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THE EVEREST MARATHON


Dreamed 1986/4/12 by Chris Wayan

THAT DAY

Linden drops by on her way back from from a trip to San Juan Bautista. Exhausted. "It was... interesting." she says. "But every store in town feeds off the Mission tourists. I won't go there again."

We talk about my lawsuit with Adoma, the thrift company that accepted my savings and now simply refuses to acknowledge my existence. I got a lawyer and now he's doing nothing, doesn't answer my calls! It irritates Linden I let them abuse me.

I say "I'm glad I stopped tolerating being battered. And then cold and starved and sick. But, see, poverty and abuse can make you too patient: now anything looks good. I feel like I'm in a series of caves--I fight out of one, to find the walls are wider and the gloom brighter. As long as my new cage is better, I don't feel I deserve the sun. In this lawsuit, I feel greedy demanding my own savings back, since I can survive without them! I feel more guilt over my 'greed' than anger over their theft!"

Linden sleeps over. I fuss over pads and pillows, obsessed with being the good host. I get Linden settled on the floor under the Grand Canyon topo map at last, and lie down to unwind.

I'm playing Hoagy Carmichael turned down low, when my right speaker goes fuzzy, then faint. Again! Shouldn't have bought my amp at Price Club. I trace the connections one more time, though I know they're perfectly sound, it's the damn amp. After redoing the joint at the speaker I wiggle it one last time--and for a moment, "Baltimore Oriole" flies out! And dies. But the connection's tight!

Snarling, I BITE the wire loose, ripping the plastic with my teeth. The cable must have a gap inside the sheath with no external wound. Like a snapped spine. I splice it shorter, and Hoagy trills perfectly. I am so pleased I wobble-boogie round the room, hooting along with his weedy little voice. All run out at last, I lie down by the speaker and re-drape Kenny's old red bandana over its battered screenless face (half price for cosmetic damage). Crawl onto my sleeping mat thinking "I ought to BUY a scarf, with colors I LIKE." Inside me, Silky murmurs sleepily "You should let me bite things more often."

And I slip into dream.


THE RACE

The Sierra trip was a disaster. We're all hot and grumpy. I'm on edge because my sister Miriel's childhood friend and college roommate came along--Ariane, who I have a crush on and never can talk to. And then on the way back my mother suggested we drive through Strickland and see Pacific University, Miriel and Ariane's alma mater. Turned out she miscalculated the detour by fifty miles. It's 100 degrees in the Central Valley. Then this big creepy deputee trailed us all over town, seemed to think we were Big City Pushers or Welfare Spongers in our wheezing car. Which nearly died coming back over the pass to the Bay. Coughed us into nervous exhaustion. Now we're in Menlo Park, disbanding.

"I'm really sorry, everyone. It was a dumb idea." says my mother. As she has for sixty miles now.

"Let's forget about it, and go to the movies!" says my father. Film is my dad's religion. "Two good films playing in Menlo Park." Miriel and Ariane cheer this idea. I don't mind. My father parks on El Camino Real between the Guild and the Temple. We look at one marquee and agree we don't want to wait an hour. Barefoot, I lead the cavalcade down the hot street. I don't remember it being this far around the curve. The hill up to the San Francisquito levee is steeper on foot than in a car, too.

"Is that it?" says Ariane.

I say "No, but it's the next big building on the far side. Can't see it yet." Ariane, an Asian girl, looks from a colonnade at a fair in the valley below. Banners hang bright from cliffs and walls. A temple to the Film Gods stands on a crag; on the horizon rises the tooth of Everest.

I forgot how high the creek banks are. Built up over decades for flood control. The sidewalk has a pillared rail on the right now, where the levee drops a thousand feet straight into the creek. The pillars get taller and more elaborate, fluted, Greek columns with toes and crowns. The path becomes a gallery cut into the face of the rising cliff. It bends to the left around a promontory, and at last we can see ahead. A vast cliff-cove, filled at the bottom with columned halls and spires, and across from us, on the final promontory, the Movie Temple.

Below, amid the pavilions, the Chinese crowds flow and rumble like surf, fluorescent pixels of brilliant color. From the gallery slits ahead of us, bolts of metallic silk shoot out, unroll down the face, flower petals of magenta, turquoise, gold and grass. What is the celebration? I'm half Chinese, I should remember. I'm ashamed I don't.

