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My Sine-Friend

Dreamed 1984/3/6 by Chris Wayan

I'm looking down on a wide, flat valley from a railroad-grade that angles up a steep slope. The tracks curve on out of sight. We're waiting for the train. My companion is a young girl of a strange furry species: she's fated to die soon, when the train arrives, because her people live short, cyclic lives--her kittenhood was lived forward in time, but now it's followed by death, not puberty--a death that marks the start of a second life, lived backwards as she grows, so our future's her past, and vice versa; she'll live this confusing backward life only a few years, too. Her second death will start her on a forward-moving life again, for a few years... Girl who cycles through time waves goodbye to her former self leaving on the time-train. Dream sketch by Wayan; click to enlarge.

I explain this to her using the image of DNA seen from the side: "Imagine a single helix, not a double. Your forward lives are like the plus part of the sine wave, death is where it swings across zero, the minuses are where your time, in the spirit world, looks backwards to us."

Not that this picture means I really understand how she'll live it. I see the future a bit, now and then, but to cross the line, bodily and wholly, as she's about to...

The train rumbles up and stops, but to our surprise, my friend doesn't die on the spot. She's been granted some overtime! She actually gets to meet her successor, who hops down from the train.

She looks like her own big sister--tall and coltish, a little ghostly--white-furred and absent-minded. She lives in the spirit world after all, and it's affected her language and movement. She sees so much of the future and past, and so few details of the present, that she scrambles her tenses and uses labels like "I" and "you" almost randomly. Such boundaries are just fine details for her.

Funny though, I find her language and viewpoint understandable, comfortable, even infectious... Guess my dreamwork has shifted me further into the spirit realm than I realized.

Turns out she deliberately came a bit early, so this incarnation could meet her next and ask a few questions. But not too much, not too deep. There's danger in her wide vision--for us, not for her. We could learn too much of our future lives! The present sine-wave doesn't realize the risk. But luckily, she asks only small questions her future self can safely answer: "In the spirit world, do you have TV?"

"Oh, yes, we can still watch TV after I die."

And so the transition goes peacefully. I scratch my friend's ears for the last time, and she hops on the train of time. As my friend, the same girl turned taller, ghost-white, absent-minded and visionary, leans her head against my leg and cries a little, as we wave and wave goodbye to her brave, naive childhood, as she rides off to death and rebirth... backwards.

As her childhood rounds the bend, she cries "We'll miss us!"


Tsui Hark's animated film A CHINESE GHOST STORY has a Reincarnation Train remarkably like my dream's. But the film was made years later, and my furry little sine-wave friend was far more naive than Shine, his ghostly heroine.

But then, come to think of it, so am I. Always a bit... backwards.

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