The Ripple Effect
Dreamed 1992/6/19 by Chris Wayan
DAY BEFORE: THE MONSTER
I visit my friend Cameron, across town in Pacific Heights. She makes tea under her print of Gauguin women: calm giants blessing the kitchen. She's chopped her hair in yet another wacky pattern. Every time I see her she has a new head.
We play with wire sculpture. My first time--I'm a sculpture-virgin. Her first time too, in another way; "I never sculpt with other people around. I can't, I get scared." I'm honored to be chosen. Not surprised though. Intuition told me this would be safe for us both. Similar fears of ridicule.
I make a horse. She's fascinated how different it is from her work--"those flowing muscle-lines." She gives me a failed piece of hers to mess with if I want: one of her Dr. Seuss chairs. One big squiggly throne, it separates into twin freeform chairlets. Made to be given as a wedding or love-gift, but one of the halves falls over, and put together, they quarrel. I change all the shapes, making it wobblier, sine waves all through... until the chair turns funny. Meanwhile, Cameron makes a vaginal bathtub filled with gold-wire pubic hair and jewely beads.
While we work--play? plerk?--we talk about books. I've been reading "The Brethren"--a catty inside look at the Supreme Court. What jerks they are, under the robes! Cameron just finished Bruce Chatwin's "The Songlines" which I remember vividly, especially its description of the analysis of anthropoid bones in South African caves. The evolutionary implications are huge and the evidence is pretty convincing. Teeth marks in skulls that match big-cat jaws... Rather than being killer apes, former omnivores discovering a brave new world of weapons and hunting and cannibalism and war--our ancestors may have developed weapons to defend ourselves against a big nocturnal cat whose favorite prey seems to have been... us! Tools may have been our only hope against extinction. It explains a lot.
Cameron and I walk down from Alta Plaza to Polk Street, my arches a bit sore from the pounding descent of the near-cliff she lives on. We hunt for a good cafe. Pass a small one with sliding windows, open in this heat. Framed in the opening sit two stunning women with long bare legs, purring at each other... but looking at others too.
"Wanna go in there?" asks Cameron, noticing my lurch and shiver of attraction. Habit almost makes me say "Nah..." hiding my interest. But this is Cameron, she knows my secrets.
"Well... yeah." I know I won't get up the nerve to talk to them, total strangers... but you never know. Kind of her to notice.
No free tables in front though, so we sit in the back. I tell the dreams I've been having of my shadow, the Hedge King... demanding recognition, clear yesses and noes, an end to hedging.
We talk about fearing artistic amibition... or rather, our fears of being judged and rejected.
Cameron chuckles in her Betty Boop voice. "Maybe we should both bring our stuff down here. This cafe sure has awful art."
True. Gray brown and barf-pink constructions hang above our table. Not just the pieces--it's an inappropriate place for them. They clash with everything in here, even the walls. And a card on the wall says the artist has an agent! Jeez. I've been looking for one, but this sure isn't the person to call! An awful venue.
I keep watching the women in front, sadly. Backlit, they glow gold around the edges. Their auras seem so clear--relaxed and happy. They're who I want to become.
Then a street crazy walks up. He hovers outside the open front window of the cafe, a foot from the two women trying to have a conversation... He radiates creepy vibes. They look away, fall silent, look trapped...
He looms over them, leans in, glaring down at their bare stomachs and legs.
For a long time, no one moves. To cringe away would be surrender to their fear, they won't do it, but they can't talk either. Their gold light has gone out.
Finally the waitress yells "Do you want me to call the cops?" She's not asking them. She's telling him.
She adds, to the two, sourly, "He's done this before."
I feel strange. I watched the two women hungrily too. I identify to a frightening degree with the role of male outsider, disruptive and chilling. The loner, the loser. I work hard to hide it, to be charming, but in my heart of hearts, I see myself as that scary guy.
Since all guys are creepy guys. Thanks, Mom!
Shaken, I feel self-conscious and subdued. I walk back up the hill and go home to bed.
1: THE CONSEQUENCES OF INCEST
A family, but not quite my waking one. I'm a teenage boy, 15 or so, with a big brother and little sister. Jenny's thirteen but seems younger, still a kid--shy and repressed. She feels ashamed of her body. Did someone abuse her?
One evening when our parents are out, Jenny comes to me and begs me to introduce her to sex. I have mixed feelings, but finally do try. Peel off her top. Little breasts, no waist yet. Under her little red skirt she's naked; clearly planned to come in and seduce me. Not a momentary madness. That eases my guilt a bit, and I reach for her clit and rub it, unsure what I'm doing.
Suddenly I'm Jenny! A crushing sense of myself as plain, even ugly. I think it's because I'm severely gifted; my classmates and teachers expect girl geniuses to be nerds. Their view of me as a sexless, disembodied brain is settling in like silt on my bones. I'm trying to get some sexual attention to defeat them! So I go to my brother, more out of this need to be seen as sexy, as a girl at ALL, than out of hunger for touch, or love for my brother, or even curiosity about sex per se. Those are there too, but...
