Title: In the Land of the Dreaming
Date Posted: April 2004
Author: Addie Fielding
Note: Storm’s world, not mine. I’m just playing in it and I promise to leave it nice and tidy when I leave… well, tidyish…
The water was glistening, reflecting trees with white trunks and grey leaves and a sky so blue and bright it hurt my eyes. I brought my hand up to cover them for a second but could still see the brightness behind my lids. The sun was warm on my head and as I took my hands away again I tried to focus on something across the other side of the river.
A flash of red – so stark in contrast to the surrounding bushes and trees that I knew it was out of place. It was moving erratically, back and forth, disappearing for a second then reappearing in front of one of the scrubby bushes. I stood up and shaded my eyes, squinting against the sunlight tyring to see into the shadows beyond the riverbank.
Whatever it was had halted its movement now and I could make out the shape of a person, standing still, watching me, watching it. I raised my hand to wave, but my movement must have startled it for it looked at me for a second, I could make out an expression of confusion and fear on its face, then it turned and ran.
The flash of red vanished, leaving me to ponder once again what I was doing here alone, by a river I had never seen before. I squatted down and dipped my hands into the water to have another drink of its cool sweetness.
As I turned away from the river I kicked my rucksack, which contained all my worldly goods – change of clothing, a couple of books, a hairbrush, a hunting knife and some stale dry biscuits. They were all that I had had to eat.
The last few hours were all that I could remember after my awakening, from a dream, or a long journey. I just woke up and here I was, sitting in the middle of a place that was unfamiliar to me.
Not another living soul was nearby when I finally gained my wits enough to stand up and stagger along a dusty road lined with these white barked trees. Even the air smelled different to anything I had ever experienced before. It was filled with an aroma that was pungent, crisp, and completely strange. I walked along this road for hours, hearing strange sounds, cracklings and growls from amongst the trees. Once a snake slithered across my path causing me to step back in fear, shaking. Twice I found a rock to sit on to rest and look about, trying to get my bearings. But there was nothing with which to do so. Even the hills in the distance looked wrong. They had a blue tinge to them, and were covered with craggy outcrops of red hued rocks.
Finally I had come upon this river that was filled with boulders and covered in darting flies. They were everywhere, settling on some logs near the edge and flickering over the surface like a swarm of bees. At first I was afraid to venture too close, in case they bit me, but the lure of the cool water was more than I could bear. I kicked off my shoes, trousers and jacket, flung my rucksack to the ground and plunged in.
The water was cold and clear and I sank down into it, letting it wash me clean. I took several gulps as I swam, quenching my thirst, then just laid on the surface, floating about, looking up at the bright blue sky through the canopy of leaves. After a while a chill crept through me, so I quickly dressed and lay on the grassy bank to dry off, nibbling on one of my dry biscuits.
I was alone again and the red flash across the other side was gone completely from my view. I looked into the distance for a while, wondering if it might return, but after a while I gathered it had gone for good.
So I decided to continue on my journey, staying close to the river so that I could quench my thirst or take a dip if I felt too hot. The sun was relentless and I could feel its rays burning the back of my neck. I put my collar up and pulled my hat down further over my face.
After walking for another few hours I fell down exhausted underneath a crude wooden shelter. It stank, but there was hay on the ground, which was soft and as I shut my eyes, the world disappeared and dreams engulfed me.
Pain…darkness and cold…voices all around me. Voices that I know, trying to calm me down. My voice above the others, screaming in fear and confusion. Then I’m soaring up in a whirlwind of white fog, twisting, twirling, high in the sky…over mountains, over an ocean…I’m afraid, very afraid…I begin to black out…the cold and the fear are taking their toll on my body…I scream again…
“Are you all right?”
A soft voice awoke me from my nightmare before I could touch the light. