He was dreaming and he knew it. Falling asleep he had notated with a filament of his mind, "Look closely and remember." And as he drew down and felt the vertigo of weightless sleep a soft wind blew on dying embers.
It all came back to him as he stood on the ridge overlooking the spasm of bodies below that danced inland from the sea in a place where wild shoots of green grass broke the sand and fanned to the wind of ecstatic feet.
"It's a dream!" He shouted. He felt the extinct mound that had been leveled by a thousand eruptions tremble beneath him as if he were on foam and for a moment he felt the hill collapse and his feet sink.
He had seen some of the revelers before. They had masks at their sides and invisible, behind the perimeter of palm trees, the whining hum of an inhuman vortex could be heard.
There were fifty of them at least. He could see a few women along the beach with cloth sacks around their naked waists. They were bending and picking shells or clams off the gray sand that popped and foamed with the reticence of the tide. But among the dancers there were no women. And none of them along the beach seemed interested in the dancing as if picking shells from the sand were enough to interest them.
He listened for voices resounding off the exhaling breakers. A faint glimmer breezed over the tree tops. The men below danced till the sweat merged with distinct markings on their faces and chests.
They were a blur of flesh and color dancing between oblique shadows of the dormant palms while the green tongues licked the ankles as if a hydra were concealed just below the surface of the ground.
"It's just a dream!" He shouted again and this time ran down the slope of the hill waving his hands crazily, his shirt flapping in the wind.
It was silent by the time he got to the clearing where the men and been dancing and they stood still, arms folded as he ran to each one and felt their faces to see if they would disappear. "It was a dream," he said quietly and buried his head as one of the dancers lifted his mask and fit it over his own face. It was white that had been bleached like a bone in the sun. Eyes and cheeks bulged with effulgent expression. The mask looked sick. At any moment it would convulse and retch, it's lips were pulled back sardonically.
When he saw it, animate, on the body of the dancer he stumbled backward and they were on him, throwing him to the crusty sand. Once again he heard the shrieking behind the palms. It was no longer behind the palms. It was now over there…there…there….over him…inside. He felt the weight of driftwood slowly laid on his body, pressing it to the sand, his chest billowing into hard resistance. They aren't serious he thought to himself. We don't do sacrifices anymore. They are showing me how it was and why now is so important. But there was something compelling about then that made the now look dim. But not me, not through me, I wish to go on thank you.
He now was a dancer with a mask at his side and he stood outside the wood waiting for a man who was standing on the ridge.
He dreamt to be free of them! He ran along the seashore looking for an opening in the water. No, it was a continuous line weaving in and out of his peripheral vision. He felt if he ran fast enough he would lift up into the air and out of range of their voices but that didn't happen. And the disillusionment of that made him panic even more. Now they were more real than his dream, than himself. And they would win!