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THIEF OF DREAMS

Acrylic painting on 4' plywood disk, 1999, playscript 2001, color comix 2003, all by Chris Wayan from a 1996 dream.

INTRODUCTION

This dream needs an introduction. Are you always yourself in dreams? Not me. But usually, whoever I am, at least I stay whoever I am!

Not in this dream. In this dream, first I was a butler in mad Count Coyote's castle, reminding him to eat between painting his dream-visions; then I traded souls with the French maid, who's really an undercover detective trying recover the Count's stolen paintings; and then I swapped souls with her girlfriend, a lesbian freshwater mermaid...

In each incarnation, I got closer to the truth about the Count's missing dream-art. It looked like the Pervert Pope stole it. Censorship? Us mermaids don't stand for THAT! So I set out with my underwater camera to catch the Thief of Dreams, so I could marry my true love...

A round painting of a mermaid photographing the hull of a ship hung with bright underwater banners.
I've cartooned it all, but the Web isn't suited to display flowing full-page layouts--the only way I could convey the undersea feeling of the dream. So I've adapted the comics-script into play format (a script's a script, after all!) and added spot illustrations.

Is THIEF OF DREAMS true? Yes. I can't swear to every detail--my dream recall's good, but not THAT good! Still, I lived in this castle, I knew these people, I saw these events. This tale is not fantasy, but biography.

Dream biography.


THIEF OF DREAMS


Who steals dreams? Have you wondered? I don't -- not anymore.

One night, I dreamed I was a butler named Dirac, serving a rich madman, Count Coyote, in his castle in the Alps. Twice a day, I climbed the spiral stair to the Count's art studio, atop Wind Tower, with its twelve arches open to the air, looking out over the lake.

A dream: I'm a butler bringing lunch to Count Coyote, painting mermaids in his tower.
DIRAC: Sir... Yvette made you supper. You must eat!

COUNT COYOTE: Ah, thanks! Just set it down. Such a dream I had, Dirac! I must paint it all on the silk, before it all fades!

The Count's painting a vertical silk banner, with a sea-serpent dancing in the water, above, and deep below, a mermaid in what appears to be an aquatic stage-dressing room, before a make-up mirror, removing a large dragon-mask from her head, to hang next to the others, on the wall. Dirac hovers, staring at the mermaid. The silk, thin and translucent, glows like stained glass.

DIRAC: She's lovely, sir -- who is she?

COUNT COYOTE: Ah, Dirac... I met her in a nature reserve, where water-dragons danced. I strayed from the tour, down a forbidden stair, lured by a green light below. The stair curved down to a sea-cave half-full of water, glowing with filtered light. In alcoves, round the room, mermaids sat on shallow ledges, awash, removing their costumes: dragon wings and spines and heads. I blurted "Dragons aren't real?" And then realized... mermaids are!
I dream I meet a mermaid in her 
dressing room
A pale and wild-haired mermaid swam up and spoke to me: "The Great Ones ARE real!" I knelt at the water's edge. She reached out a webbed hand, clasped mine, and stared deep into my eyes, and said: "I've met them. They're busy with deeper things, that's all! So WE play dragon, for you, up here in the shallows... and if we dance long enough, beautifully enough, then... our spirits fill the shell! We BECOME dragons!"
I woke certain it was true, Dirac. We put on masks, we act, we play! But then one day... we ARE.

DIRAC: Oh, sir -- what a vision! Though, some of us... I'll never be a mermaid, let alone a dragon!

COUNT COYOTE (murmuring, as if to himself): Not so, old friend!

Dirac takes the empty tray down the spiral stair. At the foot, he meets the maid, Yvette, leaning against the stone wall, in the classic uniform: short black dress, white cap and lace apron. She's slender, her black hair pulled back in a ponytail. She widens her eyes in an unspoken question...
Dirac the butler and Yvette the maid meet on the castle stair, and worry whether Count Coyote will remember to eat today.
They both sigh... then laugh a little, wryly.

DIRAC: Any sign yet of the stolen art? (Thinking, aside:) I'm sure she blames me! The butler always done it!

YVETTE: I'm afraid not, M'sieur. The police say there was no break-in. They suspect one of US! (Thinking, aside:) Poor m'sieu Dirac! He blames himself so! If only I could tell him he's not a suspect. But I mustn't blow my cover!)

