Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Part 6 - "Via"

Rachael checked her watch one last time, and started to give herself a good pinch just to be sure.

The little man said to her, "alas this is no dream; and you’ll not find liberation through waking. Do you find yourself frequently talking with small people in your dreams?"

She smiled ruefully, "if you start dancing I'm leaving, my life resembles a David Lynch film too closely as it is." Then she sat down, and still looking at him, asked in a soft voice, "so you are neither surprised by the recent turn of events, nor unprepared for our journeying together? So, what... I'm supposed to hunker down, join the fray, petition Charon and struggle to cross this nouveau river, ignoring the fact that I'm not in Topeka anymore?" Then almost screaming, "where is the airport little man? Things like this ONLY happen in dream! And where the hell am I?"

The little man chuckling began,
"Thus her first step. Characteristically, she sits when asked to stand;
shaking her Olympian brow, she scorns her invitation to the dance.
Reluctant to join in pursuit of the banners, though pursued by wasps; and gnats that gnaw
Shall we wait then my lady for ignoble prods to thrust us forth
until your own mind, recumbent, lurches up to shout ,‘This cannot be!’?"

Nate paused his oration. "What are you doing?" he inquired curtly.

Rachael was still looking at her watch.


Mufane sniffed as she drove off. "It's OK," She thought pressing her tongue against the roof of her mouth, and biting the sides that pressed out between her teeth, "Rachael's going to be OK. She's fine." The entire drive home, Mufane found herself poised between guilt and hope.

"How'd it go, Muffy?" Elizabeth asked, as Mufane wallked through the door.

"Package delivered, Liza," Mufane grumbled and sat down on the floor. "We have a lot of work to do, if we're going to pull this off," she continued.

"So tell me, what's wrong?" Khepri inquired, "you need to tell us if there were any ... difficulties."

"No," Mufane sobbed, "I just hate this. I hate the deception, I hate the role I'm playing in it, I...I hate me."

"Ohhh Honey," Elizabeth sighed, "you know that mom said, there must be an innocent among us - 'The pure one shall find him, but not know.'"

"Its just all these lies. Being innocent and being profoundly misguided by the ones you love is not the same thing." Mufane continued.

Kephri nodded and shrugged. "I empathize with your situation, Fannya; you love Rachael, and have chosen the path of understanding, but you must keep her, off kilter. Your role in our circle conflicts with the path you have chosen in life.

Elizabeth smiled, "you can't stand the fact that you have to play the new-age flake. Miss careful consideration, you'd prefer to be the informed hero."

Mufane just rolled her eyes, and then giggled half-heasrtedly,"I told her to call me when Elizabeth arrives, and that I'd answer the phone if the stones allowed."

Elizabeth chortled, "that's almost as good as the time she found out that Scott shot himself after you misguidedly invested all your money in Enron."

"No, no, James left, because of the money thing. Scott shot himself because I had to divine each step..." Mufane corrected.

"Have you heard from him? ... Scott, that is?" Kephri asked, "I sometimes wonder how he is."

"Kephri , I'm sure he's gotten over the fact that you shot him," Elizabeth repied.


"Yes! Dream sign! The watch still says 5:03" Rachael began humming to herself.

"Did you ever consider that your mechanical device will not work here?" the man’s small high voice sputtered. "Look, what is wrong with you? is this your modus operandi for coping with the oddities in your life? I know you have had more than a few interesting experiences in your life, considering your parents…"

Rachael gave him a scathing look. "I'm trying to summon my magic falcon to carry me out of here, and find Liz. I will you away."

The little man gave her a sideways glance.

"I will you away," Rachael repeated, furrowing her brow in concentration.

"You know, we can do this as long as you wish," the man calmly advised, "it will never get dark, not here."

Rachael sat there in lotus for a long time. Nate seemed to stare off.

Suddenly Rachael opened her eyes, stretched her legs slowly and grimaced, "You don't understand, this has to be a dream."

"And what, may I inquire, leads to this certainty?" posited the man.

