Disclaimer: I recently learned via the podcast that we don't really need disclaimers! But I can't help it, I want one. So thanks yet again to the lovely JK Rowling and also to Christopher Nolan, whose amazing film Inception inspired some of the plot.
March 15, 2002
In a small suburb on the outskirts of Delhi, a lone figure strode at a fierce pace along a narrow, dirty street, looking angry and out of place. The town was always empty by that time of night. Nearly every shop window was dark, with the shutters closed tightly. The brilliantly coloured street vendors and stalls that lined the roads during the day had packed up and gone home. In fact, there was not a single soul about save one dust-coloured cat, which ambled lazily across the street, nearly tripping up the determined walker.
“Bloody h—oh for Merlin’s sake, just a cat!” The man lowered his wand, trembling slightly. “Bugger off! Shoo!” He aimed a kick at the offending feline.
But the cat merely blinked its yellow, lamp-like eyes at him before ambling on its way, as if to say: you don’t own me. The strange man huffed his disapproval, but continued on in silence. He didn’t have time for inquisitive cats. There was something much more important hidden in this run-down little town, something he would stop at nothing to find. Or someone.
The man turned right at the next corner, then left. Finally, he stopped at the mouth of a small alleyway, crowded with chicken carcasses, empty beer bottles, rotting vegetables and flies. He turned his nose up at the refuse, picking his way meticulously around the worst of it, moving slowly towards the only remaining establishment still open in the entire town.
“PUB,” read the dim and flickering fluorescent tube lights above the door, followed by a long string of elegantly curved, looped and dotted letters that the man could not read. He finally reached the threshold, and immediately began to brush the dust from his worn black robes—but he might as well have saved the effort. The inside of the pub was just as grubby and dilapidated as the exterior.
The room was barely larger than the average cupboard, with just enough space for the long wooden bar, dented and scratched from many years of use, and four ancient barstools. The floor didn’t bear mentioning, though if the man had bothered to examine it closely, he would have discovered that beneath the many layers of accumulated dirt and grime lay a rather lovely pattern of octagonal tiles. As it was, the man’s eyes fixed instantly on the two other occupants of the pub. One sagged against the bar, his eyes closed either in sleep or unconsciousness, a half-finished glass of some green beverage smoking ominously beside him. The other stood behind the bar, lazily cleaning a filthy glass with an equally foul rag, and humming along to something on the wireless. When the man entered, he looked up in mild surprise, his eyes glowing like two silver sickles in his dark face.
“Āpa ēka biyara kī taraha hōgā? Yahāṁ.”*
“I don’t speak your filthy language,” spat the man, his lip curling in revulsion as he surveyed the proffered glass. He waved it away, careful to avoid touching it. “Where’s the rest of it?”
“Ah, Engleesh?” The bartender set down the glass and rag, and wiped his hands on his apron, seemingly unoffended by the man’s rejection.
“Yes, English, you idiot!” The Englishman growled impatiently. “Now where’s the rest of it? The rest of this damn flea-infested shit hole of a place!”
“This way, this way, śrīmāna,”* the bartender replied, gesturing towards a large mirror propped against the far wall.
The mirror did not look promising; it was only about five feet tall, hardly big enough to admit an average sized man, and its barely reflective surface was bespeckled with greyish age spots and dust. But the Englishman did not hesitate. He strode resolutely toward the mirror, scarcely pausing before pressing one foot against it.
The mirror buckled for an instant, then billowed like water, swallowing his foot and leg, until his entire torso disappeared into its silvery depths. The bartender watched unconcernedly until the last ripple had disappeared from the surface of the mirror, then turned back to his cleaning.
Beneath the mirror, the man slowed, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness of the corridor. It was lined with the same octagonal tile as the floor above, but was many degrees colder than the pub had been and the man shivered as the sweat on his back cooled. He glanced back up at the mirror. It glimmered yards above him now, a tiny bright rectangle in the distance. He continued down only a short way, before the corridor widened into a dimly lit, cavernous room. The man stopped in his tracks. Whatever he was looking for, whatever he had traveled for over four thousand miles and three years to find, it was here. And yet, this was not what he had expected.
The room was filled with beds of all kinds; rickety old wicker daybeds lay beside metal army cots; sturdy wooden four posters sat next to slim Indian divans; king-size monstrosities of carved ivory were placed alongside humble pallets. There was even a hammock. Each and every bed held a single sleeping occupant, mostly older Indian men lying with their long beards curled around their thumbs. But the most bizarre thing of all was the contraption hanging over their heads. A profusion of plastic tubes and pipes wound about the room, interlinking at the centre, but breaking apart as they traveled towards the edges of the room, so that each sleeping patron had his own tube feeding into a plastic facemask, like the ones found in muggle hospitals. At the far end of the room, a single man sat slumped in a padded leather wingback chair, his head completely encased in a rubbery-looking bubble that was connected by a large pipe straight to the nexus of all the tubes. As the Englishman watched from the doorway, the bubble-headed man’s hands twitched convulsively, and the Englishman suddenly realized that he was bound to the chair.
