Diurnal and Nocturnal Worlds
Dreamed 1993/11/8 by Chris Wayan
My mother calls. Time for me to confess--she'll find out eventually. "I crashed my car. On the way to therapy, too, how's that for a way to avoid a session?" We talk a long time. She admits she has many of the same traits that drove me into trying therapy--she's always had trouble asserting herself, went along with others...
Once she double dated, went out with the friend of a man she really wanted. She was miserable, yet felt obliged to kiss and make out with a guy she wasn't attracted to. Even this, she sees in moral terms: "I wasn't honest with myself, and I paid for it." Well, yes, but...
I feel ill, and skip ballet class. Or am I just scared to see my classmate Heidi? I want to ask her out, but I'm so shy. Feel guilty--I've flirted, then avoided her. I'm a tease, hurt her feelings. Probably true. My mother's rule, "Don't hurt anyone's feelings" is cursing me as it cursed her.
My therapist encouraged me to flirt and date. "Just enjoy flirtation and compliments without obligation." But I don't. With immense effort I can ACT as if I don't feel obliged; but that stress makes me sick.
Read a book my housemate Alder recommends: Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane, about a woman who's not much of a witch or much of a mom... torn between the love she feels for her husband and kids, and the privacy and meditation needed for magic as a spiritual path. Her regret and discontent are painful for me to see, since she's taken the path I'm complaining that I never had the chance to, the path I'm trying to learn. Her love for her family is deep, yet the dragon nearly lures to give up her humanity and become a dragon herself, just to knock down the walls around her mind and spirit... like a cocoon.
That's what I feel with Heidi. Real attraction, but dating still pushes me into a net of obligations--all in my mind.
1: THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
Usually, the Stanford Arboretum is usually empty of people, but today it's crowded as a city park on a weekend. And the people! Strikingly beautiful; indeed, perfect. Intimidating! Of course, with Stanford money, anyone can look good. But it's more than that, their auras are strong and strange. As if they're other shamans. Or.. something more.
My cousin Barbara is there, and introduces me to some of them, including a few of the charismatic ones. I feel shy, envy them. Tell myself "They're just people, the same as me." But they aren't. They're more. I feel it. I have to face it: I see these rich, happy, healthy, beautiful people as gods. No matter what reason says, I feel they're better than me. Envy's not the worst of it; what hurts is that my intuition's been so crippled.
And then a Beautiful Person who I can't take my eyes off leaves my cousin's group discreetly, walks behind a low tree, and when she thinks no one is looking, swings her leg over a boundary fence and steps into the dry field beyond, in her expensive skirt and sheer nylons and high heels, among the nettles and burrs. I stare in amazement...
And she fades into glass, fog, air...
I understand now. It's like remembering what I always knew. The fences divide the 12 parts of the Arboretum, but also the 12 parts of the world; they all meet here: this is the transport hub. They form a great ring or wheel, an earth-Zodiac alternating between diurnal and nocturnal segments. And this earth we think we know is just one segment of that real world. A diurnal one, of course. Each of the twelve aspects of the whole is a globe like ours, not some land of perpetual day or night; but six worlds sleep in the day, and six, like ours, in the night.
Each world has a caretaker; the perfect people, of course. They ARE gods! They're not tied to their homelands; they wander, and meddle, and pass as human, and send visions, and cast illusions and spells on those who annoy or amuse or threaten them, just as the twelve Olympian gods did before them.
And the Arboretum? It's their... airport.
I think back on the Beautiful People I've met. No wonder I was restless! The gods have been playing games with me. Oh, nothing personal. Few people sense who they are, see the boundaries or the worlds beyond. I do. And like all who may rove beyond their homelands, I'm entertaining but also a faint threat. They just don't want too many shamans clogging up the flyways, so to speak. So they cast illusions... only those who can free themselves of the spells become true shamans, free to wander the worlds.
The truth dissolves some of the illusions they cast, to limit me. They were clever: didn't trap me in my own day-world, but let me roam the adjacent worlds, Dream of course, and Art or maybe Vision... So I knew three or four, and in that bigger cage, I didn't fret, didn't see the walls at all. Until now.
I sort through my fears and compulsions... all of them from the Gods! And all but one of them are attributable to gods I can name. Except one. One goddess put a compulsion on me, but I don't know her name or her region, and to undo a spell you must name the one who bound you.
I have two clues: she was from a nocturnal segment, and I saw her for a moment in the Arboretum before she faded out, so I know how she looks. A young blonde woman, quite beautiful even for a god. That vanity is her flaw! Tried to pass for human around me, yet she just had to look gorgeous. Single as I am, I noticed her. I'll recognize her if I see her. Six slices are nocturnal, only half of those are ruled by women... And I've met many of the Twelve, can eliminate a lot. Only a few blondes. I can trace her!
I'll have to circumnavigate the ring. Only a few segments are really well known. My cousin Barbara and a couple of other friends decide to come along for the adventure.
2: NOCTURNAL: SHAKEDOWN
The nocturnal segment "north" of ours. Happens to be daytime here, though. Nocturnal lands have just as much sun as diurnal ones have night. People there just sleep in the day.
So it's a sunny day, and all should be quiet, sleeping. It is, so far. But still I'm wary, and lead our group along silently. One protests: "It's full day, in the Arboretum park, and no one's about. We're safe enough; no need to get paranoid." I say harshly that this is a different world, and we need to stay inconspicuous to stay alive! I don't mention that one of the night goddesses, the blonde, is an enemy of mine; that the others in the group would probably be safer away from me, if this is her land.
We meet a few other traveling shamans and talk with them. Slowly the others begin to realize just how dangerous the otherworlds can be, until you're familiar with them.
