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Aroo's Engineers

Dreamed 1984/11/9 and 11/10 by Chris Wayan

I'm a tourist in Heaven, which is on a tropical isle named Perelandra. It's one of those allegorical fantasies by C.S. Lewis. Out of habit, tourists here, and even the natives, often act like the place is made of matter, though it's all spirit.

One day, at a house in a crowded inland area, the disaster happens: the Fall from Trust. People go outside to see the programmed rain. It starts on schedule, then trails off... Ordained by God, yet it stops!

The local guardian angel tries to fix it but can't. Souls here have all relied on heaven's power, but now they feel they can't quite rely on it. C.S. Lewis presents this mistrust as tragic, epic: the true Fall. Rebellion is secondary, it came later. Mistrust... mistrust is the root.

A crowd assembles, the biggest I've ever seen here: about a hundred. Under a third are women, few are young, and not one's single. Well, only risk-takers come here to Perelandra, it's a frontier--they always have less women. But never mind why--this crowd, this place, this heaven's just not for me! Dream: a demon soapbubble guards me.

So I drive around looking for a way out of heaven. The evil spirit that caused the Fall trails me. It sends an Emissary, one who no one's ever escaped: a demon soapbubble who blinks into the air a yard before me, a foot-wide sphere of rainbow swirls, and drifts downward and pales, thinning till it pops, then instantly reforms at full height, size, and color: a self-renewing hunter.

The bubble and its master drive me down to the sea. I let them herd me; I'm studying them, to learn how to fight. Dream: the blind Vessel Virgins enter their Sacred Blimp.

A blimp is waiting for me in the cove. Its crew is nine virgins--sacrificial virgins of course. This IS a tropical paradise! Their sacrifice isn't to be thrown into a volcano, but to be celibate, like dateless me. Oh--and temporarily blind, of course. While they crew the sacred blimp, the Vessel Virgins can't see. Not that they need to--the blimp, like the demon bubble, is a living thing, indeed a person. It can see to steer itself.

I board the blimp and float down the coast, past coves and heads and beaches to a palm-forest. Here we turn inland, up an avenue lined with ancient Hawaiian terraces and fossil condos, all smothered in magenta bougainvilleas.

The true trees fade out, replaced by dead branches and poles and lines, covered in brilliant flowering vines. They can't climb on their own. Inland Hawaii has no trees, though it LOOKS like forest! Land of the parasites...

The sacred blimp descends to a terminal and docks clumsily. With nine virgins, it should be easy, but it's not. "What's wrong?" I ask. The captain, a tan girl with black Japanese hair and purple shorts, says "What? Oh. The blimp's gone brain-dead!" The crew's minds are filling in, animating the healthy but empty body of the blimp, clumsily controlling it as well as their own damaged bodies. I hadn't realized, till I talked with her, that the Vessel Virgins are also rather deaf. They sacrifice so much, just to run a blimp!

I propose they cast their minds into the blimp all the way and BECOME its mind. At least they'll be in a healthy body, able to see again--just not a human body. There are lots of living blimps--they won't be alone, and they WILL be able to see, and fly... I regret suggesting it, for they're the only single women I've seen, and without their minds, their nine bodies will probably die. But they can't go on like this, half-functioning, half human, half blimp.

And I know blimps live slow, a heartbeat a minute, but... how long can even a blimp body live on, brain-dead, before they have to pull the plug?

Dream: the blind Vessel Virgins enter their Sacred Blimp. Click to enlarge.

We fly from Maui to Kauai. Only ninety miles, but it takes all day because a warning light on the plane malfunctions! After a long delay we have to transfer to another plane. Brain-dead air transport.

So much for dream symbolism.

Still, we make it to Kauai... by evening.

Walk on the beach, feeling sad... a gorgeous romantic sunset and I'm with my sister. Damn. I want a girlfriend I can hold.


Walking on the beach at evening, I see a hole. Gleam of an eye, down in the dark. I feel nervous: it looks fierce. I go around to a good view-spot and coax the creature out, crooning "Come on, it's safe." Though I don't feel safe from IT! Dream: a sort of spiky coyote starts Xeroxing itself.

A black spiky thing, all horns, emerges at last. Long snout. It's a Vark!

I shiver. Varks have a reputation worse than the bubble-demon last night. And I've freed it. The Vark scuttles over to the copy shop and Xeroxes pictures of itself and sends them everywhere. It's a zine! It fades into the evening air and is gone. Published...

Alarmed, I conjure it formally--name it unwelcome, order it to return to its hole. By the rules of magic this should work, but intuition says "Once THIS demon is out, it can't be forced back in its hole." I collect all the copies it made, and stuff them down the hole, but I'm afraid it's too late. What's published can't be stopped.