"A Faire! A Gather!" people call happily from the cliff.

"Aren't you going to wave your scarf too?" says Ariane behind me. Ariane? She's remembered more thoroughly, gone from American blonde to black ponytail and diamond face. She takes off her phoenix-patterned scarf and knots it strangely, showing me. I can't quite see how... She shakes the scarf in the stripy-lit gallery air and the colors flap and explode into a banner the size of a bedsheet. Out the window with it! and it joins the parade. She hangs onto the knot as we walk along, giving it a little flick as we pass each column. Impossibly, the banner flips around or through the pillar's solid stone. I gape at her. She smiles.

"It's all in the knot. Do yours!"

I try. Guess I should be glad to have a scarf at all. It's bold enough, but only black and red; not very festive. Somber. But I hang it out, and try to flip it.

My knot just doesn't work. I feel inept. In front of Ariane too.

We're nearing the theater. The crowd thickens. "What's the occasion?" I ask someone when Ariane's not looking.

"The Everest Marathon! Aren't you in it? You have a scarf."

Must be like the Bay to Breakers T-shirt. "I'm having doubts." I prevaricate. Maybe I should run! How far would I get? I'm no runner, but all the Tibetan climbing I've done this year in my Buddhist dreams may translate into more long-distance stamina than I expect. Somehow I expect to crash in Mile Eleven... or is that just my Western half repeating others' opinions of me?

CrackacrackackaBOOOOOOM! go the firecrackers and the Promontory Cannon. I start running. Everyone starts running. Every which way but loops.

A race with birds, bicycles, giants, green and purple people.
"Which way's the course?" I holler.

"Course?" yells a man. "Any path up the mountain!" He points vaguely off the cliff past the domes and pagodas of the city, to the huge white circus tent on a far ridge. Then my mind adjusts. No tent--that's Chomolungma! Twenty-six miles across a Grand Canyon land of ridges and temples and caves--and five miles above. The Goddess Mother of the World.

At least the gravity's as low as it is back home on the Moon. The landscape is soft, too. Pillowstone, bouncy and clean-smelling, soothes my feet as I dance from rock to boulder, half-falling down the promontory face. I am alone on my route now. In fact I'm ahead of the crowd. Am I missing something? Perhaps they plan their routes. Only Ariane is near me, to the right. The valley below gets bigger. I have to decide now how I'm going to approach the next ridge--small, but with a steep face. There's a narrow crack that looks like it goes through. Or climb it at the low spot? Or the high spot with the milder slope? Beyond it great caves yawn everywhere; instinct says the best way past the next mass of sharp ridges is through the caves. But which mouth? That would affect my choice now.

I bounce and tumble down, nearly freefalling. Then I stumble, and somersault to a plopping halt! What's this tube I caught my foot in? Lucky it's flexible; I might have broken the ankle. I tug at the pipe. It comes loose. Feathers leak and puff from the pillowstone. I move a way off and sit. As I suspected, the pipe unrolls. Paper. It's a topo map. I stumbled on a map! The only way. Sketchmap of a chain of three round caves under Mt Everest.

"Which route you taking?" calls Ariane.

Fast as a snake striking, my hands hide the map behind my leg. I don't want her to see ahead! "I dunno yet. Maybe I'll follow you."

"Dork, you'll come in second!" she laughs, and bounds on down.

The topo shows a cave opening into a huge underground bubble, created by volcanic gas no doubt, same as the Luna City municipal air reservoir that I fly in on weekends. Most lowgrav worlds have them, but this is really huge. At its end, it opens into a second... I have to turn it over to see what then. The third covers the whole back side. A white oval miles across--reaching to Everest itself. I can go right under those ridges and cliffs! Bubble floors are always pretty smooth.

I roll the map up and stick it inside my shirt. Race down the mountain to the sandy wash and cross to the lowest lip of the cliff beyond. From above it seemed to be five or six sheer yards, but in an unfamiliar world, scale is deceptive. It's barely half that. I leap and grab at the pumice lip and easily pull myself over. The rough stone hills I find myself in are utterly bare at first but soon wild flowers start to sprout. Ridges are streaked with azure fire from immense colonies of lupine. Orange poppies congregate to the left, red and plumcolored clover to the right. Where is my cave? Oh. I bound through the flowers to the black mouth. Not black. Dim gray light from somewhere. I go in.


