tracks and boot-prints.
Some ways back, along the trail, the Mule stood faced to the modest incline, idle and deeply sleeping.
Side to side, the weary creature swayed by the dry winds that dusted its length from tail to whiskery face.
About its neck, a thick braid of rope was coiled alongside a white canteen, strapped beside a black pair of binoculars.
The binoculars were nestled along the folds of the dreamcape, thrown over the Mule's back, whereupon the Youth was seated.
Upon the head of the Youth was a hat of straw, torn and frayed by the trials of travel.
Wavy locks of hair flowed from beneath the brim, covering his face, reaching to the shoulder-strap of the large wineskin pack, strewn across his back.
A bandanna, tied loose about his neck, rested over his tattered and sleeveless-T that was tucked into his faded jeans, cuffed over a busted pair of boots—one of which was untied, with ragged laces, dangling.
With elbows rested against his ribs, and his arms extended out before him, he held to the novel that he had nodded off to as reading.
The Youth, too, was sleeping.
Frames of The Dream were flashing through his memory—
* * *
Rooted at the center of the Island, a Crystal Ladder curved up through a red sky with exponential procession, into the base of a Colossal Thunderhead.
Beyond the halfway point, along the near-vertical steeps, a Dark Skeleton held to the rungs as baring its shining gaze down through the heights and upon him—
* * *
In the dungeon, the Inventor was hard at work, obsessing over creating the Ælixir of Life Æverlasting.
Up from the radiant formula, a rosy tendril, riddled of symbol and equation, arose through the darkness.
As fervently jotting down the chemical calculations—as tending to test-tube experimentations—as rushing to calibrate computer simulations—the perfumed strand evolved into the sinuous aspect of his One True Muse.
At first sight, the Inventor ceased all operations; his eyes, magnetized upon the one whom he had not seen in a long, long time.
With graceful allure, she strolled the length of the workbench, inspiring him to follow her down; his senses, beguiled with temptation.
The further he stepped into the thick of the haze, the more monstrous became the inundation of numbers—symbols—equations, until a hulk-like punch unfurled from the mist and knocked him dizzy.
With stars amidst dungeon darkness spinning about him, his One True Muse continued awaiting him at the far end of the workbench—
* * *
As he orchestrated the creation, coming into being between them, she marveled with exceeding marvel, then turned her focus beyond him.
Across the universe, long and slender legs of a shadowy creature were lunging across the stars, voraciously racing in their direction—
* * *
His digital wristwatch beeped the sound of the hour.
Upon awakening, the Youth cast the novel through the air—pages, racing the breeze before the bind splashed into gray sands.
With wide-opened eyes overexposed of light, he gazed through his wavy locks of hair, beyond the dune, and all the setting.
He was entertaining scenes of The Dream, playing through his memory.
As figuring on what to make of it, he swung the wineskin pack round his shoulders, untied the top, reached in and retrieved his composition notepad.
Fast-flipping past pages of notes, quotes and dated entries, he arrived at a page crossed with lines upon lines of tally mark clusters—all of which were situated beneath the handwritten inscription at the top—The Dream.
Clicking the ball-point into action, he diagonally slashed a line up across the last four of the one-hundred and fourteen tallies.
“Well I'll be...” he said, “Hundred-and-fifteenth time I’ve dreamt on The Dream since getting on board this Crusade...”
Looking up from the page, he found that his eyes had adjusted to the light—to the bland setting, enveloping.
“This Crusade, lost amidst a deserted Nowhere Land of gray, gray, gray...”
After deliberating on the dreary surroundings, he brusquely closed the composition notebook, and packed it back in the wineskin pack.
Attending to the Caravan tracks ahead, he observed the novel in their midst, splayed open across the sands.
The vibrant shades of the front and back cover illustrations were the only trace of color in all the land.
“All the color musta gone into the Cover...” he said, “Cover of our Dream—ain't that right, Girl?”
Waiting for a response, the Youth began to wonder why the Mule was standing still as opposed to advancing forward.
The dark eyes of the Mule opened.
Right then, the winds began to whisper over the dunes in the distance ahead.
The Youth attentively listened to the steady rise of the oncoming breeze.
Across the foundation, sands began blowing—skipping—whisking past the hooves of the Mule.
In the moments that followed, sheets of gray began cascading about the gray dune ahead of them, sweeping in their direction.
The grains started peppering the duo—blinding the Mule—whisking the straw hat right off the Youth's head.
