Dreamed 1996/11/1 by Wayan
I'm working as a teacher up near Mt Shasta, the crown of northern California--a holy peak for us hippie types. The local tribes insisted Shasta was God's tipi, full of doors to other realms. There are still cults all around the mountain's foot. My best student, Rona, asks me "exactly how tall is it?" Rather than saying "14,162 feet," though it's a figure I know better than my phone number, I say "from Dunsmuir at its foot, the main peak rises another 12,000 feet." Because head to toe is the way to measure Cascade volcanoes.
By the way, the local tribes were quite right. Shasta is a maze of open doors.
I'm temp-teaching at one of the schools for wizards and psychics that cluster here, in various worlds, under various names. The one I'm working at is in a midworld just one step from America, in a fuzzy zone between alternate histories. Sparsely populated, low-tech (in the tool-using sense), but full of magic.
I can teach basic dreamwork with my eyes closed, but my advanced shamanic skills do need polishing. So I send my soul out and try the classic exercises. Flying in the body, that's a hard one, but I manage it, and under difficult conditions, too: winds and powerlines and skeptics. It's fun. Even manage to get Rona off the ground at last...
She's a tall thin dark-haired girl with a powerful aura; she's from another world. I tell Rona bluntly "You have the aptitudes for a first-class mage," though I wince to phrase it that way--I hate such ranking, and never rate myself. But Rona was raised on a world where magic is not believed in much, so she doubts her psychic talent: she needs to hear this. Such ability's as rare as photographic memory; not to be wasted.
Lots of peculiar tourists here on campus, slipping through the veils between worlds. The whole county is sort of a wizard's airport. With security problems--stealing other world's technologies (psychic or physical) is not only possible but open and organized.
Our biggest problem is nearby, in the bottom of a wide valley. A house-sized circle sprawls over the ground--it represents a whole planet in its own universe. A world with ambitions to take over Shasta entirely, and run the intercosmic airport. They've drawn a glowing imaginary line around Shasta's base, forty miles of it all visible at once, since Shasta's transparent, from this viewpoint--a silk tent full of doors.
But our imperialists start small: first they invade a neighboring world. They cross space (in our world, they just walk a few hundred yards along the valley) and occupy the planet and its space stations and settled moons--at LEAST two. In our world, this planet looks like a stick-and-ball model of a molecule: circles for worlds/atoms and lines for space routes/valences.
The people here are advanced, but not militaristic; it'll take time to organize and develop weapons to resist the invaders.
The conquerors decide to make the trip between the worlds easier by paving the route! So they cover the valley floor with a broad skirt of wet cement. They overdo it, too--the whole valley (probably, in our world, not a solid valley but a gravity-trough--an orbit?) is slabbed and scabbed for a quarter mile by their saddle-shaped field of concrete, like a Shasta lava flow. One little path would have been plenty. I'm starting to resent these people! But I have to work around them, not directly against them. I'm just one traveling shaman--as outgunned as the occupied people.
Their conquerors allow rigged elections to choose a governor, expecting their hand-picked candidate to win. A decent man runs--a tense little wry balding guy--actor Wally Shawn? There's hope they'll let him win and give him some leeway, for local support is so overwhelming they'd have to stuff the boxes blatantly to install their puppet. But after their pave-the-valley trick, I'm not sure they won't. These are brute-force types.
I do what I can to make the elections fair, blocking what ballot-rigging I can find with my own magic. By shifting my view from seeing it as a planet to seeing it as a diagram, I can travel in minutes between the two worlds without a ship. I have to be cautious, though; I have no papers, so I need to pass for native on both worlds. On the conqueror's homeworld, I try to sway policy toward treading gently and not provoking a guerrilla war.
A few days before the vote, a new general arrives, to oversee security. He scornfully calls Wally Shawn "that weak little man." I find that revealing: he himself is very short, as small as Shawn. Got something to prove? He has a bad reputation; I fear violence is probably unavoidable with the new guy in charge.
Rona came from this newly-occupied world, and worries about her family back home. To reassure her, I track them down.
