Bass had the dream again that night.

She first came to him the night of his mother’s funeral, and when he woke that night—frightened and crying—with only a fleeting memory of the terrible vision that had passed before his eyes, he was sure some beast was loose upon the earth, and threatening. For he had seen her thundering across an endless plain, coming toward him on hooves made of steel, and he knew, even then, as a boy, that something had come to replace that which had been torn from his life, and was lost forever.

Now that he had come to know her, though, he was no longer afraid of the powerful great horse that thundered—eternally, it seemed—across that open plain toward him, looming larger each time she neared, appearing first as a spark of light on the horizon, then a glow as she galloped swiftly across that wasteland toward him—saddled and bridled, but riderless . . . her eyes flashing, nostrils flaring . . . her hoofbeats pounding in rhythm to the beat of his own pounding heart . . . louder, and then louder . . . her bone-white teeth a reminder of something he knew he should not forget, yet could never remember.

And then came the voices, just whispers below the threshold of her pounding hooves. But each time he heard them, he would turn in the dream and look back to see who was speaking—and find only more of the plain, stretching endlessly toward some vague dark movement on the horizon. Then, in the twin lights between those two worlds—the one he could see and the one he could not—he would turn back again and stand transfixed, and watch as she approached, see the fire reflecting from her powerful wet shoulders . . . her long mane trailing the wind . . . those bone-white teeth gnashing the bit between her jaws. Stand . . . until he thought, had he courage enough, he could almost reach out and touch her.

And only later, after he woke, would he think of the voices again.

Sometimes he felt there were hundreds of them passing around him like the wind around an open window. At other times he felt only two or three of the voices were actually speaking to him and that the others were there only as spectators, or as witnesses to some as yet unknown event. If so, they were a mistake, an anomaly which had nothing to do with him.

And perhaps they weren’t even voices at all, he sometimes thought, just sounds waiting for someone to give them form. And on those few occasions when he did wake, thinking he understood what they were saying, he would gasp and lose it all in the first breath, more convinced than ever they were a mistake that had nothing to do with him.

But she was no mistake, that powerful great horse. She was his and he never doubted it. A harbinger of sorts, a messenger carrying word to him of something yet to come—something terrible perhaps, or something wonderful. He didn’t know which, but each time she came, she loomed larger than the time before and the earth beneath him shook with greater intensity. And each time, he stood facing her just a moment longer than the time before, facing the terrible onslaught of her pounding hooves, the fire leaping from her strong shoulders that threatened to scorch the earth all the way out to that vague movement on the horizon; face her until he could almost look into the furnace of her eyes. Then he would wake, suddenly, with a shudder, and groan at his own weakness, his own inability to stand until the end.

But then . . . then, there did at last come a night when he forced himself to wait long enough to look into her eyes, and he found there, instead of the horror he had expected, something else. Something that surprised him, and frightened him all over again, but in a different way—for when he woke that night he understood something new about himself, and something new about her too. For he had seen the immense sadness in her eyes, the enormous grief, and he knew she wasn’t what he thought. Instead, she was something else, something that went back to a time before darkness separated from the light, before words were spoken. And from that night on, he knew she was eternal, a part of that vast emptiness that separated all that was living from all that was not.

And from that night on, she became his obsession as well. He longed for her the way other men long for a beautiful woman they know they cannot have, but he could not force her to him. She came only when it was time, as though they both were tied somehow to that great clock in the sky that moved the stars through the heavens. And though he wanted to find out what would happen if he stayed until the end, until he could reach out and touch her, he was powerless to do so. His courage always failed him. And he would awaken, breathless, back in his own place and time, vaguely aware of hoofbeats receding into the night . . .