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Once a Hero...

Twelve dreams from 1998/10/22, 23 & 24, by Chris Wayan


This CHAIN of dreams gives you a backstage look at my dreamwork. It's raw for a reason: to show how a horrendous truth can emerge gradually--reluctantly. Dreamwork isn't neat.

The NUMBERING has gaps, for I had other dreams those nights on diverse topics, omitted for brevity and focus. Once a Hero traces just one thread.

The CODES after each title, in red, mark each dream's major traits. For more on this, 31 Flavors of Dreams.

b = pregnancy or birth
c = nonhuman characters
e1 = someone I'm attracted to
j = self-defense & assertion
p = an apparent psychic dream

NOTES follow most dreams, in gray. There are three kinds:

(in parentheses: ASSOCIATIONS to the day's events, or general speculation)
[in square brackets: SYMBOLS or MEANINGS, like "cave=solitude"]
{in braces: calls to ACTION--dream advice or warnings.}

I think that's all you need. Let's begin. Silence in the bed... Action! A ragged man at an open door spilling light into a dark room: he's leaving prison.

1998/10/22--Dream 1: SHE SINCERELY TRIES TO RECALL e1 j

I was jailed for a felony I didn't commit. Couldn't afford a lawyer, so I was assigned a public defender who believed I did it, only raised procedural questions, and didn't even check my claim I was in Sacramento at the time and witnesses could be found. Even my friends believed I'd done it, didn't bother to verify my story. And they could have. It was true. I did my time, I'm free now--but I still feel bitter.

I walk into police headquarters, though I'm afraid they'll arrest me again for nothing. Not paranoia--after all, the last time they did, they got away with it. Bring a few friends for moral support. I ask to talk to a policewoman who was on a case in Sacramento that might have introduced her to witnesses who'd have seen me.

I recognize her! Not from life, from a dream I had recently. She was doing a tango with Captain Janeway from the Star Trek show "Voyager." It must have been psychic. I still don't know what the hell it means, but it doesn't sound like your typical cop, and feel reassured. Slight, smart, straight-haired, a bit shy, friendly--doesn't act like the cops I recall, either. I ask her "I know this was a lot of cases ago, but do you recall meeting any of the following people in your investigation?" Show her photos and names. She spends a long time trying to recall. Couple of her coworkers join her. Still can't place any of the witnesses, but she made a sincere effort to relive it all. I'm grateful--she proved not all cops are my enemies.

Then her boss wades in. A tough woman, suspicious and a bit scary. She accuses the cops of goofing off, wasting time to help "a known criminal." Eager to blame me for it. But suddenly I stop being scared and get mad and say "They weren't goofing off, they were doing their jobs--making sure justice is done. I was falsely convicted--I know you think all criminals say that, but no one bothered to check these witnesses, though I asked. I had a constitutional right to be presumed innocent, and I was denied that. My own defender assumed I was guilty. These cops can't give me back the years in prison for a crime I didn't commit, but they can help clear my name. Your institution failed me, and not just me. They're trying to right a wrong."

And their boss actually listens. Stops threatening me. In fact she opens a secret door and lets me and my friends into a narrow hallway like a staff corridor in a hospital. Few civilians ever learn about it, fewer are allowed in. A sign of trust. I feel vindicated. Get a bit lost, but we head downstairs and eventually find our way out.

[Imprisoned = for years I couldn't date or work much--chronic illness, no self-esteem, savagely critical voices in my head. Now that I'm stronger, my boss, Habit, may say "back to work!" but I'm re-evaluating my life.]
(that dream of Captain Janeway's tango turned out to be predictive; maybe her dance partner's guest-appearance here means this dream's predictive too? So don't be hasty to interpret it.)
[The secret corridors = buried memories! Or one of the buried memories themselves.... maybe the halls of Agnews State Mental Hospital, a horrible place where my uncle was locked up; I saw it a lot during visits when I was two or three.]

1998/10/22--Dream 2a: DELAY THAT DIG! J pol South China's karst lands, full of limestone crags. Dream sketch by Wayan; click to enlarge.

A new archeological site in South China--limestone crag country. The site's a cave in the flank of a crag, near a waterfall. I'm part of an American team the Chinese government authorized to dig here--but just before we reach the site, just across the waterfall-stream, local officials come up and block us by camping on the islet that's the only way across the river.

