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BREAK FREE

Dreamed 2006/5/11 by Emily Joy

1. THE ANCESTOR IN THE WARDROBE

I'm outside in my backyard just before a storm, planting flowers on the grave of my friend Trio, as he hovers overhead chatting about the unseasonable weather. Trio is a ghost. He haunts the house, has no use for a grave really, but he likes it kept up for appearances. He even picked out the flowers.

The wind kicks up suddenly. Trio gasps and vanishes. Wind scares him; he's probably upstairs hiding in the drapes. I press down the soil around the last plant, as raindrops spatter my head. I look up...and behold a small tornado barreling down the yard. It's headed right for the gravesite.

Before I know what's happening, the tornado rushes over me and is gone. It tore up every single flower I just planted, strewing shredded leaves and roots everywhere.

It feels like a malicious act. "Ohhh, I hate you!" I yell. Struggling to my feet, I shake my fist at the sky. "I hate you I hate you I hate you!"

I stomp indoors, where I don't have to put up with the sky.

Well, if I can't do yard work anymore, I'll just have to clean. This house is really a castle, and it's full of old junk and very dusty. All of the servants are gone; Trio the Ghost's the only one who stuck around. He's not much help, understandably. It's all on me to clean up this mess.

I start in a small circular alcove off the main hall. It's jammed with stuff. At least it's interesting stuff--fluffy boar's-hair paintbrushes, weird paintings, old flags and flagpoles, costume jewelry, odd things in glass cases buried under stacks of paper. Trio reappears, intrigued. He can't dig through this stuff on his own; he passes right through it. "Oh, to be a poltergeist," he sighs. He tells me to look for a certain hunting spear, says I'll need it. He thinks it's hidden with an ancestor's bones--my people used to bury warriors with their weapons.

"Where's the ancestor?" I ask.

"In the closet, of course," Trio says, surprised. Of course. The skeleton in the closet. Every family has one.

"So...where's the closet?"

Trio frowns, thinking. "It may be in this alcove," he says tentatively. "Or it may be in the other one. I don't remember."

We search. And search and search. There is excitement at one point when I find a trap door in the wall behind a wardrobe. I open it, and find...nun-chucks. Hmm. "Whatever," I grumble, setting them aside. They seem to be made of light, fragile wood, so light they won't carry enough momentum to do any damage. Some weapon.

Even though it's not a closet, I figure I should check the wardrobe. You never know with this house...

Inside is a skeleton.

Trio pops up behind me, peering over my shoulder. "Oh. That's it."

We look the skeleton up and down. It's wearing some kind of skirt, or kilt. A plumed helmet rests on its skull. Its arms are arranged so one arm crosses over the chest and the other lies at its side. The fingers are curled around nothing. No spear.

Trio is upset, zooms off to consult the semi-ghosts in the attic. I doubt he'll have much luck with them. They've been here longer than anyone can remember, and they know everything about the house, but they don't like answering questions.

I take a break from cleaning. My throat is full of dust, my muscles are sore. So I make myself a drink and turn on the television in the parlor.

I begin watching a documentary, which becomes more and more real until it is the dream.

2. FINDING THE SUN

It's a documentary about the maintenance of archeological museums, especially an outdoor one that gets vandalized and stolen from a lot. Its exhibits are stationed along a network of paths carved into brownstone cliffs. Apparently these cliffs are full of fossils. After rambling on about the cliffs for a while, the narrator briefly discusses the pitfalls of keeping ancient creatures in museums--for this one has two miraculous living fossils to its credit.

A stream through orange rocks with embedded fish-fossils. A boulder hollowed into an aquarium holds a blue fish.
The first is a large prehistoric fish somewhat akin to a coelacanth. It was found in the huge underground lake that feeds a river running through part of the museum. Now they keep the fish "safe" in a tiny chamber inside a hollowed-out boulder by the river, visible through a tiny window of bulletproof glass.
A drawing of a blue fish with lobe-fins like a coelocanth, and a crazed round eye.
The poor thing is going mad in there, slapping against the glass trying to get out.

