Memories of the Future “The Branch Line”

     “Yes, sirree, in the dream business there’s no time for sleep. We’re always working. Day and night. A completely dreamed-out pillow is an old dream-producing tool that 
has served millions of headboards. You have only to touch the down hidden inside and . . . Here—wouldn’t you like to see?

     The man wiped his hand on his apron then pressed it to one of the pillows. Through the cracks between his fingers, parti-colored smoke curled slowly up into the air in
 hazy, tenuous shapes. His free hand dove under the apron—and out came the bulging transparent eye of a magnifying glass.

     “You’ll see better with this.”

     Squinting through the glass, Quantin now clearly saw seeping out of the pillow images of people, trees, coiling spirals, bodies, and fluttering clothes; the 
parti-colored air swaying above the man’s fingers formed an open lattice through which a host of worlds flowed and intertwined.

     The man put away the glass.

     “There. Now the feathers filling these pouters, what are they? A wing torn into a host of tiny wingednesses, a flight exploded in eiderdown. Once they’ve been 
sewn into pillows, these tiny wingednesses fight to free themselves and take flight. Without success. They go on struggling until someone’s brain lies down on their atomized flight, and then . . . 
As for the human brain’s affinity for pillows, it’s entirely natural: they’re related, after all, the pillow and the brain. For what do you have under the crown of your head? A grayish white, porous-
plumose pulp wrapped in three pillowcases. (Your scientists call them membranes.) Yes, and I maintain that in the head of any sleeper, there is always one pillow more than he thinks. No point
pretending to have less. No, sirree, Off you go!

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky—translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull