Dreamed 1983/12/17 by Chris Wayan
I'm on a cruise ship, near an immense peak rising steeply from the sea. A shy, intellectual man is telling me about the place--it's a tourist attraction all over the multiverse, but controversial: an artificial mountain called Paradise on Earth. And the builders mean it. Some call it blasphemy, aiming for paradise in the material world... others say it's doomed to fail like Babel... but why not try to build perfection even if it can't be reached?
God's quite silent about it, so far.
The mountain is modeled after Dante's Purgatorio. And of course the Matterhorn at Disneyland. Gray granite sixty-degree shoulders, with wide ledges now and then, marking levels of spirituality. The architects aren't stupid: they know we have to face basics before getting all celestial. If you want to join, you climb up on foot, and you meet... things. The top is lost in the sky, snagging great banners of cloud.
My scholarly companion gazes into the peak-clouds too long, I guess. His body leans absently, compensating for the rocking of the ship in the crossfire of waves reflected off the rocky shore; leans until... "AAAACK!" Over the rail! Splash! We're near the stern and I picture the prop blades slicing him. Horrified I scream "MAN OVERBOARD!"
The Captain, a calm Russian, looks down from the bridge and says, "Oh, he can swim to the island!" and keeps on his course around the peak to the harbor on its far side. He sounds scornful and I recall he has a reputation for disliking intellectuals. Thinks they're spoiled. Sink or swim, I guess.
I look around and see a pale blue translucent lifesaver and throw it astern. It looks and floats more like the candy kind than the real thing. The guy is far behind it and doesn't seem to be doing well. I swear and dive in. I know I can dog paddle to the island, only a few hundred yards off, so I can probably help him there.
I'm cold and tired when we reach the shore. To find there is none: it's steep sheer stone, with occasional columns and windows. I finally grasp a sill and let him use me as a ladder, and pull myself up through. We're in the basement of Paradise.
It seems so empty! I feel wary. This level should be ritzy, garish, busy--it's the Paradise Mall! Usually it's full of slick banker types in corporate offices on the far side, where the tourists land. Paradise must be funded!
I'm also a bit nervous because I'm dressed most improperly for business, not that I'm comfortable in that world even with a suit on. I'm Coyote after all, even if I have taken on human form for my vacation (you know how humans get). But wearing wet pajamas? Human or Coyote, I look stupid.
I need to wear pajamas for a reason, okay? I don't want to talk about it.
A few panicky people rush by. Not businessmen, not at all. "What's going on?" I ask, but they ignore us... Here come some more, shouting "Watch out--no, this way--is he listening?"
I try to piece the story together, eavesdropping. My Coyote powers are the powers of freedom, and what's needed here are social smarts--not my forte. Sounds like some kind of religious dictator has taken over the neglected lower floors of Paradise... the builders got preoccupied with the heights and a rat's moved into the basement. And now he's running for prophet.
Whoops! Here he comes! Like an emperor with his retinue, stalking down the hall... I don't want to mess with human politics at all, and I don't see a way out of the corridor. So... I grab my friend and LIFT. He gasps--I shush him--and floating up in the dark arch of the ceiling, we quietly watch the procession pass below. Bald top, fringed by thin hair, fringed by face and shoulder and paunch, fringed by guards and kiss-asses, fringed by a ring of emptiness--the isolation of power, made visible. A foreshortened dictator is not a pretty sight. Sort of a fried egg, but not cooked very well. It's running, after all.
Sorry, coyotes can't resist puns. Just authorities.
Something is poking my back. I roll over to find a video camera lens peering down at me. The bastard has spy cameras! He knows about us! I fly into the next hall... and soon hear guards behind us. They have a radio link with the monitor room and they tail us quite well for humans. Damn eyes everywhere. I'm getting nervous. I don't like guns.
But they make me angry too. You have to publicly praise the Business Prophet, or they beat you up. This is supposed to be a welcoming level for pilgrims, not a prison camp! It's wrong. I resent it so much, I refuse to leave, to fly up to the higher levels where it's all clean and light. I'm starting to suspect that's what they want--to repel dissidents with petty harassment, and avoid any real fight.