With swift reaction, he swung his arm back—snatched—clapped the cap to his head.
Upon pressing it on like he meant it, he leaned forth and closed both protective visors over the Mule’s eyes.
At a swing of his leg, he alighted the beast as dropping the wineskin in the sands at his side and taking a firm hold on the dreamcape upon which he was formerly seated.
One thousand and one shades of black and white were exposed to the light.
Clutching tight to the fabric, he stepped out in front the Mule and held it open wide.
While effectively shielding the both of them from the granules that zipped in their direction, the winds continued to impact it as an open sail.
Overcome by the forceful gust, the Youth stumbled, tripped and fell on his back.
Holding tight to the fabric, he rocked himself back up and steadily advanced.
He braved the current until he was out before the Mule, holding the dreamcape opened wide as protecting them from the merciless winds and sands.
And then the winds relaxed—the sands collapsed—the scene was suddenly calm and dusty.
Lowering the blanket, the Youth continued huffing, taking his time to catch his breath.
“Just goes to show ya,” he started, “Caught dreaming on the journey, wake up riding on the storm...”
At a twist of his torso, the Youth cast the dreamcoat to the sky.
As spinning and swinging down through the air, it landed over the backside of the Mule.
Stepping to the creature, he opened its protective visors and looked into its dark eyes.
“And were you dreaming, too?”
Tousling its mane, the Youth brushed out bits of dusts and sands until uncovering an ashy scarab.
Pulling it out from the nappy hair, he brought the motionless critter to his face, turning it about as examining it closely.
When it started kicking legs rapidly, the Youth threw it up, releasing the critter unto flight that traced a high arch before diving into the foundation of the gray dune.
As intriguing on what had just taken place, his eyes widened with alert.
Across the face of the dune, the tracks of wagon wheel, horse-hoof, and man-boot had been whisked askance by the sandstorm.
In effort to espy the traveling band, the Youth surveyed the barren distance.
“And how far that Caravan get ahead us?”
Due to their proximity to the gray dune, he was unable to see too far ahead.
“In any case, Girl, high-time we giddy up.”
Picking up the wineskin, he started along the faded tracks, towards the gray dune.
“Not sure how long we were out for, but you know the good-bad-ugly don't dally.”
Along his advance, a streak of color amidst the sands caught his eye.
Dropping to his knees, he swung and set the pack down at his side.
Reaching into the grains, the Youth removed the novel from the foundation.
“One Thousand and One, Arabian Nights...”
At length, the Youth marveled with exceeding upon the Cover Illustration.
Dusky damsels and fair-skinned maidens were spread throughout a palace bedroom of paisley pillows and downy comforts, surrounded by cornucopias of delectable fruit.
Each temptress was curvaceously poised, gazing sensuously towards the cover, into the eyes of the beholder.
“Ya handsome stunning lovelies...” said the Youth to the ladies, “One and all you, laced me lazy...”
Setting the novel side, he pulled the wineskin close and began to open it.
“Turned me to a sleeping beauty,” he said, “Threw me off track from my traveling band...”
Upon raising the pack, he poured out a cluttered miscellany of books and albums and films and maps and art anthologies—most of which shimmered with glorious color.
“Oughta send you huns packing,” he said, reaching for a novel amidst the stack, “Stick you back to school with Don Quixote, here...”
Raising Don up beside the Nights, he studied the contrasting book covers—the quintessential, black and white sketch of the gaunt knight and horse, next to the hand-painted array of Arabesque Temptresses to whom his eyes were magnetized.
“Less of course, one you got the touch...”
He winked on the lot of them.
“The touch, smooth enough to cut me free of my Long Lost Love...”
As the three words rhythmically lifted off the tip of his tongue, a soothing breeze coursed across him.
The Youth breathed in deep, closed his eyes and basked in the cool draft while it lasted.
He was trying to remember how long it had been since an instance of comfort had crossed his path, when a sudden rush of winds whisked the straw hat off his head.
The hat wobbled through the air before landing upon the brim to be driven by the winds as a wheel unbound.
Without thinking twice, the Youth dropped the books and threw himself into the chase.
He bolted across the plane as the Mule idly watched.
Along a skip and a bounce, the hat mercurially whipped across the plane, between sandy moguls, occasionally launching off their crests.
Sprawling one way—spinning to sprint another—the Youth was struggling to sustain the pace.
