TIMEDOORS OF THE GODS
Dreamed 1998/2/17 by Chris Wayan
I'm at an art opening. The other artists act strange. Yes, strange even for artists. Takes me half an hour to catch on: they each express feelings with one eye toward their personal biographer! Artist bios are the rage this year, so you better lead a life full of well-documented scandals... It's comical watching them all overact, just to create juicy chapters.
Then some gods show up, fashionably late. Slummers! Some are fans of a famous actor who's off in a corner, and some listen to my friend Tim Gaughan the jazz musician, who's playing tonight. Though people tell me the gods are also asking after some writer or painter named... uh-oh. Wayan.
The gods loom up. I'm cornered! The gods all drink tequila, with a worm in every glass. A Japanese goddess says "We have this big project. Can we hire you? Mortals can't time-travel without our help, but if you'll assist us we'll teach you to time-walk."
Hmm. Are the gods playing dumb, or do they really not know I've time-traveled on my own? It's not impossible, just difficult, disorienting and dangerous. But isn't everything?
The gods are the gods because they live naturally in that crosstime time, walking freely through time-doors to change the present, or even rewrite or past. Linear human time's habitable but sterile and dull to them. Rather like the suburbs...
I'm not wild about gods, and I can travel on my own, but why not get tips from the best? I say "Okay, it's a deal."
We walk together out the door and into a timebubble. Just a quick loop through time, an orientation trip. They warn me "Humans usually flip out the first few times through time..."
But I LOVE it! Rushing through the void, watching the flux as buildings and civilizations mutate and sway like some kelp forest, I'm astonished how natural it feels. I feel clearer-headed than I do in the world!
The gods don't seem surprised. One says "We suspected your dreamwork hones the same skills needed for time-travel. And literary worldbuilding is practice for changing real history." Ah. They did know. That's why they hired me then. Saves on training, I guess!
2: NOW, BEHAVE!
The gods' first task: I must find another writer-artist and guide him through a time-door, one set in the De Young Museum (a big tourist draw here in San Francisco). Groups of gods and mortals have been squabbling over this particular gate; so I put up notes in and outside the gate saying "This is a crowded museum, vital to the City's economy. Confine your quarrels to the time-bubble inside the gate; do NOT harass the visitors or damage the museum." I have no divine backing or authority, I just got tired of them all fighting.
I can't believe I'm scolding gods like rowdy kids. But despite my utter lack of enforcement power, it works.
Acting with authority makes you one?
With several gods, I step through a time-door, but other gods, grumpy gods, block us from leaving.
Great, now I'm trapped in a time-bubble, like a stuck elevator, with nine angry gods. The sides are pretty even, but I'm mortal, so if it comes to a fight I'm the one who's sure to get hurt.
I protest loudly "Keep the truce!" despite the risk of getting blasted for presumption.. Bluffing? Or starting to believe in myself?
Ironically, most of the gods threatening us are the same gods who are on my side, but future or past aspects of themselves: a classic time-snag! If they explained why they oppose their own earlier actions, I'd listen--if they're from a future and know things we don't, why not? But they block us with force--no attempt to justify.
It may come to a fight. I remind them all once again "Confine it to the time inside the gate! Don't spill your quarrel into the museum." Hope that'll shame them into talking.
If gods have shame.
4: THEY HIRE A XENA
Whoops! Now I'm a mortal woman living in a commune of the gods. I'm not sure why they let me in.
Whoops again! Now I'm lying sleepless in bed--outside, on the street, at night! What am I, a dog on the doorstep of the gods? But here I am.
Though I feel fidgety, I can't sleep. Assume it has a physical cause. Yet as soon as I stop to think about it, I'm not ill or feeling vulnerable out here--no one messes with the commune of the gods. No, this is anger!
I'm mad at a couple of gods who went downtown to bring back a woman who dresses up like Xena the Amazon warrior--sword and all. I'm not sure if she really is a demigoddess into martial arts, or just a hooker into costumes.
Ooh, catty! Why am I so mad at her instead of the gods? Am I... jealous?
And underneath that is the tempting question: could I do her job? Either one? Am I sexy enough, fierce enough, brave enough?
The two gods I'm mad at drive up in a convertible, top down, capes billowing. Gods like capes. Drama queens.
They both look uneasy--they know I'm mad! But the Xena they sought to bring in isn't there. I'm relieved, but still mad they even tried.
Then Sidekick God opens his cape, and the girl steps out--hidden from wind, and prying eyes. Buxom, muscular, tough, definitely not my type, but still very sexy in her red Barbaric Bikini. Still not sure if she's here for sex or fighting or... both?
