Sisters of the Interface
Dreamed 1983/12/21 (one of 13 dreams that night) by Chris Wayan
I'm an ugly girl. I live with my sister in the house our late parents built, in a small town on the western edge of the Interface Desert. Our town is small, but clean, upright, and peaceful, with grand desert views and wild sunsets.
Still, I'm lonely here. My beautiful sister has all the callers. She's not only lovely but creative, clever, accomplished. I think her destined for great things.
I thought wrong. I wake one morn to a shriek. As I stagger from bed, the front door slams, and quick footsteps fade around the corner. My sister's door is ajar. I sense what I'm about to find, but steel myself and enter.
Someone has stabbed my sister to the heart. No pulse, no breath. She's gone.
I fetch the sheriff at once. He finds no obvious clues, no motive.
Our local deputies aren't up to subtlety, I'm afraid. They put all our friends and family in the parlor and question us. I'm awkward and blush with guilt, for I DO know a secret about my sister--nothing terrible, but embarrassing, and she paid me an allowance to keep silent about it. I felt no guilt, for she took the initiative--I never demanded money. I loved her and looked up to her. It was really, I think, her attempt at compensation for her better start in life, for my being plain, for all I endured before our parents died.
But through bad luck, the police stumble on hints that she was paying blackmail. I confess before they trace it to me. I misdoubt these bright fellows even could, but I feel it's best to head off such suspicions before they waste time on a side issue. I want them to find my sister's murderer!
They believe my confession, but they're mad enough to conclude I killed her! Out of envy, no less! They drop all other investigations to pursue ME. Am I a fool? She was my only friend. And something more thing, something that proves I COULD not kill her. She was destined to be a star. She'd have taken me along with her--to the city, to fame, to wealth, to freedom.
She was my ticket out--my only hope of a better life.
Now, I knew she had some second secret I never learned much about. It involved a nameless man, clever, always laughing at us both when he called. I thought him evil. My shining sister, unused to cruelty, did not fear him enough, I think. Now it's up to me, the ugly one, to figure out who he was, what he wanted, if he killed her, and if so, why, after years of mere sneering innuendo.
The police won't help, and my sister cannot.
Perhaps. There is one place, perhaps, where I could ask her.
I fill my grip and ride into the desert.
The Interface Desert.
Perhaps, if you're an Easterner, you don't know the Interface. It's a strange place. The place between, where the dead and the living can meet.
I ride across the face of the Interface: over a rock ridge, some low dunes, then along an arroyo full of tularosa. Ahead, two dust-devils form, grow denser, and solidify into two ghosts. I'm disappointed--neither is my sister. Just our parents. As worthless now as they ever were in life.
I tell them off. I can bear to do it now, as I dared not when they lived, and as I could not bear to after their sudden deaths. But here in the Interface they are as substantial as I am, and I feel no guilt about scolding the dead, for here they are my equals. If they can't take what they gave me, let them deal with it. I had to, as their daughter. Their ugly, uninteresting daughter.
They listen, silent.
"Have you nothing to say of my sister?" It seems not. "Well, then haunt the desert or go back to hell, for all I care." And I ride on.
For a while, thinking of the Sioux Contraries, and how they summoned power, I ride backwards, and let my mare choose the way. She at least is enjoying our outing! Given the lead, she heads up into dry-grass hills where she grazes, ambling slowly on, deeper into the wild.
I feel a sudden wave of affection for my mare, and climb off her, and walk alongside, her, arm around her neck. I lean my head against hers. Our hair mingles, scratchily, pleasantly. Her mane is prettier than mine--sigh! A blonde Arabian, she's a beautiful mare...
...but I look up to find she's more beautiful than ever. Her face is shorter, higher-browed, with alert, suddenly rather feline eyes.
Shoulders timidly swell from her neck like breasts, and sprout arms. Hands emerge like cactus nightflowers blooming. Her throat slowly differentiates into ribcage, belly, and true breasts. She's becoming a sort of centaur!
Her face is not just a blend of human and horse, but rather like a Siamese cat or a fox: triangular, big-eyed and quizzical, with the large ears of a desert creature. Of course, horses are; they galloped the desert steppes for eons ere we kidnapped them with bridle and bit.
She's lovelier than ever, this old friend who's suddenly sprouted a soul. But suddenly I feel shy, where I've always felt so free and easy with her. The only one aside from my sister I truly did feel free with. And now she's changed.
But I've changed too. My angular, unlovely face hasn't altered, but suddenly, for the first time in my life, it feels like MY face, for my whole body has roused, grown leaner and stronger, to match. Between my legs, under my traveling skirts, I feel a rushing and swelling, as new flesh grows stiff and excited. I'm a man now. Surely I can be nothing else. How strange! Yet, I was never much of a woman.
Perhaps I should trust the Interface. It's done well by Silky, my old friend.
I stand on tiptoe (thinking "I expect this isn't very manly" but not caring much) and kiss my love's new-formed lips.
I can go on. I've lost my sister, I've lost my self; but I'm not alone.
We're not alone.
So I blame my shy, abused side for sabotaging me, for first bleeding off then KILLING off my sexy, artistic side... but this is false. My shy side knows the only hope we ever have of success comes from that artiste. I may envy her, but sabotage her? No way! My ticket out.
Instead, the probable saboteur is a little-known side of me, proud and sly, with a Machiavellian cunning. I'd better learn about him! Though he's not the whole story either, as I learn on my desert quest.
First I confront the specters of my neglectful parents. I realize they taught me to neglect myself--then, I brush them aside. No need to agonize over them--they aren't the core issue, not any more.
Next I face being male in this life, after so many lives as a woman. Still feel odd, but at least I've accepted that my body's not a maimed, ugly woman; a male's not a defective female! At last I inhabit my body, accept its freedom, simplicity, strength.
And so my sister's sexy magic is reborn in a new and wilder form. One I can love in a new way. An old story: no great beauty without "some strangeness in the proportion".
Maybe my beautiful sister, my social self and artistic expression, was just too conventional--a small-town girl. Stuck. To get me moving, crossing the desert, facing the dead... maybe harmonious, conventional beauty had to die!
For a time. Before coming back... changed.
I wasn't entirely satisfied with just telling the dream on the Web. I wanted a solid, physical reminder of it on my wall--a reminder not to blame my shy side. Or my artsy side, either!
So I cut this shield-like wood panel and painted the footprints of my desert jouney on it--our lonely home, the desert dust-devils, my sister's strange rebirth (if it's her) as a horse--and my own rebirth as a man.
Sisters of the Interface no more.
A NOTE 34 YEARS LATER
I wasn't joking that I had 13 dreams that night. Over 3000 words! A lifetime record even for me, an epic dream recaller. The others repeated the warning that my parents, especially my mom, had neglected and belittled me, partly out of sexism (and hinted that she did it because of sexist neglect by HER parents). But not all looked to the past. One urged me "Study music, but don't go classical--your songs will never be pretty enough. Sing experimental rock where intensity and originality are what count, not prettiness." Today I write songs for The Krelkins. I am not the beautiful sister.
And there is a lifesize furry centaur in my bedroom.
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