Dreamed 1992/7/3 by Chris Wayan
My friend Cecy calls me. "I want to go the beach. Let's tell dreams. You drive! You will? Good! Um... I want to invite my friend Cat--would you be willing to pick up her up on the way to my house?"
"Well... I guess." Cecy knows I'm shy with strangers. "Who is she?" Cecy giggles over the wires. "Oh, you'll like her. She's beautiful, she's single, and she's looking." I'm embarrassed. Touched, too. Cecy's so angry about beautism she's writing her thesis on it, but here she is scouting out dates for me.
"I just... Cecy, I have this incredible dream to tell you, but it's about depression and sex and... I dunno if I can tell it with a stranger there."
"Oh, Cat's safe that way. She's spiritual, she's been through a lot of therapy. She's coming out of an episode of clinical depression... oh, that was confidential--don't tell her I spilled her secret."
So, hands shaking with my usual telephone fear, I call up Cat and set up a rendezvous point and... here I am driving over the central peaks of San Francisco, down to Tassajara Bakery, in Cole Valley. All I have is the description "I'm wearing a red shirt."
No trouble finding her! She stands out in the whole jammed cafe. Dark blonde, a wide-eyed face held high, huge gray irises like a cat's. Intelligent, clear rain-washed aura of a Zen master. Like a vast beach of clean beige sand, footprintless. Lovely, lonely. Withdrawn.
She's very silent. I feel awkward because she's beautiful. Don't know what to say. Cross Golden Gate Park explaining I use back roads because I can't tolerate the exhaust on the main streets. "I always learn the little corners of a city, not its heart." She's silent.
Up and down the ridiculous little hills and gullies of the Richmond, sand dunes frozen like a snapshot--stabilized by a crust of pastel-plastered apartments. Like Cecy's dumpy basement apartment. She's waiting, cheerful, though it's already cooler than when she talked me into this beach trip.
With Cecy in the car, Cat opens up a little. Intelligent, but still reserved. And wary of me, which hurts me.
Out to Baker Beach. We walk up and down, to the nude end, back to the border zone. Few people today; it's even cooler than when we picked up Cecy... oh well.
Cecy says "Let's run!" We all start jogging... They're both habitual joggers; I'm amazed I can keep up with them. The dance classes have been better workouts than I realized. A mile, still running... I'm strong!
We pass two Asian girls, fourteen or fifteen maybe, in T shirts. I've been watching them as we neared, ready to drop my eyes if they see me looking at their tilted laughing faces, their long caramel legs; feel as if it'd be harrassment to be caught looking. I hear my mother in my head, and force myself to look. The thin girl with the exquisite diamond face sees me. I almost gasp and drop my eyes, but I don't. She gives me a long appraising look. She looks serious, not teasing, and I realize she too is breaking family rules. Nice Asian girls don't cruise. I look guiltily at Cat, at Cecy, who I assume will disapprove. But they're oblivious--deep in the runner-trance. I follow them down to the end of the sand.
On the way back, we pass her again. She's taken off her shirt. Under it, she has a microbikini, shows off her long long legs and sleek belly and little breasts.
We pass a third time. Her crotch is screaming pink. Later I keep imagining I stop and talk to her. Don't even consider it at the time--must run with my friends, they'd disapprove, she'd reject me... even though she seemed as interested in me as I was in her.
She and her friend climb a sun-bleached wooden stair up the bluff, long lickable legs waving goodbye... and fluorescent pussies winking. I close my eyes, torn between where I am and where I want to be.
Not that I'd even be noticing cute strangers, if Cat weren't so distant. She talks to Cecy alone, ignoring me unless I ask her a direct question. Treats me like a chauffeur. Her eyes show open mistrust. I don't know if it's men who can't be trusted or me personally, but either way I feel hurt, insulted. That teenage girl I passed looked me in the eye... and saw me! More mature than Cat. I keep making allowances: "Oh, she's depressed." Until I am!
Cecy says "Let's each tell a dream."
Cat goes first.
