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THE HACKER

Dreamed 1993/11/23 by Wayan

THAT DAY

I'm in hypnotherapy, trying to cure mysterious, painful flu-like attacks no doctor can find a physical source for. So far, my dreams suggest it IS at least partly psychosomatic--punishing myself for breaking my mother's rules.

So today, confrontation. Shelley eases me into a light trance, and summons up my inner mom and tries to convince her Shelley's a fair referee, someone to trust. My mom's voice just snaps "You want to get rid of me."

Well, yeah. If you go on making me sick. Round painting of a female dragon's head

With the direct route blocked, Shelley asks "Is there anyone else in there who knows a lot about this internalized mother?" My own soul appears in my hypnotized mind, in a dragon's form. My toes curl and claw lazily. My voice deepens, turns husky as the dragon speaks with my mouth. She says "This mother sees alteration of her values as death, and you as a killer, because those values are about all she is--not much of a personality. She can't co-operate." I'm startled to be saying these things, but they have the ring of truth. But then, since the first time we met, Puff has always told me uncomfortable truths. Yeah, she even lets me call her Puff.

She adds "We... we can't believe in our alternate values strongly enough to substitute for hers. Shelley, we need your explicit approval of a new set. You're reluctant to do this because it's always better if the client does it alone. But this one can't. If you plant the seed, we can grow it, tend it, trim it, change it, even rebel against it--make it ours. But we CAN'T do it from scratch."

So Shelley gives me homework for the week. "Form an inner committee and write a list of values to substitute for your inner mom's. I promises to contribute my own experience and viewpoint." I'm uneasy about this: such an inner alliance has already appeared in my dreams for years (as in The Addiction), but it's just not strong enough to protect me. If I cross my inner mom's lines, do what she thinks is selfish (which is nearly anything normal) I usually get sick. Why's that one side so strong she can overpower a whole committee?

THAT NIGHT

1: LIFE-DRAMA CLASS

I join a strange class containing many friends of mine who are dancers at City College. We seem to be learning drama. But not stage drama--life drama!

Uh-oh. Our teacher is Mary X, who's not even in the Drama Department: a writing teacher with such conventional tastes she couldn't make sense of even my simplest dreamtales. A bad sign...

After a couple of hours, I sneak off into the back room, the lecture room, filled with a grid of desks like elementary school, each with someone's notebook on it. I find mine. Not just my black dream-binder with the green Circle of Life, but a couple of folders with recent stories too. Wow, I left my dreams out in public and nothing bad happened! Practice for when I publish them? I can do it now, I think.

2: THE SOCIAL SWIM

I come back out to find people changing into leotards and swimsuits so we can join the group by the Ritual Pool. I'm tired and reluctant--hours now, with no food or rest. First lectures, and readings, then exercises in living life dramatically, and now this:

We have to walk the length of the Ritual Pool, on the bottom. It's not just an exercise in holding our breath. The Pool is just water in this world, but not on the Other Side. There, it's full of something else. Attention! The attention of magical beings. And full of their magic--their power, their snares. It won't be easy.

These gods or energy-beings oppose our team in this game of spiritual water polo. Well, the Social Swim's just a game or drama, to THEM, and to the otherworldly audience in the stands... but to us it's a real pool with real water, and the conflict is real life--with a real risk of drowning.

The goal of the game is simple. If we cross the Social Swim to the far end, these hostile spirits will be our allies in the next game of life. That's worth a lot--if you play games.

But I don't want these beings as allies! These cold, game-playing spirits.

We'll also win a bonus prize the otherworlders value terribly: a magical prosthetic arm. It's as sensitive as a meat arm, and far stronger. But I'm not missing a limb, and I won't cut off my living arm just to get more power. No way!

I'm just going along with the Social Swim so I don't let my friends down, and because I approve of making these powerful beings friendly to people instead of inimical. But there's nothing much in it for me.

I push off, and feel the water fade around me as I slide into the other world, where the real resistance is.

Night. Black ghost-silhouettes with glowing eyes watch small human figures walk through a luminous pool.
The fight itself is hazy... but we make it through. They have to ally with us now. We won.

Ugh! We won!

3: THE AMERICAN DRAMA

Now the social game has moved on, out of the pool. We're in the main doorway of an annex to City College. A convertible, top down, glides by, with a classmate in it--pointing a sawed-off shotgun at us! We duck, squeeze into the lintels for shelter. He fires--two barrels.

My "friends" pull out handguns and fire back.

I drop to the pavement, terrified. I want no part of this. They're not using blanks. Why should they? This is America, they're fighting bad guys! This is what Mary X teaches--drama, realism, car chases and gunfire. American life. Prime time.

Here comes another bunch of my classmates. They have an assault weapon. Clattering roar, I'm dizzy from the noise. They mow down a bunch of students crossing the street. Blood everywhere... This is drama. I run back onto campus, into an alley between cheap modular classrooms...

4: THE HACKER

I meet a group of friends. No guns, thank God... but one of them has an aura that gives me the creeps--it screams this isn't a human being any more, just a body taken over by some monstrous spirit. Yet everyone else treats this person normally... can't they see?