Yvette sighs and takes the oval tray the back to the kitchen. Old Dirac watches her go with longing in his eyes.

DIRAC: She's so patient with the Count! A loving heart... (He paces, muttering...) I know the staff -- I should spot the thief! How I'd love to impress Yvette. If only this were a Romance, not a Whodunit! (He pauses, staring into a mirror.) No... she'd still overlook a shy old man. She's young, fair, deep in love... Ah, would that I were!

Suddenly, his reflection in the mirror looks suspiciously like the Mad Count.

COUNT COYOTE: Mind what you wish for, Dirac--you may get it!

Something winged emerges from Dirac's head and skims through the arch, after Yvette. She gasps and drops the tray with a clang. Her eyes flutter.

YVETTE: My... my soul's migrated! Dirac's memories are gone. I recall only... Yvette's! I... AM Yvette! But... is HE a soulless zombie now?

She turns to stare at the butler, who walks off, looking calm and happy.

YVETTE: Hm... guess not...

Yvette looks down at herself and twirls around the room on her little black shoes, apron and ponytail flying, the white wing and the black.

YVETTE: Wow! So now I'm Yvette, here to find who's stealing the Count's art. Well, if I'm a spunky girl detective now, let's do some legwork! Mmm... nice legs to work on! I LIKE being Yvette! Oops -- focus! THINK!

She leans on the stone still of an arched window and looks out on the lake, chin cupped in her hands.
Yvette the maid stares out the castle window, musing on absent-minded Count Coyote.
YVETTE: When I came here, I disliked the Count -- letting us care for him like a baby! Lost in his dreams... and neglecting his county! But his dreams are stunning, painted on those silk banners. His art funds half the county's programs -- maybe the thieves want to cripple those, not get rich. After all, his art would be hard to fence--anyone can recognize it. Profit? Or... POLITICS?

At the foot of the tower, a cloud of dust. Barking. Excited, even hysterical barking.

YVETTE: Oh, no! Has the dog found a body?

Cursing, she pulls away from the window and runs breakneck down the stairs.

YVETTE: Castle, Mad Baron, buried secrets -- what is this, a GOTHIC? Whatever that is down there, it better be a clue to cut through this mystery... 'cause if it's a Moldering Corpse®, I'm out of here!

As Yvette races out the door, she passes the magic mirror.

HER FLEETING REFLECTION (whispering): Mind what you wish for.

Yvette kneels on the lawn beside a fair-sized pit, which the count's dog, a retriever, is steadily enlarging. At the bottom, a handle protrudes from the earth.

YVETTE: A... a sword? It looks ancient! Yet it shines...

She doesn't mean it's clean. It isn't. But around it shimmers a field of distorted ripples as if it's scorching hot. Yvette squats in the mud-pit and touches the handle. It doesn't burn.

YVETTE: The... Sword in the Mud? So who am I, King Arthur?

She grasps and pulls. The sword, a gently curved scimitar, slides easily out of the earth. On impulse, she spreads her legs and raises the sword high above her head.

YVETTE: I hight Sir Yves, Knight of ye Tower Round!
Yvette the maid finds the dog has dug up what appears to be a magic sword.
A medieval bard, or at least a man in soft boots, tights, and a medieval doublet with puffy slashed shoulders, and playing a lute, strolls up the lawn. But he wears modern glasses, and he's playing jazz.

THE BARD: My! A programmable dowsing scimitar! Quite a find...

YVETTE: Detective Sergeant Gaughan!

THE BARD (winking): Oh, no, milady, you do mistake me. A humble Jazz Gypsy am I, spreadin' the gospel of Django Reinhardt... call me Tim!

YVETTE: Uh, yes sir -- I mean, "Tim." Sir, I know a scimitar's a curved sword like this, but... Dowsing? Isn't dowsing how witches find water? What's that got to do with swords or... or programming?

The bard, or detective, or whatever he is, sits on a stone bench by a sundial, and twangs a bluesy little number on his lute, which, close-up, looks to be half guitar. A... galoot?
Tim, a detective posing as a medieval bard.
THE BARD: Well, most water-witches do prefer hazel wands. But a PROGRAMMABLE dowser, whether sword or wand, can find water, gold, blood, even individual people! An excellent addition to your crimestopper's toolkit!

