Dreamed 1985/12/2 by Chris Wayan--skip to the main dream
Work. The catalog--twelve million cards, books, forgotten people's souls. Libraries are graveyards, really, and this tending the bones of minds is altering my character. Shakespearian gravediggers knew. You see so much that mattered... then.
I kneel, and put in a card. I feel suddenly, oddly, like I'm worshiping. I get up sharply, disgusted. My knee gives way and I stumble back down to the blood-red industrial rug. I'm puzzled. It doesn't hurt. A twinge. Gray walls, drab as a Dark Age castle, frown down on me. Heavy, cold (to preserve the dead). Stark as a warehouse. I pull myself up with my arms. I can walk. Just hurts a little.
Slowly, it becomes more than a little. I hop. I hope it's only strained.
I dreaded the therapy appointment at two, but I didn't expect this extreme a way of keeping me away. 'Appendicitis' maybe, but this is new.
I coast slowly across town, pedaling with one leg. Limp into the lobby, curl in a corner, open my journal and read that nightmare:
Don comes down and I close the notebook. We climb to his part-time office up amid the trellised vines. Dizzy with anxiety, I know where to start only because I swore to. The money!
THE BOGLE: 1985/11/10
I'm in a misty lake country. Ireland? Tramping along in the mud, hearing the birds. Glad I came to my ancestral land. But it's getting a bit dark. I need... Ah, there! An inn! Good. The nightfog wisps were getting thick as snarls of yarn. And... well, this is Bogle country, and that murderous spook was starting to feel a bit too plausible. I duck into Butterbur's.
I sit by a local fellow, Will Angmar, who's playing a rotten old banjo and singing Incredible String Band songs. I'm delighted--no one in the States appreciates them. But... I hesitate to join in.
"The Bogle? Don't worry about IT!" laughs Will.
Actually, I was. It's rumored to be drawn by singing, voices, the sound of human warmth. But he bellows a couple of lusty numbers alone and soon has me harmonizing onIf I were a witch's hat
Sitting on her head like a paraffin stove
I'd fly away and be a bat
'cross the air I would rove
Stepping like a tightrope walker
Setting one foot after another
Wearing black cherries for rings...
The hell with the Bogle, I love Sixties songs. We pause after that one to toss a pint. He tosses the tin mug at me playfully. During "The Juggler", he yells "Catch!' and tosses the mug and a broken plate to me. I can just keep them up, but two's my limit. As he opens "I am Time", here comes a scissors. I drop them, can't do three. Fourth verse of "My Name Is Death" he throws an open pocket knife. Fear creeps up me like sap, verse by verse, as he gets wilder and the things he throws get sharper... and then my blinders fall away. He is the Bogle.
I recall my friend Scott said I could call on him in dreams, and I struggle to stop singing and cry for help. The Bogle whets a great knife and waits for the end of the song, grinning as he singsMy name is Death, cannot you see?My lungs are paralyzed and then I whimper "help..." in my jiri voice, not dream voice, and wake. My call was so faint even Liz in the next room, a light sleeper, doesn't hear. I sound like a sheep and I'm ashamed. Is this how I deal with my fears?
All things that are, must come to me...
He was blunt last time--"I think the agency set your fee too high." He practically begged me to appeal it, yet I signed the agreement. I felt helpless. My mother's ghost stood at my shoulder whispering "Poorer people than you need therapy; if you pay less it comes out of their matching funds."
I tell him, in a cold sweat, "I actually decided that, rather than wrestle with it, I'd check out the rates at North County Mental Health! Pulling out of therapy after a few sessions--again. I'm giving up, I can feel it."
He says "Something happened last time... to me it felt abrupt. Things were going well, then I felt you cool... distance. As if you reacted to some specific thing I did, not to money, not to therapy in general. I wasn't sure what."
I pause a long time and say... "Control. It started when you said control seemed to be my goal. That word haunted me all week. When others control my living or working environment, they endanger me. They tell me to be reasonable, I'm just fussy. When I'm sensitive to foods, chemicals, emotional stress... I can be laid up for days by stuff they don't even notice. When you characterized that as a need for control I thought "Another shrink making snap judgments about me based on the average person."
He says "No, I meant just what you said--control of your environment. For survival. You're wary because you need to be. What interests me is that you covered your fear and hurt so well. I felt rebuffed, not like you were scared, and you hid perfectly how I had hurt you: I had no idea what your sore spot was. Survival oriented!"
