Another reprint/repost from the Daily Cabal, and another favorite of mine.
When the human race grew up a bit and got more sense, and matters on Earth were better in hand, we had a chance to look further about the place, just as we had always wanted to:—and when the time was right, making the proper ships was easier than we thought. So we flickered about in the deeps of space like fireflies in a North American summer night, and sometimes we found an answering flicker. The Sudantii were one of these. (It’s not their own name for themselves, which we don’t have the scent glands to pronounce, but one given them by an Irish romantic with bad spelling.)
We taught them a lot, whether we meant to or not: how to grow pumpkins, which do extremely well on their world, in some places growing big enough to be good houses; how to make whiskey, which they like best as a perfume. They taught us a lot, whether they meant to or not: how to grow detachable tails; how to grow detachable tales, which, like the wagging kind, may be reconnected elsewhere. From them, we learned not to hurry. From us, they learned to dream. Neither people yet knows how (our children might).
The Sudantii set aside whole evenings for dreaming.
“It is art,” they said.
“It is a manner of excavating terrors, yet safely,” they said.
“It’s fun,” their elders said.
“But we like the gap of dreams best,” one friend told us.
“What’s that?” One of us asked.
“Have you not practiced this art many thousands of years?”
“Yes, but perhaps we use different words.”
“The gap of dreams, it is the place you walk to just before waking. You come to it and all the dreams are still around you, releasing their perfumes, and you think you’re in them still, but a voice is scenting, ‘You are in a dream.’ And you drift to the surface. And you wake.”
They told us how some of them had begun to practice lengthening that moment. They have Gappers now, who came back from that place with answers, questions—even recipes. We have begun to gap, too.
Ah, the gaps! The lurch before planetfall. The breath before you lead your lover into your new pumpkin. The space after the equal sign in an equation. The moment you smell whiskey perfume, before you lean back and count the stars like fireflies.