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VIRGINIA'S TRAIN

Dreamed 2005/9/24 by Emily Joy

dedicated to Virginia Woolf

I dreamed a group of time-travelers built a new machine, in an effort to escape time entirely. When they fired it up, it ran backward and forward across the threads of time, like a shuttle, or a train (it was made of four old boxcars, after all). There was a glitch—sometimes the train would phase in slightly and scoop up bystanders…many of whom were our own past- and future-selves.

The dream cried out to be written as a poem…

In a single night
I helped time-travelers build a ship.
It took unexpected flight
Off a garage roof and tripped
Into a Jurassic scene;
Our ship phased in and caught
A dinosaur who turned out to be me.

Once we'd put me back into
The prehistoric wood,
Whooshing across the threads of time we went,
As a shuttle through wool,
And hit a pedestrian crossing the street in 1983,
And she too was me.

But then in a blink
We were back in an era of candlelight.
Some trick of the motor scrambled the number,
So Now was 1893.
My soul fled, sea-sick,
Onto a moonlit beach in Maine,
where I became
A woman in a corset--
The lighthouse keeper's wife--
Dolorous, debating: Should
I cast myself in the sea, or ought
I make one last attempt at life?
In phased the ship, and I was caught.

One of the abductees was the little daughter of a time-traveler. He was now in his fifties; she had died many years ago, when she was six. The machine, acting on its own, made a special stop to pick her up when she was five. I remember smiling as I watched her father sit with her in a separate compartment, feeding her oatmeal with a spoon. A peaceful glow surrounded them, parent and child reunited... though she didn't know death had ever parted them.

Most of the people who got scooped were rather frightened and they behaved badly. The lighthouse-keeper's wife was an exception. She begged the time-travelers "Don't send me back," and became part of the crew. She eventually stepped in as the little girl's adoptive mother.

That's all. Or it was. Until some weeks later, exploring the World Dream Bank, I came across a rant by Wayan called Fire in the Crucible, and read this passage on Virginia Woolf:

"Woolf's earliest memory was of hearing surf as curtains flutter in a room, making similar waves of light. Her prose is full of waves, not just washes of sound and rhythm (though I noticed that, reading her essays), but waves of mood and subject too. Orlando washes into the future, now slow, now whoosh. The first snip of Virginia Woolf I ever read was a sudden rushing fantasy of being a dinosaur--it had this same wave-swept quality--timesurfing! Just a quick ride, then you're cast on the reality beach again..."
Later still, someone mentioned to me that Woolf wrote To the Lighthouse. And that she committed suicide by drowning. I think I knew these things already. But the other stuff? Not a clue.



LISTS AND LINKS: time travel - past (and future) lives - psychic dreams - precognition - writing and writers - Virginia Woolf - poetry - family - artificial intelligences - dinosaurs - suicide - rescues - doubles and alter egos - dream homes - Fire in the Crucible - more dreams by Emily Joy

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