A wind of sadness puffs through me. Survival, if not living.
What do I need from Don so I won't hide that way? I already knew I could mislead him; I'm an expert at hiding.
He adds "I respect resistances; they exist for good reason. I don't like a lot of growth groups because of that. Strip the armor, yeah--and then send your opened-up people out into the war zone... I hardly know you yet. My instinct is to go slow."
"I don't need slow. I need blunt. Even when you doubt I can handle what you think. When you act neutral, your aura goes blank and weird. "Helping" me by holding back disrupts me more than your reactions do. Strangers whose auras go blank like that often project weird things onto me; they scare me. I worry what you're hiding.
"In any case, I doubt your insights will disturb me much no matter how fast you dump them on me. Dreamwork smashed a lot of illusions; I'm pretty clear why I turned out this way. I've done the archeological digging. It's the present I fear! I'm here to change my social behavior. And expectations. Action's what scares me, not ideas."
He starts saying something about "the importance of going through the childhood shit and extracting the gold..."
"FREUD!" snarls through my mind, I feel a shudder of despair, and a vision flashes through the window and its vines, scrawled on the clouds to the north (directly over the house where I grew up!); the twelve miles of air is suddenly a plain of time, and in the cloud mountains is the haunted mineshaft that's my childhood... and I think "He thinks I haven't been there, he wants me to go in AGAIN!"
I plumbed those mines ten years in the night; dreams mapped the lodes. But do I want to dig out the gold? It's there. Veins of raw pain for his refining. To lug out... how? Across that desert on my back? Gold is heavy; there are tons. Even Frodo only had to lug one burning ring.
Gold on the loose breeds trouble, so we stash it deep in vaults. Why dig it up just to re-bury it? A proven reserve doesn't care what cave it's in.
I don't know how to prove I've been in the depths. I look at people and simply know if they've mined; but how do others tell?
I hobble slowly home and talk to my housemate Liz a while. She's upset. "Miriel yelled at me." She talks about unassertiveness. Exactly the same fears Miriel has, of course! As usual, I'm in the middle. Wish they'd get along.
We talk of childhood books that strengthened us. I want to read "Pippi Longstocking" now. Sounds like a better role model than my science fiction ("Star Bright" by Mark Clifton, In Hiding by Walter Shiras) or Miriel's Nancy Drew. We all liked Pooh and Alice and Oz and Tolkien. I describe "The Wind in the Willows", amazed she's never heard of it.
I prop my leg up and watch "WKRP"--TV comedy with shy little Bailey destroyed when her first radio show bombs, then struggling to make her sexist boss see she has the right to screw up--they'd give a man who was completely green a second chance! Her disaster's supposed to be funny, but I identify with her agonizing timidity so much I'm shaking.
Her breakdown is not helping my knee.
I read the opening chapters of "The Nature of Personal Reality" by Jane Roberts/"Seth", An outrageous but wickedly consistent view that only consciously held beliefs--ideas--create our experiences, behavior, emotions, character, even body health and form. The unconscious is a cultural myth: all parts of the mind readily enter the spotlight; your belief system just limits where you shine it, what you'll face.
At first it seems simplistic, pop, the Power of Positive Thinking. Slowly the argument sinks in. To my amazement, I find I accept the premise. Hell, I don't even like the process by which the book was written--if Seth's a facet of Jane Roberts' mind, and she's such an authority on self-actualization, why's she have to enter amnesic trances to write a good psych book? And if Seth is a nonmaterial personality, what's he doing writing us essays using her as a mouth? The whole thing offends me: a (male) executive dictating through his (female) secretary because he's too busy to incarnate and write his own damn books!
I really wish the argument didn't feel true.
I list a few beliefs.
I am environmentally fragile.
My childhood beliefs created sore spots that paralyze me when touched.
They are my plain experience--facts--but the implications horrify me. I do shape my life, and my illness, according to this expectation of abrupt helplessness. Like epilepsy. Always skirting triggers. But what if..."seek and ye shall find"?
--The world presents me with the people I need to face. They're lessons for me. I can't choose my own friends.
--Anyone I'm attracted to will find me ridiculous and reject me.
As I let them out, they get weirder, more upsetting in their implications. Line by line, I'm inching into dangerous turf. Each sentence is like one of the Bogle's juggling toys... and the game's starting to scare me. Wicked edges. Now I know why there's an ax in axiom!
