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CLAY BEHEADER

Dreamed 1983/7/28 by Chris Wayan

A newlywed couple goes on a cruise. They watch the New York skyline from the harbor. The newest towers look like vacuum cleaners and slot machines. One solar office block has a dish on top bigger than the tower itself. The Empire State Building still stands out as one of the big ones, though.

Funny, the Statue of Liberty seems to be missing. The husband gets suspicious and goes below decks, and down and down. At first they're elegant and high-ceilinged, but each is smaller and shabbier. Till at the bottom, he finds what the absence of Liberty made him suspect: slaves. It's a slave ship. They shanghai passengers and make them work deep down. He rushes back up and tells his wife "as soon as we leave the harbor, we'll be enslaved!" She's skeptical. He says "We have to jump in the bay right NOW and hope we're picked up by a tug or a yacht." She says "Look at the beautiful colors of those salt-ponds, those bridges, the ships, the sunset... even if you're right, they won't jump us yet, within sight of the city. Let's go to bed and jump ship tomorrow if you still think you must..."

But the next day even she can see how endangered they are. And they do jump. Too late. Not too late to escape--they make it ashore in Jersey with no trouble--but late enough so their absence is soon noticed.

And now the hunt's on, all over New York, for the only two eyewitnesses to the slavers' crime.

The couple are friends of mine. We're together one day in a man's store, when a strange customer enters, a tall... man, I guess. He says "I must talk to you..." to the husband "...alone." His wife goes in the next room with me. I linger in the doorway, uneasy. The man draws near my friend and whispers something in his ear... and suddenly the whisperer isn't remotely human, it's a tall clay Thing. With yellow clay claws, it tears off my friend's head and eats it. Lets his body drop to the ground, spurting blood. I freeze in the doorway as the monster walks out calmly. As I try to find words to tell her he's dead, I'm sure somehow that we are too: the Thing will be back, tomorrow, to take another victim.

For now I know too much about the slave ship from my friends.

I too must die.

And she does the same thing she did on the ship! She sits on the curb outside the shop saying "He was the fighter, he opposed the slavers, not me, certainly not you. We're small fry. We're safe." Within minutes of seeing her husband's decapitated body in a pool of blood!

The next day, at the same hour, we're still arguing when the tall clay Thing walks in. It has no human mask today.

I prepare to fight and die. But the monster speaks.

It asks our help. "I represent the underground, opposing the slavers. I ate your lover's head to get his memories. I'm a collective of minds and bodies..." Shapeshifting fragments of a huge whole. It seems to have a little of her husband's personality, but mostly he's dormant, or blended with too many others to emerge much.

It's asking permission to eat us too. Permission!

And we're considering it. If true, its offer would mean we'd join a collective mind with an indefinite lifespan and the power to change shape... but we see no guaranteee our consciousnesses will survive being eaten. I can't trust it enough to let it kill me. His widow agrees for once: without proof we'll be fully resurrected, we can't consider it.

And it can't provide proof. Except for one thing it doesn't think to say. It's talking to us. Rather than just devouring us.

And it could have.

NEXT MORNING

You tell me. Faced with that offer, what would you do?



LISTS AND LINKS: slavery and Liberty - dream beings - monsters - group minds - hunted! - You Are Lunch - violent dreams - heads and headlessness - truth and lies - power -- trust and mistrust

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