"A family of dolphins were walking in the park. I start talking with them, and eventually hug one. He feels good. But he starts catching the skin on my wrist in his sharp teeth, gathering more and more until he has all the skin of my forearm in his jaws.
"And then he tears it all away..."
Cecy and I look at each other uncomfortably. We both try interpreting, asking for background... but a dull horror and fatalism--and betrayal--leaks from Cat into both of us. Devoured by a dolphin? With dreams like that, no wonder she can't trust anyone...
Cecy tells a dream of a interracial wedding with Cat in it as Cecy's daughter.
I tell my dream, "Gray Heart"... If anything can tell Cat I have something in common with her it should be this one. In it, I'm a woman who discovers that all the sexual and political issues dominating my life were just a distraction--covering depression. A gray despair I have to fight head-on. I'm beginning to wonder if it could have been directly referring to Cat, perhaps meant for her as much as for me. I had it just before Cecy told me about her, not after, but then, I've had enough precognitive dreams to know time's no barrier...
Cecy likes the dream and talks a lot about it, carefully avoiding the parallels with Cat, leaving her room to draw her own conclusions. Cat says very little, stares out to sea.
Cecy tells a happy wedding dream, then goes swimming. Cat pulls out a book and reads. A storm front glides in, gray and silver, and rain creeps visibly up the Golden Gate toward us. Cecy is very myopic and won't see the front without her glasses, so I walk down the beach--to get away from Cat, too--and tell Cecy "it's going to storm in a few minutes." We get back just in time to pack and run for the car...
Cecy says "Let's eat! My favorite Chinese restaurant is not far from here, and it's really cheap too."
So here we are, awkward tea around the little table, with the glassy rainlines ticking outside. The food comes. Ugh. I can see why it's cheap. Dull soggy oversalted flavorless (except for hot oil) limp veggies.
The next time Cecy offers me something, remember: her taste is not reliable.
In food, too.
That night, I dream of a menu for aliens who are invading Earth. It lists the bombs they may order: from kilotons through megatons to gigatons to teratons--tens and hundreds of teratons but not thousands... on the grounds that a few hundred teratons are enough to sterilize a whole planet... Wouldn't want to indulge in overkill!
Who gives them such weapons so casually?
I wake up to learn, as I run for the bathroom, that the Chinese restaurant we went to was even worse than my taste buds thought. First megatonnage, then fallout. I'm sick for two days.
So while I'm lying around with burning guts, Cecy calls up and says Cat has moved to Marin, to a Zen center, to try to cope with her depression. Since Cat's left town, Cecy tells me Cat's secret... which she trusted Cecy with the first day they met, but didn't trust me with, of course. It explains her cannibal dolphin dream: it's her therapist. She was depressed, suicidal, in therapy; had a dream her therapist was attracted to her, told the dream, he admitted it was true--and came on to her. Betrayal.
But it didn't end there. She passively gave in.
But it didn't end there. They had a full-scale affair.
But it didn't end there. He fell in love with her and is trying to divorce his wife now, while she just doesn't know what she feels about him. He's paying her way as she moves to SF to try to sort things out. A love gift, or hush money, an investment to save his career?
To be living on guilt-money!
Not your average depression, anyway. I can see why she doesn't trust men. She sensed I was attracted to her, and look what the last man did... Still it hurts. I keep making allowances for her pain and ignoring how awful she made me feel.
I draw a very un-comic comic, a grim thing about women like Cat who mistrust me because of other men's abusive behavior. Feel like my nerves are scraped bare.
Take a long bath. I'm gonna wash that man right outa my hair... I mean that sand out of my hair. I drag last Sunday's paper in and read all the fluff, all the gossip columns. There's a long piece on Stevie Wonder. Somehow I never pictured him as six foot two, two hundred pounds!
Out of the tub and feeling at least the seeds of clean.
I jump in bed and I'm on my way to MY planet. The dream planet.
