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Dream of the Merchant

The air is very still, and smells of hemp and sweat. In an atmosphere that's brighter than it should be, a lamp hangs from the ceiling, a brass affair from whose beak you would expect a genie, not a flame and smoke, to come out. It reminds one of a movie, of that illumination which Hollywood calls darkness.

The man in front of you is fat. Not just fat - immense. Rolls of fat cascade from his neck, and his face stands out as if framed by fat, a small face in a huge head, with yellowish eyes and a coarse, sparse beard which reminds one of pubic hairs. You cannot see him in his entirety, or even his face, but only in glimpses and flashes, perhaps the light isn't as bright as it seemed to be, and it is thus impossible to judge his countenance, if he is angry or serene, joyful or sad.

He is sitting on top of a pile of rolled carpets, and dressed in a rich gown of silk. It is almost impossible, in the dim light (is it dim or not?), to know where the carpets end and his body starts, as if he were a spirit of the carpets, perhaps the genie who's not inside the brass lamp. It is not that which makes him grotesque, however, but his hands, which are fine and almost feminine, slim, impossibly long fingers tapering into short, manicured nails. They wave out of the folds and drapes of his robed arms, as if bearing no connection to the obese head and formless body, tracing figures in the dusty, smoky air.

The hands of merchants resemble their wares. These are not the rough hands of a merchant in rugs and carpets. They are too fine even for a slaver's hands, for a financier, for a dealer in music and illusion. What does the merchant sell, what does he buy? The hands wave, and their waving and weaving looks as if the air itself is a gross thing, which they touch but reluctantly as the long fingers create gestures redolent with meaning.

You cannot help but think souls would be too coarse for those hands

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