Grampa has Spoken
Dreamed 1989/11/26 by Chris Wayan
I'm biking up Tail-Tail-Tailgater Street, toward a steep little hill. My goal's on the far side; I must climb over this cinder cone. It's not erupting, but it sounds like it: crackling with gunfire. Hunters climb the slopes and sprawl on their backs on the bare cinders, firing at the sky. No. At the beautiful birds flying one by one above us--huge birds with wide tails rather like peacocks, held fanned as they fly. Phoenixes? Whatever they are, they're falling one by one, drifting down like psychedelic snowflakes.
I feel bitter. Show a little beauty and magic, dare to soar, and you just make yourself a target, they try to shoot you down.
Ahead's a burned-out Volkswagen hippie bus. Yeah, that era's dead, all right. Goodbye, peace and love! I feel tired and disgusted and climb inside the empty shell. Or is it empty? I'm a shaman--I can summon spirits. Why not try? Don't cars have souls too?
"Oh Spiiiiiirit of the Vohhhlkswaaahgen..." I chant. "Caarrry me ohhhhver this cohhhhhne..."
Suddenly I feel a presence and my duffel bag jerks like a nervous dog. The bag rises and floats a yard off the ground. I straddle it, and find I can ride it. I leave my bike there in the burned-out bus and ride my levitating bag up the mountain! Over the shoulder, down the far slope, following the path of an old slide, till it ends in spindly pines near the cone's foot. But a footpath leads on, into a complex of monolithic buildings, plazas, fountains and pools.
Slowly the bag gets tired--its flight weakens till it's sagging between my legs and I waddle along like a kid with a droopy diaper. My clothes feel heavy too...
I start tearing them off. Drop the bag last, and go on naked--flying on my own now! I just had to lose my excess baggage. Volkswagens always were a bit underpowered, but they'd go on forever... guess it's true of their spells too.
Reach a drop-off and stand on the broad concrete railing. A man sees me, a naked nut about to jump... I worry he'll try to stop me, so I wave and grin to confuse him, and leap straight out into the drop... and fly.
Head north through the maze of buildings.
I spot an old friend, Owl, perched on the shore of a big carp-pond or fountain. He keeps ruffling his feathers in a way that says he's upset, near panic. So I land and ask "Hey Owl, why aren't you heading on north?"
He perches on my shoulder and says "The enemy holds the far side of the pond, and they've got a submarine in there, patrolling." I look again at the carp in the deep part of the pool. Owl's right. A small periscope pokes out and blinks at me.
Owl does have a plan to neutralize the sub, though it'll take power. Now that I'm here to back him up, it should be easy. He invokes the spirit of ice. It works! The pool's face slowly glazes white, then cracks and humps into a massive berg in the middle. Pale aqua pack-ice bobs in the shallows.
"That should block the sub from getting too close for a while. Thanks, Owl!"
I walk round the pond under iceberg-cover and come to the boathouse. Flickers of movement in the mail slot by the door---an enemy spying on me! Instantly I fire with my squirt gun and splat the eyes. They blink and retreat.
They weren't human--huge gold animal eyes, highly intelligent. Some... creature.
Creatures. Eyes appear in all the shadows round me. Uh-oh. Too many to stop with one squirt gun. And I know flight's an invitation to be shot... I've seen the phoenix fall. I'm trapped!
I hate to do it, hate to waste my wish, but it's time to use it. I start a new chant, reluctantly. It summons a friend whose life I once saved. He's called a Bug, though he isn't--just local slang for a small fire-dragon.
Suddenly he's here, midair--no bigger than a cat, but his fire burning hot as a blowtorch. My stalkers flee so fast I wonder... did I squander my wish? Maybe I could have handled them on my own. Bug snorts at these cowards, winks at me, and disappears again.
"On the other hand," I think, "do I have just one wish? My friend just said "Call me if you need help." I treated that like a shamanic bargain--not a friendship!"
Now, unbidden, my godmother Joan appears, to guide me on. She leads me through an empty parking tower, out onto a beach.
Here she starts lecturing me! "Chris, you should study Navaho and teach poor kids English as a community service." Huh? She rattles on about loving and giving...
Some kids and college students pass us, walking on the beach; she looks at them and says "How ugly, how flawed." Ugly? I felt envious--one of those students had a great body. Sexy.
Now Joan starts listing MY flaws. "You let friends drop away, you never call." She sure is critical today! She has an encyclopedic knowledge of my history, remembers more than I do, and has followed up on all my ex-friends, knows all their tragedies. God sees each phoenix shot down...
She ends sourly, "Better die young, before the tragedies pile up and you lose everything." I start to wonder if this rant's about me at all--is this her way of warning me she's contemplating suicide?
Even if not, she's not acting like a reliable guide. More like my next challenge!
Then my maternal grandfather walks up the beach. He's going on ninety now, but compared to Joan, he's brimming with energy. He says "Life can be good despite pain! Take the initiative. Make the changes your heart prompts, no matter how much it hurts now! Like MY decision to divorce your grandmother, after nearly seventy years..."
"You divorced Gramma?" I'm amazed. Well, good for him. She was always a bit of a bully. Better to be alone than with a...
And then I wake. I wake having learned something: the most helpful spirits ask no price but friendship. The Volkswagen of Lightness, the Owl of Generating Cover, the Dragon of Fire and Friendship... And notice what didn't help. Pessimism and nagging myself to serve others are my banes!
Even being alone is better than being bullied by those voices--inside me or outside. Grandfather has spoken.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
In the dream, my godmother Joan appears just after a small dragon whose life I saved. When I dreamt this I didn't know SHE had dreamed she KILLED a small dragon and regretted it deeply. She wrote that dream up as a poem, With Wild and Turquoise Eyes, and gave copies to friends; her only surviving dream, as far as I know.
But now I suspect I don't know what I know.
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