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Miriel, Don't Go In!

Dreamed 1982/10/6 by Chris Wayan

I'm in orbit over an alien world, old, small and mostly dry. There's one roundish sea, smaller than Australia, with a huge frozen marsh at one end. Nearby rises a shield volcano over 2000 km across, with a caldera at the top as big as some nations.

A Marslike world seen from space: a small sea in a Hellasian basin, an Olympus-like shield volcano, a few rivers; mostly desert. Digital dreamsketch by Wayan; click to enlarge.
A woman tells me "You, like all others who enter this world from outside, are fated to land near the City on the Sea and go up the river to the One Mountain, to meet [she clasps her hands ritually] the One." The One is the god who rules this world--not just in her religion, but in literal fact. Each pilgrim who treks to the summit receives a gift straight from the local god. A hands-on deity!

But I keep exploring the rest of the world. I'm seeking a place to live, not a confrontation with the local god. So I avoid the Mountain. Go over dry yellow Californian hills, past ranches in different styles, depending on their age--some ancient. Life is sparse but the land's not totally barren... yet. More ranches and Guild-Universities, both living and dead--ruins form dotted tracks a thousand miles back into the worldwide waste; institutions (and their names) creep inward across the hemisphere, as the water retreats to the Last Sea.

Some places look right for me, though many Earth people might find them too lonely. My sister goes into a live volcano. Ink sketch, digital tinting.

At last find myself near the mountain by a back way. Resigned, I start up. My dad and my sister Miriel join the pilgrimage. At last we reach an oval Portal, opening into the Caldera. She starts through, but my dad yells "DON'T!" I too feel a flash of fear and yell "Miriel, don't!" But she steps on in.

A fierce light beams out through the Portal, silhouetting her. She staggers back, scorched all over. I fear it's radiation poisoning, not just light-burns. My dad says "That was no accident--the One doesn't want to see Miriel." She's fevery, shaking, begs for water. I don't have any on me, but remember a campground faucet a way back. Get some. Tannins, but drinkable. Miraculously, she's still alive, drinks it all...

I fear to enter the portal now. But I still do. In the rocky corridor, the One gives me things--tools and weapons. When I emerge, I carry Miriel down the slope. Seems like she may survive. Others wounded by the One come out of caves and follow me down the Mountain, till we're like an army. I pledge to help them too, if I can spare the energy and time.

A skeptical worldly guy drives a bus around the area, but avoids the Mountain, has no desire to see the One. Understandable! But he passes that way at last... and the mountain's gone! Yet the Portal is there... and it's open. He goes in. And is given things too! I'm the bus guy now. Accept this batch of gifts with more good will than the last time.

I drive around the mountain again. A new portal appears. I stop and climb up to it. But my bus, on the road, starts running away, and slams into the mountain side. A mattress appears to cushion the crash--seems like the One is watching out for me. Again I go in... but this time it's unclear what I'm supposed to take. Boxes of raisins? SCISSORS? I take a blunt pair so I won't cut myself running with scissors...

But is this it? THESE are the gifts of the One? Such a grand setting... such petty gifts.

Burned either way.

NOTES IN THE MORNING




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