Dreamed 1984/4/29 by Chris Wayan
I'm at a trade fair sponsored by a local co-operative chain of supermarkets here in Santa Cruz. I'm not sure what year it is, but it's quite a ways in the future: I see trade exhibits from many worlds. I'm a local Co-op board member, and I'm pretty pleased with the turnout. My only disappointment is that the Dragonfly People aren't here--the great, mysterious people who live on the far side of the Endless Ocean. But they only visit perhaps once in a generation. It's easier to cross interstellar space than the Endless Sea.
The toy-and-craft fair on the second floor is immense. I go out onto the terrace, wanting air, and walk its length, peering in at the booths through the glass. Not much excites me; mostly aliens selling T-shirts and hopperstickers. Surprisingly blunt political jokes seem very popular; even some of the toys are politicized this year.
I nose into a booth that stands out by its austerity and elegance. It seems to be selling nothing; takes me a minute to catch on that it's not a trade booth at all, but a phone booth. I poke a few buttons, check a few ad-screens. Hm, phone numbers have about 15 digits now. Interstellar calls seem dominated by MCI. The numbers of famous and powerful beings of several worlds are scrawled on the walls--so you can call for kicks, harassing your favorite political villains. More popular than obscene calls nowadays. Everyone does it, it's a fad.
A very official-looking sign taped to the booth wall says "HUMANS! TAKE CARE! A significant number of Qaqifs and Zinzins" (both races whose natural prey are bipeds) "are at the Expo this year, so be careful about walking alone. In groups they won't violate the Social Contract due to peer pressure, but alone they may be unable to resist the instinctive temptation to chase, rob, kill, even eat. Don't let YOUR visit be spoiled! Have a safe and sane attitude, and help us keep the Fair peaceful." The cheerful Intergalactic Printing Office tone implies mugging and murder are largely the fault of their human victims. I'd like to stick the bureaucrat who wrote this in an alley with a Zinzin and see a little safe and sane behavior...
I suppose I'm typical. Our world's just one colony of an empire sprawling far along this galactic arm. We're all resentful. They're out of touch. The governor's appointed not elected, and as always he speaks only Imperial, not local creole--most locals, human or other, speak a mix of human talk with Zakathan, the dinosaur people's tongue. Quite beautiful, and useful too, since nearly any creature can handle its smoothed-out syllables--not like the hissing awkward "Ingliss" we used to speak! The newest Governor, now, is supposed to be learning creole--he knows reform is needed, he's radical, for an old white male humanoid (as they always are).
I try to toss all this junk out of my mind as I leave the booth. Forget politics! And the Fair's fine, it doesn't need me now. Relax.
I go downramp and head off the grounds--crossing the promenade, walking down toward the sea, through steep meadows filled with fluorescent poppies, blue irises, and nude sunbathers on bright blankets like flowers. I'm wearing my horrible brown plastic poncho, and feel like the dead leaf on the people tree. Brown plastic as slick and clammy as guilt... No surprise--the most embarrassing experience of my childhood was in this Brown Dress, and it still clings to me. I'd love to get rid of it--dare I go naked? What do I look like, under this thing? Pale and puffy like a fungus, I bet. I know habitual shame's unhealthy, but I put off working through it till the Fair was up and running. Now it's time.
Ahead is a low long curving building, my goal. Hope I can get some answers from the Holy One who lives there--the Circus Man, The Jester, The Harpist? I've never been sure what the oracle's right name is, but he's locally famous for his music--he plays a great Celtic harp. Not bad on the musical saw either--on key, at least.
I walk in the open door... He's busy writing. I stand there till he looks up. "Why am I wearing this awful poncho still? They're all having fun... I feel drab and ugly." He looks up and says "Go away. I'm working on something to be revealed in the near future." I'm so disappointed I just stand there hoping he'll change his mind. "Deadline!" he snaps without looking up. "Out!"
I go out, terribly disappointed. A cement wall surrounds the west end of his structure. I scramble up the rough tilting concrete. Instead of the terrace or little garden with an ocean view that I expect--a nice place to mope--I find I'm sitting on the edge of a circular wall enclosing a little crater of concrete, and instead of a stage or floor, a deep round pool, blue, weird, and steaming.
AWK! The rim MOVES! The outer part is still, but the inner wall slowly rotates! A crack in it, so it's really two rings. So eerie to feel concrete moving underneath you. Not a material one expects to spin! With one foot on each part, standing utterly still, I slowly do splits. It's like the continental drift on the San Andreas Fault over in Watsonville, splitting sidewalks. But fast, and creepy... and something in that deep blue lidless eye terrifies me. Like a titanic fish eye... that SEES me. Looking up my brown dress!