YVETTE (holding the sword up so the dog eagerly climbing her leg can't reach it): But... I don't know how to use it!

THE BARD: Just ask the sword. With that you won't need backup... I mean, a bard! Happy hunting, Yvette!

And he strolls off across the grounds, plinking and plunking his way between trees like some echolocating land-porpoise...

YVETTE (still a bit stunned): Witches. Hazel wands. Ask the sword. Uh huh... Ah, what the hell...

She steps back into the kitchen and raises the sword. Fixing her eyes on its lofted tip, she says...

YVETTE: O sword... find the art thieves! Or the art... or the body! (Muttering, she adds:) Jeez, I feel silly. (The sword comes alive, swinging round to slap viciously at the door of the refrigerator. It pulls Yvette into a roundhouse swing, knocking the toaster off the ledge. A savage vertical hack demolishes the blender. Yvette's eyes widen in horror, and she roars...)
I dream that modern appliances confuse my magic sword. Rather than find the treasure, it trashes my microwave.
Yes. The microwave.

And the stereo.

And the hairdryer.

And the..

At last, we find Yvette hatless and disheveled, sitting on the floor in front of the skewered TV. She's growling.

YVETTE: You really are magic, aren't you, sword? But your medieval makers never imagined the complex energy fields of modern life...

She sighs and gets up and grabs a broom and sweeps the debris into a corner. She toes the scimitar, hesitates, then shoves it into the pile.

YVETTE: Sword... you just can't hack it.
I dream my magic sword just trashes my microwave. So I leave it on the floor and go swimming.
Fists clenched, she pushes her way out the main doors with their fleur-de-lis emblems--or are they stylized clovers--the club suit? Is this a house of cards? No matter now--Yvette leaves it. She walks into the woods. She takes her time and muses aloud...

YVETTE: Clues, clues... visions in a tower, like Yeats or Robinson Jeffers... or Jung! Service, castle, mirror: Snow White? Dog, sword, crescent sword, Islam. Wizardry fails. The butler didn't do it... but who?

The path opens onto a lawn sweeping down to a clearwater cove with a small wooden jetty. Yvette walks out to the end and sits crosslegged, staring at the lake.
Yvette, Count Coyote's maid, sits by the lake, mulling over the Case of the Stolen Dreams.
YVETTE: who steals dreams? Why? Do they lack their own? Or do they hate the Count's message?

A long, low boat, mastless and motorless, is being poled across the lake by a young man in a brown robe. Near the prow stands a white-bearded old man in a crimson robe and high bulbous red hat. He points straight at Yvette, and the boat swings around.

PATRIARCH: Lo!

YVETTE (startled): What... what the hell's the Patriarch of the Lake want with me? I'm not even Orthodox!

She stretches a long bare leg and pokes her toe nervously in the water as the boat slowly nears. Open at the front and covered with a low arched cabin at the back, it looks like a slipper, or a paramecium. On its prow are eyes. On its side is inscribed: THE SOUL.

THE PATRIARCH: You and I have matters to discuss.

YVETTE: We do?

The novice poling the boat brings it to a halt by the pier. His pole has small crossbars and a loop at the top, forming an Egyptian ankh. The Patriarch reaches up and Yvette helps him onto the pier. As the novice steps forward to follow, the Patriarch turns and points at him.

PATRIARCH: This is PRIVATE, novice! Stay... sit! PLAY DEAD!

I dream I'm a detective posing as a French maid to expose an art thief. I sit on a dock, puzzling over the case. A bearded patriarch robed in red sails up and demands a word with me.
The novice looks hurt, but turns, sits facing away, and puts his hands over his ears. He knows the drill; clearly this isn't the first time. Yvette looks shocked.

YVETTE: That was a bit harsh...

PATRIARCH: No, my dear. Necessary! He lacks discipline. And this is for your ears alone.

YVETTE: (aside) At last, a break. He knows whodunit! I can feel it.

PATRIARCH: Closer, my child... The Orthodox Patriarch gropes Yvette the maid.

He slides in until his voluminous robe half-surrounds Yvette, and his beard prickles her neck. She waits for the revelation. It comes. His tongue enters her ear. One hand scuttles around her waist and up under her dress, while the other gropes at her breast. Yvette thrashes loose, raising her fists...

