This could be …
[I was dreaming of mermaids, gathering around my half-drowned body, pulling at my clothes, blonde, fishy, exquisite in their tight-spun scales. All the while, that hypnotic, slightly absurd voice in the background intoning breathily in English and Portuguese. Why Portuguese?]
I wake to find her bending over me. It’s hard to see my companion now as anything but man in daylight, when we ride together, and shoot game, and jingle our spurs. At night, I cannot but think of the woman within the robes. I have seen the skill with which she wields that knife, though, and heard a tale or two of the females of her race. I fear that I might lose more than my pride were I to approach her unbidden. And yet she continues to fascinate.
Last night we were talking beside the camp-fire. She was curious to know what I hoped to find in this barren wasteland, and I tried to tell her of the treasures of Turkestan. When she heard the treasures were old books and scrolls, however, her interest somewhat abated. I boasted a little of the fame and fortune such finds could achieve, which brought her attention back for a while. Then she excused herself to sleep.
That is the sleep I have now interrupted: “You dream. You dream too much. Is it a good dream this time?”
“I don’t know,” I reply, still half in the grip of those fishy hands and bodies. “It was of sirens, mermaids – do you know what I mean?”
“I have never seen the sea, or its people either.”
“Oh well, no-one’s ever seen mermaids. They’re not real, you know: except in dreams.”
“And what do they do with you in the dream that you turn and cry out so much?”
“They wish to drown me.”
“They are evil, then, evil spirits of some kind?”
“I don’t know if they’re evil, but they try to drown sailors, certainly.”
“Is it not evil to kill without cause?”