“Maiṁ āpakī madada sakatā hai?”*
The Englishman tore his gaze away from scene to look down at the questioner. It was a short Indian man, dressed in Western style shirt and trousers. His round cheeks and bald head gave him the appearance of an egg, the kind of face more used to laughter and smiles than to frowns. But at the moment, he wore a rather worried expression as he regarded the intruder.
“What do you want?”
“Ah, Engleesh,” the bald man said, relaxing slightly. “Welcome to the dream parlour. I am owner. You want three hour? Overnight?”
“Dreams? What kind of bollocks are you talking about?” The Englishman snarled, his voice rising with every word. “Where is Emma? I need to find Emma!”
The owner just shook his head with a bemused smile. “Private dream? More expensive, but very good…” He reached out to take the foreigner’s sleeve, but the other man recoiled from his touch, looking disgusted.
“I need to find Emma,” the Englishman insisted stubbornly, though in a softer tone this time. He backed away from the owner. Emma must be there, she must be asleep in one of the beds…
The man paced around the room, his eyes flying from one bed to the next, but there had to be at least fifty jumbled together in there. At last he spotted the golden brown head of hair, nestled into the pillow of a fancy canopy bed. He raced to Emma’s side, jumping over a futon and nearly upending a camp bed in the process. So focused was he on his goal, that the man didn’t even notice the owner’s frantic yells until he was suddenly shoved into the air and dumped in an unceremonious heap at the owner’s feet, all the wind knocked out of him. Gasping, the Englishman scrabbled in his robes for his wand, his temper flaring.
The Englishman froze. The owner jabbed his trishula* forcefully into the Englishman’s chest, but anger was clearly at odds with his natural temperament. After a moment he relented, allowing the Englishman to sit up.
“You can’t wake her up,” the owner explained, squatting opposite the man.
“And why’s that?” The Englishman grumbled mulishly. “Ruin her beauty sleep? Ha!”
“You can’t wake up,” the owner repeated, in a pained voice. “You kill her. The machine, it makes dream. If you die in dream—”
“You just wake up, don’t you?”
“You can’t wake up.”
“You said that already!” The Englishman snapped. “So if you die in your dreams, and you can’t wake up, then what?”
The owner shrugged helplessly, looking confused. The Englishman ground his teeth in frustration, and was about to open his mouth to voice another complaint when—
“What happens after the Dementor’s Kiss?”
The low voice was barely above a murmur, yet the Englishman heard it as though it were whispered right in his ear. He whipped his head around. Out of the darkness behind him emerged a figure so tall and narrow it was almost skeletal. The thin man was clearly also Indian, but, unlike the owner, his skin was stretched parsimoniously over his beaky nose and high cheekbones, giving him the gaunt appearance of an emaciated crow. His matted black hair hung in scraggly clumps about his skinny shoulders, where it became lost the folds of his raggedy grey robe. He resembled nothing so much as a corpse, already dressed for burial.
The owner beamed at the corpselike man, his cheeks bunching into plump round plums of joy. “Rakshasi!” He exclaimed, waving for the thin man to come closer. Leaning in, the owner chattered away in his native tongue, pointing to the Englishman and to the beds several times. Finally, they drew apart, and the owner once again approached the Englishman.
“This one is Nanushya Rakshasi. Good Engleesh! He explain.”
The Englishman eyed Rakshasi with distaste. “Why’s he dressed like that?”
“Ah,” the owner’s face fell, and he lowered his voice. “He is Aghori,* they wear like that.” He looked apologetic, but shrugged as if there was nothing to be done.
The Englishman had never heard of the “Aghori” before, but he didn’t have time to ponder the issue. Rakshasi was already at his side, an unpleasant smile twisting his lips to reveal rotted teeth. “I apologize for the owner, he is a good man, but his English is intolerable.”
The Englishman nodded, trying to back away surreptitiously. Rakshasi smelled like a corpse too.
“You wanted to know the reason why you can’t awaken your friend?” Rakshasi glanced quickly towards the bed where Emma still slept soundly, before turning back to the Englishman. “If you detach the dreammaker tube, she will die in her dream—but, due to the soporific potions we provide our patrons, she will not be able to wake up. The effect is similar to that of the Dementor’s Kiss. She will still be alive physically, but mentally…” Rakshasi let his voice trail into silence.
The Englishman was quiet for a moment, staring at the plastic tube contraption. “What is this…dreammaker? How does it work?”