3: BORDERLAND: BAT
On the border between a night land and a day, in dusky hills where the wind always blows, Barbara and I see kites hovering over canyons, huge kites, bigger than condors... or ARE they kites? In the dim light, I'm not so sure: they look alive. Creatures... other shamans perhaps? Slate gray, flimsy, membranous not feathered, with stick-frames like dragonwings. But with minds. I can feel them now. Is it worth it, losing most of your body, your weight, to be able to fly here in the dusky borderlands? For I doubt they can, in full daylight. Wouldn't I have seen them soaring? I think they're trapped here by their freedom.
One of them swoops down... and I know him. My double.. my demon! My shadow.
Body in a little box, flickering with diodes, computerized. Lifted to the winds by batwings. Vampire cyberbat? Brain in a box!
I've been warned that meeting your vampire double is fatal, for the two will always hate each other so much they'll duel to the death, compulsively. The only safety is to flee, avoid a direct confrontation before blind hate takes over. We just stare, me with my human eyes, he with his glass lenses. Our minds meet and grapple, feeling each other out. He's repulsive--skittery, grasping, no solidity, no generosity, all take and no give. And I feel his disgust for me--a blind pompous blimp, a kind fat dull cow corraled by sympathy, all self-respect tamed away... A wall of loathing builds between us... but we both know the stories! If we act on our revulsion, we'll destroy each other. Reconcile or die. He and I set aside disgust, like scooping handfuls of vomit... it sticks, and stinks. We hate each other. But our minds remember the stories; we refuse to fight.
So we fuse! Not in body, but in mind and spirit. And I move on, with a dark wary charcoal streak in my soul, now, from him, as he now has the curse of empathy from me, marbling him through, like a flabby vein of fat. But having an alien view, a mirror part, no matter how much you dislike it, adds a dimension, a depth.
And a strength. I can cross the fences of the world more freely now.
4: DIURNAL: THE SHIPS
Day, on a diurnal world. I'm on a barren shore with my cousin Barbara, and a man who seems even more lost than I feel, and a girl who's been here before and came prepared for the beach--towel, sunglasses, novel. But what a sterile beach: no birds, no kelp, no shells. All wrong inland too--a low plain, not sculpted by erosion and wind as a desert would be, yet not a plant for miles. A world utterly alien to us. Oceans and oxygen, yet no visible life! Makes no sense. I wonder if live here hasn't yet left the sea, or if it has, if there's life all around us, but somehow... invisible.
We seem to be stranded here. No way to go on very far, with no food. The girl who came here before says "I think we'll just have to wait for help, hitch a ride." She spreads out a towel, pulls off her top and pants and lies on the beach in a bikini like it's a long, long holiday.
"But this world is empty" I say. I feel uneasy though: maybe we're the ghosts here, and a crowd surrounds right now, swimming and sunning...
"I know it looks like it, but other travelers pass through. And there is life in this world. Just..." She doesn't understand it, just knows something will come. I have to trust her judgment; she's the only one of us who's been here before. She did make it out alive... somehow.
A freighter appears on the horizon. And another, both steaming north. The bikini girl gets up and waves her towel and yells "HEY!" The ships don't seem to see us. I feel scared we're stranded here for good. Then I notice one ship has been angling in toward shore all along. Sharper and sharper, till it's going full steam straight at the beach two hundred yards down...
It hits the beach at twenty knots, in a thunderous steel-ripping impact. The ship breaks up! Freight compartments roll off onto the beach, wheeled like train cars, of all sizes from 10 to 50 meters long, some blocky as skyscrapers and weighing hundreds of tons, long thin ones like walking walls, long busses and trucks mad and driverless, all zigzagging up the beach at us, moving in merciless straight lines from the momentum of their tremendous weight--till they slam into another crate, and pinball off on a different vector.
A crash behind us, and the second ship hits and splinters. Great lumbering blocks bear down on us from all directions. Ears are deafened, useless; only the eye can extrapolate the paths, and where they'll intersect. We dodge back and forth, trapped in a maze of moving steel.
Two monsters hit, fragment, and spawn disks ten meters high, rolling on edge around the beach, slowly losing momentum, spiraling inwards and toppling with a sonic boom, to smash anything beneath them and popping eardrums for yards around.
The only state that keeps me alive is disciplined vigilance, mind and eyes linked, watching the farthest monsters and anticipating their paths, ignoring the nearby behemoths whose paths won't intersect with ours.
I'm far too busy to panic.
Dancing in deaf vigilance, only halfway through the journey, I wake.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
Barbara Hambly's 'Dragonsbane', cover by Michael Whelan
ONE WEEK LATER--ARTEMIS RISING?
I dream that a young goddess is on the rise in the Greek pantheon: Artemis! Goddess of the night, pale-haired like her moon, beautiful, delicate virginal looking, but powerful, almost fierce: the last goddess with a spell over me, out of the twelve diurnal and nocturnal gods.
She's not all bad. She fought off a demon horde when no one else could--not even Zeus. But she's solitary, Artemis is, and misandric--man-hating.
So I'm hesitating. I can't decide--should I call on her? Do I want more involvement with the ruling power of virginity, celibacy? Hasn't she limited me enough? I've paid so heavily for her "gifts"...
Instead, shouldn't I befriend... Aphrodite?
NOTES NEXT MORNING
So learning more firmness, more power of No, really won't help me. That's Artemis. Virginity is boundary setting. I say no a lot in my life!
What I really have trouble with is yes. Saying yes to my own desires, acting on them.
And that's not Artemis. That's Aphrodite, Venus, Ishtar... The goddess of love.
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