“Good morning,” said somebody, speaking right into the middle of a dream about getting stuck in a sort of quicksand in the middle of the Orion Nebula. “I have brought you some tea.”
I opened an eye. I looked over the edge of the hammock into a nearby pair of coalsack-black eyes set into a sand-colored face. I was fully dressed and hung over; something smelled very bad, and I realized it was me.
“My name,” said the person with the tea, “is Shikitei Baldu. Please drink this tea. It will help rehydrate your tissues.”
I looked a little further and saw that he ended at the waist; he was the legless man with the strap-on wings whom I had seen in the tunnel the day before. “Uh,” I said, and tried a little harder and got as far as, “Good morning.” The Orion Nebula was fading back into the dream, and so was the sensation of having to push through rapidly solidifying gas clouds. The bad smell remained. The room smelled excessively foul, even by Gateway standards, and I realized I had thrown up on the floor. I was only millimeters from doing it again. Bakin, slowly stroking the air with his wings, dexterously dropped a stoppered flask next to me on the hammock at the end of one stroke. Then he propelled himself to the top of my chest of drawers, sat there, and said: