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The Adventures of Jimmy,
The Heideggerian Barbarian

Dreamed 2007/2/2, by "Jo"

I am an adventurer, a barbarian in the traditional Dungeons and Dragons sense, and so stereotypical that I'm probably aware of it.

I have been traveling for a long time through a tube world between worlds to a place I've never been before: a city built in the ocean. It's protected from the outside by a kind of force field, but this field means its inhabitants can't leave, not even to get to the land and the settlements nearby.

The town's built around a harbour that is sheltered from the waves; the buildings are wooden, mostly on stilts, their architecture a curious mix of Wild West and classical Greek. People wear long blue flowing robes marked with gold logos, often the sun in silk. I suspect their civilisation split off from the mainland not long after Socrates.

I may be a barbarian, but I am a Heideggarian barbarian; a follower of Martin Heidegger, a German existentialist and phenomenologist philosopher from twentieth century Earth. He argued that ever since Socrates, Europe's followed a rationalist path that dead-ends in nihilism.

How did a barbarian in a fantasy world find Heidegger's philosophy? I never question this in the dream. I'm too busy applying it: I promptly blame the town's plight on its Greek heritage. The barrier between it and the outside world is a clear sign that it's unwilling to experience the world.

Still, the people are nice enough.

I stay at a big house that belongs to a witch. He has recently realised that the ancient prophecies of his people are correct: the end of their world is coming. The town's full of legends of travelers who went too far and ran into whale-like creatures with tentacles for heads. The prophecy warns the time has come: they'll rise from the sea and threaten to destroy the city. I'm glad that I could be in town for it.

The first plague is vampires. But the witch has made us one tool that can stop them. The only trick is that his wife Sarah (the real-life girlfriend of a friend of mine) has to be the one to use it, and she has to do so at 11:37 PM exactly. Lots of people come to our house, since it's big and easily defended.

But one vampire manages to get past the witch's wife and the Barbarian. I didn't say "the witch's wife and me" because suddenly I'm not the Barbarian but the witch! The vampire starts biting us, spreading vampirism, and I don't know how to fight them. So I run upstairs with a surge of panicking people, and find student accommodations--a hall with bedrooms and a shared kitchen. The enemy holds the lower floor; there's no way to get downstairs and out now, without risking a broken neck--or a bitten one.

I barricade the kitchen, grab two knives and stuff a copy of JK Rowling's draft of the latest Harry Potter book into a drawer. It contains useful occult secrets and the vampires cannot be allowed to get hold of it. I vow to die defending it if a vampire finds me...

I wait. 11:37 comes and goes. The city is either overrun by vampires, or everything is fine. I don't dare leave to find out. I hear movement outside, but no one comes to the kitchen. Days pass, and I do nothing.

At last I build up the courage to explore the house. I run downstairs wielding my knives and launch myself at my wife, knives at the ready in case she's a vampire. Fortunately, she's still human.

Unfortunately, it turns out she took me for dead and started dating our guest, the Heideggarian Barbarian. I am saddened, but I hang around for a few days watching their romance blossom. To take my mind off the heartbreak, I practice a flight-spell. I keep floating about the house on my back, staring at the ceiling, rising above the whole awkward situation.

But one day, my ex-wife snags me out of the air, kisses me on the cheek and... darns my socks! She asks me "Is this what you miss about being married?" She adds "the Barbarian is the town's prophesied saviour. It's wrong of you to put your selfish desires above his. But I promise to look out for you."

What I want from a relationship, from her, is not socks.

I notice that the town's hunters have discovered a killer whale that got caught in the town's stilts. It's sad that it's dead; we would never kill a thing like that. But now it's dead anyway, it'll provide the town with food for days. I know that the teeth of a killer whale make powerful protective talismans.

Witches like me get first dibs on useless artifacts the hunters find. Sometimes I think the opportunity to get hold of useless pretty things is the real reason I became a witch.

I fly over the water towards the whale but on the way I see the Heideggarian Barbarian, out to post some letters. He may be sleeping with my ex-wife, but I have to admit he's a nice man: we get on well, and he's helped me through my heartbreak patiently over the last few days. I stop by him, and we talk for a while about Sarah. He tells me "She's pregnant, you know. She was before we started going out." It comforts me that my ex-wife is going to have my baby. Even though our relationship is dead, life will continue.

I activate a spell that lets me walk on water, and cut across the harbor toward home. The Heideggarian Barbarian follows behind, on land. When we get to the door, there's a rat outside. The barbarian says "We should let it in. Having a pet would be nice."

I smash its head and throw it in the water.

He looks shocked, and disappointed. I say coolly, with no anger, "The rat could be a doppelganger; our enemies are looking for ways into our house. And even if it's not, this is an ocean town; life is Spartan here. Rats are vermin that we can't afford to feed."

The Heideggarian Barbarian slowly nods his head, and says "I was going to make the rat into a plot point, but your response is realistic."

I'm confused that a dream character would call my reaction "realistic"--what is this, a roleplaying game? I hope not--I don't want to be a character!

Confused and upset, I wake.




  1. "I" migrating between dream characters: I've had this happen (exampleThief of Dreams), but as readers' dreams trickle in I've been startled to learn that many dreamers have never done this and can scarcely believe it's real. It is.
  2. Witches collect useless pretty things: Ouch! Here I am, madly trying to gather and display all the world's dreams! How useful. Oh, Jo has caught me--I'm a witch, darn it! Skewered like a butterfly stuck on a pin. Or a barbarian sword.
  3. "The outside world is not entirely hostile", seems an unduly pessimistic summation. The barbaric side of Jo gets away with a lot--everyone likes him, even the witch whose wife he stole! The world may not be hostile at all--if Jo's willing to free this inner barbarian. Or perhaps his inner wife, who goes for what she wants too. "It takes three to tangle."

LISTS AND LINKS: I'm just not myself today! - warriors - Sorry, no other Heidegger, but we got a dream by Socrates and one about Aristotle - gates between worlds - Greece - whales - Wales - monsters - squid - mages and magic - flying - love-triangles - envy and jealousy - breakups and exes - frustration dreams - souls - Transmigration - another dream of socks - J.K. Rowling had a nightmare about her latest manuscript too: Harry and the Horcrux - shyness - trust and paranoia - more dreams by Jo

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