Oops, now I'm her brother again... hand on my little sister's pussy, two fingers sliding in... as our father looms in the doorway! I pull our sticky, linked hands out of her, and she jerks her free hand off me like I'm a hot stove.
He looks at us, silent. We start blotching and paling and blushing... and our father stands there, watching. I have a flash of suspicion it's because he's excited to see his daughter's pussy. There's a horrible little twitch of enjoyment skittering around his mouth, like a earwig crawling for cover.
I look my sister in the eye and see she knows it too: our father is enjoying our shame and he plans to prolong this. Maybe it's envy. He wants to touch her there, but she came to me. He's gonna make sure this has maximum repercussions--public uproar, humiliation, family therapy.
He'll hold this over us like a sword for the rest of our lives.
Much, much later, when things quiet down--years later, it took that long--I'm on a camping trip, with my sister, and brother, both of them teens now too. Perhaps, though we no longer get slapped with these things overtly, he's there as a chaperone.
And perhaps we need one. Jenny's forbidden fruit, but I've already paid the full price. If we can ditch our brother, I'll sleep with Jenny in a second. What more can they do? Already hurt us as much as they could.
We're climbing high up in the coastal mountains. The trail to the summit climbs through a narrow canyon where falling boulders wedged above, created a rough cave. In we go. Suddenly, in the chill of the cavern, I realize I have no coat, no sleeping bag, no pack, and no food. Only the other two have their gear. I forgot it all!
So I must sleep with one of them, or return to the car... and that's miles. Wonder if this was an unconscious set-up so I'll have to sleep with Jenny.
Then my big brother says "You can sleep with me," and I know from his tone that he means "you can be MY sex toy--since we all know you'll fuck your own sister." I don't want to, and feel like my sister's initiative and my father's envious big mouth have dumped all the blame on me--ignoring all the people who've told Jenny she's ugly, and our dad who wants her, and most of all our brother, who seems ready to blackmail me into incest!
Who's the real monster here?
2: RIPPLES FROM THE DREAM-CASTLE
Now I'm grown up, and driving along the shore of the San Andreas Lakes. The radio tells me the story of the Brethren, a group of psychics who went to school together. Scattered now, they still keep in touch, both by phone, and by a subtle psychic link. There are nine of them.
A couple of them--maybe with passive participation of the other seven--started a dream-project that went wrong. They bought up other people's dreams! The rights to their dream castles and lands, in particular. I don't know what they planned to do with them, and I'm not sure if they knew. Speculation? Dream lands may be inaccessible now, but who knows? Remember FM channels--they sold for a song, and are now worth billions.
The story is interrupted by a police bulletin. The cops are looking for a car on this freeway, variously described as bark brown, rusty black, and soft blue. "Lotsa luck, guys" I think. Feel a little flash of worry that the cops'll stop everyone, or harass me, though my car's white.
Back to the story of the Brethren... so the psychics bought up the rights to dream-castles, on speculation. And somehow one of two brothers who rule the world got involved--they distracted him or got him dreaming all the time, and so his twin brother had to rule more or less solo--or did he take over? Either way, it affected history--and the economy. The psychic who did it is guilty of an ethical violation--and maybe even of criminal law. Psychics are not supposed to meddle with history!
All nine old friends come together to face the crisis, the first they've assembled in the flesh since they were kids.
One of the Nine has been on the far side of the continent for thirty years now, studying with a mentor, a powerful adept. But they just had a terrible fight! It's no coincidence: it's the ripples of the psychic and political disturbance caused by the dream-castle affair! Malevolent or at least predatory beings (I'm not clear if they were human psychics or nonmaterial entities) are very active now, drawn by the disturbance. So the Nine have come here, to my childhood home, to clean up the fallout from their project.
I'm sitting in the living room, as they trickle in. Though they call themselves "brethren", at least half of them are female. I find it startling that all the women are quite beautiful, and tend to show it off--wearing quite revealing things. Is there a correlation between sexiness (or at least a lack of inhibitions) and psychic ability?
The one most responsible for the uproar arrives with his girlfriend, who's also a psychic. His ex-brother arrives. What's an ex-brother, you ask? A brother who's now a sister! He's changed sex--but through magic, not surgery. Now she's a tall thin woman with an intense eagle-nosed face and fine dark curly hair. Shirt half-shows her breasts.
Her lover is a short girl with delicate features who I've known a long time and always longed for--and never had the nerve to come on to. This sister/brother won her effortlessly--I never even tried. They sit near the corner of the room, close to the fireplace. I'm beyond them, in the extreme corner; their coupleness makes me feel trapped. They talk, include me. I'm supposed to look at them but often I'm really looking past them because they frustrate me so--both so desirable and both unavailable.
To my right is the one with the 30-year mentor, almost invisible--so private, I barely look. Not even sure what sex. To the left, a chubby pink woman lying on the sofa, curled up. She has big thighs, stuffed into tight jeans, and big breasts, in a bra. Somehow the bra makes her less attractive--squeezes her breasts unto uncomfortable lumps. I don't like looking at her, makes me feel squeezed, so I look to her left.
