Dreamed 1994/6/4 by Chris Wayan
I'm in a secret spy organization called Peace Terror. We prevent wars with spectacular stunts--thefts of military secrets, penetration of dictators' private refuges... I feel good about the work and even the organization, which is not a typical spy hierarchy. The operations get violent now and then--assassinating warlords if they can't be caught--but mostly, in a weird way, they're fun. We're international, though we can usually get small-scale air support and technical help from NATO if we ask quietly... and deny it later.
Only this time we blew it. An error of ours caused a crisis to worsen not improve, and some reaction to that caused a group to set off a huge explosion--not nuclear but it's enough to flatten a good chunk of downtown.
The explosion shakes up reality itself. One consequence: I'm in a series of big halls filled with splintered stuff hard to identify. Out of the shards rise hissing ghosts. They float like fumes, like ball lightning. Spiky lighting. With narrow, angry red eyes. Soon as they see me they attack--swarm at me hungrily.
I do know how to discharge their energy. Vigorous motions and emotions unravel these ghosts! It's important to maintain a happy mood. That's usually hard for me, I'm a serious sort--but the explosion also knocked me silly. So all I have to do is surrender to my giddiness, and totter giggling through the halls in a cloud of glassy monsters. If I don't let them upset me, they can't hurt me.
Dance and spin, dance and spin! It works slowly, but it works. The spirit-shards dissolve...
But there are other repercussions, slower to manifest. And harder to clean up.
For example, snow falls, though it's June. I hate snow, I'm a skinny native Californian: chills me to my tropical bones.
But here I am, suddenly slogging through shin-deep snow, around the end of a ridge. Alongside me walks a Peace Terrorist with Pentagon connections. We argue about the US air cover for our failed mission. They sent a jet fighter, as asked. She says "Looks like it went down. Even if the pilot survived, that one plane cost $200 million!"
One plane? Wow, talk about pork! She adds "Bet they won't send us much backup on the next few missions."
"Yeah, probably true."
Jets and snow, jets and snow... That reminds me of a strange story. I tell her, "The longest fall any human's ever survived was a Russian pilot shot down in World War Two. His parachute failed, and he fell 19,000 feet. But the air was icy, which made it dense, slowing him a bit; and he slammed through some branches of tall pines, slowing him a lot, and then he plowed into a deep soft snowbank on a steep slope, so he slid for seconds to a halt instead of slamming down flat. Saved his life. So snow has its uses!"
"Aw, come on! Your parachute fails, you fall from the sky, you die."
"No, no, this really happened." But she refuses to believe me, though it's true!
We emerge from the trees into a ski-bowl. Squaw Valley, near Lake Tahoe. Lines at the lifts, and streams of skiers snaking down the mountains like bright pixels of orange and blue.
These people appreciate snow!
My comrade says "Goodbye and good luck." I must go on alone from here. Those are the rules.
Did I mention I'm a kid? I'm ten. Oh, don't act shocked. Haven't lots of terrorist groups recruited kids and teens? You grownups figure we're so ignorant and easy to brainwash!
But the Peace Terrorists are saving lives. Not in a very nice way, sure, but assassinating politicians who start wars has this funny effect of preventing wars, admit it! Grownup thinking didn't work, but this has.
Anyway, I start up the far slope to the left of the ski-routes, toward a snowy pass. But only a little way up the slope, a snowbank suddenly rears up before me and shapes itself into a rough, massively muscled stallion. He's gray and pink, as if stained by snow algae.
He shrieks angrily at me and slashes at me with clear ice-hooves. He's blocking me from leaving Squaw Valley!
Two more horses, one blue and one gray, rise out of the snowbanks by me. Snow mares! They nip at the stallion, seem to be on my side; but the stallion has the advantages of size and the high ground.
I flounder around, but the snow's too deep for me to move fast; I just can't get by him.
I retreat to the bottom of the valley.
What if I RODE one of the mares out, could we get past him then? We do outnumber him.
But stallions have experience herding mares. It's what they do.
As I ponder the problem, the snow-scene fades...
...and I'm my parents' house, reading a half-done poem aloud, to my dad and one of his professor friends.
My poem tells a dream I had where I met a mermaid actress who plays the role of a water-dragon, wearing a dragon-mask. She says the role has started her on the path to becoming a REAL dragon.
She also tells me she's happy to change into a dragon! "They may look fierce, but dragons have great souls."
So far so good--but I can't end the poem. Stuck.
They ask what the theme is, hoping that'll unstick me.
I fumble a bit, then say, to my own surprise, "It's... it's about heroism in dreams, and maybe in life. By heroism, I mean... taking responsibility, trying to better the world. You can't expect spectacular rewards for this, because the main purpose of the universe in posing you problems is to make you grow; and to keep pushing you, the universe just hands you harder lessons. So you return to the dream world the next night, or to your daily life every morning, to find your epic sacrifice a historical blip, your act of courage forgotten, your noble deeds garbled into nonsense... Be glad if you find you're not actually REVILED. Results are not the point."
My father and his colleague start extending my poem, trying to resolve it. I'm shocked how good they are at it. Way better than me. Especially since they're improvising! They reel off original metaphors with a subtle feel for connotation, sound and rhythm... world-class stuff!
Now I feel ashamed I even recited my stupid fragment... I'm no dragon, just some shy little mermaid faking it.
The stallion rears again. Nightmare? I'm the nightmare. Letting my own icy stallion-critic herd me back to my frozen little world.
Does this feel like four stitched-together dream fragments? It is. I dreamed at least twelve scenes, but only remembered fragments--and no transitions. These four scenes were clearest and felt like the thematic core, but I know some of the lost scenes linked and clarified them. I don't normally take such liberties, but this was like a shattered Greek vase I had to piece together.
||My dream-dad's brilliance reflects his waking expertise. ||My dream-dad's talent is just my view of him--unreal!
||I should believe my dad's evaluation: I really can write. ||I dreamed his stunning poetry. I really can write!
|| Scribo, ergo sum!
So all I have to do now is write great poetry when awake...
...and ignore those rearing butch authorities, even when they're Dashiell Hammett. Because big old hard-drinking Hemingways aren't the only way to write. Or live.
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