MAHAKALA, MOZART, AND THE CRIPPLED BIRD
Dreamed 1985/4/17 by Chris Wayan
Midnight, sitting alone at the kitchen table. I just saw 'Amadeus' and now I can't sleep. Was Mozart like that? A sweet, rude, kind, horny, gullible jerk? Undisciplined since he does naturally what others agonize over, and unable to see his skill makes enemies. I identify. I was a child prodigy too, and survived only by hiding most of my talents. If the film's right, Mozart's talent got him killed. Just once, can't I find a role model, a genius who won't die young on me?
I feel like I need to know how true 'Amadeus' was, because as soon as I let myself go in public, I'm frighteningly like the movie Mozart. Except I DON'T often let go, since I had it beaten into me how easy talent threatens the disciplined, the mediocre--the normal. As that dedicated old hack Salieri's life went down the drain, I found myself forgiving his revenge on Mozart. As I've been trained to forgive--by a world of Salieris. It scares me that I empathize. I'm an accomplice in bumping off my own talent--so as not to offend.
My housemate Jamie limps in from the cabin, hovers around, on her ballet-twisted ankle. I tense up--a gray shadow's pouring from her black hair all through her body. Something's troubling her--she's silent, but I know she wants to talk.
And I feel so mixed about it. Her dancer's beauty and intelligent delicate aura attract me, as always, and I feel a puppy-pleasure that she opens up to me... and anger that she disdains me sexually and dates creepy, macho guys. I'm not sure I want to talk to her... because I want to too much. I feel honored she confides in me; and she uses that. Ego food! (The only food she'll eat.)
I look her in the eye, unfold the world news, and pointedly resume reading. But I feel guilty: I should be a good hippie and give what I have. Since when am I concerned with dignity? (Besides, my chair's a castoff from Trudy's ascetic days, it's hard as a stump--left alone, I'd have gone back to bed. My butt's numb. But I'll be damned if I'm gonna let her drive me to my room; I run from her so much now.)
When I run out of sections, she's still there, slashing apart and flattening cardboard boxes to recycle, then fixing one of her ant-sized snacks, occasionally glancing at me. I feel silly. I love heart to hearts, especially with Jamie. I flipflop around... and relent. Soon as I ask, she shyly begins to talk. As I wanted to all along.
It's after one now, and the old warmth is around us. My suspicion that she'd use me faded as I realized how fragile she is. How like me she is.
And she goes passive, and looks at me wearily--Here we go again, why can't you control yourself?--and stalks out into the dark.
And I snort at her and close the door. Oh, no you don't, Jay, not this time! Caught you! Jamie acts like men are all drooling on her, yet she not only tries to draw attention, she relies on it for favors. Then she complains about our come-ons... real or not. She wants us guilty! A useful moral edge.
Often, after she's bared her needy side to me, she acts cutting as she leaves. She has to re-prove I'm male--a horny, gullible animal. While I'm always proud and cold at the start, but once I feel I can control my infatuation and not let her use me, I open up--in time for her slash.
But I play. Over and over, I play. I struggle with pride, and desire, and my need to give. Maybe I deliberately provoked her, after giving her what she wanted. I knew hugging her was asking for it!
But as I swim into sleep I can't help seeing little Jamie as the tall and dignified Salieri, wincing as he's warmly hugged by that gross little jackass, Mozart. Me.
LATER THAT NIGHT
That goofy little woman with the banjo quartet's in town. Jamie got us tickets.
She's even cruder than I thought. She laughs like a retarded duck. But they say she's an Avatar who's solved the problem of evil. "Could be," I tell Jamie. "My sister's known Cherie Amadeus for years--she's always been an activist. Very selfless, very giving."
"I admire her, but I couldn't do it." says Jamie.
"Me neither." I feel sad at that; wish I could give.
Jay pulls out of her own reverie, says warmly "But you do, with me, sometimes." Yeah, when you sucker me into it, I think. Only I want to. Sadness and love well up, to mix uneasily. I can give. I do give. I let all the Jamies of the world waste my time, though they don't love me--just my attention!
We sit on folding wood chairs--uncomfortable, damn hard. She better be a Buddha! She starts twanging, stomping away--but I can barely hear. Get just the fringe... in... out... others yell as Enlightenment hits 'em--the closest first, in a wave of hoots surfing across the hall. I only get bits. Meaningless. Then her fish eyes swimming in thick specs single me out and WHAM, she sends me a vision. I find myself in a wheat colored wood room, on a round sound stage, playing Mozart myself with three Yuppies. I seem to know them. This is HER job, acting sappy and spreading love! I don't want it. And still the sound is muted, though I'm the musician now! I fall silent, paring the quartet to a trio. Silence is the only way I can hear the music at all!
