Dreamed 2000/10/5 by Chris Wayan
I'm still numb over my dad's death last month. No energy. As long as I'm miserable anyway, I might as well clean house. Vacuum for two hours, and there's still more to do--the music and sculpture areas are dust traps. But a start on all the neglect of the last six months, while he was dying.
Bike over to sculpture class at San Francisco City College. Make an effort, at least talk with my classmates a bit. Work on a bas-relief, The Rainbow Sleeper--a sculpture of a dream of a sculpture--grocery shoppers veer round a giant sleeper rising through the store floor like a reef from the sea. It's coming out half-mystical half-comical; I like that.
And (to my surprise) my Fashion Shoot (below, right) survived low-firing; what glazes does it want?
Time for my allergy shots. From school, the clinic's over the shoulder of Mt Davidson, the highest hill in San Francisco. Steep, and I get lost on the winding streets--must back down and reclimb several blocks. Over the top at last and down 7th Avenue. Dangerous journey--bike lanes appear and abruptly end, forcing me into heavy traffic. Arrive late. The clinic's crowded, but they agree to still see me if I can wait.
Watch a couple speaking a Slavic language I don't know--Czech? One's a teenager glowing with love; her girlfriend's quite a bit older. They peer out the window at a fashion shoot below us, fascinated by the barebellied model with the tattooed hip. They whisper and touch and embrace... and then something shifts and I see they may not be lovers, but from a culture with no boundaries at all between mother and daughter. Maybe they weren't drooling at the model but at the hunky photographer.
Straight or gay, they ignore me completely.
The world sure seems to want me to notice sex today. Several attractive new staff members, one sprawled all over a computer chair, baring half her butt, and a tall blonde who teases me as she takes my pulse, making it go up... They put me in a room used for ob/gyn exams with a graphic poster of a giant vagina on the wall, labia pulled open like a flower in bloom. Makes me feel rather shy as if a huge naked girl's in the room who'll be embarrassed if I stare. How real images are for me! Are other artists like this?
After allergy shots I'm always tired. Bike slowly home. Find a phone message from Suzanne the sexy violinist. She's playing tonight in a cafe across town. If I'd known earlier... but now it's just too late. I do wish I were across town in the cafe--wherever it is. Suzanne wasn't quite sure of the address of her gig!
Promised Lily earlier I'd look at her computer which isn't booting. Ha! The mystery noise she was alarmed by is just her speaker beeping constantly because she's got so many papers on her desk that they half-cover her keyboard, perpetually pressing several keys. I'm not the world's only depressed slob!
Watch TV. Drift with it.
And they call Hollywood liberal?
But I'm just so tired--feel the opposite of an otter's energy.
Try again in the morning! Drag myself to bed.
I'm in India, studying at an ashram. Not studying meditation, but how to explore other realms. A shamanic ashram! A warm, happy place.
And Silky's by my side! After months alone, she's back. This time around she's not a horse or cat but a human girl for a change; and I'm a wolf-man, not the Hollywood kind of course, just your average wolf with an improved braincase and opposable thumbs.
Sweet days learning magic, sweet nights with my soulmate again! Paradise.
Today's astral journey is to a new place, through an automatic sliding glass door. On the other side is a shamanic space that our teachers warned usually disorients us mortals. "And the resident gods can be difficult if you run into them." We do, in fact, but handle them quite well, for I'm calmer and braver than usual, and Silky displays a sly intuition our teachers didn't expect.
No wonder. When we return, our teachers discover that our souls partly swapped! The animal intuition was from me, while Silky's courage and calm spilled over onto me.
Our senior teacher says "Wayan, you must return your borrowed soul-shard now." He doesn't tell Silky anything of the sort. I'm offended that he singles me out: I've suspected this teacher of antiwolf bias before, but this is blatant. I'm an animal so I don't understand souls, or responsibility, or something, while Silky doesn't need a reminder because she's human--today. Her favorite shape is a black mare, not a human girl. Is he unaware he's let a horse study in his ashram? Or is it sexism, does he think females are nobler or purer than males? His tone clearly implied it's an unequal exchange--I'm likely to covet Silky's soul-shard but she won't want mine. My soul's worth less. Worthless?
I was just about to swap our soul-shards back, but now I'm mad. Say coolly "Oh? What's my incentive? What'll you offer me?" I have plenty of intuition left, and I can use Silky's courage. I am right now, come to think of it.
