Dreamed 1992/6/12 by Chris Wayan
I oversleep... and wake to find myself by the sea, near a ring of people. A memorial rite. I go over... and recognize friends from years ago, from Psychodrama. I listen from a distance; with my jacket's hood over my face, I doubt they know who I am. Someone finally speaks the name of the dead. It's Beryl, who was my best friend once. We dreamed each other's dreams. But I drifted away from her, and now she's dead.
I feel reluctant, but I slip into to the circle. They recognize me and make way. "And Chris, her best friend, will have the final word." the speaker says.
Best friend? Speak? I'm annoyed. Pull my hood down so they can see me and say "I just woke up from a long sleep. I don't know how long. Weeks? No one's told me how Beryl died, or when. You've all had days to absorb it. I'm numb. I have nothing to say."
I ask how long it's been again... and the scene shifts a bit. These people are all aliens now, of a race that seems superintelligent. They find the oddest things humans do fascinating, can't appreciate most of our art or literature--but love it when I explain the rules of baseball. I finally grasp that they think in formal systems--and see sets of rules and their applications esthetically, as art. They don't portray feelings or personalities or spiritual experiences in art--just beautiful, rule-based patterns.
This is their world, not mine. Have they settled Earth, or was I shipped out in my sleep? I keep asking how long I slept, what year it is by human reckoning. They seem to have a terrible time figuring it out. I think they haven't had much contact with humanity in a long while. Finally a tall calm male, resembling a highschool friend of mine who became a minister, calculates silently, and says "I think about 18 of your 50-year cycles... maybe 19." NINE HUNDRED YEARS? I feel a little dizzy. I numbly wonder where they got this "50-year cycle" thing. No human culture I know of ever used that.
"So..." I say slowly. "Even with longevity improvements, ALL my friends and relatives are dead, then."
He, mildly: "But surely they would be dead even if it had been only a few fifties. You humans are ephemeral."
I say "But human families are such that I'd still have somewhere to go... some connections--grandchildren, or grown up kids of people I knew, or friends of friends. But nine hundred years is an eternity, for humans. My world is gone. I'm lost in time."
I watch the aliens play baseball--amazed they remember all the rules. But they play it correctly--I learn they have been playing it since they learned it, not long after my time. With no changes in all those centuries!
But they play with wildly inhuman emotions around it! An esthetic reverence for patterns... for the drama of complexity growing from simple rules. Baseball's part of their culture now, and like all such borrowings, it's taken on quite a different meaning and function here than it ever had for human beings. Every dropped fly and missed pitch, every shout and curse and scratch is a holy act.
The form survived, but the spirit's flown. A new spirit possesses the body: an earnest, alien piety I don't want to live with. Not that I have much choice. My old world is dead.
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