They say "we have our own team, and we know how to live on the land up here. Go home." Our leader is persistent and points out they're essentially besieged on their rock--we can forage all over the mountain. They defy us. "We know how to go without. You Americans are coddled, you'll give in first." They may be right, but most of us suspect they don't really care about archeology; they're just out for bribes.

They lack the delicate high-tech tools needed to unravel this very old site. That's why the national government reluctantly authorized us. No, this is local blackmail. But I think they've underestimated us. We came to do this and we expected to camp under difficult conditions high on a mountainside. We won't give up.

[Archeology= Buried truths, buried memories.]
[cave high on karst-crag = withdrawal, mysticism?]
[officials here = political correctness, my parents' leftism? Anorexia/asceticism ("we know how to starve, you don't"). They say we're soft, echoing a recent dream of a precinct boss who saw other pollworkers as goof-offs. Workaholism!]

1998/10/22--Dream 2b: LOCAL GODDESS c j s w

Whoops! I'm still on a foreign archeological team, but now the site looks drier, the waterfall's gone, and quite a different group is protesting our dig: the local Shen (gods) and Xian (fairies).

We negotiate with the goddess who rules these mountains. She says "You'll foul our stream with tailings, and foul the histories you write with falsehoods. Your kind always omit us spirit-folk, and all our contributions to history."

I answer with relief "But these are understandable suspicions! You've been burned by Christian and Maoist missionaries, haven't you! We planned only a limited dig, not a mine--and we'd welcome fairy observers to ensure we don't pollute the creek. OR the record! Indeed, we'd be honored by your participation. Would that be acceptable?"


And the dig goes forward--under spirit supervision.

(Again there are objections to unburying memories, but here too, objectors conditionally approve the dig.)
Chinese fox-maidens, one in human form, one in transition.

1998/10/22--Dream 2c: FAIRY THEMEPARKS c dat

Meanwhile, down in the river valleys, stadiums and theme parks are being built to exploit the region's folklore for tourists. These tacky little Disneylands do have some benefits: they hire locals whose families are rumored to have fox-blood or fairy-blood, who have been shunned; indeed the parks increase tolerance for all those who look strange or delicate, and even let real fairies and gods and spirits walk among humans safely--out of the closet for the first time since Mao! And the tourism stimulates a resurgence of local culture and art.

But I'm also pleased for a selfish reason: theme parks are an ideal place for me to meet weird women. I'm strongly attracted to fox-girls and part-fairies, with their slender frames, large eyes, delicate chins, and odd hair-colors among the solid sensible Han. So... these grubby theme parks attract and hire women I often like. Girls who aren't quite human, with streaks of psychic power--they cheer me up, I relax, I don't have to hide my own weirdness. And there's little competition from the local guys--these girls give most of the local men the creeps.

Their loss!

[The fairy themeparks may be the California Institute of Integral Studies and/or Psychic Horizons--two small schools here in San Francisco teaching mystical practices, not just academic theory about it.]

1998/10/22--Dream 2d: LITTLE BLONDE ZOO KID and the BIG BAD BEAST e0 e1 e3 e i-

I'm puzzled why, but in this region a sort of mini-rhino or -hippo or giant warthog is associated with fairies, so the zoo just has to have a herd. Several girls from about six to twelve years old, sisters I think--they all have pale straight hair (very un-Chinese) get hired to care for the animals. Surely they're too young to handle such big beasts!

But the kids give me a tour; I view the monsters from the path normally reserved for staff, between artificial rocks dividing paddocks. The oldest girl asks me "Does it look like Heaven?" Apparently these animals are found in all their tales of fairy lands. Dream: ankle-deep in a steaming pool, a small blonde girl stares down a hulking beast.

"More like Hell" I say, in English since I forgot the Chinese for Hell. It does look hellish to me: wide steaming pools, bare black rocks crawling with ugly monsters...the girls look like angelic visitors, ghostly and delicate among the hulking beasts...

We follow the herd out of the pool-rocks to a green meadow where they start to browse. Heads down, they look like tusky buffalo--not so bad. Peaceful. "All right," I say. "One sort of Heaven, I guess."

