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TOMBSTONE TEST

Dreamed 1986/8/18 by Chris Wayan

THAT DAY

I finally underwent allergy testing. Not that I didn't already know. I react massively to pollens, natural fibers, animal hair, dust, you name it. But they need to know the exact pattern, to mix up the right antigens. So I spend a miserable day of cramps and itching, covered with welts... a whole grid of them, like my back is some huge military cemetery...

THAT NIGHT

I'm sure most of you time travelers have heard the rumors of a Sargasso Sea of Time. Well, I'm standing in it. A gigantic graveyard, an endless grid of memorials to artists, writers, heroes, leaders, prophets, singers, philosophers... Each monument echoes that person's most memorable achievement. Strictly the creme de la creme of time: even I, from the barbaric 20th Century, recognize fully a third of these names!

The caretakers look like small boys to me, all with close-cropped hair and a hard-eyed look I haven't seen since the Cold War, but they're adults, the adults of the future. They built this place.

And the place is a lie. It's no memorial, it's bait. They want to lure in travelers from all over time, and test us. The simplest, most universal test they could devise:

You are what you loot.

A woman in front of me is happily carting off what appears to be the tombstone of Aristotle. The little boys smile and order a replacement. So she dreams that reason conquers all, eh? A huge cemetery with smirking little black-suited attendants; dream sketch by Wayan.

A bus passes; the driver, a small boy with sharp eyes, blandly points out monuments to people who once were worshiped, and the tourists' faces are already full of the fantasies they'll soon be unable to resist acting on: this man'll try to cart off Mozart's bones, that woman'll pry the Lost Album off Jim Morrison's grave, that girl will lift Emily Dickinson's last poetry notebook, and that guy'll crack the Cheops tomb looking for gold and lapis.

But all the tombs are empty, all the treasures fake. This is a test. This is only a test.

The Futurians hover round us all, savoring the moment when us less-evolved beings choose a totem baring our fixation... and character.

So I can't choose. I do see a rather nice Hopi pot, looks like Nampeyo herself--but even if it were real, I wouldn't steal it. I refuse to admit I want any of the cultural treasures of all time... Because I won't give these smug little futurians the satisfaction.

I'm sure travelers like me, who refuse to loot, just go in one more slot... but I can't help it. I just won't loot. If that defines me, so be it.

Because these smirking boys make me furious.

NOTE ON WAKING UP

I know where this image came from, and it's not the festering grid on my back from allergy testing. Near my home is a town that's one vast cemetery. Along the freeway, there's a mile of crosses in rows so long they form interference patterns that strobe and shiver as you pass, like an Op Art painting a mile across. A painting whose every pixel is a death.

Still, a dream's roots aren't always its meaning. The wealth, the monuments to a few, the stealing, the sly little guys rigging the whole thing... That wasn't the graveyard I saw as a child, any more than it was an allergy test. It was capitalism. It was the world as it is.

It made me so mad, I just reacted. I wouldn't play. So now I know why I get so allergic I can barely work, why I stay poor and pure...

And those sly little boys with their Cold War buzz cuts, judging everyone? Me. The suspicious kid inside me, still judging others by what they desire--and sneering. The only desire that kid seems to respect is Buddha's: desirelessness. And maybe not even that.

No wonder I haven't gotten well! It's the only way to go on strike, against that knowing sneer inside. And the trouble is, I think it's largely right. We want too much and do shameful things to get it, and even then, it's never really ours.

But denying all desire is delusion too. And I'm deep in it. Fallen in slot 37!



LISTS AND LINKS: time travel - tests - collections - buried treasure - same dreamer, different graveyard: Id Flowers - allergies and environmental illness - capitalism and its charms - theft - shame and embarrassment - Buddhism - a dream-poem BY Emily Dickinson: Worm!

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