"There are twelve houses,* and each must be traversed. The dreamer is a pilgrim, a mad fool who knows less and less the further he travels upon his path, and he must stop at each house and confront the mystery of the thresholds contained therein.
"In the first house, the dreamer will find a door bound with silver wire. Woven through the wire will be the broken armor of vanquished crabs. There will be no one to greet the dreamer. No one will offer to wash his feet or offer him a cup of sweetened wine. The table in the hall will be bare. The walls will have but faint memories of tapestries, and the ash in the fireplace will be naught but a dusty recollection of an ancient blaze. This house has been abandoned. But the once-proud owners forgot to take what lies behind this door.
"The second house contains a pool. If the residents are about, then the pond will be filled. Fresh plants will thrust their water-borne stalks over the rim of the pond and lay their delicate fruit upon the woven mats that surround the brick enclosure of the pool. If the residents have departed, then the pond will be nothing more than a film of foul water—a habitat fit only for blood-hungry insects. The dreamer must not partake of the pleasure of the fruit nor allow any part of himself to be given to the biting insects; the dreamer must abstain from all such expressions, for either is to show favor to one facet or the other of this house's duality. Only when he is truly free from the fear and passion of his flesh can he discover the grate at the bottom of the pool.
"It is said that the road to Heaven lies beyond the gate of the third house. Of a house, there is no sign; there is only a wall, a barricade, and a courtyard beyond. It is said that the rewards due virtuous warriors who have fallen in battle wait for his arrival in this courtyard. The dreamer may peer through the gaps in the wall, but he will see nothing. Only when he opens the gate and passes across this threshold will the <garden of the courtyard be born. Only then will he see what will not be his fate. When the third gate opens, the dreamer must resist the temptation of the path which can never truly satisfy him. Only in this way will he gain the strength necessary to pass the remaining thresholds.
"A crippled sculptor lives in the fourth house. Unable to walk or stand, he is forced to chip away at the marble growing from the center of his house with a bow and stone-headed arrows. It is the work of several lifetimes, and while he has finished some of the pieces, he is never truly satisfied with them, and continues to chip away at their facades. Is he mad? No more than any other resident of any other house along this path. His task is endless, but so is his life. What task is impossible when you, too, are equal to the impossible? What effort is fruitless if all your efforts eventually become equally meaningless and attainable?
"The floor and walls of the fifth house are shimmering metal. Cold and artificial, as if the structure has been built from the hammered metal of a thousand spears and swords, the fifth house is not a habitable house. Echoes persist and grow, as if the footstep of the dreamer has awakened memories of past pilgrims. If the dreamer can be still, if he can quell the hammering of his<heart, the disturbed ghosts of the house will return to their uneasy slumber. If he cannot calm himself, he will be deafened and driven mad by the reverberation of history. The correct door within the fifth house has a handle of twisted horn; the other doors open onto battlefields and graveyards.
"The sixth house is a tree, and to find the threshold of this house, the dreamer must climb into the upper branches. The bark is like dried mud in its texture, and old stone in its hardness. Creeping vines have, during innumerable generations prior to the passage of the dreamer, wrapped the branches with their tendrils. Curtains of flowering stems descend from the branches, and the scent of the blooms envelopes the tree in a fragrant cloud. There are <red birds that grow to the size of man's fist living in the tree. They have patterns of yellow triangles on the underside of their wings, and when the presence of the dreamer disturbs them, they take to the sky in a confusion of compass arrows. Which way? Which way?
"The seventh house used to have three towers, and the outer two still stand. The third tower has become inverted, falling away into a pit equal in depth to the tower's original height. The dreamer must descend the twisted stairwell that clings to the ragged wall of the pit to reach the hidden door. The stone steps are old and worn, slick with the fetid moss that grows in the perpetual gloom of the pit. There are marks on the walls, gashes and divots that might be words, but they are a tongue unsuitable for human anatomy. The dreamer must not speak any of the words he sees inscribed on the walls, regardless of the secrets they seem to reveal.
"The eighth house is the most like a familiar abode (the skewed infinity of the echoes). But, the similarity ends when the dreamer enters: the doors become slick like glass, the windows reflect rooms in different houses (with different furniture and different guests), and the chandeliers all hold candles that flicker with a multitude of colored flames. This is the house of in-decision and temerity. Dreamers have been lost within its walls, wandering initiates become lost within the endless expanse of reflective walls.
"The ninth house was once an abattoir. The stink of its history cannot be scrubbed from its walls. The floors of this house are stained black, and the air that drifts through the chambers is fetid. Stay not overlong in this house, as its poison is insidious. Hurry through the twenty-five outer chambers to reach the inner sanctum. Divine the secret of the four locks, but be wary of the price of folly. The house waits for someone to awaken it.
"The tenth house, like the ancient libraries, has been burned down. There is nothing left of its honey-combed chambers where thousands of scrolls once resided. There is nothing left of its labyrinthine hallways, and its sliding doors. The house is a blackened shell, a husk of stone filled with nothing but charred timber and mounds of ash. Yet, the door within the tenth house still persists. Opening this threshold is not difficult. Summoning the door into the realm of the houses is.
"The eleventh house is at the bottom of a large lake. Water drawn off this lake, carried away bucket by bucket, had been used to quench the fire of the tenth house, and now the surface is low enough that the peaks of the towers are no longer submerged. The sun has dried and bleached the tower stones so that they seem like the stubs of skeletal fingers reaching out of the water. The house is home to fish and crab, who thrive in its shelter for its doors and windows are too narrow for larger predators.
"The twelfth house is visible only at midnight. The bridge across its moat is made firm by <starlight and the sigils on the great doors of this house are only readable by moonlight. Its guardians are most alert just before dawn, and the seeker must be done with this house before the moon vanishes from the sky or he will be caught in the world between this in-between realm. The portal within this night house appears to be a simple arch in the central courtyard, but the <world beyond the archway is not the same as the world before it, regardless of how alike the two may seem. What the seeker sees through the archway is but a <reflection of where he stands. The reason he does not see himself is because he has become immaterial by this point in his journey. He has become dream, though he does not realize it."
(from Safiq Al-Kahir's Book of Dreams)