Dreamed mostly 1983/1/7 and 2/13, plus 1984/10/2; the grid of emotion-buttons dreamed 1981/12/7; by Chris Wayan
The night of the first dream, I was pondering C.S. Lewis's books "Out of the Silent Planet" and "Perelandra." I can't even finish the hideous volume three. He bothers me. His mouthpiece of sorts, the Oyarsa or Archangel of Mars, says that good souls obey their angelic superiors, and follow God's law; we, the fallen, can be told by our twisted desire to choose our own path, while knowing our judgment's inferior: "You each try to be a little Oyarsa."
Exactly! What else is my judgment for? Yet Lewis does finger the central dispute of the 20th century... science's coming imperialism, where all but scientific minds are devalued: a smug child's copy of the Fallen Angel's pride. It's just religious dogmatism upside down! Tradition, rebellion... both bloody, arrogant disasters. I know there's some third position, a Dissident Angel, who supports neither Rebel nor Ruler, Devil nor God, Arrogance nor Obedience. But what's freedom from topdog and rebel feel like? How to live it? All I can picture is a neutral haven out of their war. A coral dot in the black space sea.
Peace is the real Silent Planet.
2: VOICES IN THE FIRE
And then I'm climbing down the Stairway to Heaven. It's a flying buttress that snakes down in a sinusoid wave from the sky, and anchors to a high tor, splotched with lichen green. Tufts of fog half-hide the earth below. My feet hurt. By the foot of the endless stair is a big raw log cabin: the sign over the door says C.S. LEWIS MEMORIAL STATION.
I notice the wind-chill, now that I'm back on the doorstep of the mortal world; the brilliance in the heavens kept me downright hot despite the cold thin pure air. I'm sunburned in spots; piebald as a giraffe. I creak open the door and go in. A rest can't hurt. The small dish on the lodgepole promises satellite TV, too.
The place is bigger than I thought. At least a dozen fires thunder in stone hearths, chin-high. Old realist oil paintings flicker brownly. Neoclassical statues loom, meaty, gray-rose, frozen. I see no movement but the ruddy light: I'm alone on top of the world. All this European art shouts at me. What? Some dualistic attitude... good-evil? Male-female? My mother inside me says, annoyed, "I don't understand!" the way she does when she does understand--and just disapproves. My confusion's acquired a voice. When she says this, I realize I know the message of the statues. I just don't like it: traditional social, sexual, and family roles are God's plan.
"Well, fuck you too, C.S." I mutter, as another childhood idol topples into the steaming jungle.
And God speaks.
"The game must be value-free."
The quiet, compelling voice speaks out of the fire, as it did to Moses. Oh, no, wait, that imitation shophar, a curved ram's-horn hanging on the mantel over the flames, has wires--up the wall, to the roof, to the dish pointed straight up at...
"Options must be noncoercive."
The vast bland impartiality feels like a referee's calls over a loudspeaker. Like the rules you don't read, on the inside of the box lid, when you buy chess or Monopoly.
Then another speaker, down in the flames of a second furnace, crackles to life.
"Testing. Devil. Testing. God's plan can be improved. He hates to experiment. He calls mediocre work like humanity perfect because he won't admit to afterthoughts. Coward. He talks of love but he won't lift a finger to change the limits he built in you at the start--that you've outgrown.
"I'm working on winged people right now. Why can't people fly to heaven on their own power? This is the Devil. Testing."
"What is, is." says God's speaker.
I listen to God but I talk to the Devil. "What about the cube-square law?"
"I didn't say it was easy! Light builds, hollow bones... it takes time and experiments and failures to improve on God's work. But IT CAN BE DONE."
I squat on the fire-sill, but have to retreat. The heat scorches my eyes. I sit on the edge of God's fire, which seems milder. Almost cool in fact. I stick my face down in God's fire and say "At what cost?"
"Pain." says the Devil. "The cost of change is pain."
God's fire doesn't burn me.
It doesn't warm me, either.
"That's God for you." says the Devil. "Won't hurt, won't help. YOU MUST WARM YOURSELF."
Despite my preference for Change, it burns me to be inside its fire, so I lie shivering between the tepid white fire and the low red scorcher, and drift to sleep.
