Chapter 3 - Extreme Life

        In the dream, you are in an ice cave. It is starkly beautiful, suffused in blue light from an outside source. There’s nothing to eat, no sustenance, just the angular planes of ice crystals. It is stunningly cold, well below freezing. Your breath billows in front of you; perspiration forms a frozen rind on your neck. You can’t stay here long. Then you notice creatures working industriously along the far wall of the cave. They’re oblivious to the intense cold. From the strange smell you guess that they have antifreeze running through their veins. This place is clearly their home.
        Then you awake. Not to your bed, but to another strange world. You are on the shores of a river, with canyon walls that rise up and disappear in the gloom. The river is acrid and filled with the worst kind of industrial effluent. The water is so acidic that it sizzles as it passes over the rocks, which are themselves discolored by chemical residue. The smell is foul and metallic and it almost makes you gag. As your eyes get used to the twilight, you see shadowy figures in the water. Amazingly, they are unperturbed by the toxic environment. Some of them are splashing and playing, some are drinking the water, and others are gathering lumps of metal from the sediment on the river bank. The scene would be idyllic is if were not so bizarre.
        You wake again, with a start. But you are still not in your room. You’re encased in a metal shell, something like a submersible. A porthole in front of you is made of glass several inches thick; you sense the phenomenal pressure of water beyond. By your hand there’s a switch. Flicking it illuminates a fantastic scene beyond the porthole: smoky fumaroles emerging from fissures where the magma glows dull red, and rocks crusted with colorful minerals and crystals. The water shimmers with intense heat and you can feel it leeching into the submersible; this is another place you cannot stay long. Wonder and claustrophobia are warring within you. Then you notice graceful creatures gliding through the gloom. They are translucent in this place where sunlight never reaches. They graze at the edge of the deep-sea vent, just yards from a seam that reaches down miles into the crust. You sense that they have lived here for eons.
        You wake once more. This time it is to the familiar landscape of your bedroom. You marvel at the lucidity of the dream; the real world seems a bit disappointing by comparison. Another realization hits you. In your dream you had been miraculously shrunk to microscopic size. The tableaus you explored would pass unnoticed in the everyday world.
        Then you awake.

Chapter 3

Extreme Life

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