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BRETON SELKIE, or, VERIFY AURAS

Dreamed 1995/11/10 by Chris Wayan

My mother takes me to an art fair. On the way, she asks "What are your career plans, dear?"

I say "I have none!", and wander off to explore the fair on my own.

Meet a strange girl, tall, slender, in a silvergray fake-fur coat, with weird, brown, wide-set eyes and an aura that's gentle, but not human. I'm certain on first glance she's a shapeshifter just visiting us, dressed in humanity just to be polite. A seal or otter maybe...

She's talking to an acquaintance of mine, a guy named Pasternak. He's always seemed odd to me, unique, but now I know he's not. They're kin--full-blooded... somethings. I have only traces myself--traces giving me psychic powers and shamanic dreams. What must their full otherness be like?

Curious, I walk over and listen to their conversation. He talks about a trip along the Jutland coast. Keeps mentioning "stations" he visited. Strange names, not Scandinavian. Their own tongue? I slowly deduce these are refuges their folk use for travel in the Old World, where their beast-forms can rest and meet... set in places humans shun. Until the last few generations they didn't much risk human transport, it was slower than swimming or flying anyway, and being tried as witches was no fun. The stations' function has changed some as persecution's waned; they're more like pubs now--social.

He names a few more Jutland stations. "Have you ever been to any of them?"

She says "I know mostly the ones south and west of there, on the Norman and Breton coast. Lonely farms and mud flats and points..."

Now there's a topic I understand. I ask "Lonely for a seal or a girl? I don't know that country, but I plan to visit; I have ancestors there." Her aura suggests seal and girl as two of her habitual forms, though ALL this is guessing, intuition--they've spelled nothing out. I'm passing for one of them, in a way, relying on the strangeness in my own aura, which I've never had a word for till now. I leave it ambiguous if I meant seal or human kin in Bretagne.

She says "Lonely for both. I had work there, a job disposing men, which required both forms. It paid well, but I was unhappy, so I left." I wonder what "disposing men" means--disposing them to do something? Leading them away from the stations? Or getting rid of men? I can't believe it's that, her aura's too gentle. But I stop and look and decide I want to know, and ask.

She says "Yes, disposing men. The human Mob brought them out and I as girl and seal must dispose them, drag them to a shut fish-cannery and render them. The humans paid well and I got to keep what I found on the men, sometimes many francs, but it was rough, lonely work." Did she receive them alive and kill them, or just butcher the corpses and can their meat? I'm afraid to ask. Her lack of squeamishness about butchering doesn't shock me--only natural for a seal. But she sees murder so neutrally--human business. If they want to kill their own...

Such a nice aura, but she's not for me.

I get up and go tell my mother "Any time you're ready, I'm ready to leave. There's nothing for me here." Careerwise or not.


NOTES NEXT MORNING

I just put out a singles ad. My dreams have been practicing, testing me. I was so attracted to this Breton girl! Magical, beautiful, strange like me. But lacking one crucial value. Can I learn to say no to such?

Or is she my own indifference to humanity, seeing no common interest? I can't eat your food, breathe your air, use your chemicals, dream your dreams, believe your linear time, sense what you sense, think your thoughts, fight your fights, work your work, drive your roads, and so far, I can't love you either. A long list! And all true. I can speak your language after a fashion, and survive in some of your older houses, and enjoy a little of your music. And what else? Truth to tell, I have more in common with this Breton Selkie. And after all, humans killed and rendered marine mammals, from whales on down--isn't it plain justice when marine mammals cut up and render us?

It still sickens me to think of her--the rusty hooks, the blood...

What if I'd told her how she attracted and appalled me--how she tore me in two?

NOTE A WEEK LATER
Sketch of Baker Beach, San Francisco; two girls watch a seal eat something bloody in the water.

A few days after the dream, I biked to the cool, foggy, rocky northwest corner of San Francisco; if the City were France, this would be our Breton coast. Baker Beach is usually crowded, but today it's lonely, cold, and unpatrolled: signs declare it closed, for it's inside the National Recreation Area--federal land--and the federal government's shut down due to a budget dispute. After all, you can't trust Americans to know how to walk along a beach without proper, paid supervision! The parking lot is nearly empty--most people obey this ridiculous fiat.

I bike on in and walk down to the water.

The empty beach looks eerie--the Golden Gate looming, the sun shining, yet no one here but a few criminals like me. Like stragglers who missed the world's end.

I walk north along the waterline. Near the end-rocks, two girls stare out at a floating thing. One girl looks... familiar. She's in a short-furred gray coat, like a seal. I walk slowly up.

She and her friend are staring at a seal, a REAL seal, just 20 ft out, tearing at the red bloody flesh of something human-sized floating in dead on the waves. It shows no fear of the humans just yards away.

If they are humans.

I feel a chill. Suspect it's a human corpse out there.

But I have no reason to think that, and silly though this may sound, I had no idea why that even popped into my head--not for two more days, till I reread the dream and realize how much the girl on the beach resembled the Breton Selkie, and the other seal, the one in the water...

I don't know what to think. Yes, I suspect the dream was psychic, but... only peripherally?

These seal-girls, in both worlds, were telling me something hard to hear... something about trusting intuition. No. About not always trusting my intuition! For I only sense temperament, not values. A gentle, magical aura does not guarantee moral behavior--and morals matter. To me, at least.

So trust your intuition; "trust... but verify."

(I can't believe I just quoted Henry Kissinger, but I have to. It's a weird wonderful cosmos, but some of the natives are predatory. Enthusiastically so. Observe them, enjoy them... from the observation car. Do not feed the seals yourself. Not fish, not hamburger, and most especially not yourself.)



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