After a minute of running in circles, the winds began to calm and the brim began ringing round along a tightknit circle.
The hat settled upon the sands roughly seven yards away from the Youth.
Doubled over with palms pressed into his thighs, he huffed and puffed as catching his breath.
Straightening up, he wiped the sweat from his brow and took stock of the mazy tracks; himself and the Mule in their midst.
“Don't you worry 'bout a thang, Girl,” he said, turning back to the hat, “I got this.”
The Youth advanced.
He was several steps back from the busted cap of straw, when between he and the hat, grains of sands began stirring, trickling, sinking unto an opening, parting in the foundation.
The hollow expanded, deepened, as up from the gray, an olive-green creature sinuously arose of the grains.
* * *
Towering over six feet high, its olive-green length muscularly swayed side to side.
Neon-yellow eyes, centered with black slits, dilated and sharpened upon the awestruck figure.
“Good God...” said the Youth, before remembering Crusade Protocol, “King Cobra!”
Upon sounding the alarm, the Mule whinnied as taking several steps back.
At the scene, the Youth raised his fists in ready defense.
King Cobra opened its hood to the tune of a guttural hiss.
“Mos' monstrous aspect we've trekked upon yet.”
The Youth swallowed a gulp.
“ 'Fore we get started...”
Taking a knee, he tugged up his denim pant-leg, pulled down his tube sock and withdrew a stained-glass vial, tagged with a masking-tape label that read: AV, Generic.
“Quick anti-venom fix,” he explained, “Make this a fair fight, least til I decide to finally put the whip on ya!”
Popping the cork, he raised the cylinder in toast and tossed it back above his mouth.
He held it above his head, shaking it for several seconds.
The vial was bone-dry empty.
“Stuff was good while it lasted...” he said, acknowledging the scar-tissue on his forearm before tossing the tube back over his shoulder.
Bowing its head forth, King Cobra patiently commenced slithering in his direction.
The Youth raised his fists, took stock of the monstrous aspect and quickly started to back-step.
Upon planting his boot-sole upon an untied lace, he flew back upon the sands, channeling his grounded momentum into a backwards somersault that had landed on a knee, quickly tying his boot.
“Better get it together, babe,” he said, his eye on the approaching creature. “If the beast be coming, best be ready,” he added, “Welcome the bull, and then take it by the horns...”
At his statement, the Youth narrowed his eyes upon the idea beyond.
Rising to his feet, he pulled his tattered shirt up and over his head.
Snapping it to his side with Matador finesse, he startled the creature that recoiled back, ceasing its advance, remaining alertly fixated to its prey.
The Youth began circling about the creature.
“Don't you forget, mama,” he said, as waving the t-shirt teasingly towards it, “The babe hungry, too...
As turning with the lad, King Cobra ejected its tongue, tasting the air—the Youth—his proximity.
“You come too close...”
Before he could verbalize the rest of his warning, King Cobra sprung through the air.
In the eyes of the Youth, time and space suspended.
Via slow-motion passage, the moment unfolded before him.
Scales of vibrant green gleamed across the muscular length, extending the distance between them, opening jaws wide along the strike aimed for his chest.
Envisioning himself on the brink of being fatally jousted, the Youth raised his sleeveless T and stretched it out wide before him.
As a shield, he upheld the linen with all the strength, bracing for impact, moment by moment.
The fangs slipped through the fabric, loosing strings of venom that streamed out from their tips and across his shoulder.
When the head of King Cobra had firmly collided with shirt, the Youth aptly adjusted his grip, and with both hands, took firm hold of the muscular creature.
Spinning in a single circle with all the might and momentum he could muster, the Youth hurled the Serpent back through the heights.
Through the air, the reptile flailed alongside the white T, waving as a flag that seemed to affirmed the beast's defeat while it crashed with a splash across the sands of gray.
Along a vertical spin-bound, the Youth uppercut through the sky in triumph.
Upon landing, he observed his straw hat, across the way.
The hat was intermittently shifting—skipping across the foundation by a rise in the winds.
“Not this time!”
The Youth charged.
Running fast as he could, he began bending low, in preparation to scoop the hat on the run.
He had nearly arrived when concentrated patches of olive-green started snapping up from the gray, one after one.
Via rapid procession of high-knee prancing, the Youth hopscotched, dodged and hurtled the baby serpents, uncoiling to clamp their venomous bite unto him.
