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PAIN-RATIONER'S STRIKE

Dreamed 1987/1/1 by Chris Wayan

I'm driving past an octagonal hall with a dome. I hear music inside. Interesting stuff, so I park and try to enter. Crowded! I squeeze and shove, but can't get in, so I levitate. Bounce gently off the rough board walls, up until I can slip in a high window. A narrow upstairs hall. Find a balcony, look down. Below, people are dancing, acting, singing--an improv class!

And I've been here before. There are even photos of me and some friends and relatives on the wall. Who took them, who used me for ads without permission? I feel angry and think to myself "typical!" The teacher was always arrogant--he insisted you could only make progress in HIS class. Everyone else was a fake or a fool. I quit in disgust, at last.

Below me, I recognize a friend of mine. The teacher and his big goon assistant are grilling him about something. At first I think it's an improv scene... till they pin him down and start torturing him!

They want to know someone's name: a three-letter word. "Is it Zip, Jem, or Pie?"

Two men lean over a third they have trapped on a wooden wooden bench, gouging at his face with their bare hands. I stare down from a balcony, looking shocked.
I swoop down angrily, bristling with deadly magic, ready to explode. But the teacher turns and waves his hands in protest, saying "Wayan! Now don't you butt in! We know your powers, and you know ours--if we fight we'll smash this place! We just want that one name, we don't want to injure your friend."

"You fuckers, he's GASPING in pain right now!"

"Just from a pain hold--no damage, I swear. Just stay back." And the big goon moves to block me, while the teacher pinches the nerve, eyes on me, not on their victim. They fear me!

But...I fear them, too! And what are fighting could mean--for they do have powers too. They're right, the whole place could collapse--or burn. It's too crowded to risk a fight. We haven't got the right.

My friend won't talk.

So they get him face down and start bashing his face against a wood bench. They'll break his nose if they do it any harder. The leader looks at me and says "This is the worst." I'm confused at my decision to hold back, and suddenly blurt "If you injure him I'll kick your head in right now!"

What am I saying? They're already beating my friend up! And I just stand here...

These guys have conned me into the job of regulating the amount of ABUSE my friend gets! So mutilation and serious injury are a no-no, but pain and nosebleeds are okay? Who the hell gave me this authority?

No, I have to stop this, housequake or not. I step forward--

And, having decided... I wake.

NOTES IN THE MORNING

That three-letter name they wanted so badly:

So maybe these teachers are asking about sexual orientation. Not what gender I like, but what... species? Universe? Do I want a cartoon glamor girl, or will I insist on a magical creature, or will I settle for mere... reality? (Oops, when having a crush on a horse is "reality", you know you're in trouble!)

It's a legitimate question, guys. But you don't get to torture my body to get an answer. I've been agonizing, indulging my doubts and self-criticisms until they stress me out, make me physically sick!

Soul-searching can involve a little pain, but... I've been way, way, way too stoic.

Two men lean over a third they have trapped on a wooden wooden bench, gouging at his face with their bare hands. I stare down from a balcony, looking shocked.


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