The second creature is a sentient plant that narrates its own story. The museum found it after the fish, growing upside-down from the ceiling of another underground cavity. It had been there since the Ice Age. A plant sits in a wooden chair with a red cushion. The roots dangle down like legs. One tendril reaches over to a glass of water on a nearby stand.

The vegetable celebrity is well-spoken, with a slight English accent, having picked up the language over many years from those who came to study it. Its leaves curl and uncurl as it tells its story to the cameras:

"The scientists thought for centuries that my species was extinct, indeed that all original prehistoric flora were. They were overjoyed when they found me, here in this cave. Even more so when they found I could speak; my system was unique in the past and it is unique now." The plant pauses. "However, the unfortunate result was that they refused to let me leave the cave. It had kept me alive, and they wanted me alive. I begged them to let me see the sun. They said they couldn't risk it.

"Isn't it ironic: without the sun, I was small and couldn't grow so much as a new leaf, and that was precisely why I had lived so long. If I never grew, I could take my nutrients from the earth and exist indefinitely. But I was ready to be a part of the world again.

"Then, one day, I found my way to the sun..." A plant creeps down a wall and reaches for golden light seen through a door ajar.

The camera switches to footage of a tiny scruffy plant inching upside-down across the ceiling, literally pulling itself on thick root hawsers, toward daylight slicing through a custodial door carelessly left open by a curator.

"The next day, when they came to clean my cave and check on my health..."

From inside the dark cave, the camera shows first the roots and the open door, sunlight shining through, then slowly pans up to the surface so we can see the plant. It's huge! It looks like a tree, and more new leaves delicately open into the sun every passing minute.

The plant's voice flows over the images: "When nature is contained, she makes do until she can work her way free..."

3. THE TEST CEILING

Back in the parlor, I turn off the TV. That last phrase sticks in my head, turning...and then I decide I will be free, too.

In a blink, I'm in some kind of warehouse. Enemies advance from all directions. I have no weapon except for the nun-chucks, which I don't know how to use. Yeah, I could really use that spear now. But the rumination of the ancient plant inspires me. I go lucid; I decide that if I'm my alter-ego Errane, I can kick ass and nobody will be able to mess with me anymore. Drawing of Emily Joy, in jeans and red shirt, eyes shut, arms crossed; her fierce alter ego Errane springs from her body.

So I change. I am Errane, little and brown with long black hair. Steel in my violet eyes. A troll moves to attack. I blur. WHUMP. My foot connects with his face, and he falls. I knocked him out. I knocked him out. It's exhilarating--for once, I'm not weak! I hover in the air a bit, dancing. I get down, turn around...

And there is the biggest velociraptor I have ever seen. And I've seen plenty; they've hunted me in nightmares ever since I saw Jurassic Park as a little kid.

My first impulse is to panic. I'm sure this creature just woke me up, and it's all happening. For a few seconds I can feel something wrapped around my legs. Sheets? But then a thought bubbles through, startlingly calm and clear: Come on, even if this is waking life and I'm really awake and really facing a velociraptor, my dreams have spent a lot of time training me not to be afraid.

It's true. Panic would be such a betrayal.

So I march right up to the dinosaur, plant my hands on my hips, and yell at it.

"Get outta here! Leave me alone! You can't scare me and you can't hurt me." I exert my will and these words become true--it is unable to hurt me now, even if it wants to.

But the creature is smarter than that. It can't attack me as a raptor, so it starts shifting into something else, a nine-foot-tall raptor-man wielding a sword as big as I am. I chant out loud, "You can't scare me, you can't hurt me! You can't scare me, you can't hurt me..." but I'm losing certainty. The raptor-man sneers and raises his weapon.

I waver for a moment, then I act! My hand flashes, pulls a saber out of thin air. I leap in an arc and score the creature down the length of his body. His sword falls. He dissolves into vapor and is gone.