Rachael’s eyes filled with tears, "it has always been a dream. I have been having these dreams about this place since I was a child. What do you think inspired me to pursue Oneiromancy in the first place?" She looked up at the eternal grey sky. "So, we are here. This isn’t dream. I’m dead? Did Stoner crash the car, and I’ve already made the transition? It’s not fair." Rachael lamented. "I hope she’s suffering, maybe a broken rib or something." She groaned.

Nate looked a bit perplexed. "Wait no-one has told you anything? Nothing?" The small man clucked and turned his outsized eyes towards her. "Well, that sets a whole new spin on everything."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Part 05

Mufane shifted down into third as she pulled her Jetta off the freeway and took onto the cloverleaf that would take them to the terminal where Elizabeth's plane was due in another ten hours. Beside her, Rachael sat fuming in the front seat.

"I told you the plane won't be here until two-thirty," Rachael said. It was all she could do to stop herself from strangling her sister with the pine-scented air freshener that hung from the rear-view mirror of the car.

Mufane's obsession with geomancy had started out innocently enough, when they were children. At the time it had been an idle curiosity, something she did out of boredom or an inability to decide whether to watch reruns of "Land of the Lost" with that hunky Wesley, or to tune in instead to the new "Captain Caveman" cartoons. At some point during her teen years Mufane had started taking geomancy much more seriously, collecting books on the subject and buying stones whenever she could. By now, when Mufane had reached the age of 42, it was an unhealthy obsession. Her first husband had left when she had put their entire life savings -- the children's college funds included -- into Enron just before the company went down in a flaming heap, on the advice of the stones; and Scott, her second husband, had shot himself with an antique service revolver because she refused to make a single decision anymore without the blessing of her stones.

Rachael had never liked Scott much when he had been married to her sister, but now she felt an odd affinity for the man. She found herself wondering if that revolver was still around, or if the stones had told Mufane it was all right to get rid of it. Given the sort of advice she solicited from the stones, they had probably told her to take it Baskin-Robbins and exchange it for an ice cream cone.

She allowed herself an idle smile as she imagined Mufane standing there with in the ice cream store, pointing insistingly at the stones and explaining to the disbelieving manager why it was vital that he follow the instruction of the magic stones. The thought almost alleviated her aggravation at having to ride in the Jetta to the airport at 4:30 in the morning, just because Mufane the night before had asked the stones when they should leave.

There was a rattle of stone within the cup holder.

"Can you turn the dome light on for a sec, Rache?" Mufane asked. Rachael groaned, but she complied.

The Jetta slowed to a crawl while Mufane stared at the stones to divine their message. Behind them came the blast of an air horn and the scream of metal twisting as a tractor trailer swerved through the guard rail to avoid running over them. There was a loud crash as the massive truck plunged off the side of the road and rolled down the hill before exploding at the bottom in a tremendous fireball.

"Ah," Mufane said at last. "Well, if that's what happens next, we'll go along."

Something about Mufane's tone made Rachael sit up straight and take notice. "What?" she demanded. "What is it?"

Mufane didn't answer. She just drove up a bit further, then pulled over next to a grassy strip along the right side of the lane. She turned off the Volkswagen Jetta -- even though Mufane never passed up a chance to brag about having a high-effiency diesel-powered automobile, she also made it a point never to waste fuel by idling when she could avoid it -- and unlocked the doors.

"This is it," she told her sister. "You have to get out here."

"What on earth are you talking about?" Rachael demanded. "The airport's still at least two miles away, and it's still dark. Are you crazy?"

Mufane shook her head solemnly. "I'm sorry, this is where the stones say you have to get out," she said simply, as though that explained everything. "Give me a call when Elizabeth comes in. If the stones say it's OK, I'll answer the phone."

"But -- ! But -- !"

There was no arguing with Mufane when the stones had told her something. She knew that she had divined the will of the universe, and she never argued with it. Nor would she let anyone else do so either.

"Freaking stoner!" Rachael yelled as the car pulled off. In the distance she could hear emergency vehicles rushing to the site of the truck accident.

