"For the world is hollow, and
I have touched the sky"
--Madman in a space ark, on Star Trek
Dreamed 1981/8/7 by Chris Wayan
(For unfamiliar terms, see glossary at end.)
When I wake, I'm on Io. Fine with me. No, wait. It isn't like a pizza at all. Dark gray grottos like any moon. All wrong. No static crackle, no smelter haze, no golden sulfur plains, no volcanoes. Nothing. A hollow moon, caves. ("Hollow?" whispers my lucid familiar, Jiri. "A false place?")
Oh, the stars! A universe, so bright without an airy shroud.
I'm asphyxiating. No air. A man, a little gray human man, is ahead of me, by--an airlock? He's choking too. Faints. I stand, watch calmly, holding my breath. There must be air, I am not freezing or bursting, no blood, my skin's not even cracking. I stand and the man falls, slowly, slowly. Low grav, way too low for Io. Why'm I so sure it's Io? ("Io? Yo? I!" whispers Jiri.)
The airlock opens to vast goldlit space. In the door's a Goddess, skin glowing, naked, giant, god what a body (envy) and the, the eyes, I sink in, I'm your... my heart races, hormones bounce around, I quiver like a hunting dog finally scenting the Dog God--but I stay where I am. ("How numinous--the Anima? The Self-to-be?" muses Jiri.) She's trailing clouds of glory--but are they hers, or billows of that glowing place behind her? What do I really know of her?
Well--I breathed. As the Goddess shuts the door. Had to, I burned the oxy in my blood getting all hot and horny. I breathed. There was air of a sort, after all.
I take one step before I fall. ("Vital element missing up here" muses Jiri, even as I fall). And I am dragged inside, as the other was before me.
Well. It's a curious moon. A hollow-hearted deceiver of a moon, a Roll Dem Bones bone in a dice cup, a rattlesnake's rattle of a moon, a veritable Wankel rotary moon. (Really. I saw the factory plate.) A moon inside a moonshell, orbiting the center (for objects in a hollow object accelerate toward the center of gravity of the hollow object, which is in this case the center of the hollow center, see what I mean?) and we're inside the hollow moon that orbits that center, just below the false gray crust of the moon that can't be Io...
Where ARE we, rolling around like a ball in a bearing on the inner face of the moon balloon?
No answers in here. Just air ...and water...and the Light.
For my Lady's turned into the light of this world: Diana dispersed. Now the hills and seas and concave sky suffuse with sensual glow; here-ness. She made me take my breath and my step, and now she's gone... back into the sea ("For she's the unconscious, and her role's done" says Jiri; "shut up you logicentric jingoist" says I: "I want to ask her out").
Gravity is funny here, since we're spinning so. The tidal bulge is huge, rambles everywhere, changes the whole topography every day. Isles become mountains, plains become abysses, hills are whelmed to rocks, reefs, disappear. Life here's luxuriant; it's used to the cycle. The sea is warm. In the low grav, we can swim, skim, nearly fly if we want. A fluid world. I like it. ("The inner world indeed", says Jiri).
The other marooned are silly, but lovable. We circle the world with the tide. Camp at the foot of the Three Peaks one day. Next day the tide rises and we move up. Several days later we're inland, on another range. The valley we crossed is now a lagoon. "See the rocks?" I say to the Gray Man and his big friend, Hairy Builder. "Back there?" I point up (there's no horizon... just fades upward into the far.) With the Mechanic's excellent binoculars they're only yards away. A meter high, now... half... there they go. Mountains swallowed. "Those were the ones we camped on." I tell them. I've been keeping track. "Think of that!"
The Builder snorts. "Naaah..." And he means it! They just don't notice the shapes of the underlying terrain. As the skin changes, they forget the bones. Each day's topography is new to them. I can't believe I know this world better than they do, but I seem to. Oooh, I'm so clever! Yet... it's not ego, I am different--they DON'T see it.