We're trapped in Idaho. We were driving across America, west to east. But we got stopped in a deep forest. Narrow road, and a huge tree fell, blocking the way... lengthwise! A hundred feet of impassible road. The log's five or six feet thick; we can't see what's beyond. One of us is for giving up and going back, the others want to find a way round. The Idaho Boy, a young man really, and the Writer... and me... and the Cat. A tall tiger-man, walking upright, fierce, private, elegant: an expert in some dancing martial art of his planet. Six foot two at least, and that's with legs flexed cat-style; when he rears he's closer to seven.
The writer very cautiously asks if he can go within the smell-radius of the Cat Man's car--we travel together, but we need two cars, one of the humans, one for the Cat alone, for he's very territorial, can't tolerate others in his nest/space. But the woods on the human side of the roadblock are so close there's no way to pass. Only on the Cat's side is there a foot or two of shoulder clear.
The Cat Man, grudging, says "yes."
The writer walks gingerly around the far side of the Cat's car, and up along the fallen tree. He concludes we CAN pass the log--which is becoming a derailed train car lying in the road. Dense woods on both sides... but the Writer has a plan.
"If we break down the cars into bodies, engines, and chassis, I believe the Tiger and the Idaho Boy are strong enough so we can lift these parts up on top of the train car and pull them along to the other end and reassemble the cars there!"
Radical, but it could work. We try removing one car-body and I'm surprised to find together we can lift it with no trouble. The Cat People are extraordinarily strong.
I walk along the narrow clear lane--I'm skinny as hell and even I have to squeeze. Past the other end of the train car is... a briefing room.
A dozen people are lying on the floor, watching a mime on TV demonstrate the Cat People's martial dance. A human mime--mocking the art. Something is very wrong here--these people repel me. Not one of the twelve has any sexiness or beauty in their body or their aura. Not one. They wear black, gray, white, teal-blue, and dull red. I didn't notice the colors... so tasteful and restrained I was blind to them, saw the whole room as black and white! A world of black and white in color.
I listen to the twelve of them talk, but they act as if they barely notice me. No screen around me! Even with each other, they don't really converse, they just echo what the TV said about the Cats. No one speaks from personal experience. Brainwashed!
I gather this is the future, and there's a war on--a war between Planet Earth and Planet Cat.
And Earth, I suspect, as I watch the propaganda and the slobs lying around watching... Earth is in the wrong.
One of them says "Having to exterminate the Cat People is a shame..." Hey! A dissident! "...but I'm glad about our target. It'll be a mercy killing, really, to end the loneliness of this Cat... he can't be happy alone in Idaho."
The others all agree. To be alone is the deepest horror.
They're soldiers. These couch potatoes are soldiers! Sent to kill my friend. The really pathetic thing is, they expect to die, though they're twelve to one. The cats are much better fighters, as they tend their bodies. It's possible our Cat will kill the whole platoon and survive. I hope so. I feel a little guilty for my indifference to their deaths, but... they choose to believe government propaganda and are willing to kill for it.
The Cat Man's head and forepaws appear on the train car above them. He's listening too, as they explain how killing him is an act of mercy. One young man listens with tiny earphones to something so loud it leaks out--must be half deaf by now. He tries to copy the mime's moves... a pudgy smudgy third-generation copy of the true Cat dance. The Tiger can't stand it. He LEAPS down from the train car roof and slams into the young man, picks him up and throws him across the room. The guy lies still for a moment, wind knocked out of him, then gapes. "WOW!" he says, in the voice of a ten year old in a two hundred pound body. "Wow! How'd you do that?" He has a new hero.
The Cat ignores his convert. He turns to me, though he knows they're all listening. "I just wanted to warn these warriors what real fighting, real discipline requires."
He turns and walks away. No threats, no preaching. Letting his lithe terrible body say what needs to be said. I stay... they seem not to recognize me, a human, as a possible enemy. No one could side with the Cats. The TV said the Cats are wrong!
They plan to carry on their assignment to kill him. Their brains are washed clean of all doubts, all that gray scum. No gray matter left! I start to suspect the propaganda must include subliminal stuff, or electronic brain stimulation. Even the Americans I knew weren't this blind. And there's a flavor to this talk... I don't think it's human-generated. But where'd I hear this?
I go propaganda-hunting. Where's this TV signal coming from? Who's in that studio? Or should I say... what?
