A Whateley Academy Tale
Dreams of Nightmares
E.E. Nalley and Elrod W.
I had visions, I was in them
I was looking into the mirror
To see a little bit clearer
The Rottenness and evil in me...
Harvey Danger, Flagpole Sitta
October 9th, 2016
The March of Dreams
Dreams can be so many things.
They can be fantasy, where we live out inner whimsy and pride; superheroes saving cities, Lothario's with conquests and exploits to make Casanova himself blush, past, present, future. Like the little green puppet said, 'The future, the past, old friends, long gone.' Sometimes we walk down roads we didn't take, remember things we didn't do, sometimes we did those things, but not in the manner we dream of.
In dreams, we are naked with all our sins on display, unvarnished with nary a fig leaf for cover.
You can't lie to yourself in your dreams. Oh, don't get me wrong, you can lie to yourself, people do it every day; some for years. Some for so long they start to believe their own lies and remember things the way they lied to themselves how it was. I wasn't really humiliated by the Prom Queen, I took her in the back seat of the limo I rented while the chauffeur watched us in the rear view mirror. You know the kind. You didn't steal that hundred dollar bill on the counter no one saw you take, you just found it.
I didn't cause my best friend's life to be destroyed.
Oh yes, we can lie to ourselves for so long that when our nose is rubbed in our collective deceit, it always hurts. Pride is the most sensitive nerve in the human body after all. You have to be careful with your pride, don't let it get too large; there are monsters in the dark and they love the sweet, sweet taste of wounded pride. I had decided, been proud of the sacrifice I was going to make. Ignorance is bliss. I was blissful. Was.
That night I had laid me down to sleep, exhausted from the marathon drive, from the impromptu party Wyatt had thrown in delight at the return of who he thought was his wife and me? Well I was spent and thanking God I had not done even more harm to an innocent who had the luck to be growing in Tansy Walcutt's womb. I thought nothing could be worse than the warring emotions of what I had almost done with magic, but that night, as I cuddled with my soulmate I would be shown that those fears were sipping a chardonnay at a cocktail party.
Tonight, I was going to drink from the fire hose.
Dreams are the very stuff of magic and the undisputed master of magic, was Coyote. Coyote who had first tricked the secrets of magic from the stars and brought them to the People. The Realm of Dreams was the hunting ground of Coyote and tonight I would be his prey. We often relive the past in dreams and sometimes...sometimes we are shown the road we didn't take. Why had he picked that night? Was he bored of toying with others? Did he feel that I deserved a proverbial smack upside my head?
Or was I finally in a place where I would listen?
"I place two roads at your feet, Brandon Franks," the spirit had told me, so many years ago. "One is an easy path, pleasant, beautiful and full of company and joys.”
Pleasant? There are not words to accurately describe the rush of feelings and memories that came when I recalled that sentence. A lifetime of everything, making love, sharing meals, feeling my hand almost wrenched off as she suffered in labor, and then the tearful joy on her sweaty face as she held the newborn daughter she had given me. Of course, it wasn't all Norman Rockwell. She's a red head and she has a temper like an atomic bomb and it's her nature to bottle up the little hurts and slights until the bottle is too full and it explodes.
Our fights were the stuff of legend!
Screaming and swearing with vile words and purposefully cutting remarks; and a couple of times the feel of her hand across my cheek. She's strong, her slaps hurt and when her Irish is up she doesn't pull her punches or her slaps. And then, she realizes what she'd done and the anger vanishes and she is so desperate to apologize and beg my forgiveness. Yeah, I'll admit it, the fight is practically worth enduring for the make up sex that follows it.
Call me an enabler if you like, in that flash of a lifetime I knew that her love for me outweighed anything as petty or temporary as the things that we fought over. Things that every couple have fights over, money and schedules and chores. It was all of it balanced out by the sweet, sweet memory of falling asleep tightly cuddled with her, my head pillowed on her heaving bosom as she clung to me as though to life itself.
And then it was gone.
