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Dreamed 1999/2/18 by Chris Wayan

My friends and I go on a long quest for a buried treasure.

We come to a nunnery no one ever visits, though it's a pleasant ochre stone abbey, in a sunny valley of vineyards. But their order is weird and dangerous--they mistrust men, and always keep a leather hood and veil and cape and shield between them and any man they meet. They make the leather from human skin--the skin of men who visit and break the rules. Or perhaps not. They're low on leather, so they use any excuse to kill you. The men in our group run a great risk, just being here.

But a friend of ours, a famous explorer, showed us proof that this nunnery has a clue to the treasure among its holy relics. He came to consult the abbess. We never saw him again.

The Mother Superior invites us in. And there's our friend, in her office. His head and hide hang on her office wall. I hold my outrage, knowing she's hoping we'll protest--one word out of line and she can attack with a clear conscience.

I ignore our dead friend, and explain our quest. Mention that our rivals, a criminal gang, will soon find the treasure if we don't. "I know you don't think much of men, but at least our group is not a bunch of murderers." I suspect she'll scorn our quest as too worldly--these nuns are supposed to value only spiritual treasure. Or she may try to kill us. But that's why we're not here alone. I insisted we stay in a group and be ready to fight. I'll kill nuns if I have to, with the proof on the wall that they're murderers. I know he did nothing wrong. They made up some excuse...


Well, nothing subtle here. I grew up surrounded by sisters, with a feminist mom who had a low opinion of men. Her scathing opinions still cripple me on occasion. But why a flashback now?


I read Margaret Mahy's THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE. A girl named Hero, who's gifted but refuses to talk, climbs into a walled garden where a recluse, Miss Credence, asks Hero to photograph her--then shows her a cat she just shot, for killing birds. Hero, who knew the cat, is horrified, thinks "I was the only one who knew anything about what lay beyond those bricks, now that the other explorer, the ginger one, was dead." Miss Credence forces money on Hero, who returns later to give it back, and has a shock looking in the window:

"Miss Credence was hanging there. I could see the tilt of her hat quite plainly, and the folds in the hem of her cloak dangling well above the floor. And then, staring in dread, I made out that both hat and cloak were hanging empty....

"I was being watched. The heads of two deer and a wild pig with tusks all gazed down at me with glass eyes. I noticed there was no cat's head. Not yet, anyway. The hall was paneled with dark, rather dreary wood, and the coats dangling around the mirror looked like dry, dusty, discarded skins, or not even skins. Really, they looked more like people in a horror story, hung shriveling there a hundred years."

So a celibate recluse, in her walled sanctuary, protects 'birds' (women) and kills 'cats' (men). She killed the previous explorer and keeps trophies... but hangs HER OWN head and hide on the wall with her victims!

It takes a Hero to enter the lair of this leather nun.

Or, I guess, a dreamer. Two days earlier.

LISTS AND LINKS: quests - ascetics and austerity - fanatics - violence - death - skin dreams - sexism and other biases - psychic dreams - precognition - Tolkien (Beorn, in The Hobbit)

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