Continuing along a nonstop bolt across the plane, he rushed past the Mule well before he realized he was out of harm's way.
Along the base of the face of the grey dune, he cross-slapped his body to check for wounds.
Hands to his hips, the Youth caught his breath as the Mule stared him down at length.
“Don't look at me like that.”
The Mule turned away.
Slowly, it blinked a hard blink.
Upon looking back upon him, the Mule looked away again.
“And don't you insinuate, neither,” said the Youth, “I ain't, no chicken...”
The Mule blinked a hard blink.
“Getting bit by something black and white's one thing,” he explained, “But a King Cobra—in Technicolor?” he continued, “Bite like that'll make your day...”
Meanwhile, several hatchlings slithered beneath the brim of the hat.
The rest were taking cover beneath his shirt, where the thick coils of King Cobra were already partially shaded.
Beads of sweat began rising to his skin—his upper body, gleaming with sweat, save for the three circular birthmarks, aligned upon his right shoulder, absorbing the heat.
“Though a Sunburn will do the trick just as fast...”
Turning towards the gray dune, he scanned the vista beyond for sight of the Caravan.
“Going to have to borrow a new outfit from the good, the bad or the ugly...” he affirmed, before frowning on the very proposition. “Yet how in the heck I going to explain this predicament to the good, the bad and the ugly?”
He bit the corner of his lower lip.
“O, brother,” he said, “Situation's getting more 'n more twisted by the minute...”
The Youth massaged his fingers at his temple.
“If only this imagination could ease the pain,” he said, “If only I didn't see it all too clear...”
With that, the Youth enacted the proceeding he envisioned—
* * *
Yeah, talkin' to you—
You got an extra shirt I can borrow?
Snake took it.
A Mama Bear, too, with all her cubs there to feed.
She was hungry alright, and you betcha it made for a pretty good fight.
Happened 'bout a mile or so back.
Was right along this here trail here, when all a sudden, the most curvaceous of creatures just up and 'ppears before me.
Next thing I know, she and I are wrastlin' somethin' fierce, Devil in Disguise giving me all she got. But you know how that goes. Takes two to tango.
Too much to handle?
Come on, man—take a closer look at me.
Who am I?
I'm the Youth!
You heard me right—the Youth! Resilient, natural, sweet 16 and nothing but nice.
Who won the fight?
Come on man—did you just ask me that?
Do you not see me standing here before you?
Look, I don't have time for this, nor 3rd degree sunburn—now how 'bout that shirt?
Now we're talking.
Since you're climbing in the Wardrobe and all, grab us a hat, too.
Mind you, tho—nothin' straw, nor flappy—no.
If it's to serve the fix, it gotta be 'quipped of some good, quality leather.
Something that holds strong and's built for riding.
Something set with a firm brim that's just right for tipping to ladies.
What happened to m'hat, y'say?...
Snake took it.
But shouldn't surprise ya—any woman that gets a piece of me simply gots to have more.
To think my Long Lost Love already tore off 'n away with my whole heart and soul.
* * *
“Babe...” he moaned, “What a Youth got to do to get through to you?”
Hatless, shirtless, with the Sun at the height of the Day, the Youth stood faced to the gray dune, thinking on all that was behind him, and the distance that remained to be trekked.
Overwhelmed by the scope of the desolation about him, he was searching for an answer—for a way to get through to his Long Lost Love.
As listening to the winds, hushing calmly over the sands, his ear tuned-in to the forward trod of steps.
From behind him, the Mule trod forth, past the Youth.
With patient step, it continued past the multimedia, the wineskin pack, and towards the gray dune.
The creature had just started up the foundation, when it stopped, turned its head and looked back upon him.
“Only thing to do,” said the Youth, “Keep moving forward,” he added, commencing his advance, “Clean-up this road-block, and be on our way.”
Dropping to his knees, he spread the resources about, and began to do some sorting.
“Best organize this grandiose mess...” he said, “Organize, alphabetize, categorize these before I pack 'em.”
The Mule watched him for several moments, turned and continued on without him.
“Map of El Dorado? Plant you with Voltaire...” he said, “The Wall: A Rock Opera—over there... Fountainhead—you’re right here...” he added, “Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer—2001 : A Space Odyssey...”
At the pause, he made the connection.
“2001,” he affirmed, and began searching, “And naturally, we'll be pairing you with where all this got started—the One Thousand and One—”
The Mule brayed.
The Youth looked up.
