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ROSE AND THE THORN

Dreamed 1986/7/1 by Chris Wayan

THAT DAY

I sit through a group therapy session, never speaking up. Rose talks about a date, Rhonda about a boyfriend. I feel bitter, hearing the others talk about dating and relationships. When I just get physically sick when I even flirt. Rubs it in that I can't even practice, catch up...

Biking home, I pass a beautiful girl who smiles at me. I smile back, but then suddenly anger and shame flare up. I know if I bottle it up I may get sick, so as I pass a car, I curse it, send my anger into it instead: "Drop dead, car! Break down!"

Then I worry: if my anger's so intense, can the curse have an effect? Suppose it does break down, stranding people. Do I have the right to go around cursing things?

Wait a minute, if wishes DO have power, don't OTHERS wish too? Car owners can prevent a breakdown... bad things require consent. I can't cause that much damage.

Except there's my friend Tom, always breaking cars inexplicably, bewildering mechanics... Hmm.

At home I read a strange comic book: Rose and the Thorn. Rose, a meek secretary, never meets The Thorn, a smart, tough, solo crime-fighter, who only appears at night. There's good reason they never meet: Rose is multiple, and doesn't know that each night, instead of dreaming, her unconscious takes over, letting out the latent anger and abilities suppressed by her femme day-self Rose. The Thorn has her eyes open, but Rose is blind to evil, indeed works hard to see only good. Damn. I do that. Wilfully blind!

THAT NIGHT

There's a legend of a haunted car prowling the freeways of California, driverless, on moonlit nights.

Malevolent ghost car on moonlit road; sketch of a dream by Wayan. Click to enlarge.
I invite Heather, who's clever and brave and has beautiful coppery hair, on a date to hunt for the Haunted Car. We drive along Bayshore Freeway under the full moon, to the mysterious swamp the Car haunts.

In the swamp we find parts of the ghost-car's insides have exuded ectoplasmically, to become part of the landscape: big plush vinyl mossy seat-like expanses. Heather likes the feel of them, and sprawls sensually on a maroon/purple sofa like some mad automotive Rousseau painting. She grins and purrs, enjoying the luxurious feel of the organic couch.

Girl on red sofa in jungle--a variant of Rousseau's painting 'The Dream' dreamed by Chris Wayan.
I feel a sudden wave of inexplicable alarm. She notices the look on my face, and laughs at my inhibitions.

The sexy surface moves her slowly toward a crease in the seat--it's like a tectonic plate. The mantle of the living swamp is alive and moves like the mantle of a mollusk. She glides along happily, reaches the crack... and down she goes! Subducted!

She shrinks to the size of a doll just before she's swallowed, and I realize she's just Heather's spirit, not her body--I turn to look next to me where she actually stands. But as I turn, her physical body fades, to glass in moonlight, to air... she's gone. Without her spirit, her body goes. Did the car eat her, or only carry her off? Where? Where's the Haunted Car's power come from, who's behind it?

I always felt Heather's intuition was smarter than mine. Was Heather's grin right again? Maybe she's fine.

Then the Author of the Dream breaks in to tell me: "This transition is awkward, and the next scene is wrong somehow--too jarring--but I felt, after all these hints, that I had to spell out exactly what the car does, where these subducted people go." Rose, looking uneasy. Sketch of a dream by Wayan.

So suddenly I'm in San Francisco, on a hill slope, in front of my old sixth grade school, that experimental gifted class full of half-crazy geniuses. Walking up the street toward me is a fragile blonde girl, pretty in a haunted way, with a melancholy air about her. I think her name is Rose. "Watch out!" I think. "You're radiating 'victim'!"

A man comes up and says "Baby, I know just the thing to cheer you up." She startles, clearly scared of him, but then meekly goes along!

I follow, at a distance. He takes her to meet the Master of the Car. He's a hustler with a terrible power: he prays. And what he prays for, he gets--within a couple of minutes! He can pray for her death and God will grant it. She can't escape--God's on his side.

His bearded and balding sidekick has a headache, and asks the leader to cure it. The Master sees a good chance to show his power to Rose, so he generously accedes. But his first prayer, "Remove this man's sinus headache," fails! He has to ask a second time. Apparently it wasn't just sinus congestion as they assumed. The second time the master phrases it broadly, not leaping to any conclusions: "Oh Lord, heal this man's headache." It promptly fades--WHATEVER it was. Check assumptions before wishing! Sad, subdued girl's head in profile; dream sketch by Chris Wayan.

Rose realizes she's trapped. For perhaps the first time in her life, she admits to feeling bitter. Why does God answer such an evil man?

Rose meets Heather, who looks gray and subdued now: a servant. I was wrong, she was wrong. Swallowed and captured.

And he catches me next. We all must serve him, for a long numb time...

One day, at last, he kills Heather, and then his own right-hand man. No particular reason. He just wanted to. And so... their hearts stop. Rose, looking alarmed. Sketch of a dream by Wayan.

Rose flees in horror. She's trying to hide from God--so when the Man Who Prays On Us prays for her death, God won't find her heart.

Rose thinks "The world can't be this wrong; surely God hasn't singled out the Master as the only one he'll give power. How can I protect myself? How can I stop him? What am I missing?"

She's starting to think about power. Starting to take responsibility. At last, becoming the Thorn!

The Author of Dreams returns, apologetically. "I know that was clumsy, but I had to spell it out--the source of the cars' lure, and of the Master's power."

And there I wake.

NOTES THAT MORNING

Thumbnail of a girl on a red sofa in jungle--based on Rousseau's painting 'The Dream'; by Chris Wayan.


LISTS AND LINKS: prayers and wishes - dating dreams - spirits - healing from abuse - Rousseau's red plush couch: The Dream - the Master speaks: Paranoid Habits - David Brin (Startide Rising) - Ursula Le Guin - duty and responsibility

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