At night hippos file into a sort of dorm. Seems unnecessary, the nights here are so mild. The oldest girl guides and tallies them, inspects for illness or injury. A young beast charges up out of a pool, playful I think, or eager to get in, and tries to go right thru her. She spreads her legs, plants her feet, and won't budge. He shoves his scary head between her legs and tries to crawl under her. He pushes up her skirt, which was already pretty short... it looks so sexual I feel a bit shocked and excited. And worried--she's only twelvish. But despite her slight stature, pale straight hair, and delicate face, she's no fragile pushover. She nonchalantly stands her ground and scolds the beast by name, and it backs off.

In fact, she looks remarkably like a younger version of the cop I talked to--and Captain Janeway's tango partner!

(this girl who keeps reappearing may be challenging my guilt about the sort of girls I like (shy sensitive young geniuses!) She's no victim! Not scared a bit of this big beast shoving her legs apart--it's play for both of them.)
{ACTION: If I meet her in another dream, ask her out.}

1998/10/22--Dream 2e: CENTAUR KNIGHT NEEDS A MED TEAM e1 c j a-

Now the beast-tending kids check the special stalls for sick creatures. One centaurish fairy-creature, a knight fused to his horse, staggers in and falls on his side. Must be serious, they only lie down to die! The girls swarm over him, alarmed, doing what they can. The oldest hurries to the phone, looking alarmed, and calls the local hospital and begs for a med team at once. But will they believe a child, especially one over at the themepark claiming some mythical creature is sick? Fox-fairies are tricksters and liars, you know. And I've heard the hospital administrator is the biggest skeptic in the county--he's barely accepted fairies are real, certainly not centaurs.

But the girl acts as adult as she can, tries to describe the symptoms, and convinces the nurse on duty, who dispatches a med team. The hospital's only a few minutes away. We wait. The centaur hangs on... Will the ambulance come in time?


kneeling in straw, a girl sponges down a sick pony-sized centaur while another calls a medical team. Based on an old digital painting, 'Asleep', by Ken Stone. Dream sketch by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

(Just as with the archological dig, officials are slow to believe claims)
[the sick centaur-knight = me, stressed out from two weeks of nonstop activity. I better cut back!]
(NOTE A WEEK LATER: my classmate Henry just pushed a book on me: bizarre lectures by his teacher, of the Falun Gong sect. I found it a fascinating and rather comic mishmash of Buddhism, folk Taoism, hucksterism, and keep-your-head-down apoliticality. The feverish China in my dreams anticipated the bubbling stew of Falun Gong I was soon to discover...)
(NOTE ADDED 2000: No one expected, then, that China's leaders would soon panic and savagely persecute such a deeply apolitical sect. But the dream foreshadows the crackdown--the hostile local officials and the widespread prejudice toward anyone mystical.)

SAME NIGHT--Dream 5: HER HIPPIE ROLE e1 iq Little blonde Chinese girl who may be a fox-spirit.

I'm with the little blonde Chinese girl again, in a crowded Hollywood parking lot, heading for my car.

She tells me, joy in her voice, "I just auditioned for a movie role and they offered me the part! My only hesitation is that it's set in the hippie era and maybe they'll make me another brainless young blonde groupie."

I say "You'd be wonderful--long blonde hair, miniskirt, and then you open your mouth and there's a brain! This role's a problem only if you let them talk you into playing stupid."

But then, I'm biased--I think she's hot, I love it when she shows off her legs.

(I think she's a recurring dream-figure from the last few years, the Cambodian Refugee Girl. She feared punishment for the slightest showing-off, whether of her body or her mind... but it sounds like she's gotten way more confident. Not on the run any more!)
[Hippie: the values I was raised with. I'm rather shy, but my VALUES push me toward to baring myself emotionally and sexually... So... I flipflop back and forth, bold and shy. I think that's what she's worried about here...]
Cover of Elizabeth Moon's 'Once a Hero'.

1998/10/23 Friday

Start a book my housemate left out: Elizabeth Moon's Once a Hero. Full of echoes of last night's dreams! The heroine, Esmay, is a low-ranking officer in a future space navy. Attractive but single, smart but unambitious, she keeps a low profile.