SNAKE BUBBLES

It's not as the map said. An endless smooth corridor of stone, with occasional side galleries I don't explore. On the walls glow orange mysterious patterns of licheny stuff, almost Chinese characters, messages... barely brighter than the gray stonelight.

The branches grow commoner. It's a rectilinear maze now. This is all wrong, yet I go on; the dull light dims me to a sort of trance. I think only of the moment, of the next corner and its yes/no decision, a problem so immediate and clean it's soothing.

The floor gets springy. It's tight-grown, cleanly-cropped Bermuda grass. How slow it must grow in this dim light! Perhaps it's centuries old. Surely no one mows it--some cave-grazing animal?

Doors block the ways now. Some are open. At last a door blocks the main path. I pry at it, til, slowly, the grass tears free and it opens a bit.

But the next is jammed--or locked. I take a side hall.

Lost.

But I still know which way I'm trying to go... slowly I fumble through the maze toward Everest. Slower and slower I wander the grass halls. At last I have just one possible route: a tunnel to the right that elbows toward Chomolungma encouragingly. I turn the corner and find a shut door. I push and it wiggles. Pry, and tear a nail. Kick and kick and it opens one inch--and jams. Dead end. The cold air flowing through has a damper smell, and the blackness suggests space. I put my cheek to the crack and shout. A vast gap of silence. Echoes!

The Bubble.

What was...? A burbly, slavering sound... from nowhere. I flatten to the wall, terrified. Fool! I know something eats the grass, and of course something eats them. This biome is sparse, they must be rare, but I just had to shout!

The slobbering loudens... It's just beyond the door, now. I hear it snuffling at the latches, and pushing as I did. Trying to get to me. It tugs at the door, shaking it. Drum. Boom. But no fingers curl round the edge, no claws, tentacles. Nothing. Is it invisible?

It can't get in.

But I'm trapped too.

Suddenly I'm kicking at the door again, as the creature pulls somehow from the other side. I don't care what it is. I'm at a dead end. The door pries a few inches further open.

It oozes through. Thigh-high, glassy, slimy, transparent, it heaves along the floor, digesting the grass slowly down to a uniform inch. Giant Medusa! Ringlike organs pulse inside. Filamentary tendrils trail. Do they sting? I freeze, up against the chill stone wall. It avoids me, goes drooling down the corridor, leaving a silver slug trail.

Dream: huge jellyfish cropping grass on the floor of a dark tunnel. Silvery slug-trail behind. Dreamer, in red shirt, gapes in fear.

I return to the door crack. I feel cold and strange, stepping barefoot onto the cropped slimy grass. Instantly, like a strong electric shock, fearlessness and strength jolt into me, and I squeak through the doorcrack effortlessly, into the black bubble. I whip across miles of echoing cavern, cold, dark, but a joyful open space to my radar... before realizing I didn't have radar, something's changed.

Me.

The slime changed me.

I'm not human.

I'm a cable! Metal-cored, silicone-muscled, with a computer brain at the head. I'm calm: partly just that I lack the organs I habitually emote with, but also I sense my body will revert when I leave the underworld: this spell can't stand the light of day. I unroll myself, marking my path through the Labyrinth not with string or memory, but my own long body. I am thin but very tough; there's something to be said for being plastic.

An eerie wall approaches like a face with a hundred glowing eyes. The eyes are cave mouths, lit orange by labyrinth moss. Bubble's end! I choose one that smells right to my snake tongue and slither in. This maze is more blocked than the first. But I'm a cybersnake; that makes all the difference. Soon I come out into daylight.

No; just bright by contrast. But this bubble's certainly nicer. I almost enjoy the scenery. Quasi-savanna! A black herd of grazing dots, small and sharp as pepper grains. Real life down here now. Swift as a mamba I cut through the grass. Another cliff nears, like a Rift Valley wall. The caves are almost familiar, as I enter the third labyrinth.