Twenty years flowed through me in in the blink of an eye, writing memories of birthdays and anniversaries, births, and yes, deaths, such wonderful highs and such trivial lows. So heavenly and perfect that I know when I think of it years from now, my heart will ache. Moreover I am appalled for the rage and shame I feel for the spirit that made me experience it and recall it with such perfect detail. I am an exemplar, but I don't have an eidetic memory; there are plenty of things I wish I could remember this perfectly but no, that esoteric bastard makes me remember this. All of it. Twenty years of memories I never lived through, the faces of children that wouldn't ever exist, and the nasty, barbed punch-in-the-gut feeling that all of this was my fault.
I can recall the smile on his nasty, furry face so many years ago, painted with that smug, guileful knowledge that it didn't matter what I chose, he was going to make sure I regret it. “The other is a hard path, fraught with peril, of your mind, of your body, of your very soul, and while there is joy on this path, it is hard-won and there is much blood to be paid for it.” I had made a decision, and up to that night, I'd never looked back, never speculated on what might have been, because I knew that "could'a, should'a, would'a" thinking led to wasting opportunities, and even wasting life itself.
God, I wish that I was still ignorant of the alternate consequences of my decision!
I should have known that when I didn't know what those perils would be, what hardships I would face, that I was being deceived! I stared at him, reeling from the feeling of having lived twenty years, seeing tearful faces of children, my children who I had not yet sired, begging me to pick them, to take the so-called easy way so that they could live.
“You have but to ask,” the spirit had whispered, toying with me, cloying me, tempting me to damn myself to Hell. “I will undo all the evil that has been done to you,” he had promised me, but I didn't know that he was setting me up so that now he could twist the knife in my soul with the delicate tips of his fingers. “I will restore your manhood, your future, and your wife. Or, forgive she who wronged you, embrace her deceit, and try to unite the People's yourself."
“Please daddy! Please!”
October 10th, 2016
Dreamspace of the Ptesanwi
I jerked, not really awake, but in the body of my dream self, protected from everything. Everything but my own memory of course. Deborah was lying in the sleeping furs next to me, but with her back to me as I sat up, rubbing my face with my hands.
It been a long time since I dreamed of the devil's bargain I had made with the spirit Coyote. Years since I had been forced to choose to go through the horrors that led to me being in this tepee, with the woman I was sleeping with, or to go through life as Brandon, with a gorgeous redhead to be my wife.. I sighed as I looked at my hands, the soft, dainty hands of a woman now, not a girl, in the ruddy light of the glowing coals of the fire in the center of the tent.
I looked at Deb's back, and for a moment, I considered waking her, but that would be selfish. And I'd picked this life not to be selfish, hadn't I? With a sigh, I knew I wouldn't be able to return to the Dream Sleep I normally enjoyed here, so I rose, picking up the buckskin trousers and tunic that lay next to the furs. Dressed in the costume Tansy Walcutt had made for me ten years ago. I frowned, holding it up. This wasn't the buckskin dress I had taken off when we went to sleep. Why was it here now? I peered through the gloom of the light of the coals, but either I would wear this, or I would go naked. I pulled it on and I walked out into the night. The Council fire in the center of the makeshift village was down to embers, tended by a little clutch of warriors that were guarding us tonight. They waved and gestured me over, but I forced a smile and declined their invitation with a shake of my head.
"Debra, daughter of Mattson, you are challenged for the ownership of the woman Kayda, of the clan Franks. Defend your claim, or surrender the woman to me!"
I remembered the battle the Pict ancestress of my sister had with my lover over me, as I stared at the place in the dirt where they had fought. Once more I shivered as I remember that searing kiss she had given me. “Why are you tormenting, Coyote?” I whispered as I remembered. “What is it you're trying to say?”
A part of me expected to hear that smug, musical tenor of his behind me, expected that I had been able to conjure him up just for my edification, but that was foolish. The Trickster didn't dance to the beat of my drum, nor was he mine to conjure up at whim. One of the warriors laid a fur over my shoulders against the chill of the night and with a smile returned to the fire; leaving me alone with my thoughts.
My eyes returned to the leather tent and for a moment, I felt again, that perfect, perfect memory I had been tempted with. As I imagined Elaine lying in the furs, an infant tucked against her breast, I reminded myself of the five lives that would never be, because of the choice I made. I pulled the fur tighter about me and started to walk away from the tepee and tried not to think of the five lives I had snuffed out.