Blueness wakes me. I find my jacket is glass-beaded with dew. I am lying in a stone fireplace. Dirt and wet grass, not ashes, beneath me. Around me lurch the walls of a ruin. Dwarf trees grow where the floor once was.
The sun's a fat orange bobbing up through a churn full of milk. I can't wait for the mist to dispel, so I totter down the path, off the empty crag. Down to the world.
Where the dispute looks different.
I find my bicycle parked under the Stair and start to coast away. The bike wobbles and I fight it until the bars wrench out of my hands like a wild animal shaking its head free. A long moment of panic before I realize the wobble's stopped. My bike steers itself! We swoop round every curve. Instinct or some autopilot built into the bike? I don't know, but it's effortless. I needn't have tried to steer--I'm glued to the Road. The long road down, from the redwoods through the cowpastures and peeling madrones like naked people, down toward the sea. Eventually we drop through the level of the cumulus, a hall of rushing tree-silence, and below, to the sun again. Now I see the spotted blue ahead, dappled with deep slate-azure cloud shadows as they scud across the bay. White limestone line of beaches and cliffs mark the shore. The village, Sant Icaruz, is coming up fast. Silver olive, feather-emerald but foul ailanthus, yellow acacia like titanic flowers: the Mediterranean climate zone. Mustard fields fluoresce. I brake for cows and slow as the bike enters the town proper. White walls and herb pots. Down to the old quarter where the streets are tangled, and I dismount and walk on, carrying my long rolled pack over the unbikable cobblestones of the ancient harbor. I say not a word to the people on the stairs or by the water--the town's Bosses check up on strangers, and my business must stay private. I find a plain room near the seawall, and have a quiet lunch in the empty courtyard. Retsina, bread, herb salad, a dry spiced meat, light and crunchy, called "Icaruz"--the town specialty, and very good. I usually don't eat meat, can't even digest it, but this is really good. Impossibly cheap, too. I can't see how they afford to make it.
In the afternoon I go out into the plaza and unfold my pack. It's a sail. I drape it over the seawall. It's the customary way to advertise for a mate or apprentice for a voyage. I fold the sail carefully, hiding the words stenciled on it that'd give it away as an obsolete design... for sailboats have recently revolutionized here: bright nylon colors stud the bay. I reveal, however, the other side's words: "35 ft." (height of mainsail) which says I have a very big boat (which means an ambitious voyage)--I'll get applicants.
As I set up my sail and rigging and wait for applicants I only slowly remember I am a fraud. I am no sailor. There is no boat. This is it--the primitive rocket engines I build, and the sail and frame for lift and steering... I'm an inventor. Trying to develop powered flight!
This world never developed in that direction. They don't care; earthbound.
I walk out along the breakwater to the lighthouse--my launch point. I intend to fly over water--in case I crash, I don't want to burn any houses. Not pure altruism; if I fail, I want to protect future inventors. This world must progress.
There's an odd smell out here on the platform, inside the low stone retaining wall. Ashy stuff beneath my feet, in the cobble cracks. I lift a pinch. Same smell as the Icaruz jerky! Is this their secret? Burned seaweed?
Another memory bursts out--a beautiful shooting star, a fireworks rocket arcing out from the harbor over the sea, reflecting in the still water as the townspeople watched... The star opens yellow and white wing-petals, and then ages, petals crisping brown, blowing, falling, going out.
I hear a noise behind me. An old man sits on the wall, looking at me, just looking at me without response, with a terrible smile. I know he's not there for a job. He knows what's going to happen--as it has every night before. Memory floods me and I realize a god somewhere is grinning through this old man. I come into this world over and over, hire an apprentice, try out the night's rocket fuel formula, and burn up alive in a fireball over the bay. The god that wants us to develop flight is ruthless, using and wasting human lives to do it. Over and over again I fly and crash and burn. And lure some idealistic youth... to death.
And uptown, the Bosses' stores have that amazingly cheap supply of crunchy meat... replenished every night the wind's mild enough for flying.
And the god looks on and laughs... just so the research goes on.
4: THE INN
C'mell runs the inn. A Joan of Arc, an Emma Goldman, wasted as a cook. Though she's a good one--I enjoy her soup. However, I skip the Icaruz.