GRAZER AND SPEAKERWIRE

Got careless, I guess. I pushed through the wrong door. It was stuck tight, and I whipped at it til the wood started to crumble. Pried with my RCA-connector fangs until I got it just ajar. Twisted my flat head sideways and shoved through, widening the crack with my main body. The door groaned more than the others, but I didn't care if I broke the hinges. So what?

And the lintel beam crashes down, pinning me half through. I know instantly it's severed my copper spine. I'm dead.

Some time later, I hear a clip clap clop.

"So I did hear a crash." muses a voice. "What's THAT?" it gasps, as we see each other. I'd ask the same thing if I dared.

It's one of the grazers--but how bizarre! A black antelopy creature, with their sleek wiry speed. But the neck's like a human child's body, with delicate arms, small breasts, a long, almost saurian head, and huge narrowed eyes. Silver-white brows and mane and tail make me blink, disoriented; she's like a cast-iron statue in snow, a photographic negative, not a living thing. She wears only a light saddlepack, all pouches, and a sort of monk's hood or turban, deep red.

Dream: I'm a cybersnake trapped in a cave, trying to convince a skittish deer-centauress to free me via spine-splicing.
"Can you help me? I'm trapped."

The deer hisses in shock.

"What are you, Snake that talks like a Person?"

"I am a person. Only right now I'm a wire. It's the only way I could get through the grasslocked doors. I was racing for Chomolungma."

"Wires don't speak."

"I do; I'm a speaker wire!"

"I see... I am a person also: Simsa Valiha."

"I'm honored. Niao Wai-An. I would bow, but my back is broken."

"Does it not hurt?"

"Not. It's quite numb. The insulation is unbroken but the cable--the spine, you'd say--has snapped."

"Ah. Will you die?"

"In this form I can last a long time, but yes, I'll die, eventually--if you can't free me."

"I sorrow. This beam is too big."

I think about that. There is a way, if I want to risk dying right now. "You could chop off the parts of me on each side of the beam, and splice them together. I would be shorter, but alive. It could be done; if my core is firmly retied, I'll become a live wire again." Simsa Valiha's head: a dark-furred deer-girl with silvery hair.

"You are trusting with strangers."

"I have little to lose. Will you help?"

"I have life to lose. Perhaps when you are free, you will eat me." says the deer.

"I won't. I don't eat, in this body, and if I did, I wouldn't eat a person."

"This is plausible; no person I know eats persons. But predatory nonpersons exist. Forgive my caution, but..."

I think it over. "The only proof I can give you is this. If you cut me open, I will be helpless--dead until you splice me. Look inside my body. You'll find a metal cable that is my spine, and plastic sheaths that are my muscles, and that's all. No organs--"

"Organs?" says the deer.

Of course! Herbivores don't go nosing through carrion. Only my ancestors' grisly tastes gave ME the science of anatomy. "No... hollows, no bladders. Then you'll know can't possibly eat you: I lack the bladder-to-eat-you-with, my deer."

Simsa Valiha adjusts her red hood, thinking.

"You are indeed trusting with strangers. You ask me to kill you, hoping for resurrection with sticky tape?"

I think this over! But I'm stuck here anyway.

"I guess I do." Dark hand holding a knife.

"This trust reassures me. I will risk." Simsa Valiha roots around in the fiber pouch slung over her back. A small knife appears. It pricks my vinyl skin--

Darkness.

Thunder overhead wakes me. I raise my head. I'm a Snake, with patches, in a dark tunnel. The native is gone. The rumble diminishes. Hoofbeats.

Simsa Valiha, being cautious.

"Thank you!" I yell. Whether she hears me, I don't know.

Taped together, I feel cautious myself. I go on... giving up any ambition to race. I just want out, alive.

I see daylight ahead. Thought there was one more cave! Even when I reach the mouth, I'm fooled for a minute; so bright, the roof a white shell of ice, glowing like thin haze. The light's even enough to fool my body into phototropic transformation; I rear up, legs sprout, arms, blood pounds... I am a man again. A man in a cave. Too soon!

Am I shorter, lighter? I don't think I've lost much body mass. No tape, no scar. I guess if the connection's good enough, and Simsa Valiha made sure it ws, all of my signal gets through.

I hike over grass a long timeless while. On the far wall hangs an arch of blue light. True day! As I near, a small figure rears from the floor, picking up wrappers and water bota. Ariane!