Rachael shivered, and pulled her white jacket close about her as the red tail lights of her sister's Jetta vanished in the distance. It was cold and wet and miserable out here, and she was wishing not for the first time that she had been born in a more normal family.

She had been walking for a while before she realized that she had no idea where she was. The road had faded from view, and the ground was now sloping gently down toward a river. Dry brown grass crunched under her feet as she walked. Up ahead, a crowd had gathered by the river, unable to cross by any means other than a small raft manned by a solitary worker with a long pole that he was using to propel the raft back and forth. Long cables connected the raft to each shore by means of an erect pole in its middle.

"Where am I?" Rachael wondered aloud. "I've never seen this place before."

The voice that answered her was high and thin, and oddly familiar, like something she had once heard in a dream. Beside her stood a small man, with an overlarge head and vast bulbous eyes that seemed to see in all directions at once.

"You are at the beginning of a long journey," he said. "Where such things are willed, it is willed that you should begin this journey with a single step."

She looked at the man curiously. "Do I know you?" she asked.

"We have met," he allowed, bowing courtesouly. "You may call me--" and he told her his name.

"Nate?" she repeated, uncertainly. She looked at her wrist. There was no welt on her wrist, no sign of gnats. Her watch said 5:03. She turned her eyes away, then back. It still said 5:03. She knew then that, odd as this experience was, she was not dreaming.

The odd little man tilted his head to the left as if he were evaluating her. "That will do," he said. "And with your permission, I will be your Virgil for all that is to come."

Anorme Part 4 – “Populous”

Mufane sat watching her sister for signs of the delta stage, the softening of her breathing, sleep talk, or even apnea. Apnea wasn't tremendously likely, but still, these induced dreamings sometimes had their cost. She studied Rachel's reddish hair and impish nose, and wondered how they could be related, let alone be sisters. She was darker, and heavier, of course she looked pretty good, considering she was more than fifteen years older than Rachel, her youngest sister. It wasn’t that she didn't love her sister, they were just so different. The four of them were all so different she supposed. The only things that bound them together were the disparate genes and common splinters of time they shared.

And perhaps Jason, she smiled to herself, though she wasn't sure about Rachel. That girl was so serious, headstrong and possessive she put the rest to shame. She knew Jason would have tried, but she doubted that Rachel would have conceded. She was still so young.

"Oh well, Rach, no stress. How you run is your business. I'm just hoping you've loosened up a bit." Mufane thought, looking gently at her. She looked a bit worried, and thought, "We're taught so many judgments, stereotypes and blatant untruths, that it's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff sometimes. Examples: Math doctorates are hard to come by; people holding them are purposeful, diligent and serious...No-one who was serious about math and science would ever waste their time with... well magic wasn't exactly the right term... divination?" She shrugged inwardly, "doesn't matter in the end." She was who she was, and while anxious about many things (her PhD mostly), she accepted herself; and she delighted in geomancy.

Geomancy had started out as a bit of a joke for her. A bit of a game, with a dash of a calculation, a hint of abstraction in the interpretation, and…, incredibly it all worked. Somehow it all fell together. It had slipped into her life subtly through the least likely vehicle she could have imagined, her mother.

She remembered how surprised she was when her mother actually seemed interested in Mufane’s leisurely pursuit of geomantic divination. It was funny, mom had always seemed a bit cool to her, considered and almost uneasy when she spoke to Mufane. It was as if she'd allowed part of herself (accidentally?) to be swallowed up by her role as parent. There wasn't much left to connect with by the time Muffy had reached adolescence.

But in that moment, Mufane must have been about 13, when she casually mentioned she'd been playing this game with a binary system for telling the future, geomancy. Her mother came to a complete stop. She sat down with her and turned her undivided attention to Mufane. She asked a bunch of gently probing questions about what she was doing and why. Mufane remembered how warm and thrilled she felt in those moments. The sunlight from the bay window softly reflecting off her mother’s black hair as she looked at her devoid of any appraisal, just genuine curiosity about something she found valuable.

It had also, however, puzzled Mufane; her mother was not interested in math, not at all. To even try to share such a technical thing was preposterous. She now wondered to herself if her revealing that confidence wasn't in some way guided by more than the efforts of a little flower vying for a moment of sun.