YVETTE (snarls): YOU PRICK!

NOVICE: (roused by her shout, even through plugged ears) Ma'am, are you all right?

YVETTE: Uh... yeah. Just got some bad news... (She turns and grabs the patriarch by the beard, shoves her face close to his, and hisses:) Listen, you ear-suckin' weasel! A lot of folks like that kid BELIEVE in you. For his sake, I'm not rippin' your lips off... but I'll be watching. Harass one more girl... and you're dead.

PATRIARCH (the strangest mix of desire, arrogance and loathing in his voice): Maid, know your place! I'm here to save you -- I know where you slake your lust... what you plan to wed! MONSTROUS!

YVETTE (grinning fiercely and waving a finger in his face): It's legal in Coyote County, so get used to it!

THE PATRIARCH (wheels and steps down into his boat. As the boat glides away, a parting shot): It won't be, if the Mad Count FALLS, girl!

NOVICE (faintly, as the boat recedes into the distance): God help you find the truth, ma'am.

Yvette, shaken, lies on her stomach on the warm wood pier, elbows on the edge, and lets her mind drift. She finds herself thinking of an ancient tropical swamp. Smoking volcanoes loom over the trees. Long-neck dinos rear from the water. A sluggish, clumsy, armor-plated fish heaves into view: a Patriarch Fish! Lobe-fins, long beard, and a red swollen phallic head...
Cartoon in a thought balloon: a bearded religious Patriarch portrayed as a coelocanth back in the Mesozoic.
YVETTE (sourly): Unchanged in 200 million years...

She starts idly kicking the pier with the tops of her feet, and finally sits up and trails one leg over the edge again till her toes dip in the water.

YVETTE: Well, he certainly has a motive. Means? No problem, he has groupies for that. Opportunity? Mm, save it for later--the real question is: where does he hide it all?

The ripples from her foot conceal something rising beneath the pier. Stealthily, two spiny ribbed ears, like fish-fins, break the surface. Suddenly the creature bites Yvette's toe. She lets out a loud whoop.

YVETTE: You!

She stands up and tears off her lace apron, throwing it in the air. For a moment the waist-straps and shoulder-hole spread and loop to form a sign we've seen before: the Egyptian ankh.

She peels off her dress and stands naked a moment, then leaps off the end of the pier, clasping her knees midair. Claire, a freshwater mermaid

YVETTE (screaming): CANNONBALL!

A huge splash. Confusion underwater: Bubbles and a wild fan of black hair and pale scales and pink skin, mingling. The bubbles clear to show Yvette kissing a girl with fins for ears, and scaly gold-green legs fused into a long dolphin tail.

At last, they rise to the surface so Yvette can breathe. Holding hands, they watch the castle on the hill, reflected in the cove to form a green diamond. As they swim in to a small beach, they start talking about the case. Claire rests her head on Yvette's hip and strokes her breast.

YVETTE: I miss you up there... it's the weirdest case.

CLAIRE: Any suspects at all?

YVETTE: Well, I THINK it's the Patriarch.

CLAIRE: No proof?

YVETTE: No.

Claire slides her hand under Yvette's chin and pulls her head round till their eyes meet.

CLAIRE: So why's my fiancee kissing her suspect? Wanna call off our wedding?

YVETTE (stroking Claire's nipple): I was investigating.
(She pulls Claire's head up to her breast, and adds) He was groping.
(She leans over to kiss Claire's breast as her hand strokes the pink fold hidden among Claire's golden scales, and murmurs:) THIS is kissing.

Claire's long slender tail arches up between Yvette's thighs

CLAIRE (eyes closed, gasping as Yvette's tongue enters her): Oh, Yvette... (she wriggles round till her head rests on Yvette's thigh and she too can lick dreamily) Mmm, sexy thighs...

YVETTE (giggling): Aw, who else do you know who even HAS thighs?

They roll and play at the water's edge like sleepy seals...
Yvette the undercover detective and her fiancee, a freshwater mermaid, make love on the beach.  Click to enlarge.

MUCH, MUCH LATER

Yvette sits exactly at the waterline, stroking Claire's spiky seaweed hair.

YVETTE: I just wish I could track him unseen...