"Congratulate me!" she says. "I beat you this far. I see you're climbing well too."

"Uh, congratulations. How far are we from Everest then?"

"We're in it now. The door out's right through there. You only have to climb 15,000 feet--it's easy. No worse than what you've already handled."

"No worse than... Ariane, those caves are Hell! I mean, literally. I died, Ariane. No one else has made it through there in ages."

She blinks at me. "Back at the Fair they said 80% of us Everest runners complete the course."

I am stunned. It makes no sense. They get through that? Impossible.

I run through the archway and come out in the spicy blue-orange sharpness of alpine sunset. Behind, jagged ridges, already below me, bright-flecked with runners. Above's a dizzying fluted icecream cone.

"See, you just picked a hard way!" yells Ariane, jogging up beside me. So it's true; the way was better in the open. Yet... here I am, ahead of them. A nightmare path, but a direct one. At least death wasn't a dead end.

Ariane's blonde again; in fact, silverhaired, here in the real sun. It fluffs way down the back of her neck, oddly manelike in the breeze... Round impressionist painting of a garden with ponds, footbridges, surrounded by steep mountains.

Exactly like Simsa! Suddenly I see the obvious: Ariane's a Native too! This world breeds shapeshifters--who can be human, deer, snake... once they have a role model. Ariane became one of us Lunatics out of curiosity, or just to be friendly--as she instantly picked up being Chinese.

And now I'm one of them, too. A changer. I got slimed.

"Let's camp, the sun's setting. I know a good place; I played there as a kid." Ariane leads me into a hanging valley with pools and steep little streams. Lush plant life I don't recognize. We slide down the slopes to find little stone paths and bridges on the lakes. It's like a tea garden, but lurid with tropical color. Great fruits glow like liquid crystals. Animals thrash and call in the bush. I am nervous. I don't know what's safe and what's toxic here. Of course she doesn't even have to think about it.

"This was our nursery; they let us swim and skate, and slide down the waterfalls, when we had to be left on our own." We are walking down a colonnade cut into the hill.

"It's safe to sleep here?" I say, as we sit on a ledge over the lake.

"Huh? Sure!" Her eyes pop wide that I could doubt her garden.

"Gooooood night!" I grunt, and collapse. I hear her sit and hum a while, looking out over her childhood playground, then curl up by me. Though I wanted her before--I've often felt like we were lovers in some previous life--I hardly care she's by me now.

Of course, I died today; that's always upsetting.

Tiring too.

But still...


THE SIGN

I wake to the sound of a faint bell, to find her gone. Fear's in the air. What's up? I stumble down to the colonnade and read the news--it's inscribed on the wall as the babypark gets it. Ariane's been declared a fugitive! She sensed it somehow and fled before the mind tanks got here. "No update on her position. Citizens are warned..." and so on.

Just because she changed into one of us? This is crazy! Not that Administrations are sane.

As I walk back along the colonnade there's a hiss from a nook. Ariane!

"What you doing here?" I say. "I thought you'd be miles away by now!"

"If I use my powerpack, they can trace me, so I couldn't get out by air, and all the gates have sensors... so I came back."

"Could you get out by water?"

"I hadn't thought of that. You know, we used to skate on the lakes here."

"A lake this big freezes right over?"

"No, we just... it's just how the lakes are, you can skate on them. Oh. I didn't think about it when I was little--our packs were on automatic. Power again--and I can't draw from the net, they'll have flagged my account."

"Can you swim?"

She looks across the lake, where it winds into invisibility among hills studded with luminous trees like pomegranate seeds. Blonde in blue top and red shorts, diving with huge splash into a jungle pool.

"Not miles."

Faintly I hear the gray noise of tanks.

"They'll find you here..." I struggle to fish up something that's nagging me. "Don't powerpacks have a small safety field? Just enough to bring you down alive if it fails in the air?"

"Yes... you mean turn my pack dead off and skate on the reserve? I don't think it's strong enough."

"It might keep you partly above water... you could paddle along much faster than a swimmer. Like a hydroplane."

She takes a big breath and says "I'll try it." She opens the maintenance patch and pops the three contacts. She walks to the edge of the undulating water. She mumbles like a litany, "I have to trust. I have to trust."