She has to work this place alone. Her husband's in the whorehouse all day, till rush hour. He doesn't spend their money there (they're all neighbors, and get free booze at the inn), and as he has plenty of libido left for her, she's not jealous--or is it because she's one of the Underpeople, with Cat genes, and they don't concern themselves much with fidelity?
But it does bother her: she's a leader of the liberation movement opposing the Fascists, and the full time she should spend coordinating resistance becomes time wasted running this inn...
Hitler walks in. The Big Boss himself! C'mell plays dumb, talks of food, the weather, the beer. He's possessed by a devil, no question. See it raving through him. "Supermen... scour out God's old inferior products. The new world will gleam... We'll fly to Heaven, storm the gates..."
Robots. Their key weapon. Doppelgangers, pod people within the movement, who report everything. "The old forces of disorder will be swept up."
Her husband comes in, putters around the inn. Hitler waits for him to go down to the cellar to roll up the barrel. Then, Hitler quietly asks C'mell "What's new in the Movement?" SHE'S ONE OF THEM.
And in the back, the innkeeper doesn't want to believe what he's overheard. His wife, his own wife, a machine? Part of what intrigued him about C'mell is that she was one of the Underpeople--part Cat--with subtly different reactions that he could privately call animal. Added a certain spice. But this makes him sick.
Yet she doesn't report anything important--not about him, not about me, not anyone. Hitler walks out with that hellfire gleaming in his mad eyes and C'mell mops down the floor where he walked.
I stare and C'mell says "Are you surprised that a tool of theirs can side with you? Their whole idea is that we can change. I was substituted, and I found I was the mask of a remarkable person. I had to practice emotions, but I grew to fill the role! I like having feelings."
She's silent a while. As the keg in the cellar thumps to the bottom of the stairs, she adds "I don't know for sure what I am. But I'm on the side of life because I had to learn it; it didn't come naturally. THEY don't imagine its complexity.
"By the way, when you go home, help your sister, you can trust her--and don't trust your sister."
"Hey, C'mell," yells her husband, "help me with this damn keg!"
5: LOVE IS THE HARDEST
I enter a bedroom to find my sister Miriel is thirteen again, a long-legged Daddy's girl, as sexy as I feel ugly, and I'm a blaze of jealousy: she's lying with another girl. Straight blonde hair, could be her twin. Ariane, Kirsten?
Her own dead body.
They've been replacing us.
And a cold older girl, Althea the practical sister, lectures her calmly. Both robots now! The one I want seems troubled; she's struggling to retain, or perhaps remember, her bio personality. "Help your sister, you can trust your sister, but don't trust your sister" said C'mell. I encourage Miriel's struggle to be alive. Althea tries to teach her how to imitate human laughter. Miriel tries, gets louder, turns into yelling, "crying" and other emotions she's not supposed to try for yet. Crude imitations of emotional states, consciously learned, but not for Althea's espionage purpose... for herself.
After laughter, rage. Not in the program! Althea gives up, walks out. This robot's out of control. I go on coaching her return from robothood... I label the expressions ... "laughter", "rage", .... then "fear"...
Then something new tries to come out, but she can't reach it. I say "Love is the hardest to learn... it comes last." I stroke her back, her head. She begins to feel, use skin to sense... Loves touch. We touch as lovers. Sex is the precursor of love when you're returning from the dead.
Hitler will be after this renegade machine who dares to live.
My world, like most, has a view room. Like a bubble chamber. 3D images--trails, really--of events. Macro events only, of course--you can't find your own future trail in spacetime, we aren't big enough to raise a noticeable shockwave. I suppose that's lucky, though I wouldn't mind seeing my general future path: I'm fine with details, but bad at steering my life on the macro scale. Some advice from fate would be fine.
I met a girl there. Tall, diamond face, black hair; a trace Earth Japanese? I'm relieved when she takes the initiative to introduce herself; I'd have taken another year. Silky Titania. She works as a Jamebond for the Galactic Firefighters, the agency of call-in saviors. Glamorous risky important occupation. I'm impressed! And overshadowed--wondering what she could see in dull old me. We end up going home together. I bring up contraception and she says "I'm a parahuman species; not even diseases can cross." The way she said it was so nervous; did she fear I might be prejudiced, with my less cosmopolitan background?