CLAIRE (playing with Yvette's feet in the water): Your toes are amazing. Wish I had 'em!

Unnoticed, their reflections simultaneously whisper:

REFLECTIONS: Mind what you wish for!

CLAIRE AND YVETTE (suddenly clutching each other, shaking, eyes squeezed shut): I feel dizzy!

Yvette's ponytail suddenly whips up as if alive, and out of its end shoots a white-winged girl who dives into Claire's spiky head just as a finned green angel leaps from Claire in a desperate arc and dives in Yvette's forehead.

Claire opens her eyes. My eyes.

Leaf-shaped painting of me as a mermaid detective. CLAIRE (dreamily, stunned): I... I'm Claire, a fresh-water mermaid. I love Yvette -- we'll marry as soon as she solves this case... (shakes her head and settles in) so I better get on it! Yvette, the Patriarch's on the lake -- he's mine! You learned what route they used to get the art out of the castle -- if any.

YVETTE: If any? There has to be one!

CLAIRE: Love, you're a detective. You'd find any logical answer. Now me, I'm a magical thinker...

YVETTE: Oui, Mademoiselle Mystere!

CLAIRE (snorting): I'm not saying till I see.

She rolls into the water and sets out for the depths.

CLAIRE (brooding as she dives): Yvette underestimates him. I saw him once without his novice to pole the boat. He just pointed -- and the Soul obeyed. He may be a bastard, but he has power!

A memory unfolds: a starry Van Gogh night, the boat in the cove below the castle, and standing on the deck of the soul, a red robed man grinning as a faint trail of light arcs from the art studio atop the tower down to his waiting arms.

THE PATRIARCH (crooning): Come to Papa...

And they do. Silk banners fall like flower petals...

CLAIRE: If he can command the Soul, why not Count Coyote's dreams? They're light as silk... But where does he hide them? He can't sell them...

Claire approaches and underwater crag with oval glassy eyes. Windows. Home! She slips through a round mouth into a light green grotto, lined with treasure nooks. Hats and combs and toothbrushes hang from driftwood branches.

CLAIRE: Besides, he already has money! (She rummages in a nook so deep only her tail appears) I think it's about... power!

Claire wriggles backward and emerges with a yellow underwater camera on a cord in her webbed hand. She sets out into the lake, camera bumping at her breast.

CLAIRE (humming): Ohhh, I'mmm just an unnnderwater tooourist...

She passes under a yellow fisherman's raft. She can hear faint music above. Not an experienced angler! The bobbing lure attracts Claire a moment, and she reaches out to yank it. A little devil mermaid appears over Claire's left shoulder and tugs at her left ear-fin.

DEVIL: Pull it!

A finny angel pops onto her right shoulder and caresses her cheek.

ANGEL (whispering in Claire's right here): No time!

Though she normally finds dousing idiots almost irresistible, Claire fights off temptation and swims on, staying low, among the rocks, until she reaches a sort of pass. Beyond, a shallow lobe of the lake stretches past visibility, a tan sand plateau scattered with eel-grass. Above floats the Soul. But what should be a sleek whale-shape is transformed. Brilliant ripples of color like a dozen lurid legs writhe around the hull.

Claire glides under its shadow. Her own skin and scales glow with strange colors as the sunken banners surround her. Rippling birds, tigers, unicorns, mermaid-angels, and exquisite monsters... She spreads arms and whirls in wonder. And then practicality sets in. The legend of the Sunken Cathedral has come alive around her... but it's done with stolen goods. So Claire swims through the magic forest, clicking her camera steadily.
Claire the mermaid detective finds the stolen banners hanging from a boat's hull.  Click to enlarge.
At last, she surfaces at the stern of the boat. The acolyte gawks at her pale breasts and sharp fish-eating teeth.

CLAIRE: Hi there. Did you know your Soul has a lot of stuff stuck on the hull? I think it's holding you back.

NOVICE (gulping): I'm forbidden to listen to your kind...

CLAIRE: Wow! I heard your boss was homophobic, but --

NOVICE: You'll seduce me in to drown! Already I sense your allure...

CLAIRE Seduce you? Wow, I'm flattered. Really. But I'm, uh, engaged. I just noticed your hull...

THE PATRIARCH (thundering over the cabin roof): Risking thy SOUL!

