Maya groaned. ‘Not again.’ But then, what had she expected? It had been one of those days. So, of course, nothing was going to go her way.

First, she had (accidentally, honest!) deleted Manan’s science project from the computer, though Amma had later retrieved most of it. And she’d ended the day by smashing an entire set of glasses at dinner. That wasn’t all her fault, but never mind. In the middle, there was that thing with Arush – but Maya didn’t want to think about that.

So anyway. Here she was again, for the third night in a row, prancing about on the edge of a giant bowl. Well, not prancing exactly, she was just turning on her heels. And it wasn’t a bowl, it was just shaped like a bowl. If a bowl could be large enough to contain, say, a swimming pool.

This had to be a dream, right?

The inside of the gigantic bowl was a smooth concave of grass, with little pink, purple and white flowers sprinkled on it. The rim of the bowl – where Maya stood – as a hard, grey strip, like tarmac, edged by a criss-crossing metal fence.

Just as well for the fence because otherwise she might have fallen off into a misty, white nothingness. The only reason Maya wasn’t terrified about standing on the edge of a bowl floating in midair was because she knew this was a dream. She’d had it before. And if her previous experiences were anything to go by, she’d just have to wait it out. She would wake in the morning as usual, with a clear memory of having been here. Just standing.

Why did she have to have the boringest recurring dream in the history of recurring dreams? She pressed the heel of her hand into her eyes, as if doing so would speed up the process of...well, whatever this was. She slapped her cheeks as a last resort. But like she had expected, nothing happened. She sighed. ‘Just standing on a road going nowhere in the middle of nowhere.’

Gripping the railing again with one hand, she reached out with her other, into the foggy – or misty – exterior. She shivered. She wasn’t easily spooked, but – ‘Actually, there is somewhere to go,’ said a quiet voice behind her.

Maya choked on a scream. She whipped around, her heart slamming into her mouth. A few metres away, where there had been nobody just moments ago, stood a most peculiar man – tall as a giant, pale as a ghost, quiet as a shadow.

Despite her hammering heart, she felt no threat from him. Still, strange men in strange places weren’t good news. She shrank back, the bars of the fence digging into her lower back, reminding her there was nowhere to go.

I should be panicking.

But she wasn’t.

This is a dream. Strange things are supposed to happen. She studied the man. He hadn’t moved. He stood straight, legs together, hands crossed behind his back. He was extraordinarily fair, even for a white person, and his hair had the same washed-out look as his face, like the colour had leached out of him. The only thing that stood out were his eyes – a dark and blazing blue, like jewels.

His trousers, jacket and shoes – Cool boots! – were all jet black, and he also had on a silvery-grey T-shirt-like thing. The jacket had a logo that looked like an hourglass embroidered in silver thread.

Strange fashion sense overall.

A bit girly.

He even had some jewellery – a dainty brooch in the shape on an eye, pinned under the hourglass.

‘I apologise if I frightened you.’ He sounded calm, for such a giant, his voice quite soft.
‘Who are you?’ Maya demanded. ‘What do you want?’

He lowered his eyes and stared at Maya’s feet. ‘My name is Noah. I know this sounds unreasonable, but you must come with me.’ The accent was strange. Everything about him is strange! – but what he said was stranger, even how he said it. Almost like he was afraid.

Maya took a deep breath and puffed up her chest.

‘Forget it.’

‘You need my help to get out of here.’

Maya scoffed. ‘I’ve managed so far, I’ll manage again.

Thank you. You can go now. This is my dream.’

‘This is not a dream, Maya.’

Excerpted with permission from Sands of Time: The Prophecy, Payal Dhar, Speaking Tiger Books.