Rachael looked at Brown Lizzie, "Allens?” she groped. She looked at her arm. The welts from the gnat bites were gone. Whack, sudden insight leapt up Rachael’s spine like an expertly placed blow of the keisaku, a Zen master’s stick. Kopczik was a woman, her sister, not a man, definitely a dream sign. Rachael nodded cautiously. She looked at her silver watch. 7:24 it read; still cautious, Rachael looked away at Kopczik's low trimmed blouse. "Look at the watch again," she thought. The gold watch read 11:36. "Hah! Still in dream," she thought triumphantly, "focus now on the stone, where is my sister, Elizabeth."

"Lizzie," Rachael yelled, and in her hands the silver charm began to glow.

Brown Lizzie approached; "Right here sweetie, what's up?" she asked. "By the way, I was hoping '20 Allens' would get you back," She giggled. "Ray-ray, it’s great to see you, how're Khepri & Muffy doing?"

"Elizabeth, we all have to return to Caltech," Rachael said hurriedly. She started rubbing her hands together, as if they were cold. "Stoner’s divined that we are all going to be facing considerable danger from, well, something from Mom and Dad. The only hope for us to escape unscathed is for us to resuscitate the circle; soon."

Brown Lizzie looked at her penetratingly, "Jason?" she inquired with an eyebrow raised half-amusedly at the answer she was anticipating.

Rachael sighed, "Yes, Snot Boy's already standing watching with Stoner. I wouldn't be surprised if he weren't already putting the moves on her, while they’re waiting."

"You know she hates it when you call her Stoner, almost as much as when I call her Muffy," Elizabeth smiled. "If you don't wake up soon he may have both of you," she added.

"That...boy lays one hand on me and I will own him for a month," Rachael threatened angrily.

The room briskly started to fade. Rachael took a deep breath; she rubbed her hands more vigorously. The colors crept back in ponderously.

"I'm sorry, try to hold it together; you know, I really missed you," Elizabeth said gently, "I'll make the real-time journey back. 2:30 Friday, airport, pick me up," tilting her head to one side, to make it seem more of a request and less of an order.

Then squinting a bit with concern, she added, "Don't forget me. I don't have anyone’s number."


"Huh! Oh, Jason," Mufane flinched as his warm hands softly working her shoulders yanked her out of her memories.

"What," he asked slyly, "no Snot Boy?"

Mufane chuckled, "Rachael always objected to sharing. Your hypothesis didn't survive its test phase."

"Glad she wasn't my first subject then," he laughed, trying to sit next to her.

"Oh no mister, I don't care who you imagine yourself to be, or what remains of the relationship we shared, there is only room in this chair for one of us. And I am not moving." She tried to sound firm.

He sat at her feet, and rested his head back on her knees. She ran a hand through his long, soft, auburn hair. She sighed quietly.

She really liked him, despite his flakiness, and perhaps because of it. "Damn our situation," she thought, "I could really use a little time to work off some steam." Of course that was probably what he was counting on. She knew math, but he knew people, and he specialized in the feminine gender. He laid his head further back on her lap and smiled as he looked into her eyes.

Rachael’s restlessness on the bed reminded Mufane of what she was supposed to be doing. She looked at Rachel, and seeing her breathing patterns knew it was about time to waken her. She told Jason to turn on all the lights in her room and stroked Rachel's arm gently. "Raych," she said gently, "honey, wake up."

Jason hesitated a bit at the other end of the room, like a dog that had been snapped on the nose one too many times for chewing his master's shoes. He mumbled something about getting tea and went into the kitchen. Mufane smiled with amusement and nodded.

Rachel's breathing began to change and she showed signs of waking. Mufane knew better than to do anything to disturb her. Rachel was doing the hard part now, remaining still long enough to hold the dream and whatever information she was able to gather.

Geomancy was so much more straight-forward Mufane thought, you set the question you rolled the stones and you interpreted the results, which led, of course, to the next set of questions; lather, rinse, repeat. Dream work was much more of an art form with all that that implied. You could never be fully confident it would come out right, even if you did everything correctly.