Next morning she invites me to come see her own agency's bubble room. It's a shock. I thought I was a connoisseur, but this uses completely unrecognizable tech! Unlike the usual sims, this is a literal bubble chamber, filled with breathable fluid, where events appear in color, and 5D (change over time, and with perceptual feedback from observers!), and even abstractions like relationships and thoughts appear, grow, flow... Stunning design. I swim eagerly around trying to see everything, but I can't. The problem is, it's in liquid: I can see close up, but it all blurs to jello half a meter away. I can't adjust to the different index of refraction that the visionary medium requires. Too bad, because even microfutures are blurrily visible--my own has a figure with a long black ponytail, Silky of course, good! and a robed giant, a horned or Y-figure with a ring around it... hard to say in this thick medium. My eyes aren't evolved for it. Silky has no trouble; different species! "I envy your clear sight. I wish I were your species." She stops swimming over me and somersaults awkwardly in mid-tank and paddles up to the rail and climbs out, flailing as if she's violently upset. I climb out as she finishes showering off the vision-goo.
She seems ready to run right out without a word. I grab her wrist and say "What is it? You're so touchy about your species. Are you ashamed of them or something?"
She looks at me inarticulately and flaps her arms. I wait. She blurts "Chris... look in my eyes."
Perceptive of her. I've always had trouble looking people in the eye. I feel intrusive. Have to force myself not to drop my eyes... Her irises are a beautiful strange gray-silver. Instead of the irregular radial pattern of lines in a human iris, there are crisp straight lines arranged in a precise spiral, like a stopped-down camera lens.
Then I understand. They're cameras. I'm surprised. She feels my realization, and speaks.
"I'm no species at all. I'm not a person. I'm a robot."
The sickness in her voice gives me goose bumps.
Tears well up. "See the little pumps imitate sadness?" she snarls, and stops the droplets. She turns to walk away from me.
I yell "WHAT IS THIS?" and chase her through the locker room. Are we through? I don't get it. I like her; I don't care about her mineral composition. Should I? She seems to think I'll hate her. Suddenly I am curious (and nervous) about sex with her: does she feel it as I do, or is it just intricate touching that aesthetically pleases her, like a symphony's pleasing sound... or is it just reassuring to be held? Or does she fuck just to please me, to keep me around, liking her? Damn it, she's so sure she's a fake she's got me buying it!
At the doorway I grab her and demand to talk it out. She effortlessly tears herself away and runs off at 40 kph down the street!
Appalled, I wander back through the locker room and up into the Station.
Now I understand why she might fear my meeting her co-workers; they're real, so I might fall for one of them instead.
Now, when I do meet them, I'm bitterly amused at her fears. They're a mixture of species. Her team leader's a tall chipmunky female with eyes like small goldfish wobbling around, kind and intelligent but with none of Silky's volcanic suppressed intensity... or power of vision. Second is a little teddy-bear Asian human, cute, but no more attractive than Silky... if I'd met her first we might have ended up together, but I'd never give up Silky for her. Everyone's playing Stars and Comets to pass the time.
I don't know what to say. "Who knows Silky Titania best?" I ask. "She just thinged herself. I... need help."
"She was anxious before you came in." Hearing that I start to cry.
"Ask Vivian Kamehameha, they communed together on Old Earth."
"She's not back, though."
"She still on vacation?"
"Phone her, she's on Earth I think."
Vivian offers me tea, which I decline (it never tastes right through the phone) and tells me of the Commune days. "Titania and X--! What I remember first of X--- was his beard. He clipped it so neat it was like a corporate lawn. And his shyness. He was very naive about people. We drew him out. He was clever with tools, with his head, and very humble about learning social skills from us as if they were a science. He could be extremely funny, half of it accidental.
"He left us on a sort of sabbatical, for a year. That was when we were in the Cuyamaca hills, I think. He moved down to the sea north of San Diego, and lived in a lab shack. We'd grown a lot that year, and soon afterwards we moved off our hill land ourselves, and found a spread nearer civilization. We felt strong enough by then to maintain our group around Consumers. Anyway, we went over to the pier at Leucadia, and visited him. He'd found a girlfriend! We were all pleased; we liked her, she was brilliant and kooky like him. She was as unworldly as he was, but, emotionally volatile where he was heavy--she had a shy charm he lacked, she'd pause, hands to her breast like "who, me?", then burst out with the most amazing things. I started going over all the time to visit her as much as him. Soon we all did.