But she gets involved in a (necessary) mutiny against a captain turned traitor, and saves a ship. An intimidating admiral, whose niece Esmay saved by taking command, listens at least... resembles the scary boss in my dream, who also listens when told the hard truth that the system can fail.

During the inquiry, Esmay finds her memory's wrong in spots. Given leave, she goes home to her conservative family, and strange buried memories start surfacing. My dream seems to be referring to this as well, in all those archeology dreams.

Which you almost never got to read, because for hours I told myself "I'm too tired to write my dreams" and didn't write this down. Too tired, huh? Not too tired to talk, hang a plant-hook for my neighbor, swipe a book to read...

I'm evading my dreams! Strange, when they're so hopeful.

My hypnotherapist assigned me the homework of taking small steps with girls I really am attracted to, regardless of political correctness; in the dreams I did socialize a lot and accepted my sexual feelings more freely--less afraid I'm bizarre or too fragile to get involved with anyone.

But it seems like I'm preparing to unearth a new trove of buried memories, and that's a mixed blessing.
Two children in floral swimsuits, in murky green water. Dream sketch by Wayan; click to enlarge.

1998/10/23--Dream 3: GIRLS IN DEEP e1 e i- ped thera

I'm passively watching a dream. No, a video. It shows a group of kids from age four to ten, swimming in a rocky pool in a canyon. Looks like Central Australia. Not swimming together--shot after shot from above showing just one or two of them. Their bright floral swimsuits contrasting with deep dark greenish water, rather opaque. A little somber and scary--I imagine crocs or sharks, though the pool is really too small and the surroundings too dry. Probably safe.

I notice guiltily that I'm attracted to the oldest two girls. Wait, why are they all girls? In skimpy suits. With ominous music! Wait a minute! The director chose these shots to deliberately evoke pedophilic voyeurism and violent fantasies--in fact, to echo the opening scene of JAWS, where we're encouraged to ogle a naked swimmer from a shark's eye view, just before it devours her. That was mean (and stereotypic) enough, but this video uses kids. Though I'm not sure if it's exploiting this image of sexualized children threatened by some lurker in the deep... or if it's trying to criticize it.

These murky depths hide something much more complex than a mere shark!

1998/10/23--Dream 4: HER TACTICS e0 b j Sly woman smoking in a bar. Dream sketch by Wayan.

A TV show. A young man with a heroic jaw and a Navy crewcut returns to his hometown. He thinks he's outgrown it, can handle any tricks they try to pull. In a bar, a cute girl comes up and says "Hi." He looks pleased but a bit blank. She asks "Don't you remember me?" Recognition seeps into his eyes--but he still can't dredge up her name. "We had fun last summer, just before you left for the Academy."

"Oh, yeah." A little guiltily. He never called, forgot all about her after that night.

She gradually slides the conversation around toward a problem she now has, as a girl friend of hers drifts up and joins them. Once her reinforcements are in place, she attacks. "You're responsible for my problem."

"Me? How?"

"I'm pregnant. You just left and didn't even ask." He wonders if she's asking for the money for an abortion. His naval discipline finally forces him to come out and ask directly, rude though it sounds--he's learning to recognize a battle when he's in one.

"Me? Oh, no, I have enough to pay for it myself." Significant look at her friend. "Nearly enough, anyway. And X here will help out. It's good to have friends you can rely on."

Ah, he reasons, trying to stay calm. Nearly enough. So she wants money, but isn't hitting me up for the whole cost. It's been a school year, she'd be almost due now--she's obviously NOT pregnant now, that's a lie, or if true, she's early on and I'm not the father. Maybe she had an abortion months ago, but never told me when she WAS pregnant. No, if. If she was. It could be a complete lie.

Before his studies at the Academy he would never have let himself suspect her of such things. Small-town honesty. But now he recognizes... tactics.

[Man skeptical of surface story = Esmay with a sex change! Facing her family's cover-up, she has to examine every claim skeptically. Then she spots an infiltrator posing as a dazed survivor of a crash, where others excuse his inconsistencies as shock.]
(I was raised to assume the guy's always the villain. But I'm getting better at catching guilt-trips playing on my anti-male brainwashing--just as Esmay had to face the devastating effects of her family's traditional sexism and go against her own sympathy for crash victims, to spot saboteurs.)
Little blonde Chinese girl who may be a fox-spirit.

