Pits of Power
Dreamed 2005/11/16 by Chris Wayan
At the market, I lug a cart of food to the checker. No cash so I use my debit card--but the machine rejects it! I'm jobless and living on savings, but haven't been keeping track. Looks like I'm truly broke at last. Go home hungry, embarrassed and glum. Call my credit union just to be sure. "No, it's just the card itself that's expired. We sent the replacement." And there it is--a letter sitting atop a pile of unopened mail! Too lazy/depressed to even look.
Embarrassed, but very relieved. The account had thousands left! Enough to feed me all school year if I'm frugal.
I have a video camera checked out from school, but I feel sickish and tired. Answer email, fantasize about having a girlfriend, plan art projects, anything but get out of the house and shoot.
Time for art history class. Bike across town to lecture hall. Two tiny girls snuggle together in seats just behind me, as they always do. Lovers or twins? Feel lonely. Oh well, here comes the slideshow.
The Mona Lisa really is odd. Her anonymity is rare--most portraits then had family colors or motifs in clothing or jewelry, or even an inscription naming the sitter. The primeval Earth behind her suggests she's allegorical--a portrait of Gaia or Life or Fertility. Leonardo had concluded from his anatomical studies that women contributed to heredity, weren't just walking incubators as most contemporary men thought. Took women seriously in general; a progressive, for the times.
Different treatments of the David and Goliath legend. Unlike Donatello's jaunty little triumphant kid, Michelangelo's is before David's victory; planning, steeling himself to it. No evidence of prayer; slaying Goliath will be a purely human miracle. It's clear the people of these proud little city-states saw themselves as Davids; but who was Goliath? The Turks? Islam? The Holy Roman Empire? The Pope? Nah, they bought the Pope.
Bike home tired. My joints twinge if I push, but no fever at least. I'm healing.
On Bernal Hill, I pass couple after couple on the street, mostly lesbian, some straight. Envy again. Where's a girl for me? Stop at the library, return books, then try the corner store, hope to get milk at least, now that I have a card that works, but they're out. Grr! Shopped all day, no food! At home, I cook beans--ugh. All I got.
Channel-surf a while.
An alternate Earth. Fewer people and lower technology (or so it seems at first). The Bay Area is split between two tiny nations, a northern Republic in the woods of the San Francisco Peninsula, and a southern Empire of grassy oak-dotted hills and plains and mudflats, down where Silicon Valley sprawls in our world.
This tiny Empire bulldozes quarries into its hills. Why? The rock removed isn't used for building or smelting. The Imperials are tight-lipped about it. What are they mining? If they are. Down in each pit there's a dais or stage a meter high and several wide. Are the pits outdoor theaters?
Whatever they are, they hurt the land. Raw red rock exposed--and this land's too dry to recover fast. I worry they'll create mosquito-breeding sumps, canyonize their streams, lower their watertable, dry up the prairie--their breadbasket.
Soon I have other things to worry about. The Empire invades the Republic!
Two contrasting scenes from the invasion:
1: JUST NORTH OF THE BORDER
I'm in grassy hills studded with oaks, at the edge of a squarish pit, peering down at two women--Imperial invaders. They're sitting on the edge of a sunken stage--a fresh-built pit, by the look. They sound thrilled, and from their excited talk I learn what these pits are. Not quarries, not outdoor theaters--earth-magic sites! Whatever you visualize materializes on the stage. You can even wish yourself from pit to pit--they're a transport network too. No wonder the Empire's dotted with "quarries." They mine wishes! Building blocks of their civilization. And they crave the power-sites over the border enough to fight for them. One woman even says "The North wastes these power sites, doesn't even develop them." Apparently you can't work them from the surface; you must dig a pit. So they justify their aggression--the North was wasting resources!
But then the two of them start experimenting--and giggling. No commander around to keep them from playing with the power! Does it have a euphoric effect? The two are lovers, and the power seems to be getting them hot. They kiss... and start imagining more girls kissing them. In seconds, two hazy figures appear on the stage, solidifying into Las Vegas dancers, feathered and sequined and topless. They offer their breasts to the two soldiers, who suck on them... and wish for more. Soon the stage is full of a whole nude Vegas cabaret act, all for them... they have their own private orgy.
Just from visualizing.
No wonder such pits could tempt the Imperials into war. I'm jealous just watching! Though... could I even use the power? I don't think I could visualize so fast, so clearly, in such detail. Such focus suggests long training. Does everyone in the Empire learn this, or just the elite? Who gets to use the power pits?
2: FURTHER NORTH, BEYOND THE MAIN INVADING FORCE
Three Imperial scouts met a young northern man alone in the wood. No fight; they just grab him. He looks bewildered, and asks "What's your problem?" As if they're just crazy. He seems to lack the very concept of war.
"WE ask the questions here!" is their only answer. THEY clearly have the concept.
But not enough magic. They got here via a power site, and when they drag their prisoner back to it, they try to teleport south to the High Command headquarters, where the Northerner can be questioned. He's the first they've found. Their invaders haven't encountered resistance yet--these dry southern borderlands were never settled. What'll happen when they reach creeks and villages?
So they hold hands and chant a focusing-mantra. But it doesn't work--they just lack the power or clarity to teleport four! Eventually, their prisoner says "Look, I'll help you. My power doesn't need chanting or a site." They're skeptical--in the Empire, only rituals work, and only underground, at the right spots. But he's telling the truth. He runs for it! Disappears in an instant; seconds later, they spot him waving a mile away in a golden meadow. Laughs and zooms through the forest back to their side, then up a hill, back down--all silently, at hundreds of kph, turning on a dime as if inertia-less. Not teleportation, exactly, but a power so utterly new it has no name!
He doesn't even need to say "I'll help you get home, but you have to let me go." No need. If he wants to leave, they can't stop him! Just like (they silently, uneasily realize) every citizen they meet.
The Empire's dangerously underestimated the folk of the Republic. They didn't develop their pits of power because they were developing... something else.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
EIGHT MONTHS LATER
When I woke, I felt the dream urged me to stay in the flow state and ignore visualization, longing, even sex itself. But now I wonder. Both techniques worked real magic--just different sorts. They're even analogous to the real local cultures of Silicon Valley (computing power tightly concentrated in tiny chips of silicon and rare earths: the pits of power!) and San Francisco (political and spiritual enlightenment, artistic experimentation, ecological holism--the flow state!)
But must it be either/or? Why not both? Maybe wishing, and being clear about those wishes, and going public with them, is as magic as the flow state itself.
Flow is truly bliss(No, no, I'll stop. Don't hiss.)
and yet I miss the loving kiss,
the kiss of synthesis.
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