IN THE MOUNTAINS OF FIRE
By Dolores J. Nurss
Volume 1: Welcome to the Charadoc!
DREAMS AND VISIONS
I invented the scene with Yeshu, based loosely on my waking
memory of my friend Fritz's last moments.
Except that he didn't pray—that had been my other friend, Viola, many
years later, and I hadn't been there at the very last moment for her; that
belonged to her family. Rather, I'd
watched Viola's lips pray at a goodbye ceremony a few days before her
transition, her awareness of us in and out, between worlds. And Fritz's grip didn't slacken, I let go;
alarmed by the spike in his temperature, I let go to grab a get-well card to
fan him with, and so I didn't hold his hand at the very last minute, but his
wife did on the other side, and so love still became his last experience in
And then a nurse came in and took
care of his body, not me, and that was strange enough for a dream, though it
happened in the waking world. For the
instant that he'd breathed his last she ran in from some other part of the
hospital, swiftly performed her final services for his body, and only when he
lay there ready for the coroner, straight and peaceful and smiling, did she
stop and blink, wondering. “I just
knew,” she said. “I knew the moment that
he died, and that I had to come here right away. I always know.”
Cantimar I did not invent. She was there, in the dreams of the infirmary,
in the background. Nor did I take her
name from a list. It was actually the
name that a high school teacher considered for his first daughter—but then
rejected for fear she’d be nicknamed Candy.
It means “Song of the Sea”, and for some reason it fits this girl of
Novatierre, though I’ve never dreamed any association with her to sea or song.
For Jake's dream I borrowed—very loosely—from a crucial
dream in the life of St. John Bosco. For
Deirdre I wrote what felt right—vague and brief, but many dreams are like that.
Father Man just showed up.
My random writing music brought up the wild, feminine Gregorian chant of
Hildegard of Bingen, and this elicited the mad priest from the deeps. It’s hard to describe what that feels like,
knowing just from sentence to sentence what you will write, knowing that the
character already exists, out of your line of sight; you just have to do him
justice by finding the right words to breathe his life. Since then Father Man has always surprised
me. And he has become dear to me, and
important to the story, disrupting outlines right and left wherever he crops up,
throwing storylines into chaos, making me scramble to reconfigure them—always better,
with greater depth and more curious twists than I could have done without him. I don't know why, but I cannot imagine him
without most of his fingers missing—and struggling on anyway.
His story has some basis in fact. When waging war against us, the Mexican
soldiers (not to be confused with the Mexican people) would sometimes set fire
to churches where Yaqui mothers, children, and elders had taken refuge. Anyone who could do that would have no
compunction against making a priest buy lives at the expense of
finger-joints. Worse things than that
I did dream of Alysha saying that the revolution began with
Cyran. But other dreams plainly refuted
this. I reconciled this by recognizing it as a child’s perspective carried on into
teens. And I recall how, in the waking
world, I struggled in my own teens and twenties, even my early thirties, to
hold onto beliefs patently untrue, from my childhood, for as long as I could. My dreams showed me Alysha’s contradiction
with her reality for a reason—it was no inconsistency, after all.
And what else might it mean for revolution to begin with
Cyran, and yet simultaneously stretch back for generations? Revolution—major change, overthrowing
longstanding dysfunction—can simmer for generations ineffectively, before it can finally find its voice in
someone or something who brings two opposite sides together, as Cyran joins
male and female. Sometimes, the key to
great changes, paradoxically, is compromise and reconciliation.