"But some kind of strain built up between them. Silky wanted something from him he wouldn't even discuss--he'd actually run out of the room looking as guilty as if he'd killed someone. I went over and asked him point blank and he did it to me! I'd never seen him so emotional. For the longest time Silky wouldn't talk about it either.
"Did it have to do with the way she hid her breasts? She'd wear a T-shirt even swimming! Odd because otherwise she wasn't body-shy at all, rather flirtatious in fact, and loved to dance. Did she have breast cancer? Why hide that? It was getting rare, but hardly extraordinary at that time.
"I finally pried it out of her the hard way, playing on her guilt shamelessly. I said I hadn't commented on her obsession with hiding their quarrel from everyone because I felt I had no right to interfere. "But you're both just plain miserable and I can't stand it."
"For a long time she just sat there on the porch looking at the waves, and then she unbuttoned her shirt to show me the control panel. Between her breasts, inlaid in the bone, was a little 12-button grid from an old audiophone. Fear, love, lust, calm, rage, play, humor, sadness, excitement... He was a master programmer. Her feelings were true. She could summon any shade from combinations on that panel! No wonder no one else had guessed. She was way beyond any company's design. He'd abstracted the philosophy behind each of our feelings and given her all he'd learned!
"He refused to open her up and internalize it. Not because he couldn't do it... her emotional algorithms were fine, she just wanted them triggered by thoughts and senses. It wasn't much to ask. Only he couldn't bear to face that she was artificial! Not to the extent of opening her up any more. It implied he couldn't land a real woman... he was deeply ashamed of himself for building a girlfriend. Of the depth of his own sickness that it implied. To him, of course.
"Though I thought he had good reason to be guilty, building her to be so vulnerable--so he could control her? Or just slipshod, because he was too ashamed of what he was doing to think it through? He was that insecure! Then making her feel inferior, burdened with secrecy, and ashamed of her body, and convinced her emotions were fake. All the elements of a human incest case, plus a serious disability: anyone could push her buttons!
"We confronted him, backed her up. I said any big lab would gladly internalize that panel as software in exchange for her firsthand advice on good emotional design--her palette was wider than human, if anything.
"And he walked out! I couldn't believe it. He couldn't face who she was--he had to keep his guilty fantasy of his human lover, not the real growing nonhuman person he had created from nothing.
"She did it. Now any android can respond with the full range of bio feelings! Details vary of course, but really all the common designs radiate from Fish Software's backward emulation of Silky Titania's emotional palette, fifteen years ago. He never disputed her patent--any court'd have to admit Titania owned her own feelings, something he'd never learned to do. But so far as I know he never spoke to her again.
"So... she lost her lover and her creator, and still I think feels fake inside, but at least her emotional buttons were protected now. No one else could push them. And she could pass for human--if she kept her eyes lowered.
"If she looked the living in the eyes, the false irises showed."
8: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
"I talked to Vivian. I understand now. You're not going crazy when you talk like that, it's what you came from. You're going sane. I want to help you grow out of it. I'll be patient."
"I'm not worth it."
She undervalues herself so terribly!
That night she's on duty in the Station. I stay with her in her cubicle. We talk on and on, quietly.
In bed that night she keeps asking me about them, aren't the real people cuter, better... I propose a game of looking in the other's eyes and try not to pull away in a panic of inferiority... as hard for me as for her.
The alarm starts hooting. The loudspeaker honks "All agents to the zipper!"
Up we scramble, and down the pole to the bubble room. There's been a massive interreality fistula. Several metaphysical levels have fouled on a snag and bled into each other. The main leak is on a nearby world. Latest report is the Devil broke through to the daily world and is campaigning to raise Hell, and by the FCC's Equal Time Rule, a Heavenly representative, a guardian angel, has also appeared. "Join hands!" warns the Leader. "By all accounts the Devil will hypnotize you in a glance unless you're connected to others. Linked, we won't forget ourselves so easily."
