When Alebran told Dira Azzain there was a horse in his bathroom, she did not believe him at first, not because it was a particularly unbelievable thing to have happen, but mostly just because it was Alebran saying it. He wasn't exactly delusional, of course, but he was the sort of person who had a tendency to occasionally mix things up. Including reality.
He had contacted her and mentioned it after several pages of pleasantries and greetings and how've you beens and, then, as if completely in passing, but clearly only forced to seem as if in passing, and therefore obviously not in passing at all, the reason reason for the call had come.
"Also, there's a horse in my bathroom," he said.
"And I suppose," Dira said slowly, "it's on the top floor with narrow staircases all the way up and no visible signs of how it got there?"
"Really! I'm not making this up."
"So what, then?"
"It just showed up one day," he explained. "Showed up, wouldn't leave. I really haven't a clue as to how I'ma get the blasted thing down, either. Neither do the ordermen, haven't a clue, they have." He stopped as though turning the sentence over in his head, then corrected, "Not."
"So, what, it's just sitting there?"
"That's the gist of it, yes. Standing, really. Not sure the things can sit. Can they sit?"
"No idea," Dira said.
"But here's the weird part, see. It's not a normal horse. It just thinks it is. I mean, really thinks it is, like somehow It's just managed to convince itself of these facts and now won't let go of them for the world."
"Why would a horse need to convince itself it's a horse?" She stopped. "It's not a horse."
There was a pause.
"Dira, I think it's actually a god." Another pause, then he continued. "Some god that's just lost it and decided that he, she, it doesn't want to be a god anymore. So it just quit. So now it's being a horse."
"In your bathroom."
"In my bathroom."
"So it's not really a horse, then. It's just playing the part, but badly?" This was interesting. "How did you figure?" she asked.
"Animal control was useless, so I got a couple of priests to come by and take a look, and they were the ones who figured it. It hasn't eaten anything, won't move, resists anything and everything..." He stopped, then yelled, "I want my damn bathroom back!"
Dira groaned. "And I suppose you want me to come over there and get this god-horse out of your bathroom for you."
"Pretty much, yeah. Please? Pleeeease?" he begged.
"Bugger, Al," she said. "Seriously, why didn't you get the priests to get it out? Or the God Impersonation Guild, they're good at that sort of thing? Or... or someone else. Someone who isn't me. Someone not on the other side of three galaxies with a fairly normal life on a lovely little bland little planet with nice bland people?"
"Normal?" he asked.
"Well, okay, no, not a normal life," she said slowly. "But a bland one. Which I quite like for a change, incidentally."
"Sorry," he said. "Dira, I already tried everyone else. They tried and... and they all failed. All of them. Even the Guild failed, despite having so much practise with this... sort of thing, as you called it. They were the ones who recomended you, in fact."
"Of course they did."
"So you actually could help, maybe?"
"You're a saint."
She barked a laugh. "Don't push it, Alebran."
"Right, right," he said, and signed off.
"Yes, goodbye to you too," Dira muttered into her headset.
Unfortunately, agreeing to do something and actually pulling it off tend to be rather separate issues. Distance was a problem, for one. The emu was another. But most troubling was the very minor detail in which she'd kind of sort of accidentally blown up her ship. The ship itself was probably fine, of course, but it had gone flying and she didn't really know where it was anymore.
So she didn't necessarily have a way to get off the planet, let alone to Kanata. If Alebran even still lived there. He hadn't specified.
Instead of worrying about it, however, she decided to take a nap. Logical course of action.
Alebran contemplated the horse. He looked at it from the sides, examined its edges, even peered at its teeth, just out of sheer curiosity.
The horse had rather nice teeth.
It was also unequivocally in the way.
And he had to piss.
Small consolation, but at least the thing had thus fair refrained from exuding an over-abundance of, well, anything. No excrement, no sound to speak of, no errant thoughts floating around the well-carpeted rooms and mosaicked stairs. Just a vague horse scent that had wafted in when it appeared.
He had had to piss then, too. And the horse had been, and still was, very much in the way.