Yonder beyond him, situated at the base of the dune's upward curve, the creature stood still, its gaze, attentively fixated upon him.
“I know, Girl, I'm coming,” he called, “I'll be right there...”
The Youth returned to sorting.
He had hardly gotten a start, when again, the Mule brayed.
Once again, the Youth looked up, to see it standing in the same place.
“What's gotten into you?”
The Mule dipped its head to the sands.
With a nod, it nudged its nose along the groove of grains before it.
Raising its head, it turned to look back on the Youth and waited.
“What is it?”
On his knees, he leaned to the side, trying to espy what it was in front of the Mule's hooves that had aroused it's interest.
Unable to spot anything, he arose and advanced as the Mule continued nuzzling its nose into the tracks.
He was nearly to the foundation of the gray dune, when the Mule had firmly nudged and nodded a golden contour, up to the surface of the gray foundation.
The Youth stopped; his eye, bared wide open and watchful,
As a rise in the breeze brushed the bangs from his face, sand-strewn winds danced rhythmic percussion across the metallic contours of the object.
Bit by bit, its outline was unsheathed from the leaden environment, revealing a sinuous handle—a bulbous vessel—an elongated spout.
Looking up the faded trail, he wondered whether the creation belonged to the good, the bad and the ugly.
Looking along the horizon, he fancied that it had been lost to the desert, a long, long time ago and was now his for possessing.
Looking on the Golden Oil Lamp, he mused upon its mystery, envisioning his biography juxtaposed with his future and fantasy he began narrating—
* * *
The windy tango tossed and tore for 40 days and 40 nights, far and wide across the countryside, til finally whipping the Youth into the middle of a lawless Nowhere Land...
Grounded flat, with his block knocked off, the Youth was stranded when a Caravan of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, crossed his path...
Upon scooping up the Youth, they affixed him with transport and heavy load, in exchange for incorporating him along the passage of their Crusade...
Day by night, Nowhere Land and Caravan, alike, beat-down and tossed-up the Youth, ever-testing—ever-strengthening—ever honing his resolve and might...
Though he knew not where they were going, he trusted in the One delivering the traveling band and believed that the Way was somehow aligned with his Destiny!
Lo and Behold—his steed, of ornery temperament and infinite drowse, turned the Youth onto some pillar of imperial mystery—a Golden Oil Lamp, positively...
Upon the touch, arose an ever-mysterious and all-powerful Genie, willing to grant the Youth all his desires, and deliver him to his Long Lost Love...
* * *
With a nod, the Youth advanced beyond towards the Golden Oil Lamp.
Envisioning himself palming—preparing to behold—to possess the vessel, he observed the faded tracks that ran up the gray dune.
As gazing along the trail, up at the rounded apex up ahead, he decided to see how far the Caravan was beyond before inspecting the precious.
“Keep a close eye,” said the Youth, pointing on the Lamp before turning to advance for the height of the dune.
As walking up the rounded peak, he increased his stride as the slope steepened along the climb.
Upon arriving at the top, he looked left and right and by all corners of the compass.
Throughout all the land, the Caravan was nowhere to be seen.
* * *
Atop the gray dune, at the center of the open plane, the Youth stood before rolling vistas of gray desolation feeling lost beyond lost.
Along all corners of the distant horizon, neither sight nor trace of the traveling band was in sight.
He inhaled long and deep, exhaled even and slow, and thought upon what to do.
“Okay...” he said, “Devise plan... follow through... stay true and remember—somehow, we are going to get through this...”
Amidst his back and forth pace atop the dune, the Youth caught sight of the Mule.
“Girl, how's your sense of smell, huh?” he asked, “You up for sniffing out their tracks?”
He was awaiting an answer when the black pair of binoculars hooped about its neck, caught his eye.
The Youth charged down the steep dune.
He had hardly started, when his legs plunged into the slope, sending his inertia tumbling head over heels, all the way down its face.
At the base, he unrolled from his somersault to his feet and reached out for the Mule.
“Think about it—” he said, unhooping the binoculars from its neck and throwing them over his own. “Meanwhile, I'll have a closer look.
The Youth charged back up the storied climb.
With the pair to his eyes, he scanned the distance, far and wide.
He searched till his magnified sights locked upon a lonely wisp of wind that curled and whisked a strand of sands up across the desert floor.
The Youth lowered the binoculars.
Atop the dune, he bit an incisor tooth softly into the center of his tongue.