Our teacher's a middle-management god, used to respectful Indian students, not American sass. He goes ballistic! Swears to kill me, and THEN to hound my days on Earth with demons, until I give up the "stolen" soul-shard. Silky makes no move to swap them back--I know she was just as happy as I was about the mix, and can get along fine, mixed. Enhanced a bit, if anything, just like me.
So I say "Not till you apologize and pay a fair price, since you think it's worth so much." I don't quite know why he rubs me the wrong way, but he does. And even if my wolf brain tends to frame this as a dominance quarrel, animal intuition says it's ultimately about a principle.
He summons a demon to fight for him! Fine with me--I don't want to fight a god, and demons may be tough but they're henchmen, followers--pretty unimaginative. We spar magically til it falls for a trick. I send it home tied in its own assumptions. Ha!
Silky and I decide to leave before he calls up more demons. In the outer halls of the ashram, Silky pauses to put a coin discreetly in a floor-nook; she puts another in a corner under a shabby dome outside that, just off the marketplace. Offering a coin is a folk custom said to block curses. And it works, I think: another demon appears, but again it's not that bright and I defeat it pretty quickly. Would mortals normally survive a god's direct wrath this long? Silky says "I've been putting TWO coins in each nook instead of one, hoping that'd help." Maybe it does: the god sends more of his little assassins but they fail and fail. In between demons, I wonder about those coins. Silky says "No mortal would dare remove them" and surely the gods are too smug to... so who does? Why don't they build up? Someone gets up the nerve to collect them eventually.
The next little demon comes out of a log. A talkative demon, this one. So I tie it up in logic. Well, illogic. Hm, log, logic, illogic. Almost a syllogism! Can I dialogue it round to our side, or must we remain at, uh, loggerheads?
Then all goes hazy... and when I'm clear again... Silky's gone.
I'm stepping through another dimensional gate, side by side with a demon--a life-size demon. Did the god send him to kill me? If so, he's forgotten to. In fact he's friendly, for a demon. He actually seems to want to help me, within the limits of his nature: he loves to annoy mortals, it's his only pleasure. As long as I don't put him down for that, I'm his best friend!
I don't think he has many friends.
Pale predawn light. Ahead of us sprawls a village: a line of drab cement-block cabins, on a reedy mud flat. Beyond, on the horizon, water gleams, a mile off, perhaps. Hard to tell, without trees to show the scale. Off to the left, cars sail across the marsh on a road hidden in the grass, toward a bridge crossing the Bay, though I'm unsure which bridge: can't see it from here.
The demon knocks on the nearest door, stamps the ground till it shakes and rumbles. It's early in the morning, and he's waking the whole village. And loving every stomp.
No one answers. He moves to the next, and the next, quake-dancing and making a racket, till at long last, one door opens. A bleary-eyed otter peers out. More like a giant mole, this early in the morning.
I've never seen a less playful otter.
The demon seems to know him already--walks on in. And you know they can't do that without permission. It says "I see you got a couple of presents!" Points at two small mirrors, one hanging between some pictures at the head of the bed, the other lying on the bed.
"Yeah" says the otter. "I haven't decided yet where to hang that one. I've never had mirrors before; my people don't make them."
"Well," says the demon, doing his best to annoy, "You hung that one in a place where it clashes. Too many pictures on the wall. And hanging two mirrors will make you look vain..." and so on. Every possibility jinxed. He's a thorough guy, I'll give him that. Just... so petty. Depressing a depressed otter seems sort of cheap, doesn't it?
Well, on to business. Uh-oh. Why did I come here? How can these mudflat otters help me against an angry Hindu god?
Shit. I forgot what I was doing. This time, I distracted myself.
NOTES IN THE MORNING
The dream seems to trail off into dreary daylight, doesn't it? Mudflats, a playless otter and a nit-picking demon. Bleah. But did the dream really run out of steam, or was it waiting for me to take the initiative? Silky's back, and I have her assertive spark in me--but I seem to rouse it only when attacked! So the gods get devious--send a superficially friendly demon and make the world around me gray and dull but not deadly, and see what I'll do... Not much! So beyond the lesson above, there are two more:
I may not have to go far. There can't be THAT many depressives in an otter village, can there? And if there are... there's that bridge. Walk it to elsewhere. Anywhere.
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