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Bones Don't Lie
Dreamed by Emily Joy, 2006/12/13
I killed something down by the riverside, and now I have to hide it.
For hours and hours, I rip out its bones and strip them of flesh, feeding the meat to the river. Then I break every single bone into pieces and bury them deep in a mud bank. Every bone but one. The skull. I decide not to bury that, but to clean it off and leave it somewhere it'll catch the sun... and be found.
At first the skull seems human, but as I wash it in the river, it subtly changes shape, lowering and lengthening. Ape? No, deer. No, coyote! I scour the skull with sand until there is no flesh or blood left on it. The skull is heavy; I left the brain inside. Ew. I hope they find it before it gets rotten.
I wedge the white skull in the crook of two branches six feet up, and leave the scene...
…to go to a high-tech amusement park with some relatives. It's all virtual-reality; you must have a small stuffed animal to serve as your avatar in the play zone. I have a collection of these things at home, but none with me. I don't care, I'm not that into this game, but my little cousin wants to play with me and my aunt will fuss if I don't, so I go step into the gift store to buy an avatar. I look over high-tech ones, the sort that come with built-in MP3 players and game software, amazed at how serious they've gotten about this shit. Amused, too: "I've been collecting avatars for years, and now look how popular they are." I finally find a nice simple cheap one, a tiny bear made of tie-dyed hemp fabric, buy it for four bucks. At which point it's time to go home.
Home, or rather my cousin's house. Her step-brother and his friends are playing Dungeons and Dragons in the basement. I'm looking around, bored, when I find a skull sitting on a shelf above the fireplace. It has crescent horns, and I'm pretty sure the one I stuck in the tree didn't, but I'm unsettled. Could it be the same skull, did someone see me? I sneak out to go back to the river...
3: LEAVE IT TO ME
...where I see people milling around on the bank. I hide in the trees on the rim of the gully, but can't see what they're up to, so I stealthily slip down a steep side path.
But halfway down, my way is blocked by a fierce little dog whose leash is tied to a root. He snarls, threatening to bark, until I offer my hands. They still smell of blood. The little dog licks my palms, and lets me pass.
I see that it's a bunch of men in suits, looking rather Mafia, examining a body. A BIG body. They've found the headless corpse of a steer! It may be my victim. Gulp. But, wait—it has flesh on it. It looks like it's been rotting in the river. Can that be the body I disposed of?
Clouds shift and the sunshine strikes something blindingly white on the other side of the gully—the skull I left in the tree, smiling at me. The skull in the basement must belong to the steer. Wait, so one of the kids playing D&D is a murderer? Or did he just find the skull? Or... did I kill the steer too, then forget about it? It could happen.
One way to find out. I drift out of the woods. The men see me, and…
"Hey Girlie, we gotta bury this. Give us a hand, wontcha?"
I shrug. "Sure. Leave it to me."
I take a shovel from one guy and hack a leg off the corpse, drag it over to a patch of dirt. The shovel bites into the ground and hits…bones in the earth. My victim's bones from earlier that day. They're still here! Now I know it's not the same body. Thank goodness.
If goodness is the word.
NOTES THE NEXT MORNING
- Dismembering a body, one bone left: In some forms of shamanism, the initiate is (in a dream or vision) killed and must watch in spirit form as demons dismember and often devour the body, until only a single bone remains. If the initiate is a true shaman, s/he builds a new self from that left-over bone.
Well. I guess I initiated a shaman. So, uh…I'm a demon? Who'd I initiate?
- Shapeshifting skull: Yup, that's a shaman all right.
- Brain still inside: where the personality or even the soul resides. This shaman gets to retain his/her former mind, not lose all those memories.
- Tie-dye teddy bear: like one of those Happy Camper bears associated with the band Grateful Dead. Wow, even the most innocent part of this dream is about death!
- The river: the river Styx? [In Greek myth, the river of death]. But why are these guys dragging dead things out of it?
- Snarly dog guarding the river/death = Cerberus! [Guardian of the land of the dead in Greek myth]
- Headless steer: Lack of steering; I don't know where I'm headed. Ha ha. I have been feeling aimless lately.
- Decaying in the water: Maybe some kind of emotional damage?
- "Leave it to me": Line spoken by a nasty assassin girl in a manga I read last week called "anne.freaks", when she offers to bury the main character's murdered mom for him.
- Gravedigger girl hacking up a body with a shovel: Also from "anne.freaks". The assassin girl mauls someone with a shovel.
- Confusion about who killed the steer: In the dream it never occurred to me that the Mafia-looking guys could have killed it. I blamed the kids in the basement, I blamed myself…but not, you know, the people trying to hide it. Where else is this happening in my life?
- Oh yeah, for those of you who are disturbed by how matter-of-fact I am, in the dream, about the murdering and... um... butchering... I'm as shocked as you are. I'm a justice-oriented vegetarian pacifist; this isn't like me at all. This suggests to me that the dream is important—dreams sometimes use shock value to get our attention. Well, it got my attention, all right. But it feels like there's something I'm still missing.
AFTERTHOUGHTS, 7 WEEKS LATER
Of course, dragging a dead body out of a river can have other meanings too. Some issues may have been dead for a long time, forgotten, maybe forgiven—"water under the bridge," so to speak. But dead doesn't necessarily mean gone. When old issues get dredged up, the old confusion and suspicion and self-doubt can surface, too.
Well, maybe the skeletons in our closets have some use after all. Look at them, and look at your current situation. Don't be so quick to accept blame; if something doesn't match up, reject it!
- Such a steady rumble of guilt under every scene! Why? Here's my guess. We idealists expect a certain amount of sacrifice and suffering for what we think is right, so we can bear pain and fear. What's our weak point, what's the worst nightmare for a radical? Guilt. So... whoever these Mafia characters are (I'd guess either American corruption and business-as-usual, OR another bad pun: "da Family")... anyway, whoever they are inside you, they can't scare you with nightmares of pain and fear, but they've found an emotion that CAN tie you up... while they go on with their much bigger crimes.
- Buying a Grateful Dead bear--I'm not so sure that's just another death reference. The band took its name from the Egyptian Book of the Dead: "In the night of the soul, the ship of the sun is drawn by the grateful dead." Spirits bringing light and hope to earth! And consider: the fair wasn't offering much choice, but you picked the most natural, most counter-cultural icon you could.
- That river could be the Styx. But I trust your afterthought: it's the Lethe, the river of amnesia. I think they're dragging ugly truths out of oblivion into your life. (Lucky you, eh?)
- The dog thinks you're okay, bloody hands and all: instinct sees through the guilt! A bit parallel with the bear! Looks bad on the surface--bloody hands, the bear's association with death--but underneath, the bear and the dog both may mean unconventional but healthy judgment.
- What you killed and dismembered, this shamanic initiate who regresses from human to animal (yet saving the brain--again, no more amnesia!) may have been... you. You could well be your own demon, demolishing your old human self, now that you're turning shaman. You did the right shamanic thing afterward, too--stuck the skull in the Tree of Life, where it can regrow 'into something rich and strange.' Not a trophy on the wall in the basement... like those God-fearing Americans.
--Chris Wayan, 2007/2/13
LISTS AND LINKS:
heads & skulls -
memory & amnesia -
shamanic dreams -
initiation ordeals -
instincts & urges -
truth & lies -
puns - the next night, Emily strikes back in
The Nightmare Effect - more
Emily Joy dreams - her friend Maddie's parallel nightmare the same night:
The Red Sphere - a 2nd "constructive butchery" nightmare:
Dissecting Pessimism - a 2nd dream of threats from Da Family:
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