Breathe--breathe the air
Don't be... afraid to care...
I come out of the vision. Amordeus has changed! She has a long shaggy white beard now and amazing bushy eyebrows--albino caterpillars. She's the Old Testament God now--and God leaves the stage, beckons with a long crooked finger. The banjos play on. Jamie sits rapt. God hangs out by the stairwell, as I stumble through the jampacked rows of the Cultured, toward God. God beckons meaningfully.
"Whaddya beckoning meaningfully at me for? I'm not even Judeo-Christian," I snap.
S/he gazes profoundly at me from under archetypal brows, but I'm not buying. Finally God says "I'm getting old, I need a successor. I want someone outside the organization and I've chosen you. You're more likely to be objective. All the seraphim do is worship My name without end. God has to be a lone wolf--it's the nature of the job."
I gape. God turns away, forcing me to commit, now.
We go Downstairs, hunting the Great Enemy. God spreads the Map on a landing. "Sauron's last known position was in the southeast... in the far north, Mortal Men are gathering an army, but they're mighty late; nearer the front, the Elves of Eregion and Rohan, led by the brethren Herbert and Waldo, have no time to wait for their allies... They're marching south, hoping the Men will arrive before they're annihilated."
I suggest conjuring a Familiar to give us news of the Enemy's position--God wants to hide from him as long as possible. God summons up a Neutral Fairy, a Flannan--a thin spiky being, shadowgray, translucent. It swirls up from a twig like a faint flame...and a wave of paralysis sweeps through me, cold as Jamie's look in the doorway! Looking to God for help is like lifting barbells--and when my eyes swivel to the right, I choke in horror. God stands numb too! A long minute later God mumbles a slow chant and the freeze passes.
"How'd you do that?" God snaps.
The Flannan says coolly "Your Enemy came to us Independents and gave us this spell--he said, 'It will tie up even a Deity, for a minute. God doesn't know it. Nor do even my own soldiers. Use it against us, even on me, if you get caught in our fire.' And we will! It worked on the Enemy himself--and on You."
Interesting, I think--a few seconds' grace to slip aside. Sauron's able to see others' viewpoints, then? God, on the other hand, angrily demands the spell--a jealous God. Am I on the wrong side, am I this arrogant under my shyness?
If this God reflects my character, maybe Jamie was right about me.
The Neutral Fairy refuses to tell the trick. God roars "I CREATED you, you should be loyal!" The Being turns quite cold at that. Still, the Flannan has honor, and fulfills the ancient oracular contract of the Summons. "On the stone bridge in the Chasm at the Foot of the Stairs, you will find the Dark Lord--for what good it does you!" She rises, hovers like a hummingbird's ghost, and flits into the twilight, smoke on gray.
Down into Moria we go. The Endless Stair is no myth; we spiral down till when we rest I get dizzy from not turning. But the Stair has an ending, deep in Earth's gut. I hear the water run. I peer from the damp aluminum landing round the corner at the Bridge.
Faint light from a sliver of sky. A river-carved chasm. Bare, no life, no cover. Stone is all. On the bridge, a weird army lies: invisible soldiers clad in... newspaper! Sauron looms over all, wrapped in Chronicles like a military mummy, with a tricorner newsprint crown, and a lurid papier-maché mask, the only color in the black-and-white depths--the mask of a Tibetan demon!
Demon? Or is it... Mahakala, the Buddha of Righteous Anger?
The newspaper soldiers are the Dead. Some were friends, alive, but drawn by the Enemy from their graves to fight the Elf Army, they died again when the Elves drove the will that filled them back into their Master and sealed off his broadcast channel. They lie in coma... or decay. Who can say? I find I'm humming an old tune:
The lunatic is in the hallDisaster! Sauron turns and sees God's broad distinctive back. God feels the heat of Righteous Rage's gaze and begins to turn, curious. I hiss to God to change appearance, as God turns, as the heat reflects onto my own face--too late. God grows a curly beard and horns and even fiercer brows--half wild Pan, half lumpish Troll--but it doesn't fool the Enemy an inch. Their gazes lock.
The lunatics are in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And every day, the paperboy brings more
And the dead rise.
The Last Battle begins.
As I duck behind the rock and run frantically up the stairs as they begin to melt below, I long for the Neutral One's spell. Now I see now why the Flannan valued it enough to defy God himself.
