Burn the Eggs!
Dreamed 2008/1/20 by Chris Wayan
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW...
I'm a dream artist living in a large shared house in San Francisco. My love life's as weird as you'd expect: I'm in a triangle, a committed equilateral triangle, with two bisexual women attracted to each other: Cheryl and Emily. Cheryl moved last year to San Francisco; Emily is planning to move here from Massachusetts as soon as she can. Cheryl has been visiting Emily in Massachusetts, and convinced her to fly out to San Francisco. So for the next week we'll all be together!
No, no, that's not the dream. That's everyday life.
I'm excited, but I try to stay calm. Spend the morning on an art project. Build mountains on a two-foot globe of an alien world called Lyr, map the tropical Quenna Archipelago, and write a Web tour of it.
Lunch. Reread The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. Lyra Bellaqua, an orphaned kid growing in Oxford, climbing on the college roofs, playing with gypsy kids... and their daemons, their souls in animal shape. In Pullman's world, souls are visible, touchable, there to speak to you. No one's truly alone.
But kids are disappearing. It turns out the Magisterium, this world's theocratic government, is experimenting on children, trying to cut them off from their animal souls! Unpredictable souls, leading kids astray. Better they should follow the rules, make their souls shut up and obey.
Pullman's addressing the politics of our time, of course--theocratic brainwashers versus freethinkers who are morally all over the map. But what haunts me about the book is simpler: the vision of a world where no one's ever truly abandoned. In Lyra's world, your soul is tangible, right there by your side in animal form. A furry guardian angel. I have that in dreams--animal animas and teachers. Always have. But now I'm seeking that love and closeness in the world of matter. Is it possible? To realize your dreams here on Earth?
In the afternoon, I scout a junkyard with my housemate Alder, looking for a stone table top for our deck. Practicality marches on...
Around sundown, I head for the airport at last, pick up Cheryl and Emily, take them home and cook them Thai soup. Feel joyful but a bit overwhelmed. We've mostly met in pairs; only once briefly as a trio. Oh, the power of email! You think you've ironed everything out long-distance...
Wrong. Cheryl sits on my bed and bursts into tears for half an hour. She's worried Emily and I will ignore her, doesn't want to be left out. I'm confused and a bit hurt. My stomach (and balls) start hurting. Guilt, fear? Cheryl proposed our triangular 'marriage' in the first place, and just spent nine days with Em... why's she suddenly begrudging part of this week for Em and me?
Over to Cheryl's flat--though she's reluctant to even let Em see it. "It's a pit" she says. She did that to me, too, at first. Em's as puzzled as I was. It's nice! An upstairs flat, old, light and airy, in a great location. The only problem: Em & I are both allergic to Cheryl's cat. So Em wants to sleep at my house tonight. She'll experiment tomorrow night, see if she can sleep OK at Cheryl's. But not while jetlagged. So we tuck Cheryl into bed and drive back to my house.
Em stows her gear in the guest room. I feel shy, alone with Em now. We kiss and hug goodnight, feel such longing... but we sleep separately. Guilty, after Cheryl's outburst? Scared of hurting her feelings?
So we hurt ourselves instead. Uneasy, feverish sleep... full of fever dreams.
Dreams like this.
BURN THE EGGS!
Emily, Cheryl and I live together in a flat high up in a huge stone building with a tile roof--student housing here at Oxford. Though Oxford is in San Francisco!
Nice views of the quaint stony streets, but I feel uneasy. Maybe from that green triple-decker bus with the camera eye on a metal stalk--whenever it stops on our corner, it peers in our window. I point it out to Emily and Cheryl, but the bus always drives round the corner by the time they reach the window. Why's a government omnivid checking up on us? The Magisterium must suspect we're not loyal to the Church.
I check the rest of the flat. A window on the courtyard side feels wrong--loose. I swing out and down, testing it. It tears off! I fall, though not far, landing safely on a concrete walk across a grassy quad.
