Dreamed 5/9/1996 by Chris Wayan
I look out over our city. Old brick buildings with many ledges that birds nest on. Fewer pigeons these days; now that ravens nest here in the city they eat pigeon eggs and chicks. A raven glides down to the street, from the roof opposite me. Wonder what it spotted? City ravens are getting even smarter, under selection pressure as they cope with human complexity. They're as smart as chimps now--and maybe more.
But then apes are changing too. Intelligent enough to be trainable as electrician's assistants--handy, since they can climb powerpoles and wires so well. We need laws to give a number of species provisional or partial personhood. They're already borderline--and who says evolution's over?
Besides, they need legal protection from the sophisticated Galactic peoples who see even humans as little more than animals. These Galactics recently dropped a spindly robot trade probe onto the plateau inland from town. It stands there still, a blinking Eiffel Tower broadcasting trade offers. A worldwide debate, well is brewing over how much contact to have with them--they offer technology, but some of us want to stay independent at all costs. Trade's okay--but dependence is very dangerous.
I should know. I'm dependent and it's twisting my soul. You see, I have a twin sister--and I'm in love with her. She's a shadowy girl, slightly translucent, like smoky glass. Though we're twins, the doctors say we're only half-siblings, not full. How'd we get different fathers? This is rare in humans! But the tests were definite. My twin's so like me, a female verson of me, yet deeply different... Irresistable!
I try hard to be like her. Too hard. Can't have her, so I BECOME her? Afraid so. I repress any hint of masculinity, so I'll be more like her. Wow. I have gender dysphoria! And that's SERIOUS. Not just some private sorrow, it limits my actions! "And attractiveness," says an inner voice. "You find femininity alluring, don't you? Even traits like shyness that you know firsthand are painful! Well, lots of women find masculinity equally alluring--tough stances, percussive gestures, loud speech, uninhibited actions, competition, ambition, pride, even dominance. And even if women DIDN'T find these traits sexy, you still need to free your behavior up for your own sake--give yourself the option!" But I hardly even see other women. Blinded by my twin...
Now I'm at a party on a high floor. Diamond necklaces and cocktails. Meet a loud smart interesting girl who doesn't fit in and doesn't care. Twenties, tall, lanky, nearly naked: she wears only longish skintight shorts with loud-colored triangles. That's the uniform of a prestigious specialty: I forget what exactly. Test-piloting? Brain surgery? Impressive, anyway. She's not shy about her near-nudity--jokes and comments on it.
We get to talking. I use the word 'transparent', and she asks "What's that mean?" What a strange vocabulary hole! She can't be a native speaker. Yet no accent. Weird. Who is she really?
She may be my contact. I came here looking for a fellow agent working against the Galactic Free Trade Agreement (GAFTA). My secret signal is to grab her hips and sort of shake them. Great practice in assertiveness, even if I get the wrong woman at first. Fun, too!
Yep, it's her. She just grins when I grab her. Massage her stomach and grip her thighs firmly and almost drag her into next room. As intrigue goes, I'm having fun. Guy for a day. It's not that bad, is it?
Well, yes, sometimes. Two guys at the party are also on our side. Their secret codes are also macho and not their style. But they try hard. Too hard. One loudly dares the other "Punch me in the gut! Look at those muscles, tight as a washboard. Go on!" The other guy hits him hard. Too hard. They pretend no pain until they stagger into the back room with us. Then the hit one, who has a weak stomach, doubles over gasping. And the one who hit him has a bad shoulder, he's in equal pain! To distract himself from the bone-deep ache in the socket, he punches the wall--but he uses the bad arm! Ow, ow, ow...
Oh, the pain of being a man. Well, a really stupid man... At least the other guy isn't punching himself in the stomach.
Later, I sit on a car-hood in the parking lot outside, talking to the loud woman again. We pretend we met by chance. Not! She's passing me the Secret Papers. Though I'm not supposed to, I peek... Not memos, not plans, not maps... they're sexy art work. They have a strange effect on me--so blatantly, comfortably sexual that... they dissolve all the guilt inside me, about my incest feelings! I feel good, free--as if divorce papers came through.
No wonder these papers were stamped TOP SECRET. We can't have people feeling guiltless and good!
We anti-Gafta agents meet near sunset in a park--or is it the Stanford Arboretum? We've had reports something goes on here at night. We plan to leave one of us here overnight, alone. Illegal and risky, but necessary. She'll hide in the brush. Our volunteer's not human, but a sort of rubbery balloon creature 2 or 3 foot wide, so even if they notice her, they may not recognize her as a spy, or even a life-form.
By accident, I kill a fish. No, two. What'll I do? Though I'm a vegetarian I'd feel worse letting them just rot. I think I can cook and eat them, but I feel squeamish about gutting them. Can I? Wash them at a faucet, trying to get my nerve up. A huge shaggy white dog comes up. Begging for fish? No. Water! Sticks its head in between rocks, and laps up a puddle. I find a castoff lid or bottle and make a dish of it, to give the dog more water. And more. So thirsty! I notice this white dog changes size and shape a lot, though it always has narrow head and heavy hindquarters. SUCH a huge dog! I splash water on it, a suspicion growing. Yes, it looks pink, its fur's almost transparent when wet. Yep. It's a polar bear all right. Friendly though. The poor thing's so hot and thirsty, down here in California...
Last act of the intrigue, now. The Galactic people's trade-probe, cause of all this spying and sabotage, has been sitting up on the plateau waiting... But now, from below the cliffs, I hear a roar, then see it rise... quite a beautiful shape, a diamond-shaped dart towing a round dish like one of those balancing pans in the Scales of Justice... very handy for trade-sample carrying.
The Galactics didn't give up and go away, though. Nor did we offend them so much they're leaving in a snit. What happened is... our group cracked the engine programming and set it off, empty of samples! We claim the Galactics themselves left early--trade was an empty offer, a cover for their probe's real purpose, to spy on us.
I feel a bit uncomfortable about the lie, though if a pro-GAFTA group caught us, I'd self-righteously justify it. But I admit, when I saw that vast graceful shape rising... I felt a flash of regret that we sent it away.
Still--I feel our side is right, in the long run. GAFTA's too risky! Trade with the wide, wide universe will come, but later--on our terms.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
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