I stand there. "Well, come on!" says Silky, and grabs my hand.
"But I'm not a Jamebond, I haven't been trained!"
"If Silky says you're okay, you're okay." interrupts the Leader. "You've seen the briefing, and we need all the help we can get. This one's really massive."
"Which angels are they?" says Teddybear.
"Human religion... uh, Christian... 'Lucifer'?" the Leader squints at the goop. "What's this mean, Silky? You have the sharpest eye in the goo."
She jumps as if she's been hit. "I thought you were over that!" I mutter to her.
She looks at me, turns red, takes a physiologically unnecessary deep breath, and sticks her face in the tank. She stays that way for two full minutes.
"It's Milton's Lucifer" she says, wiping the jello off. "Real noble. Big, too."
We climb in the zipper. Two hundred agents hold hands. Zipping between stars, faster than I've ever gone in sidespace, we wobble and spin like a hemoglobin molecule, but hold on. Our goalsun grows.
The leakworld appears. We come up on it from the nightside. Its atmosphere shines in a backlit ring. At one point in the ring is a gem... a translucent bright something. An eruption, maybe? Storms don't climb past the stratosphere. What have the visitors been doing?
The disturbance is not caused by the visitors. It is the visitors.
They rear like translucent lighthouses, on the world's curve, cirrus at their knees. Lucifer, horned like Pan, with a mighty look, sad and stern and strong, bearing a forked staff of light... the Y I saw in the tank! I know the the Y-emblem of his horns and fork means: the branches of decision. Choosing to decide for yourself. Almost brushing shoulders with Lucifer, only a few kilometers off, is an old Angel in a baggy white robe, like a snowcapped volcano puffing up a smoke ring--the Angel's halo, of neon gas. He beams sappily.
I know that beam! It's old Clarence, the guardian angel (2nd class) of "It's a Wonderful Life." Looks as childish in life as he did in the movie. Frank Capra! What a choice to stop Milton's Angel of Rebellion. Heaven's got no smarts.
Our ring slides down, and the sky blues. We land and join the other station teams (a seventy-three-alarm leak, I learn later) in a thin ring around the ten mile perimeter, keeping the locals back. We're worried the angels will move. But they seem content to exude rival charismas from where they landed. Lucifer has much more character, and is clearly winning. People behind the lines are talking about individual conscience and the duty to dissent. They press forward. We try to hold the line, but the agents themselves are being swayed.
He invites people of each religion to step forward and introduce themselves. Daos, Whalers, Shamans, Witches... a scattering of each steps out of the barricade line, dances or bows to him, retreats. Scientists, Christians, Marxists, Moslems, Baha'is... the small cults get equal time. I'm impressed by the subtle expression of his point: respect for dissent, minority opinions. Vague happy sappy Clarence just blinks and looks mildly on. As we get to the end of the religions, the loners going out one by one, I notice at last it's all women so far. And they all feel a flush of sexual excitement from Lucifer... even the agents, trained to control devils. He's winning them over. I'm not holding any hands now. Looking at him. I should be swayed. Not? The last few women break ranks. I stare at one--the old master of Silky's station! She should be aware of the hypno. Look in her eye--she starts, looks troubled, then blanks it, goes on. I was the only male nearby. Others begin to form a ring now. I feel nervous, cold, semi-dissociated and passive, but withholding myself is resistance. Alone, I resist. I alone resist.
"Yes." I say. I'd rather have it direct. What will he try, challenge or lure, stick or carrot?
"Will you come to dinner tonight at my house?" says the Devil. "I want to lobby for your vote."
Amazed, I say "All right." As a member, however new and unofficial, of the Firefighters' Agency, I seem to have a veto power. He wants me not for my soul, but for political reasons!
I wander back to the crowd of local officials, who say "Which one do you think it is? Which one's the Devil?" Oh. They didn't come with labels attached--only the certainty, because of the Fairness Doctrine, that they represent opposing principles. Who is more of a Devil, who is an Angel? Most of the officials suspect that Lucifer is the Angel, or both are at right angles to the good-evil axis. Clarence is simply too passive!
I walk back. "Are you Lucifer, the Fallen One?"
"Yes, that is correct."
"The local officials wish to be on the side of the Angels. I'm sorry."