No. And if I speak up, accuse it, I'll be seen as crazy--in the wrong. No one will believe me. To walk with Americans means accepting monsters, pretending you don't see what's inside. a man with crazed eyes, raising an ax

I see motion in the corner of my eye and look up covertly. On the roofs of the modular classrooms, a gawky man is hopping from one to the next, flapping like a heron. But a heron stalking us instead of minnows. He has a hatchet. It IS a fake--a stage weapon--hard red-orange rubber showing through the peeling silver paint. No danger, right? But hanging from his belt is a second ax--and that one's real steel. He scares me. Is he going to pounce on us, or the demon? Either way, what is THIS? A slasher flick, is that what realism means? I'm starting to think I'm better off alone in my private little world.

Our eyes meet. His ask for silence. He's after the demon, then. I decide to trust him, and don't interfere. His target has nothing human left. Even trying to act normal around it, I keep sidling away. How can my classmates walk with it?

The roof man dives. Smashes onto the demon's head with terrible force. And starts hacking, wild full-body swings like a mad woodchopper--with the rubber ax. He's mad!

Blood wells and spatters! Even rubber is enough, with his savage force behind it. The demon's poor stolen body collapses twitching, as the hacker spatters the alley and all of us with hot horrible blood. The demon bursts from the shattered head, hovers a moment, hissing in hate, and flees back to its own realm, evicted. At last, the others realize what they harbored.

Shaken, they decide that to fight the Bad Guys they need to be even more aggressive. Not more discerning... more trigger-happy!

In other words, they haven't learned a thing.

5: PRINCESS AND TIGER

One of the students creates new dramatic actors for the next scene--creates them from her own energy? Summons them from a fantasy world she knows? I'm not sure, but she points, and white plasma spins out from her finger like spiderthread, forms human figures... She chooses a child Princess, maybe thirteen, in a neo-medieval gown. Blue-eyed and blonde as a Barbie doll, she's a perfect fairytale stereotype, except she's riding a tricycle--powered, like a moped. Around her are her guards: cops on motorcycles with sidecars, so they too ride trikes, in a way. Is this three-point stability some kind of symbol? I dunno. But the whole flotilla is crossing the Bay Bridge, the cantilevered bridge section, heading for Oakland through its web of gray steel girders, their shadows flicking across the cops in a steady rhythm. There's something bad about the Princess? Or just her guard. Or maybe it's just that nobody loves cops. They're always expendable, here on American prime time. So the woman who set up this squad (like bowling pins) creates one last character, modeled after the Hacker: an anti-establishment hero to fight them. To rescue the doll-princess? Or to assassinate her, like the innocent-looking demon? I just can't tell.

Here comes our hero, or is it anti-hero... bounding up behind them on the cantilever girders so swiftly and quietly not a cop notices till he's among them. A Bouncing Tiger! Like the Ax, he must be made of rubber. He doesn't even wait to come back down--he bounces so high he ricochets off the girders twelve feet up. Unbelievably fast. I watch amazed as this tiger-striped rubber pinball knocks over every cop's trike in two seconds, popping around like corn.

Cartoon of a leaping tiger
Don't know what he proposes to do about the Princess, but I've decided I'm on his side, for his vitality is bursting out, overflowing... drumming around the passive, porcelain Princess. I don't know who the others are, but the Tiger is life. Like the Hacker, I'll have to trust him. As much as any of these drama junkies can be trusted! And then, before our hero faces the Princess, while he's still bowling for cops and blocking the Bay Bridge... I wake.

Damn! But it makes sense. For the dream's climax, the key action, had already happened--and it wasn't the Tiger who did it. I did. I chose who to trust.

Life.

THAT MORNING

BUT LATER THAT DAY...

Now all that interpretation seems a side issue. You see...

I just read FIRE AND HEMLOCK, Diana Wynne Jones's version of the Tam Lin legend. Tom Lynn's a married man, but he and Polly, a schoolgirl, meet, flirt, and create a shared fantasy life in which they're heroes; his weapon is an ax. Everyone's upset at their friendship; he must be a pedophile, she's a Lolita, he must be cheating on his saintly wife. But (at first, at least) it's a purely verbal fantasy--purely pretend acts! or ax. Yet later, much of their fantasy turns out to be prophetic--Tom Lynn's wife turns out to be a parasitic astral monster, exactly like my nightmare! She plans to sacrifice him, to gain seven more years of life--and only Polly can stop her.

And the ritual contest over who'll be sacrificed is held in a swimming pool! It's both full and not, with cold immortals looking on--a pool where the psychic struggle, not physical drowning, is the real danger!

Night. Black ghost-silhouettes with glowing eyes watch small human figures walk through a luminous pool.
The parallels between my dream last night and the book today are tangled, complex and subtle, but detailed and unmistakable. Predictive.

And pointed. It underlines that there's nothing wrong with me for doing as I please, dating who I please, painting and writing what I please--and trusting my instinct when it rejects respectable devils and those blind to them. To cut loose from my family's training, I may have to be as blunt and brutal as the man with a rubber ax. Why not? As Tom and Polly learned...

"Ax, and thou shalt be answered."



LISTS AND LINKS: therapy - trances - dream moms - Marcy, my real mom - social swim - a dream on why I don't want a Prosthetic Arm - the astral plane - royalty - demons - you are lunch - violence - animal people - tigers - psychic dreams - precognition - Diana Wynne Jones - advice - hunches and urges - a Suzanne Vega dream: Pokey

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