Her cousin Silky could almost be her twin: a tall thin girl with dark curly hair. And she has similar ability--she stands out like a skyscraper to the trained eye! The only local with enough power to be effective against the invaders. But she too has no training in magic. Still, Silky doesn't deny its reality; this culture isn't magiphobic like so many high-tech cultures.
I advise Silky to flee, today if she can. The invading general is no wizard, but his culture does accept ESP, and their military has a small Remote Viewing project. They'll spot Silky as soon as they arrive: she's a psychic beacon. I'll do my best to cover her trail and keep the General from chasing her.
I suggest she shift to seeing the two worlds as I do, as spots in a valley, and ride a horse out of the valley entirely, head west a few days thru the midworlds. She'll eventually start to meet signs of my native world, though that border is blurred and gradual; it's forest and desert, just a few highways, ranches, and diners. They'll shock her, these Americans who believe in rigid matter, rigid rules, and deny the fluid magma just below the surface...
But I know a friend within a few day's ride, not her college cousin but an American woman who can lead her to the wizards' school. She has to learn how to fight this General!
I plan to meet her, soon as I can. But the still-damp concrete betrays me: preserves dim prints of my bare feet, as I cross the flow a dozen times trying to prevent a war. I don't know how it looks to them, a trail of ionized gas in space perhaps, or radar phantoms? But I can't hide my tracks totally.
They conclude it's the trail of a spy--I pop up and disappear with alarming ease, so I MUST have a powerful, sinister organization behind me!
I have to flee the two worlds. I take along a packet with an important document; so I guess in a way they're right, I am a spy. Just very, very amateur.
I'm on foot but I know short cuts of course, so I soon catch up with Silky. We walk through the midworld into the American borderlands. Come to a stream swollen to a pond here by the piers of a small bridge-dam. The walkway's been half torn out. Try to find a way to swing across the gap without getting wet, but the only way across seems to be to wade the lip of the spillway, despite the current. A few kids swim nearby; it's not too cold. But it's thigh deep! I'm afraid I'll fall in and soak the documents. We have to pass...
A teenage girl asks us "Where are your papers?" I have a flash of fear, but it turns out she's just worried for us, noticed we looked undocumented, and doesn't want us to get caught. Everyone here, she explains, carries identification at all times--even when swimming! What land have we stumbled into, Paperworkia? It's a problem for us--we need to pass as local, and can't possibly get papers quickly--we're aliens, with NO paper trail to build on.
Maybe it's only at this one stream--doesn't seem like such a small creek could be a major border, but maybe it is.
At last the two women meet--my two friends, Ann from this rigidly materialist culture, Silky from the worlds Americans call dreams. Even more shocking for Ann, I think. A dream-person walking the waking world--tangible, solid!
At first they find each other's views alien but over the next day or two they compare notes and find something in common: their life stories read like stories. No, they decide, more like the chapters of a book. But how to reconcile the different rules of the worlds they've grown up in, fit their two stories into one narrative? Shamans have to see the whole complex web of realities; no single one will do. God is writing the book of course, but in a local sense I am, or we are. Like everything else, authorship looks different from further up and away.
I start to wake... wonder who they are, those two, what messages they bear for me. Dreaming and... business? Practicality? All I know is, they've met at last, and they each admit the other's real. And that some common ground exists, in a larger shamanic frame.
Step by step, I guess.
But what were all those damn circles up by Shasta?
NOTES IN THE MORNING
My housemate Lily gets back from a trip. "I was at an alternative housing conference on the North Coast up toward Shasta. It was held in a valley with a round house with linked satellite structures. They drew a huge circular diagram or floorplan with lines for sunrise, sunset etc, to show how round houses work. And then we had a circle dance!" So much for my mysterious dream diagram.
"All week in the valley, people were treading straw into damp clay for "cob" and rammed-earth houses." Just like me treading tracks into damp cement...
"Many of the builders were pagans like you, Chris. But a quarter mile east was a very straight, mainstream American town. Much of the workshop was about fighting or getting around rural building codes that only allow frame houses, reject even ancient techniques as new & untested."
So first the dream casts me as a shaman, then proves its point by borrowing its imagery from Lily's trip, 500 km away. More than that--the conference imagery clarifies the dream.
Oh, well, that's all, then. Nothing difficult.
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