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Dreamed 1986/1/11 by Chris Wayan

A Martian desert after terraforming. Mesas, rocks, spindly brush.

I'm walking on Mars. Of course, these days, the air's breathable now, if thin. This is a typical Martian desert--red rocks, sagebrush, craters. Ahead of me, along the base of a cliffy mesa, water gleams! A few trees, even. I spot a small town, too, and head for it.

A family of coyotes and cubs are playing, sliding down a sand dune. And then, suddenly, a nature-film narrator is telling me how precious wildlife is! I get suspicious: civilization here must exploit nature, or they wouldn't need to go all Disney just to plead the case for wildlife. Better watch out, when I get to town...

I come to a set of train tracks. Is that how people get around Mars? With thin air, fast trains are more efficient than planes. But... the tracks don't look high-speed. Beat-up, old, with rubble and lumps along the track. And they head straight for the cliffs, into... the Mines!

I follow them in. I have a task here, an injustice to end, for a grim ritual's evolved in this dreary mining town--every year, a child is stuck up on the ledge at the very end of the tracks--a DEAD CHILD! A fresh one every year. Dream: I find a sacrificed child in a Martian mine.

Yes, there's a small crowd. End of the line. The body on the ledge, still in the ruptured spacesuit. Can see the blown finger-joint... such a small thing to kill someone. I uneasily suspect sabotage. They've never missed the deadline. If no one dies naturally just before the rite, they engineer a death, I'm sure of it. These people sacrifice their own children!

Now the worshipers take down the dead child whose year is up... It's time for the next!

And I'M a child... or so I seem. A kid of ten or so. Just the right age for a sacrifice! Why kill one of their own, when they can use me?

They grab me, wrestle me onto the ledge, to leave me to die... but I go wild, crazy. A different personality emerges!

I start spilling army secrets. Not Earth's army. Martian Defense Force secrets!

They chose me because I seemed expendable: I was a stranger, I looked pretty unemotional, and androids have been produced in the last decade, so they just assumed... But now they're afraid I'm a spy or a VIP. So they take me to a command center.

At headquarters, a researcher (who I soon become, shifting roles) explains they're wrong: "First, artificial people seem unemotional because they have less time to develop individuality--we send them out so soon. And they're not emotionless, they just display their feelings in ways unfamiliar to natural organisms." He mimes some android emotions. "You have to be around the creatures a while to read them."

He explains who I am. "This is not a child. This is not an android. This is a general who was disguised to become a spy, hidden under a robotized child's lack of personality. Under attack, his underlying personality erupted."

So now the general, my former self, lies under lights on a slab, as my present self, a mad scientist, tries to recover and stabilize his true personality--a leader of men, under the android skin.

I wake and find I'm riding in a car; my mom was driving down a long highway, and I fell asleep! She seems strangely familiar with my dream--in fact she says "I can interpret it for you. The ankles, and the muscles--they were puns, they mean your uncles!" Ankles? She avoids sexual or psychological interpreatations and sees all the characters as symbolizing relatives--especially uncles.

"Why not aunts? Why just uncles?" I think, and then wake up again, and realize... that too was a dream.


As I write the dreams down, my friend Scott calls up and asks if I want to go see the film ENEMY MINE. I always liked Barry Longyear's award-winning story, so I'm curious, and say yes. orbital view of Mars, terraformed. Still mostly desert, but some forests and seas.

And on the screen is... a mad hash of elements from my dream!

As a story, the film is disappointing--it adds a typical Hollywood shoot-em-up climax in a mine. Quite gratuitous--it would've been stronger if they'd let our hero rescue his adopted child from the more insidious enemy forces Zamis faced in the original story: snobbery, conformity, and ethnocentrism.

But in a way I'm glad the movie invented those tacky mine scenes, from scratch. Because now there's no doubt where my dream-mine came from: not memories of the story I read long ago, but memories of the film I saw... one day in my future.

LISTS AND LINKS: other worlds - Mars - terraforming - dreams underground - kids - violence - false waking and nested dreams - psychic dreams - precognition - dreams on dreams - movie dreams

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