Marley was leaning back on a rock staring into the distance when Barnabus returned. Although he made no sound, she always knew when he was near. He sat and leaned on the rock just close enough for their shoulders to touch. She turned her head and looked at him out of the corner of her eye.
“Did you find anything?”
“You know well that I didn’t,” he said, his voice heated.
“Then do not take it out on me,” Marley retorted.
After a moment, Barnabus muttered an apology.
“The trail ended a ways off. They must have had a doorway ready to escape through.”
They sat in silence after that, watching the imaginary wind rustling the fields of flowers.
Eventually, it was Barnabus who broke the silence.
“Whose dream do you believe this used to be?”
“Why do you think it is no longer their dream,” she asked in puzzlement.
“Because it is a ghost of a dream, unchanging, always the same. I suspect the dreamer passed during it and the dream managed to survive.”
He could feel Marley looking at him again, imagining what expression her face bore.
“That is beyond morbid, old bear.”
“But probably the truth. Have you never noticed that at times we walk through dead dreams? The minds that they sprang from are not always dead, but whatever hope or desire associated with it has and the dream becomes cast off, drifting without a mind to nourish it.”
Marley returned to her thoughts, contemplating this revelation. She looked around the clearing, the carnage of battle having long since evaporated. Hamish had left first on some errand of his own. The others had become restless waiting on Barnabus and drifted off into the dreamscape, leaving Marley to wait on his return.
Barnabus again broke the silence, turning his head towards hers. He and Marley looked at each other at the corners of their vision. Their violet eyes were sparkling in the wan sunlight.
“What are you thinking of, Marley?”
He never talked down to her, but as an equal. It was rare that he did so with anyone, even though he was older than anyone she met knew. He was impulsive and aggravating, too willing to let emotions get him into troubles beyond one bear’s ability to manage. Yet, he always did. He was the survivor of so much conflict that he should not have been able to escape. How he managed to find her tattered remains and resurrect her remains a mystery that she had yet to solve.
“I’m thinking of that landfill. I often think of it these days, especially with Shankill still moving about. I thought you had ended him.”
Barnabas grunted, then inched a little closer to her until their heads were touching.
“He should be destroyed,” he said, “but I have begun to suspect that there is something else out there controlling him. The puppet no longer has strings, but he remains a puppet.”
“This Bilal you mentioned has violet eyes like ours?”
“I believe so, although I could have sworn they changed colors at times.”
“Are you going to tell me why the three of us have the same eyes?”
Barnabus sat in silence. Slowly, and with apprehension, he moved his paw to hers.
“One day, when I have the courage to tell you. Truthfully, though, I do not understand how he has the same eyes.”
“With regards to me,” she said softly, “does it have something to do with how you brought me back? You have never brought back anyone else who was destined for a Garden, but you did for me.”
“I’m not sure I am capable of doing it a second time, to be honest.”
Marley nodded acceptance of this, even though she still did not receive the answers she wanted. Her paw tightened against his and she slouched against him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“How many bears are we going to lose,” she asked in a soft voice.
“I do not know, dear heart.” His voice was husky and she knew him well enough to recognize the frustration and wrath in his voice.
“Well, even we need to rest, especially one of such a great age as you,” she said teasingly. “Later you will need to tell me of what happened with the Good Folk.”
“Will do,” he responded in a similar tone, “little girl.”
The both smiled and within moments, the imaginary wind was rustling the felt on a pair of unusual looking stuffed bears.