Rakshasi smiled again, much to the Englishman’s displeasure. “Ah, I am so glad you asked. It is a device of my own construction, designed to create the experience of a shared dream. The tubes connect each dreamer to the dream, so he may participate as he likes. As you can see, the tubes all meet at that bulb in the centre of ceiling, where they meet and commingle with the source dream, which—”
“The what?” the Englishman interrupted rudely, staring at the mass of tubing. There was indeed a transparent bulb hanging from the ceiling—he hadn’t noticed it at first, due to the distraction of all the tubes sprouting from it. It was filled with a kind of bluish, swirling material that pulsated with light slowly and regularly, like a heartbeat.
Rakshasi didn’t seem to mind the interruption. “The source dream,” he continued in the same low, almost amused, tone of voice, “comes from the Giver. There,” he pointed to the man bound to the wingback chair.
The Englishman stared at the wingback chair, examining the Giver. The bubble around the Giver’s head resembled the familiar Bubble Head charm, though with a slightly thicker and more permanent skin. He could see the same swirling bluish material seeping from the bubble into the pipe, where it was sucked up in the direction of the bulb in the ceiling. But what was it? The Englishman shuffled closer to the Giver’s chair, peering though the morass of tubing. Though the bubble distorted his view a bit, he could now see that the bluish material was actually emanating out of the Giver’s mouth, nose, ears—even his eye sockets spewed the stuff in spiraling tendrils like smoke. Or, rather, like—
“Memories,” the Englishman murmured to himself.
“Yesss,” Rakshasi hissed softly, drawing out the “s” sound. “Dreams and memories are closely related, our minds unconsciously draw on memories while dreaming. We use the memories of the Giver to construct a pleasant environment for our dreamers to inhabit. Of course, we can personalize the situation, if the patron so desires—but we recommend the shared dream first. We choose our Givers with great care, after all, to make sure they will provide only the most high-quality experience.”
The Englishman watched as the Giver struggled weakly against his bonds, his arms straining against the ropes tying him to the chair. “And what happens to the Giver after?”
Rakshasi’s grin widened farther than ever before. The Englishman could count three gold teeth. “When we are done with him…he will become mine.”
The Englishman suppressed a shudder. Brilliant though he undoubtedly was, something about Rakshasi was fearsome. Almost…predatory.
“Your friend still has three hours left of her sedative. If you would like, you can test the product while you wait. My treat,” Rakshasi coaxed, nodding towards an empty bed in the corner.
The Englishman frowned. “What kind of sleeping potion do you use? The Draught of Living Death?”
“No, no, nothing that strong,” Rakshasi assured him at once. “To take something like that would be a death wish—you would never awaken from the dream! No, this is a sedative of my own concoction. It encourages and supports access to the dream-state, and enhances one’s…sensations,” he ended delicately, raising a suggestive eyebrow. “It will only last three hours, I have tested this extensively.”
The Englishman couldn’t argue with that. The evidence lay all around him. “Alright. I’ll try your—your dreammaker then,” he said, still sounding dubious. “No charge, yeah?”
“Of course,” Rakshasi replied smoothly. “Let me get you a cushion and the sedative. Please, make yourself at home.”
The Englishman wandered over to the corner bed, which appeared far too small. Yet, when he lay down, he found it surprisingly comfortable—evidence of some kind of hidden enlargement charm. Perhaps this was not such a bad idea, he thought, stretching out luxuriously as he awaited Rakshasi’s return. After three long years of searching, surely he deserved a good rest.
Soon enough, Rakshasi reappeared with the potion. The Englishman was sent off to dream, his chest rising and falling perfectly in time with all the others.
Rakshasi observed his newest charge, a spark of greed igniting in his eyes. Despite his impoverished and uneducated background, Rakshasi had instantly recognized the man now lying on the bed before him. Raw ambition uncoiled snake-like in his gut. This was the chance he had been preparing for his entire life. Now all he had to do was wait.
Rakshasi turned away from the bed slowly. He wanted more than anything to hover over his hard-won prize, but work beckoned. As he bent to adjust the mouthpiece on another dreamer’s mask, he wondered:
What do death eaters dream of?
*Translations and vocab (thanks to Google translate/Wikipedia and with apologies to the Hindu language):
Āpa ēka biyara kī taraha hōgā? Yahāṁ. = Would you like a beer? Here.
śrīmāna = sir, mister
Maiṁ āpakī madada sakatā hai = May I help you?
Rōka! = stop!
trishula = (Sanscrit) a kind of Indian trident, often seen in Hindu religious iconography. I thought it would make a cool foreign alternative to a wand.
Aghori = a renegade sect of Hinduism that is condemned by most Hindus for their unorthodox practices. Check out the wiki page, it's nuts.
Whew, that's a lot of foreign words! Don't worry, this is the last you'll see of most of them. The only important ones for the story: trishula and Aghori.
Please, pretty pretty please review!
Write a Review Bloody Tuesday: What Do Death Eaters Dream Of?