Whoops AGAIN! Now I'm male--now I DO want her. But I simultaneously resent her, and resent the two gods for hiring her. Jealousy jealousy. Changed sex, but kept the stupid attitude. Can't I be smarter about this?
So instead of having mortal tantrums (though I'm tempted) I offer Xena rare art treasures to run off with me!
But she says "It's tempting, but I'm a professional, and I have a prior commitment to them. I must must honor my word." She pauses, adds "Besides, I prefer cash to art, it's more liquid."
Do I want her myself or just want to keep her away from the god who hired her, to punish him? Unsure. I don't think it WAS just that. My intuition warned "Mixing Amazons and Gods is dangerous." But why? Dangerous for which? Who am I trying to protect here--gods I resent, or a mortal I resent?
Like it or not, whatever her talents are, it looks like Xena's in.
5: THE SCOT
Walking on the beach with a god I meet a vague old Scotsman, tall and thin with a droopy moustache. The god snubs him. Looks like a beach bum, and at first I think the old man's senile or crazy. But he says "I know Xena, she's the real thing. She belongs with the gods. I offer my support to her. I'll back her claims, even marry her if she likes. I have firepower--three warships!"
We play along, ask him what they're called, his ships. He reels off the names. The God with me startles--he knows those ships! This really is a Scottish laird from Renaissance times who wandered through a door... and he CAN summon three great warships to him. Sailing ships, of course, with no military meaning now, but they'll be cultural treasures.
They've underestimated the old laird. Calling ships through time is not easy. No god, but godlike aspects...
The old beach bum isn't the only thing the gods overlook. All the rooms of the gods' commune are filled with coats and odd clothes and gear. Even the showerstalls are full. Why are deities all compulsive pack rats?
Olympus needs cleaning.
The myths never told you Paradise is so cluttered you can't get anything done!
7: IN THE KITCHEN OF THE GODS
The gods' kitchen is my kitchen. One god buys vegs and leaves them to go bad. I hate to see them wasted, so I often end up eating them when they're just past their prime.
Today the god left a big loaf of sourdough French bread out to turn hard and dry. I toast slices on top of a map of a marsh in Anatolia, a big waterbird refuge.
My friend Patagia the birdwatcher drops by and says "Come see that marsh! Great birding!" But I'm not sure I want to.
So I toast and eat more and more bread, to use it up before it goes stale--even though it makes me feel ill! And to top it off I learn it's not even leftover bread--belongs to a different god, not Mr. Absentminded. Maybe he has a recipe needing hard bread.
I go apologize to him, explain "I got nervous and ate it all." He's not angry, just puzzled--"Wayan, aren't you allergic to wheat?"
He's right. I AM! What have I been DOING?
8: LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD?
Now I'm lying next to a goddess--or another mortal trainee like me?--on one of the commune's public window-beds. We're looking out on the ravine below, where students walk by. The commune is a mixture of my parents' bedroom and City College's old loan office. My friend beside me points excitedly at a child who passes by on the path below. She's maybe twelve and looks like Little Red Riding Hood. I've seen her before. She has a nice aura, but is always silent.
The woman with me says "I feel this weird attraction toward her..." She leaps off the bed and runs down and invites the girl to join our commune!
Red Riding Hood does. But she remains spookily quiet. I wonder if she was traumatized, abused. Or is Red silently protesting, does she want to be elsewhere? No one's stopping her from leaving, but maybe she thinks we would. We don't have a good reputation among the villagers, after all. Gods, communists... artists! Might as well be wolves.
After a few weeks, Red disappears with her baskets--goes on through the woods to complete her mission. I sadly give her up as lost to us.
But a few weeks later, there's Red at breakfast, silent as ever! I just can't figure her out at all.
I try to get her story from a god who knows. "How long was she there? Did she come back of free choice? Was she outcast?" Trouble is, he thinks it's none of my business... and even when he does want to talk, this particular god is maddeningly vague. I snap at him, call him an idiot... when I have no business criticizing. My feelings about Red are just as vague and confused. Attraction, empathy, protectiveness, envy, idle nosiness? Am I her big bad wolf, or her wannabe-rescuer, or... WHAT?
You are what you want. But what DO I want? About ANYTHING? I've moved in with the gods, I can travel through time, I've changed sex repeatedly, maybe I've even changed species-loyalty... but those are all just skills and tools. It's time to quit collecting them like a pack rat, and look at who and what I am. (Well, WHAT is obvious by now--at least what I am in training.)
I feel the answer's bound up with Red Riding Hood. And wake up wondering--what's her silence mean?
NOTES TOWARD AN ANSWER
NOW, BEHAVE! and TIME-SNAG
THEY HIRE A XENA
THE SCOT and GOD-CLUTTER
IN THE KITCHEN OF THE GODS
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD?
Something like... silence.
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