Silently the witch and her daemon slip through the open Window. Although an infinitesimally tiny span of time bridges then - when they flew with their clan in their own world - and now - as they hover in the skies of the world we call real - the gap between those two phases of existence is wide enough to make their hearts falter for a moment.

There are stars in this place, the witch observes with approval, even while she recovers from the shock of her metaphysical translation. It is night and the light of the stars sleets down upon the witch and her partner, sustaining them as they rest upon the air; the witch supported by a branch of cloud-pine, her daemon by his ebony wings. The starlight is less crystalline here than it is in the northern skies of their homeworld, for the air - even such desert air as they are now breathing - lacks the purity to which they are accustomed. Nevertheless, it sustains them.

Over to the east, and slightly above them, the witch and her daemon see a a group of coloured lights moving westwards through the air and sense the atmospheric disturbance that its trailing vortices create. She is not the only denizen of these skies, then, and she must treat this aerial machine and others like it with great caution. It would obliterate her almost unknowingly, as an ocean liner might run down a sailing boat in the German Ocean.

Above them, the stars, galaxies and nebulae of bounded space - island universes of light in the surrounding darkness. Below, another island exists, or maybe oasis would be a better word; for any light-dwelling creature which found itself stranded in the dry lands beyond its perimeter would naturally seek out the thirst-quenching fountain of polychrome brilliance which lies below. The witch blinks her eyes and her irises contract to compensate for the intensity of the glare.

This light is clearly made by men, not nature, for it runs in straight lines, criss-crossing like a hollow checkerboard. Clumped within the squares which the lines define are more lights, of a curious greenish-white colour, and along the lines more lights move; white and red and as deadly in their way as the westbound beacons above. The stars are still and at this altitude, unblinking. The earthly lights are in ceaseless motion. And there is another thing that distinguishes them from the stars.

The noise.

The stars of heaven are silent; or they sing a sweet song of swooping melismatic harmonies. The lights of this place are not musical. The sound they make is harsh - it is a hum, a buzz, a crackle, a rasping whine, a screech of metal on metal. It is the the hoarse cry of the huckster, the roar of the crowd, the bullying shout of the soapbox orator. The witch shudders. This place with its vivid artificial glow is alien to her. She could not imagine herself riding her pine-branch down to the streets of the city below. She would be unable to bear it.

'Come,' she says to her daemon. 'Let us find our way home. 'This is a loathsome place. Look at it! It is not a place of life.'

'Wait,' her daemon responds. 'Look again. Look beyond the glare of the city's core. Look to its outskirts. The centre is a place of business. That bellowing light is a draw for customers. That is its purpose. But just beyond there, where the city meets the desert, that is where you will find the homes of the people who live here. That is where they live their real lives and dream their real dreams. There are no dreams left in the heart of the city, for they have all been sold for money. But out there, where there is quiet, human minds can listen and think and dream and grow and make.

'And behold! They have the stars, just as we do.' The raven-daemon rides on black wings, visible only in silhouette.

'Yes, we have the stars. But let us turn back and rejoin our clan, and breathe the light of the stars of home.'

And Pluvia Vega and Gienah turn in the air and, guided by an unerring sense of place, find the Window and pass gratefully through it in a flutter of darkling rags.