Dreamed 1984/4/20 by Chris Wayan
I'm a fast-food detective: I solve little mysteries out of my office in a seaside shopping mall in Santa Cruz, California, between Buzzcutters and Sushi-2-Go.
One day I'm hired to find out if the craters appearing in local redwood groves are natural or if someone's digging them. A controversial pesticide was recently applied in those groves. Is there a link?
I drive up to Henry Cowell State Park, and find irregular circles and intersecting rings of dirt ridges. The sheer number eventually convinces me they're natural--sort of. Either the pests or the pesticide stimulate violent activity in redwood rootlets at the edge of each tree's disk of roots. Nothing much to be done except quit spraying the stuff and waiting for the trees to calm down.
No case, really. But a nice day in the woods at least. Could have been worse.
Back on the Mall, a woman I've lusted after comes in. She wants me to marry her, but she's not clear if she means marry her myself or marry her OFF to a mutual friend of ours. She's attracted to both of us and we're willing to share her, so I sit her down in a roller-coaster car and say "I, Chris Wayan, the Fast-Food Detective, am also a Boat Builder. So I declare this a Boat. I am the Captain of this boat. Captains can perform marriages. I declare us all married!"
Case closed! We'll all just sleep together in a heap.
I love Santa Cruz.
This one is much harder. Two kids are kidnapped, and the family's hysterical. The cops got nowhere, so the parents tried playing detective on their own, and first the dad disappeared, then the mom, then the aunt. The remaining relatives want me to find them.
The trail leads to the Castle of the Wicked Witch, north of Santa Cruz, on a rise with a grand view of the sea. Her followers, a slick bunch, give me a tour, just to prove they aren't holding the family. I'm not convinced and they know it. They say "Only one thing can persuade you, then."
They lead me to a room they skipped: a conference room two hundred feet up in the highest tower. Out the open window is a stunning view of the Pacific, clean and cobalt from this height. And around the table, like a board of directors sits the family, quietly watching the pelicans... and not explaining a thing! I don't understand. Did they kidnap themselves? Or is it a spell?
Then the spell-master stalks in. Eight feet tall, thin, yet heavy, for the floorboards groan under it. A giant birdlike alien, pale blue, with a fierce beak, brilliant intelligence glaring in its huge eyes. And no hesitation. In the instant I register that I'm up against a Blue Blammor, it lunges at me, stabbing with that beak hard enough to skewer me like a kebab.
I use that force--duck and help the lunging Blammor right out the open window. Is it too heavy to fly? It grabs the rail with one claw-foot. I mercilessly hammer on its toes, pry them loose, and it falls, shrieking, into that abyss of air. Two hundred feet later we hear a horrible SPLAT below.
I shiver, but I have my hard-boiled Fast Food reputation to keep up. Coolly say only... "Splat."
Trying to be hard-boiled. But I'm not. I'm just a fast-food detective in way over his head. God, a Blue Blammor!
Then the Wicked Witch herself walks in, blue-faced and glaring. I start to ask "Did you hire the bird, or were you working for it?" but she doesn't waste time on talk--just lunges at me too, crackling with power. And I don't fight her either, just help her along too, out the open window!
A blue flash and that awful SPLAT. I don't feel any guilt this time. A pattern here, and I didn't start it. But I sure aim to end it.
The family wakes, free of the boardroom spells... I worry that the witch's henchmen may rush in, so I hover by the window--such things come in threes, after all. But the castle's silent a while... and then they scurry across the courtyard in a rush, running out the gate, scattering into the woods--guess they thought I have even nastier powers than their bosses, since I killed them. Oh well, if it avoids a fight... small fish anyway.
The kids explore the castle, finding art treasures, rich carpets, discreetly hidden techno-toys. Will the family take it over? We captured it, and I can't use it. For Fast Food Detection, you need a mall. Location, location, location.
I find the family cat! No one even told me they kidnapped it too. It's big, wild, rough-furred, and telepathic enough to send me an image of home. Home for the cat is a field below wooded hills near the sea, not its human family's house. It wants to go home even if the family decides to take over the castle. I carry the cat on down through the halls.
The parents come down at last. Cool to me, quietly angry. I don't get it--I just saved their lives! Are they going to stiff me? Then I spot them glaring at their kids. Oh.... this isn't about money, but loyalty! Their kids look to me now, ask ME "What next?" I'm their hero: succeeded where their parents failed.
I decide I'll have to give them one more experience, a sucess they can share. So I tell them all "we're going back to town via magic carpet." Some of these expensive rugs had more than anti-moth spells on them. I don't have much experience with flying carpets, but I want to try. Take the biggest one off the wall and lug it out to the garden and get on. Once I realize that the spell has a ride-share clause, requiring at least two riders before the rug will lift... but with the kids piling on even when I ask them not to, activating it is easy. It's the steering that's hard. Practice over the meadows at first, just five or six feet up, but that's really quite tricky: seedlings brush the bottom and we have to dodge larger trees. Finally we swing out over the cliffs and circle a great black crag, an old basalt plug, hard and dark and fluted and lumpy as a candle-stump. Circle this and hover in the updrafts till I feel in control. From the kids to the old lady, I start teaching them all to fly...
My next major job is to lead a quest for a magic treasure. But the way leads through No-Name Wood. I know the paths, but a local sorcerer has strengthened the ban on names, and added touches of his own where he could: the Route Loss Spell to pull us off the path, and the Iron Curse, making the trees and brush as tough as metal--sharp, impenetrable. We stumble on a spelled patch: a meadow of amnesia, with grass of steel. Yet we win through: we can't see a path, but we cut our way through metal stalks with great labor. Sheer effort can beat a curse.
I still have some hope: the laws of magical conservation prevent BOTH the trees and the grass from become metal or stone. So we can always switch to the meadows, or the woods. But I'm wrong--this wizard put the Stone Curse on the meadows, so the rippling grass freezes to a filigree of gray-white marble... and even uncursed, the woods are naturally dense and brushy, with thorns enough to slow us to a crawl. I wish I were a hero who could
"carve immortal jungles of despairbut thanks to the amnesia charm of the Nameless Wood, I don't know just WHO I am. Slow endless carving, with no heartbeat in sight. But in the end we slog through the wood to the House by the Sea.
to hold a mountain's heartbeat in his hand"
Here lives a woman I can barely comprehend: direct, physical, athletic, living entirely in her senses and feelings, not intuition or intellect. I'm so extreme the other way, we just can't talk--connect less than I do with many nonhuman customers.
Finally I just let go. Grab, grope and massage her, coming on strong. Her mind's deeply unsure what to make of me, but her body understands this, and can't help enjoying it. Even unwillingly, her body responds--a phenomenon that's never happened to me--dominated by my mind and spirit, I just don't get turned on by people I mistrust or dislike, no matter how sexy. But this woman's body is like a big wolf-dog on a leash dragging her human soul along behind her, willy-nilly. I feel her let go the leash too, and our bodies, unleashed, romp and play and explore and finally, mate until I come with an intensity I've never felt before.
And I feel freed. My way is not the only way. To others, more earthy (and earthly), I seem wary, even austere. My body's reined in by a soul with high standards. But if I'll only let go, I'll find lovers where I don't expect: for many others hide a powerful, sleeping passion I underestimate. I've misunderstood much of humanity! I have a hidden ally in my quest for love and sex--a big wolf-dog friend I didn't know was there.
A matchmaking wolf. Instinctive desire has pulled us together despite our differences, like a laser slamming hydrogen nuclei together. What energy will come from our fusion?
NOTES NEXT MORNING
Just like a fast-food detective!
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