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AELFWINE

Dreamed 1997/12/4 by Chris Wayan

THE ONEIRONAUTS

I'm nervous at this party. These people are too rich. Tonight they're playing at high-tech dream research: they take turns lying on couches and putting on diving helmets and wet suits and flippers for swimming around lucidly in the oneirosphere, as electrodes monitor every muscle and brainwave, and the new processors translate the readings and display their dream-adventures on the wall-screens for the guests.

Except it's all a game to them. The first subject they watch just pretends to go to sleep and tries to accurately mimic REM and dream-state readouts. Like it's a parlor game! I wonder if they're Stephen La Berge groupies from Stanford--they do use helmets and say "oneironaut" all the time. All this gear bought just to give them a thrill, a high-tech simulation of the real power of dreams.

It's my turn next. A couple of them suggest possibilities I might try, to be super-authentic. I feel I have a reputation to uphold as a strong dreamer, plus I'm a bit annoyed with these people. No, it's more than that. Moral disapproval? I think faking like that hurts your own soul.

So I let myself fall asleep for real, unspectacular though it may be, and let THEM worry about my dreams that they pick up on their REM monitors. Not just defiance: I'm tired, too, from being borderline sick all week.

Besides, I know that soon this party will soon be invaded by eco-terrorists and these idiots will be all be kidnapped for their crimes of pollution, car-worship, and over-consumption. Not that they'll mind. Being media types, they'll happily cover their own kidnapping, turn even that into yet another parlor game. So their dream-games are just filler, setting the scene for the true story--a real-life version of Norman Spinrad's black comedy "Pictures At Eleven."

I turn my back on them and go to sleep, surrounded by rich voyeurs. And here's what they saw on the monitors. My unprogrammed dream within a dream.

THE JOB OF DREAMER

I'm walking on a beach on another world. Gray, windy, but no rain. Meet a child who says s/he's the apprentice and heir to a position something like the Dalai Lama of Dreams--responsible for dreaming this world in a constructive direction, lucidly generating new people or things without being too controlled. Supposed to let the unconscious have the final decisions--the conscious is too culture-bound.

It's a challenging position--even if you're trained from childhood and have inherited aptitudes for it. You have to be BOTH a clear dreamer AND a good, loving person. I'm confident I could handle the dreamwork but less sure about the personal end. Who do I love, who do I help?

I turn from the dream-heir, and run into the wind diagonally toward the water. Aim for a gap in a low dune, then down to the water, in huge, floating leaps--not quite defying gravity, just teasing it a little. Feels like stretching a new ability. Flying, step by step...

UNDER MY BED THAT MORNING

I wake up and want to write down both dreams right away--the helmeted dream-fakers felt even more important than that dream-within-a-dream. But I feel uneasy, and look around first. I'm in my own bunk, in the ships' cabin, in the back of the flying saucer we captured from those vicious helmeted aliens a few days back. The rest are still out looking for our friend Aelfwine who disappeared a couple of days ago. We're starting to presume he's dead though--this planet we've landed on is pretty and green, but any new world is full of unknown dangers.

Suddenly, with a shock, I notice a latch beneath the mattress of my bunk. My bed's the lid for a storage locker? It's built into the wall on a sort of shelf; and I always assumed that the control mechanisms for the stardrive filled that space. But suddenly I know that under my bunk is the logical place for either a cryogenic storage vault for severely wounded aliens, or a nutrient-bath automated sickbed.

Either way, I'm pretty sure where Aelfwine is. Where his body is. I've been sleeping on him!

So one of us is a murderer. Must have found the hiding spot none of the rest of us noticed, killed him and stashed the body there. Of course I can't be sure till I lift the latch... and look.

If I find I've been sleeping on his corpse, the horror will drive my dream-memories away forever, so I sit and write hasty notes first--the party, the eco-terrorists, the Child who Dreams the World, flying lucidly. I have to face the truths of both worlds, not let one pre-empt the other. Whether he's dead, or frozen, or in a healing unit, waiting a few minutes more won't hurt. And I'd like other people to be here when I lift that bunk.

I go out into the steamy clearing and meet a couple of my friends. No progress in the search. One points out "Aelfwine is a Middle English name meaning "friend of the Elves" so we ought to inquire in the elf-cities we've been avoiding."

I feel drowsy again and sit on a log. My mind wanders--if "-wine" means friend, then the girl's name "Winnie" means friend. Is it short for Winifred? Sounds related to Guinevere. I thought that meant "white-cheeked". I have a strange response to this name Winnie, an embarrassed thrill. Is it because it sounds like a horse's name, and I'm part horse? The only Winnie I recall was on THE WONDER YEARS, a TV show on childhood in the 60s--the narrator's best friend was Winnie. She was cute...

I'm avoiding. I'm scared of the task at hand. To go in there and find out what sort of body is locked under my bed. A corpse, an icicle, or a convalescent?

And then I wake again, sweating with fear and dreading the task...

Takes several minutes till I realize THIS bed has no vault under it--I don't have to look for Aelfwine's corpse. That too was a dream. And though the dream-notes I wrote on the saucer stayed in the dreamworld of course, they DID fix my memories so I do recall all three dreams. I write them all down immediately...

THE ANSWERS

Is the dream warning that my shyness is killing me? Or is it making me retreat into a place where I can heal? I won't know--until I have the courage to face what's under my bed.



LISTS AND LINKS: I really have to quit sleeping on corpses! As in Amazon Ants - death - flying dreams - nested dreams (dreams within dreams, false waking) - nightmares - other worlds - dreaming personified - dreams on dreams - lucid dreams - shyness - Stephen La Berge - Tolkien - Ursula Le Guin - Andre Norton

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