1998/10/23--Dream 6: THAT BLONDE AGAIN e1

Forget details, but again I meet that friendly little Chinese girl with straight blonde hair, who may be a fox-spirit.

I feel so happy to see her...

1998/10/23--Dream 7: THE BLACK WALL e h i- sci

A house south of San Francisco, on the marine terrace at the foot of the mountains. A fine sea view, south and west.

It's Scot Day, when Scottish-Americans all celebrate their culture. Such as it is. Ooh, that was mean, wasn't it? My friend Mark now lives here too; he's part Scot, and leaves for the holiday dressed in full kilt and regalia. Bagpiping? I have Scottish blood so I observe it too, but not too devoutly. Ugh, haggis.

I go to the door--not really ready to go out yet, but starting to feel active. I'm a slow starter.

The horizon is black! For a moment I think a terrible storm is sweeping in. Truly black, on a clear day! Then I focus and see it's no cloudbank miles out, but a vast black curtain, hanging offshore. Hundreds of meters high, thousands long, suspended from a cloud like an opaque stormfront. Looks utterly alien. My neck crawls. What if it's creeping inland, toward the house? Will we just disappear, or slip into another continuum? I watch it closely. It seems to be stable, a couple of klicks offshore. I remember now--the news did mention some scientific experiment to take place out there. But I never imagined anything so big.

Dream: a huge black wall appears offshore from San Francisco.
Look closer. It's not utterly featureless. A faint line of lasers beaming upwards. Do they create it? What IS "it"? Faint arches of water from fireboats up to the curtain's knees... those arcs must be huge. Boats like little wood chips, round the base. It all feels as scary as those pictures of H-bombs set off in Pacific lagoons, with surplus battleships being sunk like toys in a tub. Only this is no photo, and no momentary explosion--the gigantic artifact hangs in midair. How can humans create something so big? It's causing no trouble, but I'm still uneasy. I don't like humans playing with such powers.

At least these humans. I don't trust them. Esmay Suiza on a spacewalk. Detail of cover of Elizabeth Moon's 'Once a Hero', 1997 ed reprint?

(House on coast: where our childhood friends the Lees moved. I had crushes on the Lee sisters.)
[So living in the Lee house = something to do with sex--not acting on silent crushes?]
(Scottish holiday: stingy holiday? My leftist, recycle-everything, waste-nothing guilt?)
(Mark: when I wake, find a phone message; he wants to sing with me this weekend)
(Big sheet of black on water off coast: an oil spill? It resembled one, tilted vertically. Haven't heard of a spill...)
(terrifying experiment: Visiting parents? House meeting? Reading of Esmay's abuse? Visiting Home Depot? Huge walls of goods--I kept picturing a quake, all that lumber falling on me.)
(Next morning I read more Once a Hero. Esmay's first space walk, on the hull of a shattered ship. An immense matte-black wall! Spotlights. She finds a live mine, and the bomb squad uses foam, like firemen... the fireboats!)
(The dream felt scary, but now I feel empowered: it was predictive! I have senses looking out for me I don't even know of!)

1998/10/24 Saturday

In the local market, pass a girl whose face resembles the one in my dream. I try not to stare...

Read more of Once a Hero: others in the family knew the truth; Esmay's dad forced the family to lie to her, say "You're sick, you imagined being raped at six." She confronts Dad... and walks out.

Back in the service, she starts to realize she trusts no one, has been alone, drifting along in the comforting structure and routine of the military. Wasting her talents.

1998/10/24--Dream 2: ESMAY TELLS SILKY "MOURN!" i=fem c d a-e thera w

On a military starship. I'm Esmay, now!

Another spy's uncovered. We fight, and the spy is killed. The crew's paranoid now--this spy was a high officer, and shared an office with one of the few aliens in this star navy.

I have to go interview this alien. But... I know her!

Silky, a Krelkin, horselike but having paws with opposable thumbs. Dream sketch by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

She's Silky, a recurring friend and guide in my dreams. Tonight she's a krelkin--a furred, tailed, gentle, herbivorous person.

I interview Silky. She's sad that humans can betray each other like this. Her people don't do that--too softhearted? To a krelkin, lying is predation--you don't do that to your herdmates! Silky, an alien member of a mostly human space navy, howls a mourning chant.

