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Dreamed 1997/11/1 by Chris Wayan

A bank of time-fog. Rising from the soft gray mist is a crag with an immense spire that looks grown, not built. The City of the Future, rising above the fog of time.

It's dramatic, even beautiful in a macho way, but it feels wrong to me: built too high, built too sharp, out of touch with the earth. Behind the crag are huge boxy towers, like the Chicago skyline. The fog clears a bit, and I see more of the city, the houses and streets--it doesn't look like an evil place. But not beautiful, either, except that one dramatic spire... and drop. Dull, if anything. Just damn big.

A big city dominated by a rock spire half a kilometer high.
I enter Future City on foot. At least I'm with friends who know the place. Still, I'm uneasy; I have no passport or visa, and my ancient money will be worthless here. If they even use money still. Mark, a dreamworker who's toured the city before, tells me "Just hang out in the B Cafes, they're pretty safe--anonymous people, food plain but edible, and the music's acoustic. We should avoid the A Clubs, they're more avant-garde and prestigious and interesting, but there's too much risk of being caught. C and D clubs are anonymous enough, but they can be violent." I worry that I'll be allergic to B food even if Mark thinks it's harmless, but we try a sidewalk cafe, a B. People leave us alone at least. I'll have to reserve judgment on the food.

Cops walk by, each with one private eye. The other eye, the public eye, is a camera lens that their superiors peer through. Ugh. New in town and already I hate City Hall.

Uh-oh. Now MY vision is changing! I have partly artificial vision myself! But instead of one natural eye and one camera, each eye is mixed: 3/4 of the signals my optic nerve picks up are of the physical world before me, but 1/4 are signals from another plane of existence! At first I think it's just UV or heat or radio waves, but I see a ghostly second world superimposed on the dominant one. I feel disoriented--the two visual fields clash, make me dizzy. I can't attend to both at once. But I'd better get used to it--because it's not going away. It's not static, not some error! The other world comes through clearest when my visual field in this world is dark and quiet. A recessive second world, as real as the dominant. Just masked by physicality, like a recessive gene!

I decide it's just too hard to get around on foot in Future City, so I start skimming winglessly, following the fogbank toward the top of the crag-spire at the heart of town. I land on its terraced shoulder, in a crowd of young people who picnic and play guitars and lie on the grass enjoying the view. I sidle up to the brink, and peek over. Scary! It's changed again. Not a spire now--we're on the lip of a gigantic well, a good three kilometers deep. Windows and balconies all the way down! The Pit, they call it. Dream: picnickers on a clifftop watch calmly as a robotic panel tips a woman over the edge.

The crowd is waiting for a special event: the announced, public suicide of a town leader. I slowly step through the crowded picnickers toward the spot. Someone's composing a cynical song about her already, sings "Adieu, Thieu." I see her now, ahead, standing on the edge, an Asian girl no more than 25. I feel sad that she's killing herself. I'm partly being selfish: she's cute, she has a nice aura, and I'd ask her out if she weren't part of this spy-eye government. But maybe that's why she's doing it.

If she IS doing it. She looks reluctant and resigned, not suicidal. IS it suicide? Or... execution?

The City suddenly extrudes a steel wall with windows between her and the rest of us, then tilts it outward. She clings to it as long as she can and I realize with horror that it's true, this isn't suicide at all. Murder. Political murder

She falls silently into the Pit. Long seconds of freefall until she's receded to a dot and is gone.

She never cried out.

I feel bad--happened too fast for me to fully realize it wasn't her choice, too fast to do anything to stop it. Now I wonder if Thieu was a whistle-blower, fighting the police state I fear this city's become.

My friends and I are the closest people to the spot where Thieu was pushed off. The grass starts moving, carrying us along with it. The floor reverts to astroturf, then to corrugated steel. Walls grow up around us till we're in a sort of open steel gondola like a roofless subway car. The mechanism which grew the wall that isolated and killed Thieu is returning to its storage place, now that the execution's over. After a moment of panic, I calm down--a low-ranking City worker is with us; it's meant to be ridable, it isn't going to fold up and crush us. She looks more like a cocktail waitress than a plane or train attendant--what a short skirt, and what whimsical looking insignia... Oh! I recognize it now! That's Sailormoon's outfit! Maybe she'll help us.

But Sailormoon just stands there, glancing shyly at us, then away... damn. She's in her shy, alter-ego mode. That's the trouble with superheroes...

But then what's MY excuse for shyness?

The gondola zooms on, through branching tunnels, as Sailormoon and I take turns dropping our eyes and not speaking... Damn! She's so cute! Say something!


The tunnels aren't subwayish at all; more like the basement corridors of a school or hospital. Our car pauses at some junctions then turns and charges on. I start to suspect it's remote-controlled by a human making choices, not returning automatically to end a fixed program. Of course, I could ask Sailormoon. Just open your mouth, Wayan... come on...

Deep in the City of Time, the shyness-battle goes on and on...


Grandma is disoriented too. She's been flying in the time-fog still covering most of the City of the Future, looking for her friend, a bird--genetically engineered into a person? Still only about seagull size, so she's not easy to spot in this mist. Grandma can't find her, just lots of natural birds. Only they don't look natural to her anymore, for somehow, inside the fog of time, Grandma shrank. Dream: giant birds chase an old woman flying in fog. Or is she tiny? She curls up in fear.

She's smaller than they are, now! And, to her horror, they shriek and attack, big as pterodactyls or dragons to her, tearing at her with beaks bigger than her head.

Terrified, she dives back into the fog. She flutters on, feeling smaller and smaller, though it's hard to be sure, with no reference points. Still, she's grateful for the fog; in clear air she'd be torn apart, eaten alive by now.

She has brown moth-wings now, and thinks "I must be getting very small... only one bite for a bird."

Who or what brought this nightmare on her? Grandma thinks back to the people she's met... and bumbles out of the fog-bank for a minute. She lands on a ledge on a spire, and the birds dive at her... only to veer off shrieking alarm, for she's human-sized again!

Takes a lot more trial and error to realize what controls her size: just her expectations. She sought birds, and became one; she feared being a bird's meal, and became one; she thought of humans and resumed being one. "You are what you think, on the astral plane."

So what... so what did Thieu become? Thieu, who clung to life, not death, in her last moments? When she fell into the fog of time... what happened to her? Can I assume she's dead?

Not a tidy ending, not an ending at all--but then, I've always preferred foggy endings to death.


LISTS AND LINKS: biotechnology - time travel - big-city dreams - weird dreams of Mark - vision - political dreams - violent dreams - flying dreams - babes - opportunities lost - frustration dreams - astral travel - size matters - same dreamer, second dream inspired by James Blish: Owl and Cheese - Dan O'Neill - an epic dream of Starhawk - an early, silly dream of Suzanne Somers

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