--I must override intuitive doubts about people. I must be social.
Now I can't predict what will emerge. But they ring true: I believe these things! This is not old conditioning that I need to throw out now that I believe differently. I don't believe differently. That's one belief I can't keep now. It's false.
--Doing what I like is dangerous, since people hate the real me. I'm too weird to show my self.
I reverse a few.
--Doing what I like is safe, since people love the real me. I'm too weird to hide myself.
--I must obey intuitive doubts about people! I must not be social.
A physical shock runs through me. I've felt this odd CLICK! before, when a dream's meaning jumps out at me. My beliefs are knives. They really can cut and stitch my reality into unknown forms. This much power frightens me. I wish the premise didn't feel true.
--I am glad the premise feels true.
The notebook slides from my hand to the floor. I let it lie and pull up my blue comforter...
Fog. I'm hiding in the bushes outside my mom's art studio. I feel guilty: she held an art show and invited me to come up and show some of my own work. I didn't. It was for her peace group, the wholesome one I don't like.
Guillaume from work looms up. With my usual style around him, I tease him about the chocolate bar in his hand... I grab it and crack off the end and prepare to gobble it whole, grinning "I'll protect you from yourself!"
At work he talked and joked with Molly and me in just this way--he was wandering the corridors looking for someone to translate "sitzfleisch", saying "Ass won't do it--keister won't do it--" to random old librarians. He laughs now in dream: "So eat it! The gossip won't die down for a month--YOU eating junk food!"
"How little you know" I say. Yet I don't bite the chocolate of idle sociability. Beside the house, instead of neighbors, a series of pools stretches into the fog. A set of Social Swims? Narrow crystal-crusted dikes divide them--like salt ponds. Each smells different, a jumble of chlorine public swimpool and iodiny evaporation pond and oceanic fishweed and Bay mud and pine-reedy freshwater creek. All the waters of the world. Sulfur reeks from a geyser pool in the back. "Each has healing power," says Guillaume. "Even the mineral pool, poison by mouth, can help the skin."
I look at him.
"You translate it, you're the oneirologist!" says Guillaume.
The one I like best is the desert spring--fringed by palms and Joshua trees. It overflows down to the east, off the ridge. I follow the rivulet down the canyon, out of the mist, into... fierce sudden sun, a cloudless blue shell over far mountains and an orange saguaro plain. It's the future. I live here.
Henry was secretive about it; never told even her where he got the two-pound lumps of raw metal that paid for the land and kept them solvent through the Great Drought. In her teens she thought he was paranoid--now she understands, as she begins to learn of human evil. The Wicked Bankers have stolen the deeds to her land, to extort the Secret Map from her. They'll take her spread if she can't find other proof of her father's claim--or the gold itself. She's drafted me to help her search--the only neighbor she can trust.
The irony is, she can't read the map. Oh, it's real. I've seen it. Her father invented a private shorthand--doesn't even look alphabetic...
Not a pleasant prospect. Legend has it the vein is here, exposed, but no one dares to check. Before Jane and I were born, the Ghosts broke in on local TV to warn that anyone passing the gates of Haunted Mine would be considered a trespasser in the land of the Dead, "and will be dealt with... accordingly." That ominous unclarity has scared off a generation of hunters. The few who tried found that accordingly meant by whim of the Dead--one never came back, one came back mad, one so aged by terror he died soon after, and one alive, untouched, goldless--and warned. How her father sneaked in under their noses (if ghosts have noses) no one knows. Her guess is he found a side door leading straight to the lode--he missed the sentinels at the gate and was out again before the ghosts mobilized. Or perhaps he cut a deal with them. But what?
She begs me to search the plain a final time. We drive out past the rice terraces her banker neighbors are irrigating on her leased land, then up the natural terraces of the Pleistocene river that poured huge through this once-forested valley, up to the dry plain, bristling with the fossils that named it Time Plain, veined with small gold dunes like the seams in Haunted Mine. Tall gray-green cacti, some near a century, grope like titanic dishwashing gloves up at the sky. An hour or two later we're beat and stinking, sitting in the narrow shade of a granddad organpipe.