3: THE HUNT
I track the broadcast to a small studio in the lobby of a hotel on Lyon Street in San Francisco. The announcer is also the man who funds the shows--a solo operation? He's an old white man, this lone architect of the war campaign. His skin so dry and wrinkly he looks like a contract scribed in cuneiform by lawyers from Ur. He looks just like William S. Burroughs, or Willie Loman, or a lizard, and he always wears an ancient fedora hat.
It's a ritzy hotel lobby. "Wealthy lobbying" I mutter. What a stupid pun. Who's he think he's fooling?
Though he's not exactly a he. More an it. See, I know him--by his movements, his talk... One of the last of his kind, and none of us shamans want to preserve him. He has a reputation among us. First his race wiped out the people on the planet next door--as a FAVOR--and then themselves. Life is pain, so death is a favor. They pared all that was living, painful, passionate and lonely away. They became cyborgs, and in the end, pure machines, impartially kind, helping other races to die. They call themselves the Kindly Ones.
And their genocide is gentle, one by one, the survivors always pleased to have gotten rid of THAT awful bunch of people... better off dead, really... until out of two planets less than a thousand people were left. If you call them people, these robots who planned it all. The old man in the hat is a machine under his latex skin--the age and corrugation hides any little errors, you see. It could never pass as a child or a teen, but a leathery old man who looks a little dead already...
He can preach death so much more effectively than living deathworshipers, too. No built-in hypocrisy! A dead man knows his stuff. Death only to cats, to the big bad aliens now, of course--the human holocaust comes later, though lots of folks are ready now for that long, kind, gentle slide, if that platoon was typical. If language is a virus, can it lethally mutate? Or have our immunosystems weakened, gotten less critical? Great babies sucking happily on his poisoned milk.
But why does HE do it? Is he a sort of computer virus, or infected with one? No purpose but replication and disruption?
And this is San Francisco! We're so proud of our multiculturalism, yet even here, it's gotten so bad that Cat tourists aren't safe on the street. What's it like elsewhere?
The terrible old man with the latex face smiles at me, the lips not stretching, the camera eyes recording my reaction. He knows I know. And gunfire crackles like popcorn outside, not far away. Phase one of his war of extermination has already begun.
I run out, and find my van. All the gunfire is coming from the east, over a small pass. Getting louder. I get in, ready to drive away... but the gunfire's so close I panic, lie down in the back of the van, crawl under a pile of books and pillows. The books are heavy and uncomfortable but they may stop bullets. The pillows are soft, but stray shots zing right through. One grazes my right knee--I just feel a punch, know I've been hit. No time to find out how badly. More books! Books'll protect me! I grab more, and bury myself in literature. But the weight! These books are heavy! I could stifle under here. I should have chosen lighter fiction...
I wake, hissing and shaking, to find... my knee is okay. The war never started, though things are tense. It was just a warning dream about the origins of this racism. A deathwish... death is better than loneliness. Some human beings must feel that way or the old lizard's propaganda'd never stick.
It's a good thing my injury was a dream: I need that knee today.
I'm registered to run today, in the Bay to Breakers Race.
4: THE HUMAN RACE
I eat and head on over to the bleachers--cautiously. The starting area is jammed with thousands of humans--and I'm a lone Cat. The only Cat entered in this human race. It's gotten that bad.
And dangerous. Being a Cat, I'm among the top-seeded runners, get a place up front, but that's no real protection against mob violence--or snipers. The cops don't like us: new laws have been passed, strict apartheid, segregation of humans and cats. We can't get along, the theory goes, because our instincts are so different; our body-languages create mutual paranoia. Apes and big cats are natural enemies. We see them as ugly monkeys, they see us as vicious predators. Male Cats are especially bad: our territoriality gives us hair-trigger tempers.
I watch the race preparations from high up on the wooden parade-stand. Keeps me safely out of the crowd until I have to run. So I'm writing a letter to my daughter back home on Cat, telling her about the human race, and the race, and the racism of the race.
I finish, seal it carefully--privacy is one trait we share with humans!
