My dream –

I was in a building of indeterminate size. Though there were no apparent floors, ceilings, or walls, the building was storeyed. Movement between storeys was via ramps. There were no rooms, no corridors. As far as an exterior structure could be ascertained, no ingress or egress, no windows or doors, were evident. Also, though storeyed, there were no internal columns, pillars, poles, uprights, or supports of any discernible nature bearing the supposed weight above.

I was not alone. With me, and seemingly under my care, but undefined as such, were an imprecise number of horses – mares, fillies, and colts – of mixed standard breeds, mostly bays. They, as I, though there was no coincident fear or its accompanying hysteria, by all appearances, were captive in a bastion of purgatorial detention.

If it had been but I alone in that predicament, the sense of urgency would have been less prevailing. My companions, however, the horses, unhaltered, untethered, appeared to be awaiting my next move, my guidance, my rescue, as it were. No hunger or thirst was apparent, but, of course, for them, in those regards, I was concerned.

Observing them, I identified the lead mare. Approaching her as if an equal, speaking softly, I assured her and the others, gathered closely, that I would find a way to get us out. I would not abandon them. I would have to explore the demarcations of our confinement, but I would return to escort them to safety. I requested their trust. Such was confirmed with gentle snorts and the dipping of heads.

I thought to ascend, first, perchance to establish an upper prominence to the structure that held us. Defying time, in pursuit of a goal forbidding reach, I continued to climb, from ramp to ramp to ramp. Any count seemed futile, and yet I counted. I had promised the horses that I would return. Nothing haphazard could cause me to forswear that pledge.

At last, 108 ramps from where I began, I came to a what at first appeared to be a mirage, in that even the slightest turn of head would render the image, unclear at best, vanished altogether. As there was not another ramp, it seemed that I had reached the top. Returning to the centre of the space, and focusing on the face of the mirage, as into a three-dimensional puzzle of optical illusion, a hidden image beneath it, I saw it, I secured it, I locked it before my vision.

Someone from ‘inside’ drew closer to me.

Behind him or her, a scene both delightful and not delightful, of order and chaos, as between two moments, as between dying and yet living, of a standstill swiftness somehow, of a nothingness that was not nothing; seen, and yet not with common sight, nor blindness; a scarcest sight, yet, as a painted picture, more visible than naked spectacle; furnishings sifted from gross variety, time’s stinking wealth; the perishable marvels which bedeck the dream-bazaars of fain exaggeration.

The only barrier felt between him, or her, and me was that of threshold, of crossing, of choice, of decision – mine.

He, or she, bid me enter, with the warning that I could never return.

‘And where am I now? And where are you?’

‘I am in heaven. You are in hell.’

‘If heaven is but a lie, to hell with heaven.’

Quickly, I began my descent, 108 ramps to the first level of hell. Together again with the horses, at ease, despite and still, it could not be but Limbo.

That meant that there were eight levels of hell below us. So our escape had to be found somewhere between this level the descending eight – Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. Without any precept save my own, balanced by natural universal and eternal mandate, this was all a test of me alone. Would I save the horses, or let them perish? The horses, creatures of the natural world, were in fact my escort to freedom; not I, theirs. Heaven is truth attained; hell, but truth denied.

As if knowing all along, all of us, the dominant mare and I in the lead, we headed in the direction we were facing, forward. Fearlessly, failure inconceivable, we proceeded. The farther we went, the less the sense of confinement. What once seemed darkness and impenetrability, became lighter, first translucent, then transparent, then fully open, free, green with grass, blue with sky, abundant with every hue of flower, stone, and tree.

We had made it.

I thanked the horses. Many times have animals saved my life, when I thought it was I who was saving theirs.

How would I next be tested?