I'm so tired I actually lean back to rest against the cactus foot. Stupid thing to do. Stung awake by the couple of pricks I get, I turn, surprised there weren't more. The base is a mass of old scars. Then we see it at the same moment--the random slashes and puckers form a pattern, one we and only we know! The hieroglyphs! Above them we pick out ragged letters--under his angular H-NRY FO-DA, a skull and crossbones and a cartoon warn off trespassers: "T-IS LAND -S MIN-D!" I laugh at the three-way pun, claimed mine, goldmine, landmine, oops, four, this land is "Mind" after all. I notice I'm stepping very lightly. Probably bluffing, but I don't put it past old Henry to plant a few old dynamite sticks round his borders!
So we've found a boundary marker. Proof at last that her father claimed Time Plain! There's more: the mountain-sketch, and a much bigger block of code. The last three glyphs are dyed blue--I get nervouser as they flash, warningly--on, off, on. His booby trap system may or may not be bluff, but it's still alive. Worse, I'm sure now I can't crack his code: almost no characters repeat. It looks syllabic or ideographic to me.
Jane spots a buff plume of dust in the terraces. A green wedge skims the desert up toward us. Damn! Nurse Green in her hover. She's doing 150 kph and obviously knows exactly where we are. They had a beeper on us! Probably glued to my truck--I haven't been as careful as Jane; no reason to. The Bankers won't be far behind.
I grab binox from the cab and focus on Green as she drives. Reckless--not gold fever, hysteria! She collapses over the emerald steering panel, crying! The car goes auto. Her green hair and tasteful green clothes flap viciously, flags in a hurricane. Then she pulls herself back up. I wonder what's wrong? Is Green losing her nerve, or having a crisis of conscience? The bankers have had Bailey Green under their thumb for years, but I guess the shyest worm can turn.
"Could she be coming to warn us?" I muse.
"We got no time, we can't take the chance" says Jane, and I have to agree. We hop into the truck, and roar across the two miles of plateau to the foot of Mount Haunted. A jeep roars up out of an arroyo to the right, heading us off. It's Green's accomplice, Brown--and he has no conscience.
Our tracks meet at a cattle tank below the peak. Brakes squawk, dust everywhere. We almost got by him. He shoots our left front tire. It blows, spewing stinky dust into the cab. "Get out." he says. We do.
His gun's in my face. Nothing moves him--til Jane, ten feet off, starts screaming curses at him. He begins to laugh. "Talk all you like, just keep your hands up, honey." I can understand his saying honey, I'm horrified how she's coming apart at the loss of her dream--jumping up and down helplessly, calling him names in a high littlegirl voice, tears like tire tracks through the dust smearing her face--this isn't the Jane I know.
Even I'm surprised when she kicks dust in his eyes--and goes right on cursing and crying! She knows the type: he doesn't fire at her even now, thinking the attack's just a female outburst--til she uses his blind moment to clobber him! I twist the gun by the barrel and we wrestle, but not much--he's as scared the gun will go off as I am. He's in this for money, not risk. Jane's on his back, gets his throat, says "Into the trough!" He obeys as he realizes we'll let him live. We toss him into the brackish mineralized cattle trough, gun and all. We pile into the truck and light out for the mines. We'll be safe from him. He won't dare fire that thing til he cleans it, and without a gun he's no match for us...
Well. Now it's not "Comes A Horseman" but "The Hobbit". And I'm Bilbo. I have the map, and I'm inside the Mountain. No one's harmed me yet. We found what we guessed was the secret tunnel's door, sealed, but sculpted smoothly in a tiny hanging valley halfway up the peak. We couldn't get it open--no crack to pry--and at last, armed with the map I hope will stand as a safe pass with the ghosts if I meet any, I walk round to the main gate past the empty rooms--the machinery's long gone, since the upper mine buildings were used as a high school annex for a few years before the coming of the Dead. I enter the dank gate. I turn at random, trusting my hobbit-instinct underground. I smell gold, under the smell of mold, rust, decaying bones, and old faint fear.
Jorin Oakenshield, leader of the dwarves, along withall waited in the hanging vale--"the doorstep", as I dubbed it. None would come even to the mouth. I guess I understand--it's what they hired me to do; take the risk of being first. My nose leads me round the fourth corner, and there it is. The vein of gold surfaces through the floor and left wall like a whale breaching the sea surface, gleaming and slick as skin in my wavering flashlight. I grab some loose nuggets as proof--and then I feel eyes on me. I turn to see... nothing. I feel the Dead around me but I cannot see. Terror floods me, I stumble toward the cave mouth, a gleam, gray light now, now the glare of dawn, showing me the oozing walls, rotten railings, rusted lockers. I drop the map by the main gate, howling with panic, and run down the valley, across the steppe of the former playing fields, yelping stupidly when I have the breath. I don't understand my fear--I saw nothing!--but I can't stop it, I can't stop running.
