The Sea-Hag Riot
Dreamed 1989/6/5 by Chris Wayan
Call me the Doctor. I'm an expatriate, from Gallifree, though I've settled on a world called Earth. You may have seen my story, on BBC-TV. "Doctor Who" is heavily fictionalized of course--rubber aliens every week, indeed!
I'm on Earth now, but not yours and mine. This Earth is an alternate world run by a dictator, behind a puppet President. A nasty fellow, but competent: he spotted me fast, and captured me.
He's been making me take hypnotherapy along with his other advisors and goons. Chinese herbs, too. The trouble is, I'm the Doctor, not a human being--my metabolism is alien. I think his intent was to get me to spill my technical knowledge and become his military advisor, but the drugs and hypnosis don't compel me to obey him. They just make me irritable and... peculiar. I've become obsessed with wrapping myself in red, white, and blue! Blankets, sheets, anything. If I see them them, I have to wear them. And the colors are symbolic here--some tribal indicator, I believe.
This dictator acts like a mere advisor to the kind if senile President, who trusts me as a savior from space. But when the President orders all files opened to me, the dictator smiles and says "Yes sir!"--and keeps all the secrets he pleases. His spies report only to him and clam up when I'm in the room. Timidly, I filch some red-flagged papers from a box--the spy box? Disappoints me to find my own memo on top, a petition for something nice but irrelevant to the hidden power game. I hand-deliver it to the President anyway... I assume spy cameras saw me grab it off the pile, and this is an excuse for touching the forbidden papers--it was my own.
They definitely have cameras! The Dictator intercepts me personally before I can reach the puppet President's office, and tells me coldly "Go upstairs--it's time for your treatment."
I protest for the first time. "Your treatments don't work on me, they just mess up my metabolism."
He doesn't listen. Points sternly. Meekly I go upstairs. The Hypnotherapist, a slick white man, is working on someone else, the only other nonhuman advisor: a small centaur. It curls up on the couch... first he hypnotizes the centaur's tail. It expands to three times its former length, suffers embarrassing hair loss, gets jointed, tubular, thin. Like the wing bones of a pteranodon!
These reactions are even more random than my own! Now I'm certain--this therapy only works correctly on humans--if making people obey you can truly be called correct.
Next the therapist hypnotizes an advisor who's always struck me as the archetypal politician, the Man with the Big Fake Smile. I find those endless teeth unnerving... are they really dentures? Too good to be real.
He goes right under. Not far for him to sink, he's been in a political trance all his life. That grin just gets bigger, bigger... As his trance deepens, the monstrous grin comes out, out of his mouth, out of his head. The grin starts dancing round the room. Teeth do Busby Berkeley numbers. Each has a little dance costume--the teeth wear tutus.
Now the canines and bicuspids are forming a dental pyramid. They've got a whole gymnastic act, while a ring of molars sing around them. Poor molars! Always a chorus, never stars.
They start parading out the door, out the building, through the city in a pyramid, and soon they have a whole parade of masked people and creatures dancing after them. Pied pipers of a politician's smile.
I find I'm downtown somewhere, standing in an archway near a small knot of police called out for the parade. We're some blocks ahead of the pyramid; we can hear the crowd nearing. Even though I know the truth, I feel weirdly excited to see the tooth parade. But... not exactly a parade, not now. I'm not the only one who feels feverish--driven wild by the Smile. The marchers are all happily acting out their hates. Bloody brawls everywhere. The cops are affected too--they don't even try to prevent fights, even killings. Paraders and cops alike just laugh at the beatings, breathe in the fresh smell of blood. The cops at the archway where I stand, looking out onto the parade street, say "It's been getting more violent, but we can still contain it--barely". Some cops have dressed in masks and costumes too. Some go out and fight in it enthusiastically. I see a lot of women in sexy brief costumes--half historical, half futurist punk metal. They scare me--dancing and flirting one minute, kicking winos the next.
A female officer by me takes her pants off and belts her shirt like a tunic, puts her boots back on... and she's stolen a firefighter's yellow helmet from somewhere, the kind with a tall crest like a strange bird. She looks like a space warrior from 1930... Buck Rogers. But a gun and a club hang from her belt, not some fictional blaster. It chills me that she may use them in service to her fantasy--this is no comic book!
The pyramid of giant dancing teeth looms up the block... A terrible lure and thrill beats out from their chomping stomping pile. Even I, an alien, feel wild and strange. I fear that the cop by me, naked and unprotected by alienation, will go wild and shoot someone. But she stays at her post--her fantasies seem to stop at being a sexy warrior who stays cool and in control. For someone under the Smile, she's sane.
