Troubling dreams. I dreamt I was underground. No light. I had to find my way by touch and sound. Dry bones crunched under my feet. Off in the distance I could hear water falling, but there was no moisturein the air or on the rocks in my location.
After a while I began to hear a leathery fluttering, raspy breathing, as if there were creatures circling me. I began to panic. I hurried my pace; surely this cave must have an exit somewhere. I headed for the sound of the water. At one point I thought I felt something brush against my leg. I gasped and tried to scream, but no sound came.
Eventually I saw a glimmer of light ahead of me – an opening! I scrambled towards it as fast as I could, heedless of any rocks or barriers in my way. At one point I tripped and cut my knee, which caused whatever was shadowing me to stir and chitter. I ran.
And just like that, I was out. I don't even remember crossing the threshold, but just beyond this (from the outside, deceptively small) cave opening was a tiny village. Welcoming-looking green-roofed houses clumped together in an inviting fashion, and up on the highest hill I could see a small temple in the distance.
Even before I reached it, I knew what village this must be. This was Ulthar, the dream city wherein it is forbidden to kill a cat.
After a couple days, I've gotten used to sleeping in late and doing most of my exploration at night. The temple here is only open from moon-rise to moon-set. And it's closed on the new moon.
The temple is a smallish compared to the others in the city, sandstone with bits of marble. Regal feline statues wearing crowns guard the entrance. A large opening in the roof and an ingenious set of mirrors allow the entire main area to be lit by moonlight. I wonder what they do on a cloudy night.
By the altar, the cat-headed goddess's statue. Polished ebony, bare-breasted and wearing exquisite golden jewelry. Wreathes of flowers around her neck and laid at her feet.
It seems strange to speak of this district having a "night life" as such, but as befitting its name, it's far busier at night than during the day. But it's not drunken, rowdy students and ruffians. Instead, it's mostly mothers and children and the ever-present cats. In fact, in this district, quite a few of the establishments don't even open until after sunrise.
During the day, the streets are quiet, but by no means empty. But most of the interesting bits are at night, so I adapt.
Standing on a terrace overlooking the city, high up on mons solis. It's my last day in the district of Apollo, and it's a beautiful day. Far warmer than usual for this time of year, the sun is shining bright.
Between here and the glittering skyscrapers of Thoth, nestled between the mountain and the hills near the coast is urbs lunae, the "city of the moon" sacred to Bast. It looks like a quaint residential district in comparison, lots of small white houses with painted green roofs.
The area is, not surprisingly, overrun with cats. Black statues of regal cats wearing Egyptian jewelry stand outside most buildings. Making my way to the traveler's hostel near the temple, I have to watch my step for fear of tripping over fearless strays darting between my legs.
In my room, I'm befriended by a gray tomcat I found sleeping on my bed, curled up in a ray of sunshine coming through the window. As soon as I sat down to write, he meowed and pawed at me until I let him sit in my lap.
The room is much better furnished than either of the others so far. It feels very homey; I've got a large carpet in the center of the room and thick, warm blankets on the bed. There are actually pictures on the walls, one gorgeous night-time shot of the moon bathing the city in a blue glow, and another I'm guessing is of the owner of the hostel's family. And a fireplace! No wood, though, so I'll probably have to pick some up tonight.
My last week in mons solis, and then off to the next district of the city. Today I decide to take a walk down via francesca, which I'm assured is an interesting location that must be visited by any tourist. It's a long street that meanders a bit near the top and bottom of the mountain, and runs straight down the middle. The closely packed houses and shops with their tall peaked roofs house a high density of the area's artists and radical thinkers, so I figure I can spend the day checking out the art galleries and such.
For lunch I stop in a fantastic little cafe, Café Diabolic. Delicious fries, cooked and seasoned to perfection. A sandwich jammed with so many ingredients I felt for sure it would overwhelm, but each played off the others exquisitely. My mouth didn't know what to do so it just went to happy. And the best coffee I've ever tasted in my life. I may not be able to go back to the coffee at home; I'll need to remember to bring some beans back with me.