BONOBO AND BEAR
Dreamed 1999/10/14 by Chris Wayan
The gods are at war. But they're just armchair generals--they draft us mortals for the real fighting. They strategize, we die.
A neo-chimp who's a friend of mine gets sent out to stop an army of high-tech tanks. I'm worried for him: he says his chimp battalion has adequate weapons but far too little training on how they work, or how to fight tanks, or even how to organize as a force and cope with the stress of combat. And they're not really chimps but bonobos mostly--war comes far less naturally to them than to chimps and men.
It's bad. They advance across a yellow tallgrass meadow, scattered with pine seedlings; so-so cover. Chaos as they meet the tanks. Few of the chimps can manage the tank-busting bazookas they carry--they're cumbersome even for humans, and not built right for neochimps.
My friend spots a tank-squadron leader, a human male standing in his tank's open hatch, directing fire with complete scorn for the chimps' aim. Justified scorn, so far. The guy points toward a group of chimps who fumble desperately to fire their tank-buster in time. My friend screams "RUN!", then lures the tank toward him, away from his buddies. It swerves and closes fast, and he turns to flee in simian panic, shrieking and grimacing, tossing all his gear, including his tank-killer missile. Stripped to a fleeing animal! The tank man runs over it scornfully and closes on my friend...
Who presses the remote. The missile blows, right under the tank. Shrouded in fire, it slows and stops. Their arrogant lookout-leader is a charred corpse plugging the hatch. He left it open to witness the kill.
He witnessed it.
My friend knew he was too clumsy to steer the missile, so he made the tank come to the bomb. I felt a moment of pride and relief at my friend's bonobo victory--victory through psychology--but the charred stump atop the tank, who was a man, reminds me: this is no real triumph.
So I go on a hunt of my own: for the Powers pushing this war. There are two--two sets of animal gods or ancestors, lying latent in the brain. If the past-god takes you over, you first become bearlike, possessed by the spirit of the Cave Bear, the oldest human religion; but later you revert deeper in time, into a small dinosaur, a raptor, all claws and gleeful cruelty. If you opt for the future, you become a slender, graceful mammal, small but tough for its size, perhaps even a match for the bear, for this creature is smarter than a human. Evolution's next step--the future's quick lithe answer to the lumbering past! There's a second spirit behind the slender mammal, but it's hazy, further in the future, perhaps so advanced we have trouble even imagining it. Silicon? Or pure energy, pure spirit?
I empathize more with the futurians, for I can feel their brightness, the basic goodness... But in their eagerness to be, they pushed time too hard, and woke the old gods. Who came clawing out of their brainstem caves!
As a shaman I can choose what spirits I want to manifest, and I intend to keep that freedom of choice. I won't let ANY god rule me or my friends! They can fight all they like on the plane of ideas, but I'm shutting down their war.
Today my business is with the priests of the bear cult. For some time my friends and I have been trying to crack their code and enter their cave-stronghold. The code seems musical. When captured and compelled by spells, individual priests refuse to do more than sing a single note--smirking all the while at us. I finally deduced they really do each sing only one note; but a chorus in a right sequence will thus form a tune that unlocks the cave of the spirits. Archaic selflessness, yeah, that fits. A friend exclaims "It forms a line as flat as..." I forget. But the image included the knowledge of WRITTEN musical scores, which evolved thousands of years after the bear cult. A puzzling discrepancy.
Even with my partial knowledge, I manage to enter their cave... and find a priest alone. I think. I suspect the rest may have turned themselves into pencils--an awful lot of them sit around the cave.
I collect all the pencils just in case, though they're worn and stubby, with no erasers. I intend to line them up and make them sing or die, until they summon their God. I intend to have a talk with God. I intend to threaten God. Well, both of them. The past and the future. I don't like their war and I'll make them stop even if I have to hurt them. Gods or no gods.
And I'm starting to feel strong enough to do it.
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