Dreamed 1984/8/1 by Chris Wayan
See The Rainmaker, starring Katharine Hepburn as a woman burning with frustration and loneliness, desperate to escape her soulless brother. She's tempted by Burt Lancaster as Starbuck, the rainmaker, the wanderer, the dreamer...
A pod from the stars crash-lands in the Ohio valley. Rumors of a crew of clouds, or ghosts. They don't look hot, but they're made of flame.
And they possess people. Possess, now there's a bland word! As if souls are handbags. Possession can mean a spectrum of things. They may ride us quietly, or dictate every act.
But whether the reins are loose or tight, one thing's the same. If touched, the skin of a ridden one stings like fire. Soon, they're called fireghosts.
The outbreak of possession spreads through pets and even a few plants. We get careful who we touch. The radio says throwing water on the possessed repels the alien. They try to talk in the tone and style of humans, expecting to pass, but they don't understand the content of human speech too well. Prodded, the human brain generates words all right, but against the host's will, they come out pretty random. Many aliens are caught. They can be handled, with even paper-thin protection... and trapped and studied.
But they're studying us too. Learn there's more to human conversation then they can fathom, so they let the hosts speak for themselves more, censoring only give-aways. They're not clever yet at spotting hints, but they're learning. So it's back to wary, lonely, paranoid times. To touch can be a sign of supreme trust--or an accusation.
Through harsh security measures, the government nearly contains the plague. Just a few slick ghosts, undercover. And a couple of species of plant that are infected with sleeping fireghost seed. I recall the chilling end of Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, when the invasion's been contained but not quite defeated: "We have to learn to LIVE with this." And we do.
Over the next few months, nearly everyone I know gets possessed once or twice. I threw soup on my sister once, to drive one out. I burned myself touching it, and felt ashamed I didn't think of anything less messy to throw...
One night, I'm alone in a big house. Hear a noise. Did a fireghost get in? Someone is climbing the stair to my room. I remember what the papers say--"No danger if you don't touch it--use any available objects to push it out of the house. Or throw things at it." That homy article made it sound like a household chore, just an annoyance of modern life--monsters of flame creeping up your stair.
My friend Silky Hepburn slips in. She looks sad, scared, but denies she's upset. As if forbidden to confess, then allowed to go along on her own. She longs for someone to touch her, to love her, but I dare not reach out after being so burned by my sister. Finally I force myself to test her... and she's normal temperature! I was getting paranoid.
Then she blurts "I can't hold it in any longer!" and bursts into light. I throw water on her, but the fireghost just goes dormant inside her. Still there, poking her loneliness, hoping to spread. They're learning to restrain their fire, to imitate people better, and most of all, to let them be themselves most of the time. And she truly is lonely.
If they get much better, they can stay hidden and spread everywhere.
In the end I ask a friend for help with Silky, but when I see the sad, kind expression in her eyes, I know. "You're one too, huh?"
My friend nods, smiles, says "Everyone is."
"You're the last."
I give up hope. And a flame swallows me.
And the worst part is, life goes on. Gradually, the fireghosts realize how little they know about Earth life, and that they need to let us be ourselves. The wisest spirits refrain from overriding us at ALL, just ride and watch. Such spirits coexist better with their hosts, and that sort of symbiosis spreads. And it is symbiosis: people act differently, even with no restraint: the awareness of the reins makes them less reckless, especially less violent. War turns inconceivable. Old warplanes are in all the parks for kids to climb on.
You feel an unconscious link with strangers, through the fireghosts' energy.
Life's not as good, being parasitized.
NOTES NEXT MORNING
Longing, but burned by my sister = Growing up, I felt a strong incestuous attraction for my sister. I think suppressing that taught me to feel as if desiring ANYONE is somehow forbidden, to be kept hidden... I still do. Yet the dream seems to be saying that integrating the painful fires of loneliness and sexual hunger will lead in the end to better life...
After a hell of a transition.
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