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SWAN

Dreamed 1995/4/8 by Chris Wayan

Sketch of a dream by Wayan: I wake up wearing the Orange Dress of Ugly Judgments

I wake in a bare cabin. My mind is bare too. Who am I?

The only clothing in the room is a loud orange minidress, draped over the back of a wooden chair, like a huge, limp poppy petal.

What sex am I? I check. Male. I put the dress on. No choice.

There's an oval full-length mirror. I look into it. The dress is tight, but just long enough. I think for a moment I can pass as a girl. But when I see and judge myself as female, I immediately think "My butt's too skinny." Concave my lower back, thrust chest and ass out. Better but still too skinny. No breasts. Hairy legs. Waist not slender enough. Long horse face. Bony elbows. Big nose...

On and on the self-criticisms flow... till I notice these aren't my thoughts. Without realizing, I was unconsciously reading them off the dress--it's dyed with a thousand scrawled put-downs!

Not my thoughts, but I can't deny it's true: I'll never live up to this dress, never fill it up, never be as cool as a girl.

One wall has a picture window. I look out, sadly. Alaska, but an impossible panorama of a thousand miles, from the fjords of Sitka to the tundra of Nome. And in that vast expanse I see... three MORE of me! Oh, they're different ages, races, genders, but they're all wandering the wilderness, bewildered... in clothes like mine, dyed with hateful judgments! Their clothes say "Slut, stupid, drunk, lazy, illiterate, superstitious, weak, cold, sloppy, greedy, fat..." Sketch of a dream by Wayan: I break into the lab where the Dress of Ugly Judgments was dyed.

There's MALICE behind this! Why are our minds so blank? Who cursed us like this?

I think it's lasted years. But now I'm waking up.

I can think of only one clue. I'm an artist; I know something about dyes. So I trace the dye-lot used on the dress.

It came from a small lab near Anchorage.

I head there, and late one night, I break in.

The lab REEKS of magic! Someone's been brewing curses like coffee. The source of our misery is here, all right! I flip through their lab notes and records...

Just as I find the data on our dye, the Dye Wizard bursts in.

My mind clears a bit. I know him! He clouded my mind with a powerful curse keeping me from thinking about certain things, including him. I got around it sometimes by thinking in other languages, but it left me lost, forgetful, ashamed. Even crippled as I've been, I've fought him a long time.

He says with distinct pleasure "You just keep remembering, don't you? You cause too much trouble, as a man. Let's you interfere with me as... a swan!"

I climb on the lab bench and grab flasks to throw at him--but my arms start melting as he chants "TEHANU, GOHA, TENAR!"

Wham! A cloud of steam, and...

Sketch of a dream by Wayan: the Dye Wizard turns me into a swan in his lab.
As my bones stretch and hollow, I feel a shock of searing clarity! I hiss and glare with my new sharp little eyes and clacking bill--but inside I feel relieved. He's forgotten that his old curse was laid on a human being, and now I'm a swan--for the first time in years, I can think freely! I lost my hands, but won my mind. And wings, and wings, and wings.

The Dyer's net of words is broken, my soul flies free! And he doesn't even notice what he's done.

He laughs as I shriek in my swan-voice and fly from the lab... and out of his life.

Sketch of a dream by Wayan: as a wild Alaskan swan, I fly free. Below, the wizard who swanned me laughs to think how I'm cursed... Click to enlarge.
I have to hunt for food with no hands. Raw squiggly fish all day. Yuck. Even so, I can fly... and more important, think. I know who I am now. I'll find my other selves, and reunite us, tear off their judgmental covers, even their bodily forms if I have to.

Sketch of a dream by Wayan: cursed by a wizard, turned to a swan, I find... I'm glad! And then... wizard-whacking time.

THE ANSWERS

DEDICATION

This tale is for all of us who were cursed, hit, split, labeled, or left to dye. You know who you are... if you're lucky.

Don't grieve for us, merely cursed to be wild and inhuman. Pray for the others--for those who NEVER wake... to read the writing on themselves.



LISTS AND LINKS: I'm Just Not Myself Today - cross-species dreams - Alaska - gender dysphoria - negativity, pessimism and doubt - personality integration - spells and curses - transformations - Ursula Le Guin (Tehanu) - wizards - dreambirds - swans and herons - Socrates's Swan - joy

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