Hey--today I untied the rope that holds the world up. At the airlock is this cord that ties the inner and outer moons together. Naturally since the moons are in motion (slow, I admit) the airlock connection has to be made through a slot going all around the world... like an endless cablecar slot... but of course interrupted by rebar clamps now and then to keep the hemispheres of the inner world from splitting! Which'd burst and cool and kill this ecosphere, and I'd die a horrible death, which is a real irritation since I usually wake up when I die and I can rarely return to a space even with Dremember.
Anyway I untied the world when a world-brace came along. An honor for a novice! It's a ritual--a sort of seasonal marker, the only obvious one in this superficially random ecology. I see others, but they can't. I untied the world, slipped the cord around the rebar as the contact point rolled past, and retied it. I took my time, and the others panicked. I'd set us adrift to fall to the center, trapped inside forever with no door, and so on. Of course the moon came loose--I was curious. I watched. It fell at least 5 millimeters before I tied it! Rebounded later that day. Tidal stress, momentum, centrifugal force--you'd think people who dream all the way to Io would know the basics! Nope. Oh, how they fussed. Whoops! The sea took over today. All day we swim in bath-warm water through rainbow fish. I feel pretty good. Above float tangles of shingles and slats, lattices and trellises--pretty shadow patterns for me, sanctuary for those who want to bask, and those who dislike the sea. (Perhaps tomorrow it'll be their sort of day; I do seem to dominate this sharedream, but I don't mind land either.)
An Anomaly appears! Hard, small, dark gray, angular... approaching with a tractory hum. Looks like a TANK! Whose is this? (Well, it could be mine, a fear, a parental mechanism--doesn't have to be a leak to some gun nut's dream, though frankly it feels like it's from outside our consentinuum. Trouble should manifest organically in this bio-default bubble: typhoons and sea-monsters.) I dive, keep an eye on the thing from under the lattice, following its olive shadow, hiding when I rise for air.
It turns and heaves toward me.
And--ignores the others. It wants ME.
Even diving doesn't help. It knows, it knows.
At last, I give up. Like a marlin so tired it surfaces for good, I float under a sargasso mat, breathing at a yard-wide hole, as it clanks ponderously onto the raft and lowers its iron cannon at me.
The cannon squawks.
Not a weapon, a loudspeaker. A robot! Flat dead voice (someone's very cheap). Repeats the message. I can't make out the consonants through the waterslap under the lattice so I lift my head right out.
"All swimmers are hereby cautioned: today the water is the water of multiplication."
This thing is someone else's dream! The gray shape, the gray tone, the weird phrasing... all feel the same. Like the surface moon? Or, or... 'The Lathe of Heaven', that's it! The turtles who swim out of George's dreams into the world, talking awkwardly through their elbows... calm, nonsensical, profound.
So it's a lifeguard? ("How odd," Jiri thinks; "its scary look kept you in the water it warned you out of! Was that planned?")
The tank backs one tread, lurches around, and whirs back the way it came across the great sargasso raft. Warning, not rescue, seem to be its thing. Multiplication. Are there duplicates of me? Or did it mean exaggeration? Will I become very extreme? I feel comfy as a seal. But the change could still be coming.
I float, wondering... at the raft's edge, my friends gather, staring down at me.
And then I realize--something IS wrong. I'm strangling again! The air's not green enough, the light doesn't flicker and stab in shafts and glories. Dimly I hear them "Can the other one talk too?" "Are you separate people or one?" They're making no sense, as people short on oxygen do, but they show no stress. I try to use my brains, ask these simple folks clear questions, get some specifics! I feel too faint. The Mechanic says "Maybe your other head could breathe..." My huh? I sink with shock--several meters--and lie on the sofa of a thermocline, try to collect myself. And realize I feel better! Down here I can breathe. I twist my neck painfully far and see... my other head. On the left. From this head, that is. It's little. A baby's head. Not fully grown yet. A wart, a living moving wart the size of my fist. Like grotesquely arrested birth thrusting out of my body at random. Ugh. The lopsidedness of it disgusts me most. Matched heads wouldn't as much, somehow. And then, with a wrench, I see THE HEAD ON MY RIGHT. Another one! No, wait--it's old. My old one, seen through my new head's eyes. It's changed too--dark green spinachy hair; big light- reflecting eyes; breathing water in a slow steady cycle. My awareness jumps back. I have two heads, sets of eyes, ears, two brains--and one awareness. One soul.
