A CHILDREN’S WORLD
Lyra was awake early.
She’d had a horrible dream: she had been given the vacuum flask she’d seen her father, Lord Asriel, show to the Master and Scholars of Jordan College. When that had really happened, Lyra had been hiding in the wardrobe, and she’d watched as Lord Asriel opened the flask to show the Scholars the severed head of Stanislaus Grumman, the lost explorer; but in her dream, Lyra had to open the flask herself, and she didn’t want to. In fact, she was terrified. But she had to do it, whether she wanted to or not, and she felt her hands weakening with dread as she undipped the lid and heard the air rash into the frozen chamber. Then she lifted the lid away, nearly choking with fear but knowing she had to – she had to do it. And there was nothing inside. The head had gone. There was nothing to be afraid of.
But she awoke all the same, crying and sweating, in the hot little bedroom facing the harbor, with the moonlight streaming through the window, and lay in someone else’s bed clutching someone else’s pillow, with the ermine Pantalaimon nuzzling her and making soothing noises. Oh, she was so frightened! And how odd it was, that in real life she had been eager to see the head of Stanislaus Grumman, and had begged Lord Asriel to open the flask again and let her look, and yet in her dream she was so terrified.
When morning came, she asked the alethiometer what the dream meant, but all it said was, It was a dream about a head.
She thought of waking the strange boy, but he was so deeply asleep that she decided not to. Instead, she went down to the kitchen and tried to make an omelette, and twenty minutes later she sat down at a table on the pavement and ate the blackened, gritty thing with great pride while the sparrow Pantalaimon pecked at the bits of shell.
She heard a sound behind her, and there was Will, heavy-eyed with sleep.
can make omelette,” she said. “I’ll make you some if you like.”
He looked at her plate and said, “No, I’ll have some cereal. There’s still some milk in the fridge that’s all right. They can’t have been gone very long, the people who lived here.”
She watched him shake corn flakes into a bowl and pour milk on them – something else she’d never seen before.
He carried the bowl outside and said, “If you don’t come from this world, where’s your world? How did you get here?”
“Over a bridge. My father made this bridge, and… I followed him across. But he’s gone somewhere else, I don’t know where. I don’t care. But while I was walking across there was so much fog, and I got lost, I think. I walked around in the fog for days just eating berries and stuff I found. Then one day the fog cleared, and we was up on that cliff back there – “
She gestured behind her. Will looked along the shore, past the lighthouse, and saw the coast rising in a great series of cliffs that disappeared into the haze of the distance.
“And we saw the town here, and came down, but there was no one here. At least there were things to eat and beds to sleep in. We didn’t know what to do next.”
“You sure this isn’t another part of your world?”
‘”Course. This en’t my world, I know that for certain.”
Will remembered his own absolute certainty, on seeing the patch of grass through the window in the air, that it wasn’t in his world, and he nodded.
“So there’s three worlds at least that are joined on,” he said.
“There’s millions and millions,” Lyra said. “This other daemon told me. He was a witch’s daemon.