I recognize this one of the Brethren! Catherine, the head secretary where I used to work. A beautiful face, with the distinctive saurian bone structure redheads sometimes have. She's curled in a big chair. She's wearing a net-knit dress or top that shows her breasts and sides and belly throught the mesh. So sexy... I ogle her over the shoulder of the sex-changed brother...
One more of the Brethren comes in and sits on the end of the sofa next to me. I move my feet to leave more room. Dark shadowy man, I can't see much except he's tall.
We're all here now. All nine, plus several lovers. I'm never clear if I'm accepted as a member of the group or not. I'm certainly psychic, but neither part of the project nor anyone's lover. Just a witness, a watcher. I'm so uncomfortable I bring it up, try to talk about the feeling I know I'm radiating, that they can all sense: my longing, frustration, half-alienation. But I just can't.
Any woman here could cure me, or make a big dent in my fears, by role-playing: walking me through meeting, flirting, sex. But I'm sure none will--because feeling ugly MAKES me ugly, especially to telepaths and empaths--the people I'm most likely to be attracted to! It's absolutely circular--I need sexual self-esteem even to ask for the experiences that'd cure my lack of sexual self-esteem.
I can't contribute much to the Brethren while I'm like this.
An alarm goes off! Evil spirits have trailed the Nine here and are trying to get in. The Brethren spread, to search for the source of bad ripples. I go too. They all disappear into rooms, except for a wide-eyed girl with black curly hair, in her thirties, medium height, slightly bent nose giving her a plain look--or she thinks so, radiating a timid apologetic manner. Or is that just now, in a crisis? She's scared of these entities. I feel her intense fear, and it amplifies my own.
We stick together, despite the risk of fear-feedback: panic is still safer than being eaten by ghosts. We sneak through the kitchen. No one. The garage door beckons. I get the feeling some of the Nine went this way. I open the door. I'm sure they searched the garage, but I'm still nervous. Boxes everywhere--a ghost could have hid in any of them when the well-defended Nine were searching, and could fly out now and jump me.
I go in. The timid girl stays in the house. She closes the door.
The garage lights flicker on and off! The Nine or the enemy? A high whirring behind me--the miniature trains, on a landscaped trainboard I had in here in my childhood, have come alive. Some entity is feeding direct current into every motor on the board. Like the lights, they're overloaded then stop... I worry they'll burn out.
My old VW bus is in here too. Its lights and signals blink on and off. I hear noises out on the driveway, and bright lights glare under the garage door. Definitely some of Nine out there, but probably the enemy too. I decide it's safer just to go back in the house. I feel no obligation to fight for the Nine. They made no effort to help me with my sexual misery or clarify my status by formally making me an equal member. (I don't think this through in the dream, just take it for granted--I'm hunting for them because I feel safer around them, not to help them solve this problem they caused.)
I go back to the kitchen door. Touch the knob. Feel a slight twitch. Stop, freeze in fear. Someone is on the far side. THEM? Or the scared girl? Finally I turn it slowly... feel the being on the far side also turn it... rubbery eerie compromise-motion. I breathe out and open the the door. The scared girl is on the other side.
Now... I'm listening to one of the Nine tell the tale, later, as if it happened to HIM! "I touched the knob... and sensed through it that my worst fears were true. Three enemy beings of great psychic power hovered on the far side. Could I retreat? What to do? I had an inspiration. Perhaps I could time-jump just a little, go back a few seconds or a minute--the three hadn't been there long. Could I get round them in time instead of space? Or... would fighting be better? Or just running? At last I decided..."
I forget what he "decided"... I didn't care much, since I knew his whole story was a lie. I was there--the source of his dramatization--and there were no enemies on the far side of the door.
Just a girl as scared as me.
DAY AFTER: THE MONSTERS
I wrote the dream all the next morning. Went to a matinee of Altman's "The Player"--his film about Hollywood's conscienceless monsters. An insider's view.
That evening, watch Star Trek--a bizarre episode, first half of a two-parter. Data's head is found in an archeological dig! Even though he's alive and well. Then they meet ghostlike time-dislocated entities, and Deanna Troy senses great fear in them, but no life. Recognize bits of the dream in both Star Trek and The Player.
Oh well, the dream said I'm psychic!
Notice only now, as I finish this account, that I never had proof the ghosts were really my enemies; just evidence the Nine were insensitive, and proof that at least one was a bragging liar.
Have I been hanging on the edge of the WRONG crowd of psychics?
When beyond the door of my fear and shyness, no monster lurks. Just a girl as scared as me.
NOTES (YEARS LATER)
A NOTE ON CAMERON GALLOWAY
I only mentioned her sculpture here. But her main art is (screamingly funny) surrealist comedy. She sometimes tries out her new mini-plays at the annual Fringe Festival here in San Francisco; so if you're in town August or September...
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