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Strychnine Forgiveness

Dreamed 2008/3/31 by Wayan


A jackhammer morning. The city's ripping up our street again. What is this, the eighth time this year?

Plug my ears and paint on Lyr, my model of a huge sea-world (7 earth masses!) Finish the archipelagoes of Ulash, Rorvan and the Kyrie Is. Touch up the Diomedes Cluster too. Then I rewrite the web tours, adding a lot to Ulash...

My ex-girlfriend Cheryl calls, and I refuse to answer--tired of her accusations. They don't even make sense any more. Creepy.

My friends Bob and Catherine come over. Scan some of Catherine's art for her, and then they take me to the Burma Superstar (yum!) and Green Apple Books (frustrating--can't find any of the books I'm hunting for. They may have 'em, but their collection's a jumble. Hurting their own sales.)

In the evening, I reread Stepping from the Shadows, Patricia McKillip's autobiographical fantasy (how can it be both? Well, you'll just have to read it and find out). Extra powerful for me now in that Frances, the stand-in for McKillip herself, has traits like both women I love:

  1. Emily is a visionary who creates private gods; fights in school to retain her integrity (requiring her to shut down and fail in some areas, and call that shyness or inability when it isn't); and rejects her female body, sees herself as male.
  2. Cheryl has split herself into a grumpy, practical manager, "Cheryl", and an unworldly visionary, "Serena". In the book, Frances' inner visionary eventually grew into a writer--McKillip. But Cheryl won't let her Serena out! Suppresses her creative and social maturation, because she thinks Serena'll get eaten alive. I'm treacherous, work's treacherous, the world's treacherous...
So I ask my dreams what to do about Cheryl's simmering rage. My conscious is sure at a loss. Suggestions? digital sketch of a dream by Chris Wayan: two riders on a San Francisco Muni oxcart.


I'm waiting for a bus. We still call them that, though San Francisco Muni replaced their diesels with open haywagons and oxcarts you climb on in heaps. Before you laugh, consider: they're no slower, since most of the delay of a bus route is at the stops, as people get on. They emit less CO2, no soot at all, and they're quieter, too. The hay's no worse than those hard bus seats. Can't carve graffiti into hay...

As I wait, a homeless-looking woman, thin and brown with weathered skin, in dirty old clothes, asks me "what do you think of that guy?" A steely-eyed man, also in scruffy clothes, watching us all. Intuition tells me to open up and answer seriously, so I report exactly what I see, and that's a lot: "I've been watching him watch us all, and he's taking mental notes on all of us, and judging us. A professional of some kind; not homeless. He's older than he looks, and getting stiff, so he might be slower than he'd like in a fight; but he's trained in unarmed combat, and I wouldn't cross him. I'd guess he's an undercover detective, and a senior one; so something important's going on here under the surface." I'm startled just how detailed my impression is--all latent, yet easily unpacked once I'm asked to look at my own perceptions... So this is what Serena means by unpacking!

An oxcart ambles up and we pile on. The mystery man stays, slipping slowly behind us...

I apologize to a Latina mom and her chubby daughter, who I squashed up against as the cart turned a corner, and turn back to my questioner. Say "The fact you sensed I had all that inside makes me wonder. May I give my impressions of you, too?"

"Go ahead" she says--curt, but not disapproving.

"Your aura's intelligent too, and you're emotionally pretty together--no knots, no kinks, none of the rage or despair or self-destructiveness of most folks on the street. Discipline, honesty, facing things. Yet I see a long history of real deprivation, so I'd say you really have lived on the street months or years. You could be a cop under deep cover; or just a good person down on your luck. I'm puzzled." digital sketch of a dream by Chris Wayan: an hand holds an apple with a ghostly syringe superimposed.

I have some fruit I think, and offer her an apple. She says "Thanks, but I can't take the syringe of strychnine hidden inside." She forgives my offering her a poisoned hypodermic, though, "since everyone does." Arsenic, cyanide, you name it, presented in food, syringes, pills... Everyone's out to poison her. We don't even mean to, exactly; it's just our nature!

I'm stunned. I really thought she was undercover; just too much intelligence and emotional integrity to be insane. Wrong! Apparently my aura-sense can't detect factual delusion. Her mind is honed and her feelings controlled, by the discipline needed to survive in a treacherous world... that only she lives in.

Unless her answer is part of her deep cover. Just because I told her the truth doesn't mean she did. Whether she's undercover or truly paranoid (and my aura-sense tilts toward the latter; she seemed to be telling the truth), I have to face it: I CAN'T KNOW--I won't learn the truth about her. And either way, I certainly can't help. Mere honesty, even from a shaman seeing deep, is not enough. Not for this.

I ate the apple, by the way. I had to test her conviction. No needle. Could I be delusional, blind to it? Only one way to test that. I ate the whole apple, except the seeds. Strychnine isn't subjective. Whether you perceive it or not, it'll poison you. If it's there.

I'm still here.


digital thumbnail of a dream by Chris Wayan: an hand holds an apple with a ghostly syringe superimposed.

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