Edda, and of course the five brothers
Dwalin, and the immensely fat
Wild horses graze against the sky at the far edge, and my head says "I'm safe" but my pulse keeps drumming. I start to feel guilty. "I'll go home to the Shire--I took no more than my share, so it's not stealing, and they'll find the map at the gate--they'll reach the gold too--it's easy enough..."
The land has greened a lot again--how long was I in there?--and a village like a toy lies below me, down the river terrace. Cottonwoods shade all but the white church spire. How long was I in there? As I start to think, and panic fades (though not my determination to stay out of Haunted Mine), my guilt grows.
"All right. I promise I'll stop in the village--and have them ring the Church Bell as a signal, and see if one of the Dwarves comes down. If not, I'll leave a note." I just can't go up there again!
I'm completely winded. I sit on the edge of the terrace overlooking the town. I'm peeling and eating chocolate nuggets to calm myself, thinking with a funny mix of scolding and sympathy and amusement, "What a scared little bunny you are!" and so I look, plump, hunched and munching. Munching.... balls of chocolate wrapped in gold foil.... where?... THE TREASURE! Under the eye of the sun, it is revealed as chocolate. Chocolate nuggets. Or does it change, in daylight? Fool's gold! Letters of silver and red march across the gold (real?) foil: "Arkenstones!"
I admit they're tasty, but--
I hike down the river terrace to the park by the church. Sprinklers arc and swing, glass-beaded curtains. It's morning. "Esgarante City Park" says the sign. I sit at a picnic table out of the sprinklers' line of fire and build up my nerve. I need to talk to the Bell Ringer.
A flock of kids run through the spitting water jets, screaming, chanting a rhyme I can't quite make out... how the rain is really a huge Night Bird pissing on the Earth, as it crosses the Desert each day on its way around the world, forever fleeing the Sun. The Rain Bird. Ghosts and spirits! They surround these people the way science does everywhere else--the Ghosts swim in the back of this town's minds, in its children's songs. The foot of this mountain's not far enough away for me.
Still, I remember my friends up on the flank of the peak, so I cross the street to the church. A nun answers the door. She's cute in her gullwinged hat (the sacred bird of Utah). She looks familiar--Nancy Drew! Didn't she once solve a case of a Haunted Ranch with a treasure? Maybe she can help.
"Sister, help me, for I am Hunted, Haunted, Hounded..."
I begin. She responds with the traditional Feedback Welcome:
"I will help you, for you are Bewitched, Bebothered, Bewildered..."
She smiles sunnily and sits me down and pours me cream, and churchyard nectarines, and homebake, as I tell my tale.
Her advice: "I know you don't feel safe, but you are. Boy, are you. They let you take gold out of Haunted Mine--that's a first! I'd go back and leave a message at the National Monument ranger station. You need to tell them. Guilt can haunt you too! My advice is to wait 'til High Noon, and go up if you can bear to. Trust me, noon to ghosts is like the wee hours to us. The Dead need their sleep; they won't bother you.
"Meanwhile," she grins, "you won't waste your time, for there's an excellent pub across the way."
She is clearly a wise woman, and I'm glad I came to her.
As I cross the square, black tar already warm on my bare soles, I look back up the canyon toward the Mine. I cringe as I see motion, faint forms pouring down toward me through the high weeds... Oh. Not an army of the dead. The Esgarante High football team, returning from their morning run up the terrace to the Monument station and back.
Maybe I could return.
The Dancing Appaloosa is quiet, cool, wood-smelling, clean. Kachinas and whittling on the walls. I like it. Surprised at the crowd, so early. But most are eating, talking, not drinking. It's more like an Irish or Shirey pub or inn than a New World bar--a sociable place.
The tender says "I recommend Bogle's Ale--our local brew." before I say a word. He reads me well, knows his stuff--it's a hobbitish beer, thick, yeasty, furry as my feet, not a bit bitter.
"Now, what on earth are you doing in a dot like Esgarante?" says a fat old guy--"Call me Seth"--at the next table. "Lemme pay for that."
Beyond him, a dark-haired woman says "Yeah! What's your story? You look like you need help. I'm Jane--Ruburt to my friends."