Splat! She bellyflops, splashing me, and goes under. She flounders out. Now we're both soaking. Ariane, blonde in a blue top and red shorts, soaking wet and mad.

"You're always so convincing," grumbles Ariane. "You and your brain."

"I'm really sorry." I sure impressed her.

Ding! The bell for the arrival of the newest update lures us up to the colonnade, though the sound of the mind tanks is louder. This time the writing on the wall's been printed out in hard copy, the hardest. A big wooden sign.



ARIANE IS WICKED!

CITIZENS AIDING ARIANE
WILL BE PROSECUTED.
Conditions under which Ariane
can be trusted are as follows:

As 1--> y, 1! = (1-4)(1-2)(1-1) = 1


An equation? One factorial is one, yeah, but what's that junk in between? Okay... one is an increasing value--from one to y. But are all the ones variables or are some constants? Which? How confusing!

What a way to get a pardon.

"I'll try 'three', just to get a feel for it." I say. I calculate aloud. "Nope. I must be missing the point. N factorial never equals N, except for one. Oh, and two. I thought."

Ariane scowls "There's a trick to this." To my astonishment, she tries pi. Comes out close to mine of course. She says "See? It all nearly cancels out! I think all those middle terms are fake!"

"But Ariane, pi is almost three. It should work out nearly the same."

"It is?" Long pause. "Oh, yeah, pi!..."

Okay, she's no math genius.

Just a very cute shapeshifter. On the run.

I can't believe we're arguing about pi, dripping wet, with a tank chugging round the end of the walk. Tanks are nearsighted of course but--

Now she's trying five! Finally I yell "Ariane, GO!" and shove her out of the thing's line of sight. I get very uneasy as it creeps up the walk toward me, though it's programmed only for her, of course. Blunders on down the lane.

A senseless hunch appears about the equation. I yell to the air, "Hey, Ariane! I think those terms stand for chance factors--when they all happen to line up, the equation's true and you're pardoned! Maybe ten or twenty factors, all changing at random."

Hope she heard me--if I'm right, it's important. Chance can pardon her!

If she lives long enough.

I think Ariane will make it, though, up in the hills. It's her childhood park; no one knows it better. And after all, she knows how to pass. She could be an animal again, or a tree, or a tank.

Now I don't know what to think of her. I saw her as an inner critic, unsatisfiable, spoiled--a manipulator--after that marriage dream. Now that I've seen that writing on the wall--ARIANE IS EVIL--I don't believe it.


NOTES ON WAKING UP
Ariane, an Asian girl, looks from a colonnade at a fair in the valley below. Banners hang bright from cliffs and walls. A temple to the Film Gods stands on a crag; on the horizon rises the tooth of Everest.

I scribble like crazy, first one word for every scene to anchor them, then listing just the core events, then back again for details. Can't write it straight out, it's thousands of words. The biggest dream I ever had--I already know.

Then hectic notes, before the associations fade. Dreams don't fade: their moorings to waking life do. Most of you forget them because you live here. For me, living mainly on the dreamside, it's the day-events linked to the dream that melt away, like the ropes and ballast of a Wizard of Oz balloon, letting it drift up till it's lost in the day-glare. So I try to record the waking parallels before they fade. The dream itself won't--ever. Too crazy vivid.

ARE DREAMS THAT STRONG?

Linden comes in yawning. "Let's go find a sunny table on University Avenue and get ME coffee."

"Well said." She's learned! Seen me on caffeine.

On the street, I tell her the dream. She gets annoyed. "So you had a Freudian dream." Snakes are penises, and that's that. "Just once I'd wish you'd write about something real!"

I don't buy it. A copper cock? I turned into a speakerwire! About communication--getting my signals through--and assertiveness--getting mad and snapping at what annoyed me. I fixed that speaker, too!

What else in my life could anger fix?

Linden's certainty, though, makes me look again at my journey. I went into the underworld. Facing fear and loathing, I transformed. I stopped being human and became pure lightning. Then I DIED. I was dismembered, cut up. Animal people became my allies, including my goofy-seeming anima, who was more than she appeared. "Quite right" says Silky. Or should I say Simsa? "We came out reborn."

