Above the White Tower
Dreamed 1/14/90 by Chris Wayan
My dreams and I are playing a game--I have to figure out where I am without asking anyone, from the clues the landscape gives me. I'm standing naked in a meadow at the head of a green shallow valley. Houses and yards straggle along the bottom, but the slopes are wooded. Could be East Coast hills or West Coast, but probably not between them: the climate feels mild, maritime. But I need to see further to be sure.
So I shake my hair back and spread my arms wing-wide and jump into the air. I glide down the valley, east I think. At the confluence of this small canyon and another much like it, I skim over a house with a circular swimming pool cover or cistern-cover, a disk fully twenty feet wide. I wheel like a hawk around this minor landmark, thinking.
I decide "The only way to tell where I am from the land is to see lots of it--up high where I can see big, distant landmarks." I spiral up, up, up. Circle the circle, keep it as my reference point. It's beautiful country, spring-green. To the West, higher hills block my view. Appalachians or the Coast Range? To the East, haze blocks my view. Low hills much like these. I must go still higher. Snowy peaks to the east would decide it--or an ocean, or great cities. I might recognize a skyline. I'm not exactly Ms Jet Set, but I've seen photos.
The wind is very strong. This could be California in spring. The winds then get fierce in the Coast Range passes, so fierce they build wind farms. Though I don't see any.
Still, I'm not that high yet.
Hey, what's THAT? A huge white tower, miles off. It has a name across the top in fifty-foot letters: El Centro, El Cerrito, I can't tell from here, but Spanish, and the community comes into focus as a wealthy Southern California town in spring. A town that can afford a thousand-foot tower for a civic landmark!
The wind is fierce, cold, but rising. I loft higher without trying.
A tiny speck near the tower. A plane?
A flying man.
Curious, I lean and slice into the wind, and slowly near him and the white tower. Plainly, he's riding its updrafts.
He's a tall type with a strong chin and a beaky nose, hardly human at all. Oh. He isn't! He's one of those aliens that landed a while back. I'd heard they were cold, but he flies right up to me smiling. We soar together toward the Tower. He seems to enjoy a partner--no one else is up here. Idiots! It's great. We zoom up the face of the white monolith, powered by a hundred-mile-an-hour updraft. Like a waterfall up.
Tremendous feeling of sun, falling, flight. Cold air, hot light.
Falling in love. Out of millions, no one else loves these fierce heights. No one else will risk such winds.
We mate in mid-air, over the civic center, not caring if anyone sees from behind the glaring windows. Sealed in, afraid to soar. We soar.
And then... we trade genders! He turns female, and I turn male.
She wanted to be the pregnant one because her species can gestate fast if need be. Her family and shipmates are pressing her to leave soon; so if she wants to stay with me, she needs an excuse, quick! And a newborn baby is a pretty strong reason to stay on Earth.
I hesitate to ask about the crews. Are they hierarchical like our Navy, or do they have some other structure? What's her family like? I'm afraid I'll offend or seem barbaric by assuming a hierarchy. Yet from what she volunteers, it sounds like they do order her around--even bully her.
We descend in a long glide toward the local landing field. Her starship is there on a pad. Land hand in hand--and my lover gives birth on the field, immediately, without any visible effort. I'm envious.
We walk to the ship's ramp. Her family-crew come out and greet her, admire our newborn child--and ignore me. I quickly learn it's racial prejudice as well as cultural. We couldn't possibly be cross-fertile, the child can't be mine, I'm corrupting her, stealing her away by claiming to be a parent of one of the true people. I obviously just envy the star race and want what I don't deserve: intimacy with my superiors.
And my love meekly hands them our baby. "There's my contribution to the Kindred." And she walks down off the ramp. Onto Earth.
She says proudly "I think I'm already pregnant with our second child--the one we can keep." With a rush of sadness, I realize she knew all along she'd never be able to get away without sacrificing her first-born. And... I know she's right. We had zero chance to raise that child in peace. They were closed-minded and powerful, and they'd have taken my lover AND her child.
She bought them off and shut them up. By their rules, she's free to go ruin her life now as a savage, with a savage, if that's her choice.
And it is. She chose me.
THE NEXT DAY
My friend Mark calls up and proposes we go to San Francisco and scout out art galleries that might be interested in my computer paintings. Four hours of huge white towers, fierce tower-funneled winds in the concrete canyons, and flying shoals of pigeons, and rolled-up pictures flapping like wings, and snotty gallery people--the aliens! The dream was a witty parody of my day--only not the day before the dream, but the day after.
Even the twenty-foot circle I used as my reference point turns out to be precognitive: a twenty-foot brick circle in the street, marking (I later learn) an emergency cistern in case of another 1906-scale quake and fire. We parked by the circle and used it as a reference point. I suspect my soulmate was a mixture of Mark's friendship and painting itself. And the child? The child was the picture we carried along, a huge computer print titled KICK AUTHORITY--a painting about freedom, play, rebellion.
THE NEXT FALL
I move to San Francisco and become an artist there. At my first art opening, the tall, arrogant gallery owner gradually drinks himself into a state of sullen rage because I didn't bring him an entire keg of beer. There's plenty to drink, but he needs more, more, more. That night, he tears my paintings off the walls and rips one of them up... and then in the morning tells me, deadpan, "A man broke in and did it. Take your damn paintings and get out of here."
And in the end, I did. I had to write off that painting's destruction as one of the birth-pangs of my new life--though I felt like I'd lost a child.
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