Her natural instinct is to mourn the traitor in the traditional way--a howling wolf-wail song. But she knows humans well enough to worry they'll suspect she's a traitor too if she mourns an enemy. Or a fool, a stuffed toy, too sentimental to recognize evil when she sees it.

Not! She didn't even like him. But in her culture, you mourn those you lose. The ones you hate, the ones you love. They all shape your life. You mourn the same.

I tell her "His crimes aren't YOUR fault. YOU have nothing to apologize for. Go ahead and be yourself. Don't let others stop you howling. Maybe his soul will benefit. Even if not... yours will."

And Silky shakes her mane back, closes her eyes, rears her head, and howls.

(Betrayed in childhood, Esmay never confides in friends)
(Ruthless vs sentimental = an ensign asks Esmay why her mutineers didn't TALK to their captain. Uh... because this wasn't a labor dispute or something. He was a traitor out to sell their ship to the enemy, knowing the crew'd end up in deathcamps! Not much room for negotiation there.)
(Silky mourns... who? The vigilant, unemotional mask I felt I had to maintain to keep from getting locked up? The dream doesn't say this attitude is dying. The dream says it's dead.)

1998/10/25 sun --- Face of Esmay Suiza, hero of Elizabeth Moon's 'Once a Hero'.

I finish Once a Hero. Esmay learns just how abusive her family was. She was raped as a child and they covered it up, lied to her, told her she dreamed it. I recognize the style: my folks, too, failed to protect me, then hid it even when I asked as an adult. Even now I think "I identify with Esmay, but have nothing concrete to pin on my family." Oh, really? My parents lied to me for forty years about what they did to my uncle and what he told me when I was two or three. The terror I learned then shaped my life--crippled me. When they hushed up the facts, I was left with no idea why I was this way. Just a neurotic kid. The parallel with Esmay is quite exact.

I feel bitter tonight. When they first let drop that my psychotic uncle had lived with us, that they left me alone with him, I knew at last where my fear of doctors, shrinks and asylums came from, my childhood nightmares full of wires and shocks and agony, my adult nightmares of betrayal, persecution and death camps. I thought the truth would heal me, that I'd trust others more. That I'd have a life. I'm better, sure--but no girlfriend, no work, not even much play. What more can I do to make the revelation real?

Telling my folks how their coverup hurt me didn't change much. They admit the bare facts now (after decades of denial) but are evasive about details and still minimize the fallout. They'd rather forget it all. Apparently I'm not worth facing much discomfort! At least Esmay's dad, confronted at last, admits she was raped and that he hid it to prevent scandal. But my folks won't even face what forty years of cover-up did to me (and sending my uncle back for more electroshock shattered him). They hid it for decades while I spent thousands on therapy. It still hasn't ended, really. They're bright people; but they use their brains for evasion. A section of rusty barbed wire.

My paralysis is because I never got what Esmay did: the truth. Their story always changes. And what I feel isn't anger but fear. Not of them, now. The fear that other consummate masters of denial are lurking out there, and I'm still vulnerable to manipulation.

And I fear they've made me one of them--that I lie too, and don't even know it.

Could be true! So? Learn to live with it. Or don't.

NOTES, 2006

My conclusions then seem bitter and fatalistic now, nearly ten years later! Look what the dreams said:

Writing up "Once a Hero" has been painful, but it's shown me something vital. My folks were chronic rationalizers, and maybe so am I--in daylight. Not in dreams! There, I'm out of the closet. Naked, wild and fey.

And other fey people are out there--strange, rejected, wonderful creatures. Fox-spirits among the humans. I'd make one of them a good mate. Being one.

And very likely, if you've read this far, you are too.

Silky, a Krelkin, horselike but having paws with opposable thumbs. Dream sketch by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

LISTS AND LINKS: recurring dreams - healing from abuse - what they did to my uncle Hugh - a related psychic dream, Janeway's Tango - China - buried memories - archeology - Katie Hofgard also dreams of sexy archeology in Life Mates - dream beings - gods and goddesses - elves and fairies - beauties - beasts - sexual awakening and growth - pedophilic dreams - dating advice - shamanic dreams - other worlds - Silky - krelkins - family dynamics - therapy - warrior codes of honor - weird dreams of Mark

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