Dreamed 1990/3/7 by Chris Wayan
I'm wandering through a warehouse full of of CDs and old vinyl records, tons of them, on sale--they're desperate to make space, for the company's in crisis. And they keep coming to ME for advice. No, not just advice--executive decisions. I've been drafted as CEO!
And all I came in for was their half-off sale.
But now I'm responsible for this company. And what a strange one it is! We're pirates--not music pirates, real pirates. Swords, parrots, treasure. We're not especially piratical, we just live by our own laws in this warehouse, declaring it a pirate utopia, electing our own leaders, broadcasting over our pirate radio. And any government agency that tries to fence us in, we fight off with our twelve-plane air force!
But we've been squandering our strength fighting against a nearby pirate group. Our rank and file workers die off one by one, though the core group never gets even nicked. Makes me suspicious that one bunch dies SO easily while the other's SO invulnerable. Like TV scripts where they kill the extras but never the stars. Feels staged to me. Apparently their core group feels the same way, because they finally call a truce, and ask us why we picked this fight with them. We thought they'd attacked US! As we put the pieces together, it looks like someone very subtle set us up to fight...Those who "died" so ridiculously easily were all recent hires... Were they shills, actors paid by a third party to take a dive? Their deaths looked convincing, but what if they were staged?
One way or another, we've been fighting smoke and phantoms. But somewhere behind the puppet show, there's a puppeteer.
I decide to take the initiative: propose we join together and send out our twelve planes to seek the real source of our staged little quarrel. Their group's skeptical--our biplanes are charming, but they're antiques--how can they be of practical help? We let them in on the secret that's kept our little pirate utopia ahead of the government so long: they're astral planes. They can fly into other worlds, possible futures and alternate presents, spirit worlds--indescribable places where motivations manifest visibly. And that means our trickster can be tracked! Malice has footprints.
So we send out all twelve, to swing through nearby realities, hunting for the spirit behind our conflict. I'm confident: we haven't lost a plane yet.
We do now. Only a few come back. One pilot saw another plane being captured: energy beings like cats made of air swarmed down from a sky-door to surround the plane, and carried it off through the swirling gate before it shut like an eye.
I decide I have to go myself. It's true--something's up. Literally up. A vast upheaval in the spacetimes nearby: they're usually stacked flat as strata, like book-pages, and you can fly up through them one by one... but now whole universes have been upended! Huge slabs and dolmens with mile-high drops, MANY miles high, made not of matter but spacetime... I fly up the faces of these endless monoliths, hunting for energy cats.
And find them. It's not hard; they're not hiding. Whole armies of cat-angels, shining like luminescent moths, are marching up the face of one immense slab, serenely ignoring gravity--and why not? They aren't material, they're pure energy, from a higher plane than us.
I won't detail how I learn their goals--let's just say on these levels it's hard to keep secrets when your aura shouts who you are. The best defense is integrity not deceit.
What they are is cats. That means curious! And they love to climb. To climb to higher astral planes. They don't really understand humans, but they sensed we had an earthy power and wanted to gobble it up, to fuel their flight higher up, into regions with pure, thin astral air, so to speak... We're full of spiritual calories, like that concentrated gorp mountaineers munch.
Plus, we lowly matterbounds are just plain fun to play with. So squeaky and dramatic! As irresistable as catnip mice.
I start to glow red hot with fury. They don't know who they're dealing with. I won't be used like this!
I wheel my plane and dive four miles straight down and burst through the cloud layer to the material world, and radio "Calling all pirates! Follow me! In planes, in balloons, in dreams, in astral bodies--come! I've found them!"
I spiral up again, trailing a luminous shockwave of angry souls behind me. Skywriting the angels won't want to read.
I pull the old astral plane up, until we're skimming straight up the endless face of the smoke-glass cliff of another world. I pull the throttle all the way out. We buzz the cat-armies, one by one, and keep on going, past them, higher--straight on till morning!
We rush in, where angels fear to tread.
The air grows thin and bright, and our sky-train glows. I know the path we're beating can probably be used by one cat-angel clan or another to get ahead, but now I have bigger concerns. I'm after the leader, who used us to get spiritually higher. I want to teach the cats as a SPECIES not to mess with free pirates!
Preferably by finding their goal, their astral treasure, and taking it from them. Pirate vengeance!
So I sniff for cat-energy, for the trail of this pioneer... and finally, I have him. A lone trace of cat-glow bends and levels off and dives into their native universe. We follow him into the obsidian haze. Multiple barriers loom up, but they can't stand against us. We know we have the right to be here, to recover our astral planes and our friends, and this high up, even "inanimate" structures feel too ashamed to stop us when we know they're in the wrong.
Ahead, a clearing opens. No, a vast room in the cloud, as wide and deep as a hurricane's eye. And on the floor, in a tidy grid, are our astral planes, neatly numbered one through eleven, though with several gaps. Gaps in his toy collection! Well, I'm about to show him old number twelve.
He leaps out of the cloud-wall, this cat-archangel, glowing with far more native power than mine. But we pirates blaze in righteous indignation; all he has is skill... and feline arrogance. He wrestles with my mind, confident he can control a mere animal, a squeaking lump of meat. I hold my plane steady, moving it with my will now, for physical things are mere reference points this high up. I spiral around the cloud-hall, spotting our prisoners. The pirates swoop down to free them, flickering showers of angry gold.
At last I spot a small balcony, only a hundred yards long or so, with an oval window to the world, the only window I've seen in this inward-looking space. I land on the ledge, anchoring the plane with my mind, and sit quietly a moment, looking up and out the window at the tiger's goal. The shimmering spiritual space above us, that he wants to reach, is fearfully high and thin, but I already itch to try it.
"But first," I think, as the winged tiger made of light lands on the far end of the balcony and starts padding warily toward me... "first, we have to have a little talk." If his hunger to transcend is strong enough, maybe he'll concede what I want: an equal place in this expedition. For all of us. Pirates equal to angels.
If not, we'll go it alone, and show him what he missed.
Maybe he did us a favor at that--meddling, starting a mock war. We were drifting along down there. Air-pirates running a second-hand music store!
Heaven's reach should exceed your grasp, or what's a pirate for?
NOTES ON WAKING
Fans of Arthur Clarke's "2001" and/or Roger Zelazny's admittedly less intellectual "Nine Princes in Amber" series may notice distinct echoes...
I HAVE been drifting. I was ill a long time, and I got awfully unambitious. A comfortable undemanding library job with all the books I could read, an easy bike commute, tolerable housemates and friends... that was all I wanted.
I'm starting to feel a need to move on to higher things than survival and comfort.
And that requires a certain ruthlessness, and, this dream suggests... uproar.
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