Sick and wobbly from smoke inhalation, I trudge up the Endless Stair, collapse onto my knees, crawl out the arch at last to lie gasping in the land of life, sponging up the warmth of the Sun. But not for long. The world's at war, now. I may be seen. I stagger under the dark pines' cover.
I wander the wild valleys of Rhudaur, lost, until, one day, in the dead ponderosa needles, I hear a limp! No mistaking Jamie. I follow the crunch of her across a creek.
"What on earth are you doing here?"
"Being lost, mostly. Do you know where we are?"
"Well... Middle Earth. I think that big river's the Loudwater." If I'm right, we're close to refuge. Rivendell! We may find the Elf Army.
So east we limp and slink, through stony canyons, seeking the bridge to the Haven, fearing the sky. Around a bend--a sky-wide water, with a vast bridge, broad, crowded with shops and bulletin boards... an elegant arc of suspension, and painted gold. It's the Golden Gate!
We step onto the approach. A notice says the Bridge is to be used for graffiti Mondays, fishing Tuesdays, Wednesdays for walking, picnics Thursdays... Every act of living gets its time, its rights. The feel of it, and of the people lounging, sunning, chatting freely in the middle of the span, is so different from the war-fear behind us. I almost cry. We made it! The edge of Rivendell.
A little guy comes up behind us--opaque steel eyes, mask face, monkeylike with tension. A long coat, strange in the sun. We move aside, uneasily... and out of the gray pocket comes a gun the size of a ferryboat. He jerks it toward a Bridge Plaza niche, where a sacred statue once stood. He waves us in, stands in the arch and grins... his glee so tight it's like agony. Enemy's man!
He looks at Jamie, and licks his lips. She looks sick. He sees me looking--and he leers, narrow-eyed.
"HE'll pay more for YOU than HE will for the Black Bird!" he hisses, and Jay and I look at each other appalled, recognizing the crazy gunsel we're up against. I wait for Sam Spade to burst in--I'm just dumb enough for that. We're all alone in this. No one'll save us. Jamie looks at me again--and then with all her ballet coordination she kicks his head with her ankle cast and I kick his gunhand and we go on kicking, viciously, LIKING it, releasing our fear and hate as we beat him unconscious--or dead. AND FEEL NO GUILT.
We've become Mahakala! Righteous Anger.
But the Enemy wore the emblem of Righteous Anger too.
I look afresh at Jamie, hopping birdily, excited, her black black hair ruffled by the fight--THE BLACK BIRD?
This servant of Righteous Anger lusted for her. I just helped her kick a man to death. He can't be... the hug? I just helped Jamie stomp my own hug!
So he's a side of me? The stunted, angry sense of being cheated, the anger at childhood battering, now resurfaced after decades of repression. But... he was insane.
Yeah, and we just murdered him! Is Jamie sane, am I sane?
The lunatic is in my head...Out of nowhere I think "I'm an accomplice in bumping off my own talent." Oh, come on, brain! This gunsel's not talent; he's nuts.
I wonder why "HE" wanted me so badly?
Jamie, the Black Bird, says "Forget him, Sam. Come on! It's just across the Bridge!" I look at her cast with new eyes. Squat and grab the bindings, tear them open. She gasps "Sam! What on earth are you doing?!"
I pull out my pocket knife, and cut the cloth loose. I carve at the cast. Gray shavings thud everywhere. Gray, flexible, heavy metal.
You raise the blade...Soft and heavy bits. Deeper and deeper I cut. The Black Bird protests in shock, but not pain. Nothing. Nothing inside. Solid lead. Not the Maltese Falcon. Lead decoy.
You make the change...
"Sorry, sweetheart." I say grimly. "You'll have to go alone." I point across the bridge, upstream toward the Elves' valley. "I'm sending you... up the river."
I walk off. Soon her crying stops, when it doesn't work, and she limps away.
I turn downriver, toward that deep bridge beyond my vision. And a figure in a monster mask. I know what God wants of me. And what the Neutrals want. And now what Jamie wants, stomp stomp! I think it's time to face the one figure everyone talks about but nobody dares talk with.
I begin singing. Loud. My voice echoes off canyon cliffs, desolate as the moon...
And if your head explodesBellowing to the best of my ability, I march into the wilderness toward Moria. I worry a moment that I'm a Huck Finn cliché, running from women and 'sivilization'. Then I see the difference; I'm going to, not from. To the one no one talks with.
With dark forebodings too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon.
What does the Shadow want?
Landscapes and dream-characters are from The Lord of the Rings and Amadeus (with side orders of The Maltese Falcon and The Magic Flute).
Song lyrics are from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.
The last line echoes Freud's famous complaint: "...what does a woman want?"
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