Yes. "Ahaha! FUCK YOU ALL!" In a burst of new confidence, I take to the air and fly. Enemies swarm on the floor, but I laugh, flying figure eights and loops just to annoy them.

A short, stubby girl in armor with a huge meat-cleaver of a sword gets so angry she starts hurling the blade like a boomerang, trying to hit me. I fly around and around her, confusing her and making her angrier, until she miscalculates a throw and the meat-cleaver comes down and slices her in half. Nasty. But I feel no remorse. She tried to kill me, she killed herself. Not my problem!

See, I've spent far too many dreams weakly defending myself from murderous bullies, hateful creatures who think it's funny to take advantage of my human form's weakness but unacceptable for me to put up what pathetic resistance I can. And sometimes, I felt guilty when I did real damage--cuz violence is wrong, it made me as bad as them.

Well fuck that! I'm bored with this game. Bored with victimhood, fighting, and guilt. I ignore my enemies down below, and simply fly around, enjoying myself. But I start lagging; it takes a lot of power and concentration to fly, and I'm just not focused enough.

"Watch out! Fly higher!" someone hisses in my ear. Trio the Ghost? I make an effort and pull up, but I can't seem to get any higher than thirty feet. What the hell--oh, it's the fucking ceiling. Of course I can't fly through the ceiling. Damn, I thought it was the sky. Well, maybe I can make it be the sky...

Lucidity, for me, is an interesting state. I don't think to maybe make a door in the ceiling. Nooo, I try to turn the ceiling into the sky.

I fly upward and bend my will to curve the ceiling into a dome, attempting to force it to dissolve and become air. It's very difficult; the ceiling gives, but I get dizzy almost immediately and fall back, cursing. But I stay airborne, ready to try again--

And I wake up, tangled in sheets, heart pounding. With both palms pressed against the wall next to my bed.

HALF-CONSCIOUS, SCRIBBLED NOTE IN THE MORNING

Uh oh. I just realized--the ceiling was the sky getting revenge.

NOTES LATER Thumbnail of a blue fish with lobe-fins like a coelocanth, and a crazed round eye.

All that archeology! I clearly have some clean-up to do. Out with the old, in with the new. Especially new attitudes. Like feeling morally able to defend myself.

But not ALL old things must go. Some, like the plant, are ready to become part of my life again. Locked up, not dead! To free these qualities, I have to take chances…or rather, let go of the protection I've had, staying small, meek, unremarkable and unnoticed. A plant creeps down a wall and reaches for golden light seen through a door ajar.

Safety is necessary. Perpetual safety, tempting. But it's not worth it to remain in the cave any longer. Break out! You know you wanna. It's time to grow.

Oh, and one more thing--get some sun! It's springtime! Spending too much time indoors, staring at computer screens, makes me a sick little... vegetable.

EDITOR'S NOTE

The only thing I want to add here is that Emily originally titled part 3 just TEST. But when she hit that sky and discovered it was a dome--well, anyone who's read this far has probably shared that experience of running into low test ceilings! Just wanted to point out that behind the more obvious issues, this dream also wonders: how do you soar in a world of low expectations? Gifted... in a world of idiots.

--Chris Wayan



LISTS AND LINKS:
1: house & home - ghosts - tornadoes - nature spirits - anger - treasure, inheritances, collections - buried memories - past lives - Tove Jansson's Moomin books
2: archeology - caves - fish - prisoners & freedom - weird dream beings - plants - light - initiative - dream advice
3: ordeals, initiations - fear - bravery - lucid dreams - I'm Just Not Myself Today! - doubles, alter egos - self-defense - assertion - swords - alternate defense against pesky velociraptors - dream flight - joy - violence - guilt - concentration, focus - stubbornness, willpower
General: more Emily Joy - Emily climbs through that Window in the Sky - shamanic dreams - giftedness - doors to elsewhere

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