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Hunters' Fire

Dreamed 1987/9/8 by Chris Wayan

I'm living in an early Masterpiece Theater show about a large family of brothers and sisters, several of whom were later famous. The Brontes? The Mitfords? Five or six of us, orphaned, sticking together, the elders raising those who have not attained legal majority. I'm the middle sister, a shortish girl with dark brown braids. Girl in yellow gown waves a gun atop a rock in brush; sisters look on. Dream sketch by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

We live above a Mediterranean seaport that's still English, a remnant of the Empire. We just bought a small property on the mountain-slope. It seemed a bargain. Now we see why. Water is a problem. Dry grass, a few trees. The 'cottages' aren't; just sheds fit for chickens. A small garden and some fences. Goats wander between the abandoned cars. Some of us are furious that the two who negotiated the deal didn't consult us first, though to be fair, it WAS mostly their money...

Gunshots! A farmer down the slope warned us that hunters and poachers use this land as their own, and will want to drive us off, to keep the mountain for themselves...

Poking around the rural ruin that's our new home is just too much for shy, depressive Kitty. Sobbing, she runs up the ridge and fires a pistol at the sky in frustration--no--desperation. Some of us later say they saw her point the gun at her own temple and fire. Some are not so sure. I think she did make the gesture, but if she shot herself at that range, we'd see a gory mess; this was no small, ladylike pistol but a fearsome American revolver. But she only slumps, perhaps alive--we can't run up to see if she was indeed struck in the temple.

For hunters return fire, as if she attacked them, as if we all did. A vicious hail of bullets. I dive to the ground and hide behind an abandoned taxicab, and try to locate the hunters--mostly below us on the slope, hidden in brush. They have a better view of us; the rear wheel is all that hides me, really. The car' s so far gone, it erodes like rotten wood, pieces of fender flying off like paper. It's a miracle most of us aren't seriouly hurt. Thomas, the eldest, uses a large chunk as a shield and tries to reach the trees, but it's whittled down by repeated hits and he's pinned again half way.

Charlotte is hit and wounded. Unconscious. The firing trails off and stops. We wait, and hide... we must risk fetching help for Charlotte. I leave the others, try a path on the ridge, and come to a fork; the high road or the low? I take a chance and pick the shorter one, but down the path, I hear hunters' voices. I circle round them a long while. One spots motion in the bushes and fires at me. Terrifying to be hunted like a deer. It takes me hours to descend to town and reach the hospital.

I walk into an official inquiry into our conduct. We're accused of dawdling on the way down the mountain so our sister would die! And I'm blamed the most. These Colonial men don't believe us: we're all young, and mostly girls. We were playing with pistols, and we're covering up. Now tell the truth, girls!

Charlotte nearly dies, but eventually wakes in the hospital, confused and lost. Her convalescence was slow. So was ours. I fear it goes on. All of us are haunted by the shock of Kitty's death, and the terrible fear we were about to die with her, from killers we couldn't even see.

I never realized that under the later episodes of our BBC series, lay this scar. In real life as well, the daily interactions of our three famous siblings were colored by this memory of our ordeal and our loss, which we don't even know HOW to mourn.

As suicide? Or murder?

2001 NOTES Girl in yellow gown waves a gun atop a rock in brush. Dream sketch by Wayan.

The names are fictional; I forgot our names as I slowly woke. The location, while it sounds vaguely like Gibraltar, lacked the Rock. It was more likely a small port further east, dominated by English naval and shipping interests, but never a formal colony.

What gave rise to the dream? I'd been stressed and ill. I was trying biofeedback. Painful childhood memories kept surfacing, linked to my physical symptoms. They weren't 'buried memories'--I'd known of them, just avoided them like the plague. But all of them were certainly real.

Except this. Being hunted, being shot at--or being SHOT, as happened in several variants of this recurring nightmare. Only when building this website, as I read some thirty years of dream-journals consecutively, en masse, did I realize just how often my dreams replay this scene--a massacre on a brushy hillside I barely survived, or don't survive... as gunmen stalked us and slaughtered us like animals.

I hesitate to say this: I no longer think it's symbolic. I think it's memory. I have reason. The only other recurring nightmares I've ever had turned out to be memory of trauma from age two or three. Once I finally believed it could be literal, not fantasies or fears, I asked surviving relatives, who (reluctantly, but unambiguously) confirmed all the key events.

Lifelong recurrent nightmares aren't casual things. They have real roots. But in my well-documented life, there's just no room for the civilian massacre I remember--over and over. Reluctantly, I'm forced to locate it earlier, and assume this massacre represents a past life... and possibly a past death.

The dream anticipates both my own reluctance to believe in pastlife trauma (and the disdain skeptics feel for the very idea) by inserting white male officials who deny it all and call us lying, self-indulgent, delusional children. But not being believed isn't the core of this nightmare. Nor is being hunted, or even shot at.

This nightmare, and its many sisters, are saying that what haunts one about past pain isn't the pain itself, but uncertainty about the facts. I was sure I'd witnessed my sister's death. What made the memory unbearable was to have witnessed her death and STILL not know if she'd killed herself, or was murdered.

Being believed matters. Justice matters. Suffering matters. But the truth must matter more. Because not knowing hurts the most.

LISTS AND LINKS: recurring dreams - I'm Just Not Myself Today - cross-gender dreams - orphans - death - nightmares - what they did to uncle Hugh - dream siblings - hunted! - violence - suicide - reincarnation - same dreamer, second gunmen-brush-massacre: The Vat Messiah - pencil dream-art

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