By Dolores J. Nurss

Volume 1: Welcome to the Charadoc!

Chapter 45



I patched together this sequence around separate fragments of dreams.  I knew of Mischa's and Imad's tragedy because of their presence (with Mischa swollen from her injuries, and me well-aware of why) in a sequence of dreams about a rebel ritual.  I intended this scene to provide the necessary backstory.  I combined it with a different, ill-remembered fragment about little girls scarring their lips, and this having something to do with fearing being too attractive.  That, plus a fragment about someone frightening girls on horseback.  I did not actually dream about this stage of Malcolm's life, though I have dreamed of a later version of Malcolm making reference to his past; this is all backstory.

I did dream of Deirdre being a slave of the revolution, held in an abandoned and jungle-overgrown University, with a chain hooked onto a collar around her neck.  When I began to fictionalize those dreams (having no clear memories of her duties as a slave) I happened to work at UCSF Medical Center and this colored the writing--she evolved into a medic, a role to which she stuck in subsequent dreams. 

It seems to me that mutual dreaming, unless deliberately induced (and even then, who knows?) reflects more than just a telepathic connection between people--there has to be some particular reason why somebody else's dream also has something to say to you.  And it doesn't necessarily have to be the same thing, either, as the meanings of symbols vary from person to person.  I also postulate that this has to also be true of fictional characters, certainly if one writes intuitively as opposed to cranking out pre-calculated formula (but even then—can one really exclude the Unconscious from a work of art?) and especially if one writes from dreams (though this passage just sort of erupted, fitting in with dreamed material.)  So this sets up the task of analyzing the nesting dreams for what they mean to Malcolm, Deirdre, and me.

Malcolm: He had one dream, that attempted to alert him to an unwholesome situation--that Reynaud Mukheymer was molesting children--but he didn't want to go there.  His dream alters day-residue to call attention to things not said, but what he might have figured out for himself, between his encounters with the scarred young girls afraid to improve their looks, and the telling list of books that Mukheymer Senior gave to him, on top of experience of his own.  But since he resisted thinking such things consciously (perhaps from past embarrassments when he overreacted to something innocent, as survivors often do?) the dream tried to bring his unconscious insight to the fore.

His dream changes the motorcycle into a horse, in part to take advantage of his own racing heart and breathlessness in sleep apnea, but only in the sense that dreams communicate by a collage of whatever imagery comes to hand (including, sometimes, psi material.)  Girls on the edge of puberty often become enamored of horses, as an unconscious way to prepare for their pending sexuality.  Horses are these huge, virile beasts, and when a girl rides them the saddle makes rhythmical contact with her privates, yet at the same time the girl holds the reins and takes complete control of where the horse will take her: an excellent metaphor for a girl's preparation to take control of her sexuality.  Yet in Malcolm's dream, Reynaud takes underage servant-girls (who have no real consent) on horse-rides that go way too fast and frighten them to breathlessness (loss of pneuma; the soul-loss that accompanies trauma.)  And he controls the reins, not them; they can only hold on tightly to the very man who frightens them.  This makes a good metaphor for the helpless premature sexualization of molestation.

Deirdre:  She has two dreams: Malcolm's dream, and a false awakening that for Malcolm was a true awakening.  She allows herself a quick dream analysis and says that the dream reflects her own shame at having led a "fat" life before her capture, willfully ignorant of the suffering and hunger all around her--true as far as it goes, but she's missing still more.

The fat life is one extreme of her moral dilemma.  The other is the temptation that she does not admit to facing: complicity in rushing children to premature adulthood--the crime of cooperating, unprotesting, with making soldiers out of children, for which molestation becomes an apt metaphor.  Her time at the University (where Malcolm hopes to scavenge books) is more than just an educational experience--anything she learns here will have to be abnormal psychology, one way or the other.  She cannot stand by as an academic observer.

For a long time I could not imagine any third course for her.  Then I dreamed about The Don, trying to show her the way (in a later volume) though she did not take it.  Small wonder—it requires a saint, and few of us take the time and discipline to ready ourselves for those opportunities that could make saints of us.  I wonder if I could have answered that call, under those circumstances—but apparently, in my sleep, I didn’t.

I record what decisions Deirdre made, and hope that this spurs readers to brainstorm on possible alternatives--the same thing that one desires to do when telling tragic stories from history.  People talk about science fiction foretelling the future, but far more often it tells of a tragic future history in the hopes that, if the reader pays attention, history will not "repeat" itself--an attempt to jump the gun on 20/20 hindsight.

Let’s backtrack to Deirdre’s interpretation, and the flaws in it.  In the first dream Malcolm faces his own compulsive nature--that is no particular revelation to him, though it should alert him to the fact that Reynaud's compulsion bears some relation to his own.  But for slender little Deirdre, the fact that it comes up in the dream has to make it a metaphor of a different sort.

