From the dark velvet of the winter’s night sky, the full moon cast its reflected light down onto the countryside below. It was a land which starkly contrasted to the tower blocks and concrete of Ben Santiago’s native Manhattan. Yet he knew this place! It was the deep countryside of rural England. Below him the fields and pastures, the ancient oak and birch woods and twisting silver streams were illuminated by the light of the rising full moon.
Santiago swept over this land aware of his
destination and the man who had summoned him to this place in his dreams. For the last nine months, each and every night, it had been the same dream, the same journey, but tonight he felt a difference; he felt a presence.
Now his summoner was here and the dream would no longer fade, he would continue, drawn to the man whose shockingly familiar face haunted him each night as it rose like a dark cloud on the dream horizon and threatened to devour the moonlight.
Tonight the massive cloud face did not rise above the horizon as it usually did. Instead Santiago found himself approaching a diffused dome of neon light that cocooned a sleepy Staffordshire market town. Santiago was sped toward it. He knew this was more than a dream, although he had little control over these nocturnal journeys. Tonight his spirit had been freed and he now viewed that which was real, not a fragmentary construction of the imagination. This town was a real place. As if on cue, Santiago found himself being guided around the identifying landmarks of the small town, being given all the information he would require finding this place and, so that he could, he realised, soon journey here in the flesh.
He paused by the great tower and spire of the town’s large church and then spiralled down into the maze of streets and alleys which surrounded the market square. He moved swiftly up narrow street which was lined by three and four storey Tudor buildings that seemed to menacingly inwards over the street. His attention was drawn to a sign swinging idly in the breeze, squeaking softly on its rusty hinges.
Two gold keys, heavily faded and flaking paint were crossed in the centre of the dilapidated sign. Given time to register what he had seen, Santiago was now guided into the courtyard of the inn and toward a second storey window. Behind the dark glass a shadow lurked, the moon painted the contours of the face of this shadow of a man. A strong, square jaw and large dark mouth were all he could presently make out, a mouth slightly open and into which, or so it seemed to Santiago, the moonlight which illuminated the man’s face, streamed into. Then, abruptly, the moon was obscured by the mass of huge banks of rumbling storm clouds which seemed to raise themselves out of nowhere. His summoner’s face disappeared as the light faded quickly, until a single flash of sheet lightening revealed his face fully to Santiago.
Ben stared in horrified fascination at the face with abyssal eyes and the huge hooked nose that pressed against the glass. There was something familiar about this man, but he failed to make any connection. Perhaps he was a client from long ago he thought. A swarthy pock marked Arab, some failed revolutionary from the middle east, a South American dictator, some tyrant, some megalomaniac, he had done business with in the past; he seemed to be all of them, but then none one of them at all.
The man at the window did not speak, did not look at him, yet a language more powerful than speech emanated from his being - a deep yearning, a desire, something so powerful Santiago feared he was about to be consumed by him. The man needed Santiago’s talents and had drawn him here. Now the arm’s dealer soul had been touched by him and been made promises, promises of rewards which he could not resist. A loud roar of thunder followed the sheet lightening which tore open a rift into core Ben Santiago’s being. The face at the window disappeared sinking into the darkness leaving only a silhouette etched on the arms dealer’s soul.
Santiago jerked awake with a moan in a sweat soaked bed at home in his Manhattan apartment, his boxer shorts sticky with semen. His whole body trembled, alive with energies loosed from his penetrated psyche. He gasped for air in the cool of the air conditioned atmosphere, his desire to find his summoner stronger and more irresistible than ever. He desired this man, if he were a man at all, with an inhuman compulsion. He could never rest until he found him, until his soul was touched by him again. It was not about guns, but something deeper....
He slept for the rest of the morning until, early in the afternoon, a knock on his door wakened him from an uneasy sleep. He rose stiffly from his bed and donned a dressing gown before answering the door. A small, bald and bespectacled man entered the room with a look of triumph in his eyes and waving a photocopied photograph in front of him.
“We’re close Mr. Santiago!” he shrieked. “Look here, I’m sure that one of these is the place.” he handed three copied photographs to his employer who them in detail. His eyes widened with his smile, two of the photographs fell from his hands to the floor.
The photographs were just one of many his researcher had brought to him in an effort to satisfy Santiago’s curiosity about the dreams which had occurred nightly for the past nine months. His researcher spoke. “The terrain you have described in the dream point to an area in rural north Staffordshire, England. Given that you feel you are being drawn to a town there are only a few possibilities - it has to be one of these - is that it?”
Santiago studied the remaining photograph in his hands and nodded. It was. Last night was the first time he had seen it and it was fresh in his memory. All the elements where there. The photograph had been taken from a vantage point above the market square which showed the church, its spire and tower, and the retreat of alleyways around it. Santiago’s aide smiled broadly. “There are more here.” he said, pulling a dozen more photographs from his briefcase, other views of this particular town his employer had identified. Santiago took them and flicked through the photos.
They showed tourist attractions and local industry. One grabbed his attention immediately, a shot of a back street lined with Tudor buildings. Santiago’s jaw fell open.
The inn was there on the right, its hanging sign clearly displaying the symbol of the crossed keys. He thought he heard the squeak of rusty hinges, felt buffeted by the raw air of an English winter gale around him, felt himself being drawn into the cold reality of the monochrome. He gasped. Santiago stared excitedly at the picture.
“Get me there Aldus! Get me there as soon as is humanly possible.” He instructed his researcher and personal aide. “Alone. Economy flight Incognito. Ben Santiago is not a popular man there remember Aldus.” he smiled.
Aldus nodded obediently and left the room. Santiago moved to the window and looked out across the Manhattan skyline towards the east.
Far out there, across the North Atlantic something drew him to it, communicated with part of him that did not think. It did not calculate, but only yearned for something he could not, as a conscious rational being, identify. Santiago had seen a man at a window, a strangely familiar man, if it were a man. But soon he would find out and did not care whether it was human or not. It had touched Santiago deeply and darkly, setting something primal loose within his soul. Now he yearned for a full caress in that boiling, mindless darkness and he knew this shadow of a man would give it willingly in exchange for Santiago’s expertise.
The arms dealer reached for the phone and rang an international number. After a few moments conversation he put down the phone and smiled to himself. Nothing could be easier, he thought and life would never be the same again. Then he made one final phone call, to the man who had introduced Santiago to the world of gun running, his mentor, an enigmatic and elusive individual, whom he had met only once in his lifetime. Santiago could never remember his face, but today something stirred in his memory. For a moment the face at the window in his dream haunted him. Santiago shook his head - no it couldn’t be true, he thought mouth slowly opening. No, it was impossible surely?