I rejected the idea I was a shaman, not just another dreamer. So my dreams challenged me with every initiation rite in the book! And I chose the Path--all the way. This is no game now--not in a culture that mocks and even locks up visionaries. But all my hunger was to go on toward the heights.

After three generations of atheism in my family, I'm a heretic. I've had a religious conversion. Called to be a shaman. And I will. Creek going under a dark, three-arched stone bridge. Eyes glint in the dark.

Linden and I walk the long way back, along San Francisquito Creek and back on the Menlo Park side. I pick some fennel from the thicket on the bridge. Offer it to Linden to taste. Such a rich town, such an ugly, neglected creek. The water's sunk deep down in its clifflined channel, mostly hidden by poison oak and trash. A communal embarrassment. Most towns would make a park out of their biggest creek!

First time I've scrambled down the dirt access ramp by the bridge, down to the water, and I've lived here five years. Linden doesn't like fennel, and throws the feathery sprig in the stream. It floats away through the arch of the big pipe-bridge that homeless people are supposed to live under, though I can't see how: no room. Wrong bridge, I guess.. Another world down here respectable people don't see. Though they dump their trash here at night!

I notice as we wander back through my own neighborhood that Linden's more comfortable on these flowerbedded streets than I am. I keep expecting homeowners or cops to assume I'm a beggar or a daytime burglar, and harass me.

Paranoia? Are you so sure?

A month ago, I was biking straight to work--hurrying to a meeting--when off to the south I saw a beautiful cloud. Suddenly I had a feeling of danger. Someone was watching me with fear and hate, and the only way to protect myself was to smile and look innocent and stupid. Told myself this is insane--but did it, smiling to no one, to the clouds, as I biked on. Three minutes later the cops arrived. They pulled me over and questioned me for twenty minutes. Someone had called them to report a Suspicious Character was going round and round the block, casing her house. Since I really biked straight toward work, she could only have seen me out the window for a few seconds before running to the phone to call in the alarm. Her alarm, her paranoid delusion. Mine wasn't: I correctly sensed an unseen enemy. I no longer ask how I knew. I know how. The only question left is: why do I draw such hostile energy? Is there a positive lesson in it? Training me to trust my intuitions? Sketchmap of a chain of three round caves under Mt Everest.

So I'm slow to call myself paranoid.

But it made me so mad, too. Though not as mad as my boss. "I TOLD you be on time for this meeting!" "I was. The cops stopped me for no reason."

This town! I'll shake the dust off my zoris when I leave this town.

Sure, Simsa.

Linden leaves, and I type up the big dream on a school Mac in the undergraduate library, overlooking IUD Fountain (well, that's what us library workers call it. A huge red loop, big enough to contracept even the fattest opera singer. You mustn't let them breed or we'll all go deaf from the vibrato). Only then do I notice how closely the walk with Linden down by the creek resembled the dream the night before. The steep soft-earth cliffs, and flowers, and suburban cacti, and fear. The dark triple arch of the pipe-bridge: the three caverns. The underworld of the homeless who settle for so little. Linden's casual social confidence, with the law, on the street, at work... it's like Ariane effortlessly climbing peaks in the open, then telling me the course I nearly died on was easy.

Was the dream predictive, or did it unconsciously shape the course of our whole day? But Linden led the way; how could my dream steer her, predict her path?

Are dreams that strong?



Next: Who'll Be My Love? I'm a hard-boiled detective grilling a meek little psychic about love...

UNICORN TAG is a set of dreams of hoofed animal teachers who dragged me (kicking and screaming!) past simple dreamwork into shamanism. 1: The Deer Party 2: Ariane's Honeymoon 3: Everest Marathon 4: Who'll Be My Love? 5: Dreamrider 6: Half Shaman, Half Statesman 7: 8 To A Horn 8: Black Magic 9: Misfits On Mars

LISTS AND LINKS:
a sequel of sorts: Brick and Skin - music - sports - races and competitions - caves - mazes and labyrinths - I'm Just Not Myself Today - cross-species dreams - cross-platform dreams - snakes - another snake gets weird dream surgery, in Bagheera's Band-Aids - centaurs - deer - another dream of Red Riding Hood - trust and mistrust - weird dream surgery - labels - another dream of Ariane: Puff Tide - dream math and logic - mistakes - psychic dreams (mostly clearer than this one) - precognition

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