He began wondering how hard he would have to bite until it bled.
Quitting that thought before it got too far, he inhaled long, deep; exhaled even, slow.
“Easy, Youth...” he ordered, “Calm the emotions, collect all intellect, control your action...”
Letting the binoculars rest against his chest, he folded his hands before him and gazed on the wide-open panorama.
“What is the way?”
The Mule brayed.
Down below, the creature stood along the foundation of the dune.
Lowering its nose to the sands, it nudged more and more of the creation to the surface.
Taking a step back, it looked up to the Youth
“I'm just not convinced it's the priority...”
For a short duration, he cast various glances along the nothingness of his surroundings, searching for some hint of direction.
By peripheral vision, he observed the Mule, still looking up to him via beseeching gaze.
At length, the Youth marveled with exceeding marvel upon the golden contours of the precious object.
With a swift bound forth, he lunged down the dune's face.
Sliding in on a knee before the Golden Oil Lamp, he scooped it up along his extension unto stance.
Palmed in hand, he raised the vessel by the light.
“Lo and behold!” he said, “The Lamp!”
* * *
“A black pearl, positively...”
As holding it up to Noon Sun, sharp rays of light silhouetted the vessel before his eyes.
Lowering it level with gaze, the Youth had a closer look on its color and form.
He intrigued on the fine details of its design.
The curvaceous body of the Golden Oil Lamp was centered over an exponentially conical base.
A hooped handle flowed unto its bulbous center that suavely narrowed along a slender spout at the other side.
Atop the Lamp was an exponentially conical lid, which narrowed to a point, crowned with a pyramid.
Pressing his fingertips about its four sides, the Youth made to lift it off.
He pulled, he tugged—he even tried a twist; no matter what he did, the top would not lift.
In effort to rock it loose, he knocked knuckles about the topside of the Lamp, where he observed two digits, carved just within its circumference.
A symbol—§—was aligned between the pyramid and spout.
On the opposing side, a symbol—O—was aligned between the pyramid and handle.
As perplexing on their meaning, he felt a subtle force—an energy, resonating of the Lamp along his touch.
“What i s t h i s § § § ?”
As listening, the audible annunciation elastically stretched beyond the tip of his tongue.
Looking about, his visual response had dramatically slowed down.
Upon blinking tight, he opened his eyes wide to find the lid of the pyramid slowly revolving.
The four sunlit faces of the pyramid turned with even and slow, clockwise rotation.
Along the spin, the two symbols revolved 100—120—140—160—180 degrees, where the lid clicked into place; the symbols in switched spots.
The ingraved—§—between pyramid and handle—deeply darkened in tone, as the symbol—O—positioned between pyramid and spout—began to brightly glow.
He was convinced he had to be imagining all of it until the Mule began back-stepping.
The Youth was wondering what was cause for its uneasiness, when he, too, heard it.
Moments later, he was watching them.
Calligraphic strings of darkness were hissing out from the spout, airily bending in the air.
The Youth dropped the Lamp, which landed upright on the foundation of the gray dune.
Taking several steps back, he stopped as more and more darkness continued to rise.
Attached to the spout, the helical strands were raveling—intertwining—braiding unto one another until a creature of darkness was sinuously swaying side to side before him.
At once, the Youth was lost to the depths of her diamond-eyes.
Dazzling spectrum twinkled from them as opening its hood wide.
When the aspect of its dimension was complete, the Queen Cobra struck forth and sunk its fangs unto his heart.
* * *
Upon the strike, darkness of the Queen Cobra flowed unto the Youth through its bite.
Upon the strike, the Youth flexed against that which was coursing throughout him.
With jaw clenched and teeth bared, he fought to stand strong as his frame began shaking.
Opening balled fists, he watched as fingerprint—palm—arms and body alike—began to break apart—to split into luminous points of light.
In moments, the frame of the Youth was but an outline of Shining Honeybees, suspended in hovering flight.
Out from the lightness, myriad Dark Serpents emerged and began pursuing the Shining Honeybees across the gray setting and sky.
Tearing across the scene, one and all began swirling with whirlwind procession.
When the vortex of the lightness and darkness had connected with the spout, every last Shining Honeybee and Dark Serpent twisted into the vessel.
* * *
The Golden Oil Lamp continued shining on the black-white foundation of the grey dune.
The Mule nudged its nose against the pyramid, nodded up to the Sun and soon after, continued on its way.