Dreamed November 2007 by Patagia
In a dry savannah in Kenya, dotted with acacia shrubs, a woman looked out at the baked earth. She stood twenty feet above it in an abandoned mud-brick building. She was trapped inside a tiny alcove with a floor and three walls. A pride of lions moved below her, restless, hungry for meat. Catching her scent, the alpha lioness stared up at her. Slowly, other members of the pride turned their heads to stare at her. Lion eyes claimed her.
She ducked to the back of the alcove. A cup, a jug of water, bags of ground coffee, a ream of white paper still in its wrapping and a new, fat ballpoint pen came into view. She blinked in confusion.
"I'm in a prison." Her breath caught. It dawned on her that she was expected to write her way out of this. But, how could she make coffee with no electricity? Make it out of sere African air? She tried to soothe herself: it's symbolic, she thought. Coffee is a jump-starter. "In normal life, I drink tea not coffee," she argued with the unknown force that had placed her there. "You forgot the cream," she scolded. Her panicked mind scrambled for bits of known reality. Her daily rituals came to mind: breathe and express gratitude, repeat.
Leonine snarls startled her. She glared at the alpha lioness and the other lions. "You won't get me," she challenged. "This prison keeps me in and you out." I'm still safe, she thought, though her body shook.
She wiped sweat from her dusty face. Her mouth was dry. She put coffee grounds into the cup and placed it at the edge of the alcove opening, in a patch of brilliant sun. "It might heat up enough to cook the coffee." Saying this aloud encouraged her. By doing something useful she proved she could control this uncontrollable situation.
Fear exhausted her. She curled up on the uneven surface of the alcove floor and lay there dozing. When she awoke, she noticed vultures floating over the building, their red necks protruding. She remembered that vultures are drawn to prey by their keen sense of smell. Was she dead? She wondered. "They can't see me in this shelter," she said aloud. Her voice comforted her. Her voice held her.
I'm imagining this, she decided; too many joints last night. Look at all this paper! Her hand picked up a pen and rolled it in her fingers. Her fingers trembled. She dropped the pen.
"Impossible," she said aloud to the sky. "This is impossible." Her voice didn't comfort her this time.
Not wanting to think about how to escape, she huddled against the alcove's back wall. She picked up the pen and a sheet of paper. She wrote down the thoughts that flooded her mind. She fought for control. She tried to slow her feelings, to impose her own reality onto this setting into which she had been forced. "If I keep busy, I will tame the fear," she said to nobody.
On the ceiling over her head, she noticed a gecko silently waiting. Waiting for what? I am waiting with a gecko, for what? The gecko's presence comforted her. It seemed a harmless creature, appealing: an innocent lizard. I'm not alone here, she thought. The gecko's tongue darted out to catch something she couldn't see. An insect? "It's a predator, too," she realized.
She returned to the paper. Her eyes focused and her mind followed. She wrote more pages swiftly, without stopping, then stood and cast her pen on the hard surface beneath her feet. "I could die here," she moaned. "I could die here!" she screamed and screamed again. She hugged herself, trembling. Her eyes clenched shut.
After some minutes, she looked again at the alpha lioness. No longer a sphinx, it fully stretched in feline fashion, and then, with an enormous toothy yawn, slunk around a corner of the building, out of sight. Roaring ensued, loud enough to make the alcove walls vibrate. The males had arrived. The pride would soon attack.
Hunger made her own stomach growl. She took up the cup. The grounds had settled and the water had turned coffee-colored. "It worked" she said smugly, tasting the liquid. Not Starbucks, but good enough. Its familiar taste gave her a burst of hope that she could escape, or that rescue would come. She knew that she could survive even this.
Yep, I've had writing days like that. Dry. Riles up my pride. Though I won't sink to lion.
(No apologies: I didn't start it. Patagia's dream is deadpan, but full of puns. Lion eyes/lionize, pen/pen, culture/vulture. By now I even suspect gecko/echo!)
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