THE NEPALESE DROP
Dreamed 2000/4/20 by Chris Wayan
I'm wandering an empty fairground, with my dad and my sister Miriel. I get lost. Where are they? At last, I hear Miriel calling, from up a bare hill. I climb the slope, but can't see her. It's sandy and crumbly--a bit scary. I cross a bare, fresh dirt patch with parallel grooves: feels like trenches with loose dirt covering them, ready to collapse in. Above that, a good-sized gum tree I grab with relief--the only proof this whole hill isn't just a some huge, recent dirt-pile. I slowly climb on, despite a lot of slips. A bare shaly stretch steepens into cliffs on the left. Shelves. I step on two large rocks that shift under me. Nervouser and nervouser--the whole hill seems ready to slide. Higher yet, steeper still... where the hell is Miriel? Others are climbing behind me. I slip and a good-sized rock goes down the slope, knocking smaller ones loose in a small slide. I watch helpless and guilty. Will they hit that woman climbing a hundred feet below me?
Just miss her.
But I know now I really shouldn't be up here. Something's wrong, and going wronger by the minute. Yet I ignore my premonitions and go a little further--it seems to be leveling out at last...
Yes! It's the summit. Five or six climbers with gear stand at the top. I come up to them, still feeling shaken. They ignore me utterly. We stand on the brink of a vast gulf--the back side is a thousand-meter cliff--or more. I can't even see the bottom, lost in haze. Across from us is a vast structure my brain won't take in, a huge bewildering white thing like a tent or church roof, with spires and a hole for a rose window. No. They call it a name I half-know, like K1 or Makalu 1--a Himalayan peak taller than K2? Looks taller than Everest itself--it's so steep and smooth and white right down to the foot that I failed even to recognize it as a mountain. The climbers are heading for it. Near though it looks, it's days away. Again my scale shifts; it's even bigger than I thought.
The ground shifts under me. No, not ground. Snow! I'm standing on loose snow at the brink of the cliff. I got so distracted by the great peak I didn't notice the gulf is on the right as well as in front of us. Though I'm standing right next to the climbers, my footing's not safe. I scramble for safety but it's too late. My feet go out and I dangle, clawing at the loose snow. I scream "Help!" and they look at me a long bored moment. Finally one of them reaches a slow hand down and grabs me. And starts to slide off too! The others do nothing. I plead with them. My voice is high and I realize I'm female again. "Please, please help us..." I sob in a little-girl voice I'm ashamed of... but I'm scared enough to try anything. But then I'm shocked at their behavior: they look coolly at us and don't move, as my weight pulls their friend off the brink. He loses his grip, and we're both falling. And falling. And falling...
A long scream wells up in me, all the long way down. I wake in a cold sweat.
THE NEXT DAY
A friend invites me to go see "Mask Of Desire". It's the very first Nepalese feature film! The story: a young widow in Katmandu works as a medium and healer. She's lonely, frustrated, and envies a young married couple so much that in the end she destroys herself. Turns out she was haunted by her own husband's suicide. It wasn't love; they were just kids in an arranged marriage. In her flashbacks, he runs up a slope, she chases, on top there's a view across a valley to Himalayan foothills... and suddenly the hill ends in a cliff, and he jumps off and dies.
And everyone looks at her coldly, blaming HER.
While I shiver in my theater seat, seeing my nightmare materialize on the screen.
She only had a flashback. I had a flash-ahead.
TWO WEEKS LATER
My father woke up from a nap to find he was paralyzed. It didn't go away. Not a stroke; a rare virus. He struggled for months in hospital, trapped in a frozen body, alert but unable to speak or move, and died that fall. Only after the fact did I realize I'd been having nightmares of my father, paralysis, and death for months before he was stricken.
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