I'm ready to descend to the little group of seeded runners at the starting line, ready to warm up. I turn to the stair--but there are separate stairs for humans and for Cats. They wind around each other like DNA, always close, but never open to each other. And they're not separate-but-equal. The cat stair is so narrow and angular that even with my martial dance training I can't follow it down. So I hop over the rail to the human side!
At the foot of the human stair, I emerge from the shadow of the grandstand into a sidewalk café, jammed with little tables closer than any Cat could tolerate. The people are dominants in the pack, "upper class" as they say, if I judge their toys and money-emblems correctly. Some of them look quite elegant. Almost feline.
I try to squeeze through, ignoring the smell.
A young woman in pale blue reaches out fast as a Cat, in a gesture from our martial dance, blocking my path. I halt, amazed. She immediately opens the way again, with a welcoming gesture. I struggle to translate my reaction into human speech and say "Not bad!" She doesn't understand my consonants the first time, but gets it the second.
She's pale blonde, seeming very deerlike and shy, quite unexpectedly attractive. Huge alert eyes like one of us. The pale blue thing is a "gown", a formal thing unlike the "clothes" the others wear. My impression is of a very delicate and refined Cat, out of place here! Not someone I'd expect to do something so bold. To challenge a Tiger male--in the face of all this propaganda, too. I say "That really was well done!" and mean it--she was fast enough to startle me--she has a Cat's spirit. We eye each other... and I'm startled again. A bolt of unmistakable attraction jumps between us. All this talk of incompatible instincts, how we see them as ugly monkeys, how they see us as arrogant and violent, yet this female is fully comprehensible! There's a male with her; I sense with no effort that their pairbond is light, new--but still, she has a mate for now. She isn't saying "Let's mate!" but she WAS saying "some of us DO appreciate you--and find you attractive--despite all the media." And it's mutual. She's far stronger--in every sense--than her delicate exterior suggests. Moved, I say "You are a Tiger," and blink formally. She blinks back, Cat-style, no trace of the subservient Human bow. I find I'm actually purring as I squeeze on through the cafe to the light.
The staging area for the top-seeded runners. Much anthropoid fidgeting. But then my own tail is twitching! I could win a prize, I could get shot. How atavistic! Like hunting big-horned grazers. My body likes the mix.
Among the top ten competing today, I've met two before. A Russian man, dark and craggy with a perverse grin, and his fierce, long-legged Amerasian girlfriend with a Cat-like face. They're fighting again. They've quarreled before every race...
He says "Dun't do zat exercise!"
He "I can't do it, so when you do, it make me luke bed."
She bursts out laughing. "Fuuuuck you. I'll do what I want!" and she gets up from lying on her back, onto her hands and feet like she's ready to crab-walk, stomach toward the white muggy sky. She starts lifting her pelvis, curling, releasing it. She's wearing only a magenta swimsuit and sneakers. I have a sudden impulse to lick her, to find if she's in heat. I wonder if she'd bite me? Then I remember the crowd of apes around me.
He says, "And it make you luke like a zlut!"
She sneers "Sssohh?" and keeps on! She is very sexy, it's true, but as a cat I see this as a sign of power and can't understand why this male disapproves, unless human mates try to control each others' sexual display. Cats find it hard enough to keep track of our own feelings! This runner is even more Catlike and in her body than that delicate rich girl at the table. ANOTHER human I'm attracted to! I have to admit it's partly her body and partly that slurred half growl half purr. "Ssssssohhh?" Oh she's a Cat all right!
Unbridgeable gap, indeed.
And I wake again, human--more or less. But with a Cat behind my eyes. I've chosen my side. The battle lines are clear at last. These two can't sit down at some bargaining table! Pogo was wrong: We've met the enemy, and he is NOT us. He's dead, a recording. "Better dead than alone"--a dried up old machine's propaganda--versus a tall proud Tiger who needs space and privacy, but likes certain special humans. Those who aren't brainwashed TV slugs. And most are. When I'm out in the American world, a cold cat's eye will judge them now.
No longer trying to be a friend to all.
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