I'm about to jump off the wall and run away, when Ann Faraday's chapter on Senoi dream techniques in "The Dream Game" comes to me--"If smoke scares you, don't flee; go into the smoke. Dream smoke can't harm you, and inside you'll meet the spirit of the smoke." This is such a dream--hey, that means I'm lucid now. I rise over the pool, hover, take a deep breath, and--let it out annoyed! "Why should I hold my breath?" I scold myself. "I can make my lungs so they can breathe smoke, water, anything, right? I'm lucid now!"
So I DO... and dive in, seeking the Monster of the Pool. But the pool's grown--its bottom is a tunnel, linked to the limitless sea. And as I see, dimly, the nose of the Thing haunting this water, stalking me, I turn and flee for a moment in panic. It's Leviathan! Jaws as wide as a hangar door, teeth like jagged trucks. Coward! I get so mad at myself I turn around and fight--and it sucks me in, a fast current into the dark rubbery cave... I ricochet off hot walls. Swallowed whole. In the foul acidic dark, I picture myself blindly as a cartoon figure, half Jonah, half Pinocchio, in the Monster's stomach... punching, tearing, kicking angrily--making myself so indigestible the damn fish spits me up. And it does!
For a few minutes I feel pretty good... the water I'm breathing smells like fish barf but at least I asserted myself. Then Leviathan recovers. Being an archetypal monster isn't the most intellectual job; as soon as the bellyache fades out, Leviathan forgets the lesson and comes after me again!
I can't bear to fight it any more--not only does it seem pointless but I have a fear-tinged little vision of myself being alternately food and vomit, FOREVER, always winning yet never free... helpless against the power of infinite stupidity.
So much for assertiveness training! I've learned a lesson; idiots are immune.
I swim up toward the surface, still feeling a little guilty I didn't stay and WIN somehow. Never run, answer every challenge...
Yeah, right. The hell with THAT!
Up to the bright surface... convert my lungs to air again. And keep rising. I'm flying! Now THIS is what lucidity's for! I feel much better, floating through the warm iodine-scented wind, over the seacliffs stained magenta with iceplant flowers. Out over the vast turquoise bay, dappled with oval and feather-shaped kelp forests, darkly iridescent. My body changes, sometimes winged and sometimes flying purely by the power of my mind. And then my indigo wingshadow multiplies on the sea-face. Huge purple shadows!
Alarmed, I roll on my back and squint into the sun. Giants wheel above me: the Dragonfly People. They came! Like seed-pods with veined wings, they whirl around me, huge, red-orange and luminous. I feel their joy, and everything glows with a brilliant inner light. So strange, so beautiful...
I greet them mentally and we talk silently, mind to mind, heart to heart. To my astonishment, they've heard about our political situation... Finding friends in these eerie, reclusive, godlike beings, I feel such joy I'm distracted from my lucidity; flying purely by my awareness fades. I need my wings now, and they firm up, permanent. I feel the sun baking into them. My wings and tail are white-feathered, sharp-tipped for maneuverability--unconsciously modeled after the Tern People, who are all around me. Every flier in the county, bio or tech, has flown out excitedly from the Boardwalk and the Fair as soon as they saw the wonder approaching. We wheel in happy confusion, magenta and white, featherwings and seed-vanes...
And I slowly forget my power... until I suddenly notice walls have grown up over us. The walls of my childhood home. I'm hovering up near the ceiling, on shrunken wings of sober blue cloth: using my childhood coat as wings... I flutter down to the rug, between Cynthia who I have a crush on (which I hide), and Paula who wants me though I'm not attracted to her. Oh well. We start to talk excitedly about the Dragonfly People when the doorbell rings. It's Tense Tom, my guiltiest acquaintance!
Figures, just figures. Interrupting, when I might have resolved some sexual issues... "or did he let you off the hook?" a mocking inner voice asks.
Tom's sick, and he suspects it's the medicine his doctors prescribed to cure his reaction to a PREVIOUS drug! I agree and encourage him to discontinue the stuff: "Sometimes trying to cure things just leads to an infinite regress."
"Nooooooooo shit!" drawls Cynthia, and I realize why she's being sarcastic: I took the same drug myself once, and had the same problem with it! When will I learn?
When will Leviathan learn?
I get up, agitated, and walk outside, to find a ring of people crowded around a huge rock slab in the sea-meadow, not far up slope from the Oracle's building. The boulder's like an altar, circled by blue lupine bushes and lemonyellow mustard. The people are all psychotherapist colleagues and friends of my housemate Harriet. "My circle of shrinks" as she'd put it in her Georgia drawl, if she were here.
But she's not, and that's their problem. They're working out a healing-play for her, to help her decide if she's gay and wants a divorce, or straight and going back to good ol' Bill. They're tired of her switching sexual orientation every two weeks like clockwork. Personally, I kind of admire the cosmic swing of it, like the phases of the moon. Though I do get tired of her certainty every time that THIS swing is the LAST swing...
