Dreamed 1982/2/17 by Chris Wayan
I floated above Sushi Circus, over the Psychodrama ring. I wondered if I blocked the view for others in the stands, hovering like this, but no one seemed to care.
My friend Jade was working in the ring: she'd just come from a women's group. "I'm exhausted" she complained. Odd, because she looked great in her plum leotards: an easing of her thin cable-strung body... a new softness. She was doing something right. I was attracted!
But she ignored me, and I kept floating, neither audience nor performer. Between.
Unlike Jade, Barbara the psychodrama director looked burnt out. "Is this what Jade aspires to?" I thought. "Barb's no role model. She toughs it out when she's tired, even ill."
Suddenly from the next ring a jester burst on stage and yelled "Hey Chris!" Oh, it's my friend Zeke. Even shorter and fatter than in waking life, he looked the perfect Fool.
A second jester came whirling down a flagpole--the centrifugal force of his helical path slowed his fall to the speed of someone running breakneck down stairs. He was a true dwarf, even shorter than Zeke, stocky but agile, and a complete stranger.
Tom (who often means guilty inhibition in my dreams) flew up to greet me. But his idea of greeting was to "playfully" stab at me with an icepick! No, a screwdriver. No, a--I don't know what. Little glowing diodes on the sides! Some cyber-diagnostic tool? Ow! He jabs me in the side! Not a deep cut, he hit a rib, but I started bleeding down on the audience. My blood dripped onto their heads, fell in splats on the programs in their laps...
I didn't like guilt stabbing me, so I tried to rise above the conflict--up into the huge dark space at the peak of the Big Top. But he followed me, smiling and greeting me and slashing away with the blinking thing.
And at last I was pinned at the pinnacle--where all the cables and lines of force meet. Nowhere to flee; I had to fight back. So I grabbed his arm and snatched the thing away from him, shoving him away a little with my legs. He rose again to take it back... I slashed desperately with the mysterious thing, not at HIM, I was too squeamish to hurt him. I stab the canvas of the Big Top, tearing a hole just big enough to escape through...
And the world changed.
Soundless flashless shockless...Yet the circus exploded, burst like a soap bubble, for I found I was sailing over trees, tumbling across Stanford with a fleet of tattered circus smithereens and splattered spectators... in utter silence, just the hiss of wind.
I landed a half mile away in a soft new-plowed field. I was gripping something. The computerized icepick. The bubble popper. I felt sure this thing had smashed the circus--and attached itself to me. I feared it and I felt guilty.
I crawled in dirt, feigning shock, and surreptitiously buried the deadly thing, so no one would know my role in the disaster.
Back across campus I struggled, through buildings and around them, half lost, exhausted, to the circus site.
I found a table with a nurse, and stretchers, and wreckage--and blood. "Name please." said the nurse. "Oh, you? We had you down as dead."
"People died, then. How many? Who?"
"There were deaths, yes," she said warily, "We're still tallying." She wouldn't name names. Next of kin.
"Since you were here," she added crisply, "you need to go through there to the decontamination rooms. We don't want this to spread!"
I suppose not, but what is "this"?
I stood in line and entered the steaming gleaming tile tunnel. It led to a round room with hot fountains. We climbed a stair of steel slabs, each floating on the last, spiralling up the wall of the fountain room.
Not far above, it opened into the Decontamination Operating Theater.
The decon crew was a shock: convicts bussed in from the San Quentin prison laundry. They steamed and pressed us with a nasty glee, as they sang their favorite work song in a roaring falsetto: "Workin' Niiiine to Fiiive..."
They shoved people into huge washing-machine-hookup-hoses that DIGEST the contamination off them.
Oh, they loved it. Humiliating rich people. To them, we all were, of course.
And everyone went in. Afraid they were contaminated by something--magic? The unknown, anyway-- they let the cons shove them into the grotesque pile of steaming black hoses, eager to become certified safe and clean...
I balked. I found myself yelling "I'm not going in there--no one's coming out! Look at that bulge--they're getting STUCK!"
They threatened me, but I wouldn't budge. Finally they called Mr. Fixit. He came with his bald head and little moustache and Swedish "Ya, ya..." poking the heap of rubber intestines...
The bulge was real. I was right. The people going through the system were all getting stuck!
So the cons and me and the Lump Ghost and Mr. Fixit lugged the gut-heap to the shop, where the repair crew greeted our burden with enthusiasm... in fact, with a roar.
"SUSHI!" they cheered.
Six sushi masters with cleavers swarmed around us. Their robes were saffron. They bowed to the black roll. One of them handed me a cleaver. I shook with horror.
"Everyone must slice." said the chef. "Those on the outside in one sense of slice, of course, and those inside in another."
Slice or... slice.
They sliced. I sliced. The giant sushi roll, and those inside, sliced. Very smoothly.
"Try some, it's quite nice." said the Apprentice, holding up a piece.
I was sick with fear, but I looked.
No wonder it had sliced so easily. No blood, no bone, no hair or cloth. No people at all. All there was was... burger.
Bland, brown, ground, beefy, bourgeois burger.
My friends had indeed been decontaminated--of their individuality.
When I woke, that sushi made horrible sense... but that icepick stumped me. "Stabbed by guilt," I got that, but why make it a computerized icepick?
Not to mention that spiral dwarf tumbler...
So I biked across Stanford to my credit union to get some cash. On my way out, as I climb up the spiral stair, the Circus Dwarf from my dream (in street clothes, but still stocky and three feet tall) came zooming down the spiral stair past me! I gaped at him in wonder--then cringed, because he saw my shock. "Yeah, gawk! I'm a dwarf!" said his eye, full of irony.
I nearly protested aloud, "No--I'm staring because I dreamed of you last night, whirling down stairs." Too late: he'd barreled on down out of sight--and out of my life.
I biked home, shaken by the dwarf on the stair, and turned on the TV to escape. On came a Star Trek rerun: their Halloween episode. Grotesque illusions and magic, all hinging on a high-tech wand, "the Transmuter," that Kirk grabs and BREAKS at the climax--and the world changes! The castle explodes into mist, and they find themselves in a barren field with two tiny dying things--the illusionist's true forms. Instantly I knew: my computerized "icepick" had been the Transmuter. Shatterer of illusions!
And so the dream is warning me that the circus (both Stanford where I work, and Psychodrama where I play/try to grow) is an illusion. One I could shatter. At a heavy cost--loss of friends? Contamination? But I'm trapped in a circus of illusion, neither viewer nor star. I want out!
And it looks like I have to lose my job and social circle to do it.
NOTE ON THE ART
"Sushi Circus" was an early experiment in dream-comics: feltpen on four huge (14x17") pages. The lettering's hard to read--small, scribbly, laid right atop the color. So here I've presented the story as illustrated text instead.
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