Meet the King of this country, King Aroo. A pleasant little man, he wasn't aware there was a comic strip about him. He hires me as one of his advisors.

Foreign engineers push us to modernize the kingdom. We're backward; traffic is chaos. I wrestle with the Prime Minister over it, physically wrestle on a green flowery bluff, while the king reads comics about himself, and watches.

I don't object, maybe even mildly encourage, the first automatic speed-monitors. Little cameras, high on a pole, with a radar-gun. Ticket you automatically, bill it to your license number.

But I slowly lose enthusiasm for their projects as I notice I get speeding tickets ALL the time. Start checking and find some tickets are for times I wasn't on the road! They're cheating us. I can't trust the system any more. My dream last night predicted this--the Fall from Trust!

I stay at home and clean up a dark room full of old stuff... should have cleaned it long ago. Know I'm turning inward to avoid the political problem of Aroo's engineers.

When I emerge at last, they're proposing an improvement: to defend the spy-cameras from angry locals who shoot them out (which seems fair to ME--their data's either fake or ignored) they'll arm the spy-machines with guns! Their rep tells the King's Council "It's only reasonable to provide our units with self defense." I say, not to convince them, for this isn't about logic, but to sway the wafflers on the Council, "You propose to arm MACHINES so they can invoke the DEATH penalty for PEOPLE who break MACHINES!" Only as I say it do I realize I'd nearly swallowed his Engineer line myself--set his crooked little machines equal to people! My own words sounded like a trick at first... when his were.

And of course, this isn't about self-defense. They'll shoot whoever the Engineers don't like! Starting with me, and all the others who've caught the machines giving them fake tickets.

But it's too late. The Engineers control all the checkpoints, after all. They simply take over the Kingdom. They let the king live, but he's powerless.

The Engineers' model is British colonialism--they wear pith helmets and act superior to us inefficient locals.

I quietly advise the king "Wait--they see us as the enemy. They're still consolidating power. Wait till they see us as "the natives", a given background, and start fighting among themselves. They'll turn on each other--they only know power, not love. We know love. We can hang on."

Fine idea, but as two, then three YEARS pass, all the other ministers feel it's time. I'm the last holdout, and I begin to have doubts. Have I let habit take over?

Walking down the street, I hear a scream. Run in--find an Engineer, master of the block, has ignored the sickness of his maid for three years, and she finally died of it. Her sister found her. She's the one shrieking. The Block Boss comes in. Feels no remorse, no responsibility. When I speak up, he orders me arrested!

And I realize it's time. Can't let this go on any longer.

Instantly I'm on the run! I'm flying over the green bottomlands of Kauai, fields cupped between foothills.

Flying over the fields of Kauai. Dream sketch by Wayan.
I cling to the contours of the land, skim low so the Engineers won't spot me. An insight pops into my mind: if physical clinging has benefits in a time of conflict, could this be true of EMOTIONAL clinging, too? Maybe my dependence is reasonable! I need mothering now, but once my need's been validated, when I know it's okay to want attention, what if my clinging will fade naturally? I don't need endless reassurance--just enough repetitions to fix into habit what now is just a shaky insight.

The REAL reason I run from love, the REAL bottomless pit, is what I do NOW: serving, playing a role, not showing my true feelings. Like turning the other cheek to Engineers, these one-way crushes really CAN be endless. And draining!

The more I hide my needy feelings, the more I get stuck in one-way relationships. The bottomless pit I fear, that keeps me from being myself, is all around me, I'm already IN it! "Why this is Hell, nor am I out of it."

And as I realize this, the Hell I'm in, the Bottomless Pit of Clinging, opens out. The green fields seem infinite. I feel a rush of joy: I'm out of the Pit at last. Admitting I'm in it was all it took.

NEXT MORNING King Aroo, a 1960s cartoon character by Jack Kent.

Both dreams scream it's time to change. And the last scene spells out how. The bottomless pit of dependency that I fear... I'm already IN it! I'm moody, envious, melancholy NOW. Isolation doesn't work. Yes, I had a history of letting lovers abuse me. But to protect myself, all I have to do is state MY needs. I'm not so dumb I'll stay with someone who REJECTS those needs. The care and feeding of Wayan is really not that hard! Just a little attention, sex, and reassurance.

And staying alone ENSURES I'll get nothing--and change nothing. I'm already in the bottom of the pit. "Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it."

So what's to fear? This is as bad as it gets.

LISTS AND LINKS: paradise - demons - Hell - a second dream of bubble beings - blimps and balloons - virgins and celibacy - blindness - planes - predictive dreams - ESP in general - loneliness - a dream of a blessed Vark - self-denial - flying - dating advice - C.S. Lewis - Hawaii

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