Her friends favor freezing the cycle on the Bill side. At least Bill favors Bill! "C'mon, Harriet!" he says, using me for target practice, "You know you love me and I love you." "Yeah!" "Yeah!" yells the circle of shrinks, backing him up like a Christian revival meeting. Love him? I don't love him, I'm not even ATTRACTED to him. My wings are now not even a jacket, just a white thin robe... a sacrificial robe. I put my arms round myself in indecision... and discover my body has changed again, I'm Harriet now. Tall, white, square-jawed, and earthy. Not a flying type. Curious, bemused, still very doubtful, I let them urge me up onto the Sacrificial Altar of Love.
I lie on my back, sprawled like a sacrifice, watching the clouds, as Bill starts making love to me. Not with me, to me. He's heavy, much bigger than I am. I dislike being squashed during sex--fortunately, he's so tall that his weight is spread out--not much of him pinning me down at once... It's OK when I roll on top (they all gasp, shocked at such aggression!), and feeling his penis inside me is interesting... but not that sexy. Not bad, just... not very intense. Bill just doesn't get me hot. But the ring of shrinks approves!
As Bill squishes on, pleased with himself and sure he can win me back to heterosexuality and marriage, I get isgusted and lose what little excitement I had. Now I act fearful, submissive, cowed by his size, even, hoping to get him to notice I'm not having fun here. Or at least his peer group... nope! They'll approve ANYTHING.
They make me so MAD! I get up off Bill, and stomp off the altar, naked and dripping goo. I don't care--I've had it with that circle of shrinks. Some friends!
I head back onto the Oracle's house, and through the open door... the long rooms are all empty, just pillows and pianos and views of the Sea. I find him at last, down by the Scary Pool. I wait for the advice he promised last time, but he only says "Time to drain the pool till we need it again!" He points at a suction pump and won't say another word. It's over? That was his lesson? I don't feel much like it, but I start up the pump and begin draining the pool. "Waste of fresh water" I grumble. There's a drought after all! I notice a storage tank nearby, turn off the pump, rig up a garden hose as a siphon, and drain the pool into the tank instead. The Jester watches quietly, not objecting. I need the pump, as it turns out. Gravity wasn't enough. Even under power, it empties so slowly! I get discouraged, I consider giving up. The Jester snorts and points at the pool-bottom. I realize for the first time its deep blue color is just tile, and the receding shaft is not a deep cylinder but a cone. The further down the water level goes, the narrower the pool gets and the faster it drains. When I began to despair that I'd ever get halfway, I was nearly done! Now I worry I can't turn the pump OFF fast enough when I'm done--don't want it to run wild, sucking air! Kneeling by the poolside, I open the control box for the pump and filter... Wow, complicated. Water switches, power switches, direction switches... God! There's a million! Why such a huge switchbox for this little pool? These controls could run the goddamn world.
A flash of light catches my eye, spearing up from a crack in the cement by the pool. I get down on my stomach--ow! Hot cement! Peek down into the crack, like a keyhole. It opens up into a vast arc-lit cave, filled with motors and pumps and carwashy fuzzy rollers and I don't KNOW what! They turn slowly, inexorably, with a deep bass rumble. I stare and stare, like a kid looking down a storm grate for a lost dime, who stumbles on a fortune. The Jester starts to laugh, and hops over the ringwall, harp slung on his shoulder. I hear him playing, as he wanders off. His job here's done, I guess. Now I know what the controls are for--the vast machinery of the Underworld. No wonder I didn't learn it all in ten minutes!
I'll learn it. After all, he left it with me.
I woke in the twentieth century, on a mattress pad, with a notebook and pen by me on the floor. Epic dream! I wrote till my arm was sore.
I just saw Woody Allen's film Zelig, and the parallels are obvious. Zelig's a human chameleon, a compulsive conformist who hides by fitting in. The sign at the Expo in the phone booth refers to my Zelig side--"stay with the crowd, don't stand out, or you'll be EATEN." And indeed, when I left the crowd to face my fear, I WAS eaten, by Leviathan. In the film, Zelig's conformity seems pathological, yet when he must escape, he takes on the personality of a pilot he met, and flies the Atlantic in a flimsy biplane! Uses his pathology to put on a persona who can save his life.
The Dragonfly People... and me... living biplanes... soaring over the Endless Sea.
A BIT LATER THAT MORNING...
After writing all this down, I was starving, so I got up and went into the kitchen, hunting breakfast. Well, brunch.
Harriet had left a note on the phone. "I'm cutting work and going off to Santa Cruz with this really cute woman Carla. And the HELL with Bill!"
And I started laughing and laughing and laughing...
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