He was starting to understand why some people rather disliked gods. Saying they were in the way, and all that, though to be fair he rather doubted that when others said that they tended to mean physically.
"Right," he muttered, and began the long, arduous trek back down the three flights of stairs, over to the neighbour's house, and, when he was sure nobody was looking, inside and into their blessedly not-horse-infested first-story bathroom.
The horse, meanwhile, continued to stand there. It scuffed the floor a bit and snorted, generally ignoring its surroundings, the carpeted walls, the tiled floor, the small, dusty window overlooking several hundred similarly tall and lopsided house (albeit ones that were probably much more tastefully-decorated on the inside), several potted imerads, as well as the book of Orissla one of the priests had left behind the other week. It seemed he had failed to notice it fall out of his robe as he stood, perched on the toilet, imperiously poking the horse with a large wooden spoon as Alebran watched from the doorway.
The book was wet.
More specifically, the entire floor was wet, something about a questionable drain in the corner and a lack of sufficient drying power in the budget cleaning bots, which were technically only rated for solids. And they did handle the solids, and any bits in the water. It was just the water itself that was beyond them, which made it, if nothing else, a rather nice place to put the potted imerads, which had thrived since their banishment into this bright and well watered region of the house.
And the horse stood there, peering blankly about itself with no interest whatsoever, not at the book, not at the window, not at the imerads which logic would have dictated it should have eaten about three weeks ago when Alebran had put them there in the first place.
The immortal emu. For millennia the bird had stood on the banks of the Ka, pecking the same little plant, as immutable as the tides that washed its feet and the land that slowly shifted around it.
The lantern, once kept by a brotherhood of guardians and more recently placed on the banks of the river, had long since been washed away. The emu was supposed to be guarding it, but nobody had ever told the emu this, not that it would have cared or done anything remotely different if they had.
So it stood there. It pecked. It backed away from the tides and followed its plant that occasionally scuttled up the glittering purple dunes. It stood. Dragons watched from the crystal spires, scales glistening in blue worldlight and starlight.
It pecked. Had the emu had it wits, it would assuredly have been bored out of them, but it did not.
Still the emu stood. Still it pecked. Still the blue world rose and set and the blue star set and rose. Still the dragons watched.
Dira Azzain dreamt she was the emu.
In one long, dragging instant, she found herself utterly bored out of her wits.
It was one thing to have a nightmare. Nightmares were scary, or so was the idea, but what of boring dreams? Was there even a name for these, the ones that were not horrible for horror, but merely revolting for an utter lack of anything at all? Deplorable for the sheer induced boredom they caused... No, Dira liked nightmares. They were interesting, an intrigue all their own, displaced from the logical into a land of pure madness. They were beautiful.
Boredom, however, was an entirely different matter. She woke up, screaming.
She woke up, and there was an emu in her face.
An emu. The emu. The other emu that was the same emu that was here. In her face.
She woke up screaming. She woke up, and there was an emu in her face.
Realising she had just woken up twice and that, subsequently, her odds of waking up again were rapidly approaching the land of bad, whichever direction that would be, Dira stared at the emu a moment and said, with all her heart, 'Ugh.' She then kicked the bird in the breast.
She woke up again, and this time the bird was slightly to the left. Luckily, this meant she could now safely fall off the couch, and so, naturally, she did.
The emu paid no mind.
Dira woke up again.
She was rapidly tiring of this, this waking up, or perhaps just this dream of waking up, assuming it was still a dream, assuming all of reality was not a dream, assuming that she was not a dream, assuming the emu... well, assuming a whole lot of things dream-related, Dira came to a logical conclusion in her bleary dreaming half-woken state that if she was just going to keep waking up, she might as well just stop, or whatever, maybe go back to sleep, even though she was probably already asleep. Even though she may or may not have been on the floor at this point. Even though she really had no idea what happens to one who dreams in a dream.
The emu was still in her face. And it smelled really bad. Or maybe her face was in it? Maybe. She really could not tell at this point, nor did she particularly care to.
Dreaming in a dream probably just makes the dream weirder, part of her thought, then fell asleep.