"I am the Rebel Angel. I broke through to your phenomenal world to ask you to help me contact God--I want you, mortal beings, to mediate--please pass the message along that I'm trying to call off our ancient quarrel. This media campaign has gotten too expensive, and it's grueling. I fought for freedom of ideas and initiative, not media charisma." Lucifer places a contract the size of a bedsheet before my feet. "Show them this."
I roll it up and walk back to the Mayor and his officials. They lay it out on the plaza and crawl all over it, with their shoes off, examining the wording.
The military strategists are uneasy: the proposed treaty puts us subtly in the position of allies with Lucifer more than mediators. Not much slant, but there. I sure it's a trick. Many civilian leaders unsure, might accept. It's worth some risk for peace, no?
Near sundown, I go to the mansion the Devil's rented while he's in town. Looks familiar... shingle walls, goldly reflective like the stone called cat's-eye. When I was 10 my folks sent me to a therapist who believed in social adjustment... his place looked just like this. Well, the courtyard's been remodeled. Big urns of alyssum, and vast tongues of purple iceplant licking down the walls. Nice!
But. Under the decor, the same structure.
After a reasonably edible vegetarian dinner (very considerate of him) the Devil, who's politely shrunk to our size, presses a copy of the agreement on me... I say I'll consider signing. He's delighted. "That's all I ask. Independent decisions!" Now I feel unsure inside. I walk back to the agent's courtesy hotel, the long way round through quiet streets thinking as the sky darkens.
Silky shows me a poll in the hotel. The vast majority want it signed. I am the lone veto. They press me for a date.
Now I know why the press is called press.
I was worried about her at the landing site, but she seems in good shape. "I never felt like my emotions were real before, but somehow with Lucifer in me I do, now."
I say "Okay, I give in. Let's all sign tomorrow, at noon, and they can have a parade."
Planetary celebration. All dressed up. A nonsexist world, but lots of women celebrate the theme of sexual vibes by dressing up in baton-twirler and flowergirl costumes... Femme For A Day, you know.
I walk toward the platform, with Clarence the Angel and the Devil and the Mayor and lots of bunting and microphones, and I reach the stairs. And I climb to the scaffold, and stand at the podium. And I can't sign it. I feel horrible. But I have to follow my conscience. I'm just not comfortable.
The Devil and the Angel grow tall as basketball players, eight feet, nine, giraffe size, building size. On up to skyscrapers, squeezing the crowd back, and glassy, watery, like smoke, until they fade away into immensity.
I wait for the riot.
The cheerleaders drop their pompons and walk away dejected. People trickle off. Vendors fold up and smell of popcorn fades. Banner-carriers roll up their colors and stuff them in their cars and fly away. Disappointed, glum... but not angry at me. Not angry.
"So." I say to Silky. "I made Lucifer go away."
"Yes." she says with her camera eyes. "You're responsible."
"Shall I go away?"
She laughs and hugs me. So, what the hell, anyway, right?
A DISTURBING FOOTNOTE, 2007
I said that the Devil's embassy looked like the office of the shrink my folks made me see, age 10-12. His big smile and bohemian beard didn't make me trust him. He wanted me to open up about my sexual feelings. He was quite right that I was keeping secrets--but not sex. Shamanic experiences and ESP! I acted immature and revealed small things as decoys, and dodged him for three long years.
I paid a price, of course. Being under his genial, predatory eye during puberty froze me. I felt like Winston under Big Brother's questioning in "1984."
As an adult, I felt I'd overreacted; he was just wrong for me. I was surprised my dream equated him with the Devil.
Not any more. Recently he's been indicted for multiple counts of molesting kids sent to him by the school district for behavior problems, kids whose sanity he had the power to judge--and thus intimidate. He examined me naked, telling me this was a standard medical evaluation, and I endured the embarrassment. But his victims describe identical nude exams as the first step in their molestation. What shielded me? I was a private client, and middle-class. Or maybe I was just ugly.
I think I was wise not to take the Devil's offer at face value, in my dream.
The trial has changed how I see my ten-year-old self. I wasn't repressed. I was an abandoned rabbit-child hiding in verbal brush from a grinning predator. My conscious was naive; but my dream-self knew.
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