Dreamed 1994/11/10 by Chris Wayan
I'm biking across San Francisco, towards a little-known city park in Hayes Valley. I'm going there to live.
Crossing Market Street, I meet a knight. Well, a mounted lancer, I should say. No armor worth mentioning, but a long spear. He's riding up Market Street, out of the shadows under the freeway, up toward, of course, Guerrero. What more appropriate address for a mounted warrior?
I wonder if he's coming back from a sojourn in the Park. He has that glow. And that aura is fused with his horse, they're one creature now. That too smells of Familiar Wood. It's not your ordinary park, you understand. It's a dark wood, not large, a hundred acres perhaps. But it's hidden behind fences and fake storefronts. Each generation of rebels and dropouts and crazies and saints care for it, and let a few people sleep in the wood. The beats camped here, then the hippies, the punks, and now... some of the caretakers are my friends. And they said I could go in. I'll stay four to six weeks, till the wood decides.
The woman at the gate who shows me in is dressed like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, all spears and tooth-necklaces and leopard-skin. Sexy but a bit fierce. The fur has to be fake, there's a city ordinance about fur from endangered species--this is San Francisco! The cats in this wood are from another dimension, but they're intelligent. It'd be murder, and she's not THAT fierce.
She says "You can come out in the day for food if you have to, but it's better to stay in--don't break your concentration. You can hunt the deer or the lizards, they're not people. They get pretty big, though--like twenty feet."
"I'm a vegetarian, I don't plan to hunt. But I'm packing in food, and I know how to forage. I'll stay inside. But I might," looking her over again, "come out to the gate, now and then. If you're going to be here."
"Oh, yes. I'll be here weeks yet."
Like all pilgrims, I come with a problem to solve. Once past the gate, I silently present it to the wood, and walk into its heart, to set up camp.
Yowl, crash! Tiger-sized cats flash by, chasing raccoons, who are chasing smaller creatures. Spit! Slash! Hiss! Threats and blows, fur flies, though no blood. A quarrel, not a fight to the death. I have to learn to live with this, it's routine here. Uproar's part of the wood, inevitable where worlds meet. Like surf on a beach. I try to stay calm as yowling emotional froth swirls around me.
I sit in a clearing and wait for the Great Cats to come. They will--and eventually, one will choose to link with me. For they too are people from elsewhere, seeking answers. Telepathic, feather-crested dreamers. We'll merge, and stay merged for a month or more, to gain a new perspective on our problems. When we leave Familiar Wood, we'll be linked for life. I'll be a full witch, and that cat'll be my familiar, my friend and advisor in dreams.
But there's a symmetry here. In the great cat's home world, I'll be the cat's familiar, too. An exotic beast in feline dreams...
Every day, while waiting for my cat to come, I talk a walk to the gate, and talk a bit with the Amazon. It turns out she found her cat a month ago! I wonder why she's staying? At last I get the nerve up and ask.
She says "I was in an accident, out there in America, and the aftershock left me stressed out. I kept getting sick... So I'm staying here at the gates an extra month or two, till I'm fully healed. The wood helps."
I wouldn't wish her a slow recovery, but it sounds like she may just be finishing when I emerge. I'd like that. I like her. I'd love to leave the woods with her... as another kind of familiar.
NOTES ON WAKING UP
Jeez. Other people get to make friends with their inner child. I have to make friends with an inner tiger!
Except it's not inner, by the sound of it. My dreams are asserting that the forest of dreaming is more meeting-place than a fantasy garden. To the crest-cats, we're the dream-beasts. They dream of us.
Upper image based on an old (1970s?) Playboy photo. Face and many details altered of course.
Lower image based on "Tiger", by Ocelot (Amara Telgemeier), one of the best artists on VCL (see Kindred sites). The ugly bits are mine.
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