Pass the Vial On
Dreamed 2000/4/18 by Chris Wayan
I'm running out of money, but instead of looking for work, I start building a website of dream art. I want a site that'll impress people--both text and graphics. Besides it's a fine way to avoid writing a resume. So I spend hours going through my dream-paintings and comics, compressing them, saving in GIF or JPEG formats to start building a site. Think I'll call it the World Dream Bank. I work on at least forty different paintings, and I barely scratch the surface! Didn't realize how much I had.
Eat at last, watch random TV. A straight girl acts gay on a bet in a bar, and gets more than she expected--a woman she cruises starts dating her. She's confused but... excited, happier than she ever was straight. Then her cute but blabbermouth sister tells their parents for her! Ah, yes, how helpful.
Read Pat Murphy's THERE AND BACK AGAIN, a science fiction tribute to THE HOBBIT. Something in it disappoints me--too neatly circular. Murphy's hero returns to his asteroid essentially unchanged; that wasn't true of Bilbo Baggins.
So what do my dreams themselves think of this idea for the World Dream Bank?
I'm living in Middle Earth, west of the Shire, near the Gulf of Lune, in a house on the ancient road to the Grey Havens. Elves, dwarves, even the occasional hobbit or man pass my door; all who bring news or lore or herbs or seeds stop to dine and barter, for I'm known as both trader and scholar. It's a good life, and I've prospered, thanks to a vagabond I once listened to.
He came from the coast, and stopped at my house for a meal and a tale. Common enough, but this vagabond's tale was wild. He claimed to be a king returning from a mad quest... successfully. He'd walked west into elf-country, but not the mere borders, but deep into the Undying Lands, and returned. Ridiculous claim, but... he told me the way, and fool that I am, I believed him. He gave me a vial with an herb he said would let me pass.
I followed his directions west... and walked into Faerie!
Like him, I returned alive, with new abilities and treasures. They founded my fortune. That and my friendship with the king--for he returned to his own country and set things right, with his new powers. Trade opened up.
I became a settled, prosperous man--one my neighbors the hobbits can easily understand and respect. A man of the world--except the seed of my fortune came from another.
One day, I'm in the pantry, where I have a whole wall of little bottles and vials. Spices... and other things. A knock on the door. It's a young woman come to consult me. She says "I know mortals are forbidden the West, yet I have a mad urge to go, and dare the Border."
The moment I see her, I know she's the next. The king passed the secret to me, and I now must pass it on to her.
I tell her the tale of the vagabond, but discreetly don't mention he's now High King. He doesn't speak of his rough past. Besides, such a grand claim could make her skeptical about the rest of the tale, and all she needs to know is that the rumors of my own journey are true--it IS possible to cross.
I give her a small, unlabeled vial from my spice rack: the herb that lets you cross into the immortal realm.
For I won't be needing it, now. Her turn.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
In the dream I renounce visionary life, content with prosperity, a trade, and a home. But in my day-life, I'm poor, single, and in fragile health--the material world's never offered me much (OK, a stable home, that's something).
A NOTE FROM 2006
From that night, my dreams receded, both in numbers and vividness. Though I wasn't entirely banned from Faerie, this was no mere ebb-tide; my dream-sea shrank like a puddle in the sun. I became a chronicler, building the World Dream Bank in a great three-year wave of energy, writing and painting dreams... yet my new dreams were mostly practical reminders; border-Faerie at best.
I'd like to say the rest of this dream also came true, that life in this world compensated for the loss of the other. But it didn't. Though I'm not suffering, I'm still single, poor, and in fragile health. And this world's changed; a practical, brutal, hard-headed place no longer concerned with frills like culture, love, or human (let alone nonhuman) rights. Or dreams.
Jesus and Buddha were tempted with wealth, sex and fame. Could I be strong, as they were? No idea! The world failed to tempt me--but then, it never really tried.
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