A weedy playful Irish-looking guy says "Tom McPherson, and m' brother John." John grunts. Tom says "He don't talk much." John looks so dour, nothing like his brother.
Ruburt adds "That's Cayce down there with the Coca-Cola, and that's Ramtha over at the bar."
I hesitate, hating to relive the fear and ashamed to show my cowardice, but their warmth opens me up at last. They all think I came out well, probably because the Ghosts took me for an emissary of Henry Fonda.
"Yeah, just go up at noon. They won't bother you." says Ruburt. She buys me a beer.
They tell me some of their own tales of Ghostly encounters. They take them pretty lightly. Guess you'd have to, in this town on the edge. Or move.
Seth's accent, odd, unidentifiable, gets stronger as he drinks. It nags me--Dublin? Elmira? Bree? Gradually he starts in to boasting. He clobbered some Ghost, name of Buber or Buddher or something, who kept pestering the townsfolk to live up to some insane spiritual standard.
He says "Me and my damned brother Rooney, the damned black cat, who won't come in the damned Screen Door ever since it warped in the damned flood when the damned busted--" He spits out the Ds in an ironic way that makes me think he's really been called "damned"--and he resents it. Soon his anger comes into the open. He glares down at me.
"You people, you mortals are so damned scared of us, and we never mess with you anyway! Why should we? It wouldn't be fair--and besides, you're no challenge!" His jump from condescending sympathy to beery scorn shocks me--and others are agreeing! I'm surrounded by a mob of Immortals--spirits, gods, what?--And they see me, and hate me, as a typical mortal who damns them for being magic!
"A token mortal, I'm, I'm a racial tolkien. In the wrong bar." I think with the last tip my of humor as it sinks into anxiety, like the tip of a drowning man's nose.
"Of course, magicians are another matter." says Seth. "Me and my damned brother went up against S------ F----! And we whupped his ass!"
Uproar in the room! The name means nothing to me, but this is news to them! I am in so far over my head now, I'm numb. "I can't even keep the players straight" I think soggily, and then add "Am I bein' sorry for myself? Stead of tryin' to handle the situation?"
And then add "Could be the beer."
"Don't forget I beat old C---- himself!" says Ruburt. Nods all round at that, and Seth buys a round of Bogle, even for me, though two of their huge human mugs were plenty, considering my size. I melt down into my chair.
Seth mistakes my need to be invisible with disbelief in his amazing exploit. "Just because I don't show you little people a thing or two, you think I couldn't handle someone like S------, do you?" he growls. By little he doesn't mean hobbits, I know. He means those who aren't gods. He means the weak.
"Look in the mask--I'll prove it!" he says, and glides to the wall. Do his feet even touch the floor? He lifts down a wood mask with clear glass marble eyes. I took it for part of the inevitable cow-bar decor. The place falls dead silent.
Guess it's not.
"You be careful with that." says Ruburt. "He may be too weak to meet HIM, even long distance. And you don't want the kid swallowed. Or HIM showing up here--when we're drunk." Seth looks at her and sits in front of me, holds up the mask.
"I can handle HIM." says Seth quietly to her, and turns to me. "It's safe to look--and you might learn something." I wonder if he's right, or if it's pride talking. I'm glad Ruburt's here as a backup.
I recognize this mask--a shaman's mask, Northwest Coast or Inuit. But I can't summon its name--Joker? Hunchback? Twisted, unnerving face. I can't tell if it's in agony or laughing at me insanely. He pushes its eyes up to my eyes. They're set exactly the same distance apart as mine! I am looking in through its eyes, each of mine into one of its, and the stereo vision creates a feeling a endless depth, as if I'm gazing through deep time to long ago.
And then as the light in the eyes gleams stronger, far brighter than the skylight of this bar, the time creeps nearer, and I see a face forming in the crystals of the eyes, and in the face behind the mask is such horrifying power that I try to blink as if my eyes'll burn, but I can't, and I know I couldn't last a moment face to face with this nameless being, I'd be stripped of all my names, peeled like a banana, and these beings in a desert bar can face such a face! And win. Who ARE these guys?
And then the fog fades, the face comes clear, and in terror I flee, flailing up through the four stages to the waking world.
And wake in shame! I stoop to this now, to running away--from reality! Unexpectedly, unconsciously, I blurt "What've you done to yourself? You were a shaman!" Then sit up and gape at what I said, in the morning light.
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