The five children Elaine Franks would have born for me. And two more, don't forget.
As I walked, I came to realize just how vicious Coyote had been, and how deserved his reputation was. I had thought myself so noble to have taken on the weight of this identity myself. To have spared Elaine the heartache of her daughter having the fate of an entire race on her shoulders. I thought of Constance and Wyatt and Stephen Cody who drew breath, who lived and existed because of the choice I made. Surely they were the children that might have been, weren't they?
The beautiful little girl that was slowly growing in Tansy's womb now, she was always going to be. I knew that now. Somehow my eyes are opened to things. Tonight, there were new memories to go with the usual recriminations.
Elaine was nearly killed because of me.
Elaine miscarried two children because of the demon she had fought. The demon she had rushed out to fight to save me. I had been terrified she might have been rendered sterile the way poor Vanessa was. Stephen was a blessing to more than just me. Even if his birth had heralded the last days I would have with her.
Card Trick, Ping Pong, Farmboy, their faces rose up out of the mists of time and memory to me and the tears started to flow now as I realized now they might be dead, or worse, because of the choice I'd made. I'd selected their fates because I wanted to be noble. I sank to my knees and cried for the departed and the wounded, and the cursed who suffered for my inability to think of the alternatives or the consequences of that decision. Can you lie through omission to yourself? Coyote has opened my eyes to consequences now.
And now, now it was worse yet, because Elaine did not know herself, might not ever know herself and was perhaps forever separated from her husband and her children because of the choice I made. Was that too a consequence of my decision? I didn't, couldn't know! No one could! But, it was possible and in that possibility, I felt the pang of grief. My body shook with the sobs and bleary eyed, I looked up to the stars above me and shouted out, “I'm sorry! God! Forgive me! I'm sorry!”
“There are a multitude of sins 'I'm sorry' will not cover as an Adult, Miss Franks,” the memory of Elizabeth Carson warned me. “There will come a time when you realize you must make your peace with the decisions you have made and live with them.”
“No matter what they cost you,” I whispered around my grief. “Coyote!” I shouted to the heavens. “Don't do this to me! What have I done to earn this from you?”
"I will not tell you that," Coyote had said in my memory, taunting me. "I will not prejudice your decision. Others make decisions not knowing the future. You must do the same."
I fell over to my side and sobbed, overwhelmed and robbed of ability to hide from the consequences of my decision, made all those years ago. Now I was as naked as Adam in the Glory of God and I could not hide from what I had done to myself. The bite of the Apple of Knowledge burned in my stomach. I cried until my eyes were dry and there were no more tears to shed and lay on the grass of the Prairie emotionally spent. Then, across the press of the years, the voice of an Iron Age Banshee whispered to me.
"You know what you have to do. Go on now. Do what you must."
Hollow inside, I forced myself back up to my knees and in my minds eye I conjured up the face of my sister so I would not forget. No. I paused, there was something on the tip of my tongue, a thought almost formed, but drowned out over the weight of all the guilt and shame I had just been purged of. Now that I was empty and quiet, now Coyote could whisper it to me. Laneth. Yes, that was it, that was the key to everything. Laneth who was Lanie and yet, not; the little bit of herself she kept away from the rest of her soul, that had allowed her to battle the otherworldly demon and resist the madness it cursed others with. What had made her so reslient that when...
It was so obvious! Right in front of me and I hadn't seen it because I was so proud, so fixated on finding Elaine that there were others I could seek, and perhaps through them, free my sisters mind and restore her. “Thank you, Coyote,” I whispered as I felt a hand on my shoulder.
October 10th, 2016
Guest Bedroom, Cody Residence, The Village
“Hey, sleepy head!” Deborah's voice penetrated the fog and slowly I returned from Dreamspace. “You going to sleep the day away?”
My eyes opened and I could see the sun streaming in the windows. I smiled at her. “With you?” I teased her. “That sounds like fun to me!”
“Oh, hush you!” she told me. “Come on, Lanie has breakfast for us.”
Tansy, my mind corrected her. Tansy has breakfast for us. “Sounds good.”