As the teeth dance by, pirouetting on pink toe-shoes over their cute little roots, the cop taps my arm and points up at the roof across the way: a huge billboard shows a stained-glass window with branching black lines and luminous colors. A lean girl leaning on a lean unicorn, grinning. "Lean on Me!" I gasp, though the cacaphony drowns my shout. It's one of my old paintings about the sexy feeling I get when I make friends with my body. But how dare they copy it on a billboard? I didn't authorize this!
One of them grabs the other's soul, and gradually pulls it out, like pulling a tooth--and tosses it away. And the soulless body dies. Best friends sunk to murder! All the killing on the street didn't sicken me as this does. These two loved each other. They're part of me. I'm numb, incredulous. That politician's smile can tilt my mind and body into self-murder.
My girlfriend is with me. Who is she? How did I get here? My mind is not that clear. She says "Let's take the chance, what have we got to lose now? Let's step through the arch."
I step out, we walk a few steps... and I hear "AHA!" from above and my girlfriend screams "Duck!" and we leap into the shelter of the doorway of a Woolworth store (a sign in blood says CLOSED FOR THE RIOT). A huge cornice comes crashing down a moment later. It's one of a mirror-image pair up there. As I peer out and up, the second one comes down like a monster molar. CHOMP! I'm knocked prone, gasping. It's right on top of me. I'm alive only because it's L-shaped, like a stone piano, and the hollow happened to be facing down.
"Got him at LAST!" cackles the old woman upstairs.
"Who the hell is that?" says my girlfriend.
"Scream OH MY GOD!" I whisper.
"OH MY GOD!"
"That's the witch in "Popeye"--remember I played Popeye?"
"Yeah," says my girlfriend, "but why's she trying to kill you?"
I hiss "She just DID, okay?" and squirm out of the hollow beneath the stone and slink along doorway to doorway. My girlfriend follows shrieking "SHE KILLED HIM! WHY'D SHE KILL HIM?" and little cackles of satisfaction come from above.
I explain. "She decided we were soul-mates because I dressed up as Popeye for the play and the masque ball afterwards, and she was the Witch who lusts after Popeye. She confused the role with the person. Of course, as Popeye, I had to be brusque with women, even ones I like... and she's a mean, hatchet-faced bag of bones! When I refused to be hers, she swore to kill me. She does that a lot. She's as mean as that witch in Oz, if you don't give her what she wants. Funny, I can't recall her name though." Think and think then remember: "SEA-HAG!"
In a way I'm glad it happened. She thinks I'm dead and will leave me alone now. Free to enjoy my real girlfriend without worry. Maybe I owe the Smile.
We slip along cautiously. The mob thins out. Posters and billboards stop coming alive to murder each other. Now they start to feel more like my pictures--no violence, but also less sexual freedom. They hang on the sides of produce bins, in this suburban Safeway we've come to. The border of the riot zone. Still hints but just hints. Vegetables everywhere, here in suburbia. Such variety. But of six kinds of grapes, ten lettuces, which if any are organic? No grower-listings. All here is unlabeled, everything is guesswork. I feel a vague regret. The riot had its advantages: you could tell who everyone really was... who felt what.
I say "If I'm gonna travel thru time, can't I go to 60s and 70s health food markets, not these slick 80s things?"
My girlfriend seems to have disappeared too, among the big flawless vegetables. Can't I find love or even sex outside a riot? Cold or scalding--why can't my passions just be... warm?
NOTES ON WAKING
The president is of course George Bush (senior), who at one point in his campaign literally wrapped himself in a flag. No wonder his smarmy smile proves so divisive it causes a riot...
I'm... Popeye?! I have been pushing women away, acting rude, avoiding "sissy stuff": if I let them close, old memories of abuse come up, and I turn bitter and uncomfortable. I'm not ready yet for a sexual relationship, so touching or flirting feels like teasing a wild animal--me.
I know who the murderous Sea-Hag is. In the original Popeye strip, she had a hook nose, a hatchet chin, and a tall bony frame--quite vigorous for an old woman. Horny, too. Well... while biking home from work today, I found myself idly listing all the changes in my appearance I'd make if I could; three of them were "fix my big nose, and my hatchet chin, and stop being so bony!" (I was anorexic--still thin, but stable now).
Putting my body down generated murderous rage such as I would never have believed! My body is furious at these insults, till soul and body, those old friends, go after each other with murder in mind.
ACTION: I have to take a hard, HARD look at how casually I put myself down. I've been outraging my body, and not even noticing! When I did this physically, starving myself, this was called a disease--anorexia. Is it any less pernicious now that I merely outrage my body emotionally?
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