Finally I start trailing this dictator myself. Cameras or no cameras, I'm Coyote. Wait till I get him alone.
And I do, at last, on the stairs of his private suite--he forgot I can fly through windows. His guards are just a door away, above and below--but he knows not to yell. I'm in my real form and I intend to scare the hell out of him--his own medicine. I sit on the steps, grinning, a coyote in ridiculous pajamas, and prepare to give him a heart-stopping ultimatum. "If you don't change jobs, here's what I'm gonna do..."
My shy companion, Mister Intellectual, who has patiently and bravely stayed down here when he could easily get by on the high levels, quietly steps over to the Dictator, grabs him by the collar, and throws him down the stairwell! CRASH! magnified by the echoes. A roar as the doors open, guards rushing in--
I panic and leap out the window with my crazy friend's jacket in my teeth, him flailing like a chicken and crowing "I got him!"
I growl "You weren't SUPPOSED to GET him," but he doesn't hear me, my mouth is full of dead sheep hair. That was a long fall, and I'm sure our dictator is not in good shape. I saw blood down there. I loft in the cliffy updraft and perch on a higher windowsill.
I rear up and turn human again, more or less. "Take my hand," I say firmly, and my friend the excitable assassin clumsily tries three or four times till he can focus his hormone-crazed brain enough to accomplish this mighty task, and I grab his sweaty hand securely and use my Coyote magic--and something more.
We ZOOM to another world in a rushing whamming instant. Like falling down a stair.
We're on a beach in a Central California town. Nice and quiet. It's the off season. Safe. Even this fool can't find trouble here. I think.
I let go of his hand and dump him there. WHOOSH! I'm light years away.
This may seem unusual for a Coyote: of course I can fly around between worlds, but... light-years? Instantaneously?
I told you there was a reason I'm wearing those silly pajamas.
I'll need them now. That Dictator was more than he seemed; I felt it when we touched on the stair. He has powers too--and lots of goons. He'll be after me: I'm afraid he recognized the pajamas. The Pajamas of Instantaneous Transport.
Now begins a grim time. His agents start trailing me, and they too can worldhop. Even friends in temporal backwaters and solo universes warn me weird jerks have been snooping round. This guy has RESOURCES! Not as fast as the Pajamas, but sheer numbers make up for it. I have to keep moving.
What am I gonna do? Eventually I'll need to rest and I'll want to WASH my pajamas. Either they and I will get more and more filthy and worn until I can't fully rely on them, or me, or I have to take some time out for maintenance. I can't run my whole life!
And if I keep relying on the Pajamas, my Coyote abilities will get rusty. How well will I fight when they surprise me at last in my sleep, or swimming, or shitting?
I sit on a nice smooth sandstone face high up in a slickrock formation on a desert world. Very private and I need the air. Big clean smell. I don't know what to do; I gnaw and gnaw on it. What do you do when big organizations persecute you? If you were expecting a magical answer, I don't have one. I sit there on that ledge watching the clouds... until I worldhop involuntarily--most of you would call it "waking"--and write the dilemma--"dream"--down.
A LATER NOTE
The one thing I notice, looking back, is a startling hole. A choice I ignored as Coyote. Never did it occur to me for an instant to fight. To choose my own time and kill that Dictator and smash his organization. Never. My goal as Coyote was survival under the circumstances the universe threw at me. Not to change the circumstances.
Maybe attack wouldn't work. It sure can't be a general solution to the dilemmas of the modern world, because plenty of people who shouldn't fight, do. A million kids go round on crutches from all you heroes.
But in my case... and, I think, in the lives of many who can shapeshift and worldhop, whether they call it dreaming or creativity or psychic power... we have somewhere to fly to, somewhere the bullies can't touch.
So we get good at running. While we use one flavor of magic, maybe something else atrophies... our will to change what we don't like? In my dreams I often have paws, not hands. No fingers to graps tools and change things. I'm not sure. Yet to deny the reality of flight, to fight and stand and never give in, is to lose, too. You can spend your whole life in their battles, accept their walls and then bang your head...
I just don't know.
Maybe the dream was a pure salute to George Orwell--after all, it was the dark solstice, just before the dawn of good old 1984.
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