Dreamed 1984/4/15 by Chris Wayan
A friend and I are hiking in a wild, barren part of the Andes. We climb a high ridge, topping out near 6500 meters, and stop, stunned. A giant caldera sprawls below us, much greener than the surrounding country. The center's a lake studded with islets. We climb down to the shore, still at around 5500 meters, high enough so we're still gasping, short on air. An ancient temple stands on the nearest island. We assume it's an Incan relic.
Then the owners emerge from the lake. Lizard people. At least their pebbly skin, forked tongues, and tails look that way to us--maybe an expert would call them small dinosaurs, for they're fast-moving bipeds, hot-blooded, comfortable even in this thin-aired, cold valley. We're the first to walk into their valley, but they already know of humans--and want to stay secret from us. Still, they treat us courteously, though they won't speak of their origins--are they survivors from dino times, or shipwrecked aliens? I'm inclined to suspect they're castaways, since they have computers and lasers.
My partner is more credulous than I am, takes their courtesy for trust, and uses the radio hidden in his pack to call in a small plane full of our friends, ready to set up diplomatic relations. I'm uneasy: these people don't want us. The plane whirrs over the ridge--a prop plane! I worry they'll conclude our technology's a century more primitive than theirs, and figure they can safely kill us to keep their secret. I'm relieved as I hear them evaluate the design--streamlined, fast, but propellor-driven so it can land on short wilderness flats and lakes. Appropriate technology. We passed their tech test--barely. By dumb luck.
The lizard people invite us to scuba dive in the lake, down to one of their domed cities. The steel-ribbed glassy dome warms the water and air like a greenhouse, though the air pressure is no higher.
Their scuba devices require a little adaptation. I seem to be getting enough air from mine, but somehow it doesn't quite satisfy. Not thin, not stuffy, just not quite...
As I drift down through warm green water (the last thing I'd have expected yesterday, climbing these peaks), I still can't quite get a full breath. I'm getting scared now--don't think I have enough air left to reach the surface if it cuts out completely.
Finally my sluggish brain figures it out: they've lowered the OXYGEN content of the air in our tanks! At sea level I could handle it, but here, where the air's already so thin, I just can't take it. Is this malice... or their normal mix? If their native air had less oxygen, our rich air might burn their lungs as they dive deep and the pressure builds...
That's the solution! I dive deeper, to the lake bottom, and here, under double the pressure at the surface, I start getting enough oxygen.
I can't get over the irony. The only air-oasis in this air-desert, and it's underwater. Sucking depleted air beneath a great green fishbowl at the bottom of a lake in a caldera in the Andes... surrounded by velociraptors blowing bubbles... and it's the first time in days I've been comfortable!
And I have to go back through discomfort to reach health and comfort again. Up from the depths as fast as I can. Recover, gasping in the thin air. Say polite goodbyes to the diplomatic team and my lizard hosts, swearing not to tell. Hike back over the ridge, into colder thinner air till every step's a weight. Days across the dusty altiplano desert.
But I force myself. Because one evening I climb a low ridge, and the land falls away. Far below, where the air grows thick and warm, lies a string of stars, then a patch, then a humming galaxy of light. I totter down the slope, out of the high barrens, toward home.
The land of air.
The lake-bottom oasis of breathable air = I hot-tubbed yesterday with a friend. We told dreams. I don't feel very sexual toward her, and she's not seriously dating yet anyway, but even a symbolic sip of sensuality and sharing made me realize I've been too long up in the astral planes of dreamwork. I'm tired of exploring--want some fun and comfort. Time to rest and play a while. And these little tastes of pleasure with friends are just a tease.
Suddenly I realize this dream is recurrent! Two nights ago, I dreamed:
I'm hiking along a chaparral slope above the playing fields of a small college. Below, I see a beginning scuba class. I know they're beginners because they're practicing without water. Tanked and flippered figures flop and twitch on the lawn, pretending to swim. They look like stranded dolphins. I think "If I return to scuba diving, I'll insist on advanced placement--I want the support of water. I'm too thin and bony for all that crawling."
Still, I've heard the horror stories of novices allowed to use real water, who take a deep breath at the bottom of the pool and hold it coming up--and die of embolism, bursting their lungs. The wrong air pressure can KILL you. So I know why they make you crawl and flop!
But I don't need to go rehearse any more. I want the real thing--risks and all.
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