NOVICE (clapping hands around his head like a scared monkey): Forgive me!

THE PATRIARCH (pointing at Claire and roaring like a prehistoric beast): In God's name, monster, BE GONE!

CLAIRE (clicking a shot at the waterline, Patriarch above, loot below): You will. Soon.

THE NEXT DAY. THE DOCK.

Yvette lies on her stomach with photos spread before her while Claire hangs by a claw from the piling, examining a handful and sighing.

CLAIRE: They all have smudges in the upper left. What did I do wrong. Are they ruined? I'm not used to land technology...

YVETTE: Oh, your thumb-claw just blocked the lens a bit. These are great -- you nailed him!

A LITTLE LATER. THE DOCK.

Dirac and Yvette watch as a large policeman and the Undercover Bard drag off the Patriarch, who's cursing a blue streak.

TIM: My!

POLICEMAN: And him a man o' the cloth!

YVETTE (calling, too late): Uh, you forgot his hat!

She picks it up and carries it onto the pier, where the Novice is staring at Heaven, shouting...
Yvette the maid gives the Orthodox Novice the Patriarch's red hat. He wonders why the Patriarch committed such crimes.
NOVICE: Why, God? Why did he do it?

YVETTE: Kid... I guess this is yours, now.

NOVICE: But I'm not worthy to fill his hat!

YVETTE: But that just proves it! You're humble...

DIRAC (chiming in): Honest... kind...

CLAIRE (popping from the water and resting naked beside him): And wise! You resisted all my wiles! (Sonorously) You pass the test--you have been Chosen!

She slides back in the water before she cracks up laughing.

DIRAC (solemnly raising the red hat of office over the Novice's head): Allow me, sir...

Yvette walks back to the beach, to cuddle and privately confer with Claire.

YVETTE (pointing accusingly at Claire): Wiles, eh?

CLAIRE (eyes modestly shut, clawed forefinger pointed at her breast): I'll have you know I'm ALLURING!

NOVICE (back on the pier, on his knees) Let me not fall into pride, O Lord!

DIRAC (walking up and bowing to Claire and Yvette): I wish you joy. Happy endings for all!

CLAIRE (whispering to Yvette): All? All Dirac has is a doomed crush on YOU! He's a sweet guy, if he'd just get out of that tower! I'll throw some cousins and dryads at him! (Loudly:) Oh, Dirac! There's a friend I want you to meet at the wedding. (Privately, to Yvette again:) A friend or twelve!

DIRAC: I... I'd be honored, Mlle. Claire.

DAYS LATER. THE WEDDING.

Yvette stands thigh-deep in the cove, in a fetching white swimsuit, while Claire rears from the water beside her. They wear matching diamond rings. A brawny merman with spikes down his back and toothy grin is officiating. A pale-blonde, younger mermaid holds the bouquet. Dirac, in tophat, tailed coat, and surfer shorts, is talking to a couple of leaf-haired women. Detective Sergeant Gaughan is strumming a wedding march. On shore, Count Coyote himself is painting the scene, next to the Novice, excuse me, the new Patriarch.

CLAIRE AND YVETTE: We do!

THE MERMAN MINISTER: You may kiss the brides!

Two merfolk leap over the happy couple like exuberant dolphins, splashing the crowd. As the dog leaps into the water, and the brides kiss...

Wedding between Yvette the undercover maid and Claire the mermaid detective.  Click to enlarge.

And I woke. Whoever "I" am... today.

NOTES IN THE MORNING

A FOOTNOTE ON TAROT: the dream brims with Tarot imagery and archetypes:
All four Tarot suits are richly represented too:

LISTS AND LINKS: art and artists - dreams about dreams - towers, especially the recurring image of Wind Tower - Patricia McKillip - Yeats - Count Coyote's dream (yes, it was a real dream of mine) - theft - politics - souls - cross-gender dreams - swords - buried memories - fanatics - popes and patriarchs - ships and boats - clitoral symbols - rape, exploitation, and harassment - mermaids - lesbians - The Mermaid Tow: a second dream of being a gay mermaid - sex dreams in general - lesbian sex - underwater dreams - religion - freedom of expression versus censorship - out of the closet! - dream weddings - round art - paintings - The finished printed full-color comix edition of THIEF OF DREAMS -

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