If you didn't transition smoothly, you might miss the dream signs. If you gained lucidity, you could lose it to emotion, excitement, wakening or any of a number of other accidents. And if you were successful, but slept too long past the dream or moved too quickly upon waking, or had sufficient interruptions while you were still imprinting the experience on your conscious mind, all that work could still go down the tubes. "The whole process is just too delicate to be worth the effort," she thought to herself. Of course, with geomancy, it was a lot more difficult to interact with anyone directly, she admitted to herself.

Rachel's breathing had fully changed. Mufane hesitated; she didn't want to disrupt Rachel's remembering. She visualized counting to sixty-four in Oct, took a deep breath, and asked, "Did you get her? Is she coming?"

Rachael took a momentary breath and then said drowsily, "Yes, the airport, 2:30 on Friday."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Part 03

The sloping hill faded from view and Rachael Stone Crow found herself in the courtyard of what until the Autumn had been a Hilton hotel. Brown Lizzy had wandered off somewhere during the night, as she was wont to do; and Stoner somehow had fallen asleep on the rusted skeleton of a pool chair, as she was wont to do; leaving only Snot Boy and Kopczik to keep the vigil while she had explored the dreamtime.

The pungency of burnt sage filled the air, though it didn't make Rachael feel particularly clean. It had been a week since she had been able to get to the river to bathe, and almost as long since she had been able to wash the clothes that were almost her only possession in the world. The embers on the fire were a dark red, turning ash, and the light of the stars above was blocked by the trees that had grown around the hotel courtyard. 

"You back with us now, Rachael?" Kopczik asked. "What'd you see?"

The dream flowed through her conscious mind like a stream. Rachael felt that she could just perceive its edges and its general flow, but knew that once she tried to grasp it, it would slip through her fingers and be gone. She closed her eyes and let herself get the feel of the dream once again. It was slipping away, the lightest gossamer being torn asunder on the wings of waking.

A gnat from the brackish mess that had once been a pool buzzed in her ear, and suddenly a piece of her dreamwalk fell back into place. She opened her eyes and looked across the dying embers at her two companions.

"I was someplace restless," she said. "It had a kind of beauty, but I couldn't enjoy it because whenever I stopped, gnats would bite me." She felt her wrist and there, sure enough, was the angry welt she had discovered in her dream.

"Gnats," Kopczik repeated. He sounded disappointed. "That's no surprise. They've been bothering us all night."

Rachael scowled angrily at the interruption, but didn't say anything. She was already struggling to retain the least bit of the dreamwalk. Letting Kopczik get to her would cost her everything she had gained from the night's work, and it was already too vague for her tastes. There had been a journey she was trying to avoid, somewhere she was being forced to visit that she didn't want to go. She almost had it, when Brown Lizzy stepped into the clearing from the tangle of brush and spoke.

"Allens coming, maybe twenty of them," Brown Lizzy said. "They's gonna be here'n about five minutes."

"Sark," Kopczik swore as he jumped to his feet and grabbed his iron. "Snot Boy, wake Stoner up and make sure she's got her shiv. We got to get out of here fast."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Part 2

On and on over blurred hours Rachel walked. Eventually, all of this walking, even at a measured pace, made her dizzy. She sat for a moment, and running her fingers through her hair, felt an unwelcome stickiness. It hurt. Inspecting her head with her hands, she felt for bumps and bruises. As she brought her hands down she saw the red of her blood, but ... she took a breath and stared at her fingers visualizing each digit.

Rachael sighed. "Just breathe, don’t get excited," she thought to herself. She knew this dream; next the hawk, who was also somehow her father, would land at her feet and berate her for not paying more attention to what she was doing, and ask her when she would stop wandering aimlessly, and settle down. "What do I do next?" she thought, reminding herself not to struggle. If she got too excited she'd awaken, and she'd be unable to take the next crucial steps. If she let go of her focus, she'd be pulled back, back into the dream, and then who knew if she'd be strong enough to re-manifest her consciousness.