Yet life is different through each head. The new one is too small a conduit for my full range of language and intelligence. I sound babylike, and think simply too. But behind the childish words is a mature soul... childish expression of adult complexity, adult concerns. Like a stroke victim, or an untrained talent. I can't manifest ME. No wonder I want to hide it. Of course it will mature, though I don't know how fast. And my old head lets me out, fluently, freely. It's not like I've lost anything--except appearances!
I am starting to accept. I can breathe through either head--and one breathes air, one water. I alone can explore the deeps of this world--AND return to the air to tell the tale! (Both world and heart, jiri and dream, are open to you, says Jiri, and for once I don't resent the analysis). I am moved. Those who choose the inner sea are so few: they mostly must forsake the land to do it. Such a gift! I alone, amphibious. Why? (Not why me; I know I'm wonderful.) I have a responsibility to such a treasure.
I rise to tell my friends. I plan to have a party to honor the sea's gift.
And as I talk, I feel a familiar torture starting. I'm choking AGAIN! And I can't be, I'm a living hedged bet, I don't believe it even as I faint and (Damn! every time! I need more Senoi practice) wake--as I choke to death.
And the shame begins. Given air--given a glimpse of the Goddess, and a Door into her World, given sharp eyes and mind, cosmic warnings, two heads, everything, I STILL keep on choking myself! How can a person with a waterbreathing head AND an airbreathing head strangle, at the sea's surface on a calm, warm day, chatting, with friends two yards away saying "Show us the little one, don't be so shy about it, it's cute!"
Which is the answer. I never sensed what I was doing.
"Show us the little one!"
I wanted to maintain my reputation for intelligence; I didn't want a pinhead representing me in human society--in the air. Without even noticing, I, the Amphibian, held my mature waterbreathing head up high in the clear dry air and spoke animatedly and articulately with my friends, and hid my airbreathing head in the warm private friendly sea, and double-drowned, on a bright Io day.
I took over a week to take the first action--admit my ignorance, where normally I'd distract (and intimidate) the airheads with the shock of some profound emotional or psychic insight; they disorient so easily, confronted with the inner sea, that few notice I do it to demonstrate power, and to cover up the fact that in their practical world I'm a pinhead ignoramus!
An American shaman says "The warrior must practice the fasting of the heart." Well, I'm not a warrior. I must learn... and it is hard... to practice the fasting of the brain. The fluent waterhead must slip through green silence, while the babyhead learns to breathe and talk and ask for help. And of course they'll take me for a scatterbrain, cute, prattling, a little pathetic, with a streak of what one man called "women's intuition," rejecting his own sea... His problem! Mine is to let that pinhead breathe--time, contacts, experience, nutrition... and pride. I do have two heads after all, and few can say so. Oh, a few... and eventually growing pinheads will be a world craze, our best hope; and even the owners, the rulers, will dip in. Out of ego, of course, fearing to be left behind. But I don't scorn that fear. I understand it. I fear being left a head! (Or right a head, ha ha, says the left one.) Standing out as a fool is excruciating for the shy. But for now, I must bear it for the sake of the child. What else? Drown myself?
Yes, says the little head, we can bear it. And I can ask for help maybe.
Oh. OHO! I do forget to do that, don't I, says the green head.
And so ends the tale. For now.
Today, I find it intriguing that the dream gives Io a vast interior ocean; at the time this concept was little talked of, and always in the context of Europa alone. Ganymede and Callisto were not suspected yet; the idea of water-balloons as a class of worlds was yet to come.
Still, why Io, the only moon far too hot inside to hold water? Stupid dream! Yet... what if the warm, sloshing, luminous cave-seas of Io that I swam are real? Just not liquid ice--liquid SULFUR! I'm carbon, with that carbon-bias toward water. But to silicon mer-folk swimming a molten sulfur sea, no doubt it seems mild, warm, pleasant... unless you get spouted out a volcano's airlock-throat, to gasp and freeze on the stark moon-roof.
For their world is hollow; and you mustn't touch the sky.
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