The compulsion to overeat differs from addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc., in that it is rises from something wholesome: nourishment.  Fat comes from way too much of a good thing.  Deirdre's overpowering need to be altruistic has already gotten her in trouble with the Black Clam incident, and the sins of that experiment-gone-awry have only served to make her still more compulsive about compensating with good deeds.  She does not see what a light/shadow roller-coaster she rides, or where it must inevitably take her.  So long as one’s do-gooding comes from compulsion rather than from true generosity of spirit, of happiness in giving, one’s good deeds will always cast a deep shadow, leading to piling mistake upon mistake the more one strives after perfection, until one feels utterly encrusted in errors, overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness, of life having gone out of control.  Like Malcolm's sleep apnea, she strangles on good intentions and someday it may very well kill her.  And like the detail about the chair, the ordinary furnishings of life ("antique" here meaning traditional, longstanding) cannot sustain a compulsion like hers--she cannot really fit.  (Yes, I am taking notes here for me, as well!)

Of course, if characters always paid attention to their dreams, we wouldn't have a story!

Me:  Now it gets hard (of course!)  These dreams, from which I spun this segment, stretch from elementary school in the early nineteen-sixties, to the present twenty-first century; therefore they can no longer be analyzed for content pertinent to concurrent waking-life dilemmas.  What good is all this, then?  If they all tie together, through such an expanse of time, then they must reflect ongoing themes, with deep roots, that I must deal with.

Some of this I will discuss in a future chapter, about the dream that introduced me to Mischa and Imad.  Suffice to say that I did not consciously invent Mischa's horrific injuries, or their cause.  I dreamed them, but also it’s a long-established fact that rape and molestation follow oppression like flies flock to bloodshed.

The little girls who mutilated their lips:  Although an adult dream, this related to a childhood problem, the ghosts of which remain, long after the demise of the original issue.  I entered school with a freakishly huge vocabulary, plus a habit of innocently throwing archaisms into my speech, which I'd picked up from the old poetry that Grandma used to read to me for bedtime stories.  Children ridiculed me for it, and when I went to teachers in tears, they told me with stern faces that the other kids did this out of jealousy.  I interpreted their frowning as meaning that I was to blame for making the other children jealous, so I struggled to dumb-down my words, which produced a huge stuttering problem.  In effect, I mutilated my "mouth" in order to not be so "attractive" that I would incite jealousy.

These days you can’t shut me up.  I speak long and enthusiastically about anything and everything!  However, I do it in the folksy manner of one who has never gotten past junior college.  I never worked up the courage to finish any scholarship forms given me, back when I was young enough to qualify—another way to mutilate my mouth.

The horse changing to a motorcycle.  After his divorce from Mom, Dad moved to Arizona, where he'd visit various tribes of Indians on horseback, including Yaquis.  But that wasn't really his first encounter with a Yaqui, of course.  His first encounter took place at age fourteen when he gave my mother (then twelve years old) a ride on his motorcycle and they became romantically involved (though he said he did not "know" her till they married two years later.)  Even so, this was an inappropriate, precocious courtship.  (And what was he doing riding a motorcycle at 14, himself?  Always abnormally tall, he had no difficulty passing for adult, buying cigarettes, hanging out in bars, etc.)

(I did not dream of Malcolm witnessing Reynaud riding the motorcycle, but I did dream of a rebel stealing a motorcycle from a rich man “who needed killing” with strong implications that it had been Reynaud.  I can analyze that dream later, in another volume, where it belongs.)

This part gave me the clue to all the rest.  I have a great insecurity about my worth,  constantly trying to be good, and constantly feeling inherently bad.  I figuratively mutilate myself rather than lay blame on anybody else for things that aren't actually my fault.  And why?  Because even though Mom was seventeen by the time I came along, I was born from an inappropriate union that should not have taken place, between kids who grew up too fast.  And, among those too young for parenthood, mistakes happen.  I keep trying to prove that I have a right to exist, and not really believing it, myself, the more I try to prove it

In this I took comfort from Buddy (Malcolm resembles an enormous exaggeration of Buddy, the good man who raised me as his own, my dearest step-grandpa) a man who bore scars because his own mother's husband suspected that he might not really have been his son, a man who had the courage to not let his suspect beginnings poison his life.  Who, in fact, did the opposite of his own upbringing, by cherishing with all his heart two troubled children not even quite of the same race, and a man whom I loved all the more for not being my literal father and yet more of a father than anybody had the right to ask.

“What blunt object…”  What blunt objections?  Na´ve adults tried to scold me out of PTSD.  It only made it worse, their anger and frustration penetrating deep into me, furthering the self-hatred, mutilating the life-force in me.  Which, in a way, was a good thing, in the long run, for now, like Malcolm, I now know “what doesn’t work”.  And, having that out of the way, it frees me to learn what does—not only for myself, but for others.  (And no, dreams don’t care about common decency when trying to get their messages across.  If an almost unthinkable horror communicates something most succinctly, dreams will use it.)  Facing Mischa’s injury, and her delusions of complicity in that she didn’t scar her lips, helps me see my own lack of complicity in my soul-injuries, which gives them a chance to heal.  And as I find my way towards healing, I can help others find their way, as well.

(They say that you cannot heal others until you heal yourself, but nobody ever heals themselves perfectly.  Rather, I contend, you find your way together.  Helping others gives you insight into your own situation.  Your own situation gives you insight useful to others.  Like wounded soldiers, leaning on each other to make it off the battlefield, we get through life by simultaneously giving and taking.)


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