I have only a big sweater on--naked underneath, and it's not quite long enough to serve as a dress. Still, the sweater is one of those stretchy baggy knit jobs, with big pockets; so I jam my hands in hard, stretching the sweater down. I probably won't get arrested...
I climb back up the stairs, self-conscious. I don't recall what floor we live on yet, or what apartment number; and I have no key. Spot my friend Alder, but she's busy. Then Emily, in a shop. Go on up alone, hoping it's unlocked. Get lost on a high floor I think is right, full of student flats with open doors. So trusting! None are ours. I feeling ashamed peering in, like a government snoop myself.
Try the next floor up. No, too high. It's a stair to the roof! Ten stories up. This can't be right--I only fell one. I try to get back down, but the door's locked. Can I climb down? I can't find a safe spot. Trapped!
This college has hints of Hogwarts, but mostly it's Lyra's Oxford: the rooftops, the Magisterium. And like Lyra, we have external souls!--shapeshifting animals, "daemons" as they're called. I haven't mentioned mine for a reason; she's not here. Mine's strange; most bodies and souls can't part, not far, but mine can fly miles away. That's lucky, for I must hide my daemon from the Magisterium.
You see, souls settle down into one animal form as one matures, and though mine can still shift with effort, it's been settling into a final shape: a dragon. A huge dragon. It's not just the size that's, er, inconvenient: the Magisterium drafts everyone with a dragon partner for their air force! They're out to conquer all the worlds in the name of the True Faith. My soul and I won't work for them, burning unbelievers... like us.
So my dragon-self's been hiding in a grove nearby. Great black bearded trees, centuries old. Even as Oxford expands, no one dreams of cutting them: the Immanent Grove, where the World Tree grows.
I ramble round campus; eventually I'll stray absent-mindedly into that grove, and meet my daemon. While I walk, I note how the Magisterium rules. Here in the heart of their power, amid these gracious towers, I find... social neglect.
For example, I meet a lost little boy. Or is he orphaned? He won't or can't talk, so I ask other Oxford kids I meet, and they evade. I ask one girl "Is this your brother?", and she says "I don't know"!
"You don't know if he's your brother?" What are these kids hiding? I prod them a bit. "Is he an orphan then? Begging? Do I have to call Social Services?" Not the Oblation Board, of course--they disappear unwanted kids. I'd never do that. But they fear every branch of the government. I hope it'll force them to quit their lying and find--or acknowledge--the kid's family.
And still, eyes shifting, they deny him...
That much fear! I must stop the Magisterium.
I pause in a shop to read a strange comic book. It seems self-published. Lively drawings, though black and white. The cover claims it's about Philip Pullman, but inside I find tales of two friends, men who look a bit like "Calvin and Hobbes" grown up--though this Hobbes is human, not a stuffed tiger. Still, he has Hobbes's rubbery energy, and amiable jowly face.
Each of these two men has an ally, a little winged fairy girl in a gauze robe. Are these their daemons? The first humanoid ones I've ever seen!
"Calvin" and "Hobbes" and their little friends--souls?--pair off in teams, and play badminton! The fairies don't bother with rackets--they just fly up and try to snatch the birdie! They're nearly its size, so the humans have to watch out--it's a bad idea to swat a fairy. Ow!
Curious (or is it lecherous?), I peer closely at these Tinkerbells, and find they each have four feet! Quite human-looking though tiny; are they arranged like a centaur's legs? Unsure, can't see that far up their layered gauze robes.
The cartoonist focuses on the friendship between the two men (naturally! The Magisterium censors books, and they're patriarchs to the bone, and don't really want to admit that fairies are people too); but all I care about's those fascinating little women...
As I leaf through the book, the binding cracks apart. Damn. Cheap glue! Bargain printers--one risk of self-publishing. I'd better remember that for my own comics...
Flip to the very last pages. Lovely pencil drawings of crags in mist. I want to buy it just for that...
But then, on the last page, a stark light dawns: a mushroom cloud! What a cheat. The cartoonist couldn't think of a real, positive ending, so he just blows up everything! Failure of imagination. I won't buy this. I won't buy a comic-book apocalypse.