A few gnats settled on her as she hummed the gentle tune her grandmother had taught her, “Why the Pines Stay in the Mountains.” The song gave her strength and called to the earliest moments of her consciousness, and perhaps to those parts formed even earlier. "Soft yet firm, ever wise, man and woman and child..." She loved the pines and their multi-faceted utility and beauty; breathing through her nose slowly she tried to smell their resin.

The gnats buzzed, and began biting her again. "Stay with the pain," she had been taught, "Seeing through the pain means to endure; enduring caries through time." Rachael sat in a calm discomfort for some time, focusing on visualizing her hands. When done with her hands, she slowly moved her focus up her arms attempting to see even the hairs on them. The welts were small reddened ruptures in her skin, in her being. The more solid she made herself here, the more particularly she felt the pain, and its hollowness.

She watched one of the gnats landing on her arm, its long, hair like antennae stroking her before it sank itself down to crunch into her flesh. "You know, you almost seem to be enjoying yourself," Rachael muttered to the insect, as she focused further on making herself fully present.

"It’s kind of important," the gnat sputtered, as if back at her, "I mean I have children to spawn and feed, and it’s not like blood comes easy, if you know what I mean. I am a little embarrassed at times you know, but you were put here for me to feed on, and who am I to question the works of the creator?"

The gnat’s voice was unimaginably high and thin. But that only helped Rachael focus further. She reached slowly into her tunic to take out the smudge pot, removed the flint and steel, and began to strike them together over the coal to light the pot.

"Can you do that a little bit less sharply?" The gnat griped, "I am trying harvest a bit here, and… ahhh what am I saying to you, you probably can't hear me even if you could understand..."

Rachael smiled to herself, as the charcoal took the sparks and the sprinkled sage slowly began to smoke. Yes that was better. The gnat flew off sputtering, as she cleansed herself with the sage smudge.

Part 01

The odd thing about the wall was that it didn't seem to be getting any closer, no matter how fast she ran toward it.

When Rachel had started walking toward the wall, it looked like it couldn't have been more than a mile away, and probably about six feet high, made of loosely stacked stones. By rights, she should have been able to reach the wall and climb over it before half an hour had passed. So she had started toward it almost immediately, stepping around and over the earthen jars haphazardly scattered across the ground, determined to figure out where she was.

That had been five, six hours ago. She had walked, sometimes jogged, and sometimes run pell-mell across the plain as an unreasoning terror of the place had come over her. Still the wall remained obstinately six feet high and no more than a mile off, no matter how fast or slowly she traveled, as if Xeno's Paradox had become the law of the land – except that at least with Xeno's Paradox, she would have been able to cross half the distance, and half again, even if she never could reach the wall itself. But there were no halfways here, just the same unrelenting distance between herself and the wall.

Rachel had been alone ever since she awoke on the level field, though there were other people about. She had seen a group of them, off in the distance, chasing a kite or banner that was flapping in the breeze, just out of reach, but they had been too far away to call, and she had had no desire to chase whatever it was that they had been chasing, with them.

There were mosquitoes here too, or gnats, with a sharp, stinging bite that she felt if she stopped or stayed in one place for too long, and a red welt on her right wrist were one had bit her.

The wall was impossibly close. She was a police officer, in top physical condition. There was no reason she shouldn't be able to reach it. With a sudden, frenzied burst of speed, she ran toward it with all that she had within her, her feet turning up chunks of sod with every stride, until the pounding of her heart filled her ears and her lungs ached with the effort of her run, until at last she fell to the ground, gasping for breath, trying to puke up food that wasn't in her stomach, while sweat fell in great drops upon the ground.

She was almost too tired to care when the gnats started biting her again, but only almost. Their stings were little goads that finally drove her to her feet and got her walking again.

But not toward the wall. It made no sense, it defied all logic, but she had to concede that she would never reach it, not if she lived a thousand lifetimes. She had thought that by climbing that wall, she would be able to avoid whatever it was that the owner of this land clearly had intended to be her destination, but obviously that wasn't going to be an option.

Rachel sighed, and started her long walk back.