I do eventually make it back to our flat, but I feel a slowly swelling grief. As I face the gravity of the Magisterium problem, I recall the warning my old mentor Albus Dumbledore gave me: "You may need to give up love or even life to save the world." Well, I'm willing to die if I must... but oh, I want to live and love.
The next day's misty; the sun, a white blur through the haze. I walk a new way to the grove, down a street full of antique cars and lampposts, over a stone bridge... All elegant and a bit baroque. So is the shape of that gigantic dragon patrolling overhead. Symbol of the Magisterium, and it's meant to intimidate. Disobey God's word, and you'll burn, all right--but not in some fairytale Hell. Here and now, in dragonfire!
They're no different from the Nazis, and I have to bring them down.
Nearby, in the Sacred Grove, my dragon stirs, rears, spreads wings, resolving to fight. Parallel reasoning? My influence... or vice versa?
My soul claps wings, and the sonic boom bowls lesser dragons over, blows humans in a nearby park around like chaff. Ancient trees fall to that shock--oaks as tall as redwoods, broad as clouds.
And these giants are not the last to fall, or the oldest: for next my dragon heads into the heart of the Immanent Wood, to the foot of the Tree itself.
The Tree. The original Tree.
But it's changed in recent years. Now, gigantic nests clutter the forks of its tree-sized branches, each with a shimmering blue egg the size of a fat man... as if dragons are oversize robins!
This one Tree has become the nursery for all the Magisterium's dragon horde.
In earlier, innocent times, the Tree would be inviolate. But when all the great souls are slaves from their moment of hatching, bonded to priests who see them as mere mounts not moral beings, harnessed like war-horses to fight, used to enslave still more free souls... what then?
My dragon rears, and flames the Tree. It's slow to catch, but then... it explodes in fire. Veined red and gold, the black fist of smoke rises. I flinch, watching from afar. To be caught in that!
I mourn the lost dragonets, but this is war. Dragon-power is the Magisterium's hammer, and the Tree is their sole source. Now, without cadets, their formidable air-corps is doomed. One by one, my dragon-soul and I will duel them out of the sky...
If the world survives long enough. For now I'm back in our flat, alone, staring out the window at a horror--a blurred black vortex, fifty feet tall. I think. At first I wondered if it was a physical thing or just my eyes failing. For it waxed and waned, and wherever I focused hard, I could see through it, smokily. But it always returned, and now its thickest phases are opaque, blotting out Oxford.
A rent in the world! I blame the Magisterium, but who knows, really? Did burning the Tree cause this? No matter its origin, it must be halted, healed, or the universe will unravel. Or worse: the multiverse. The Magisterium has pried open so many doors! What if this darkness follows those paths?
Should I stay, observe the growing storm? I may learn vital facts, but if it expands much more, it'll swallow the dorm. And does it emit radiation? I may be doomed already; it may be death to see.
But if I flee, maybe I can fight it on dragonback. Wind and fire, against smoke and oblivion! Yet... ignorant of its nature, how can we prevail against a... blur?
Fear-frozen, still unsure, I flee to the waking world.
"...An aged man is but a paltry thing
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress..."
Approach this from your soul's viewpoint. What I want out of this is to quit feeling sexual guilt and feel unpossessive love for both Cheryl and Emily. But I may have to be willing to give up... who and what? My habits, my fears? Or Cheryl's controlling behaviors? She's been pretty domineering. Cheryl may blow up if Emily and I disobey her and insist on some privacy. I have to face that I may lose everything--except self-respect.
TWO MONTHS LATER...
I did stay, hovering, trying to understand Cheryl's jealousy. But her rages toward me got bigger and blacker til they bordered on abuse. She mocked the idea of privacy, called me a liar, a cheat... and much worse. I backed away.
Last week, she called to say "As lovers we're a mess. Let's just be friends."
Now what? I don't know yet. The shock's too fresh. But the dream prepared me some: warned there would be casualties when the Three burned. I mean Tree.
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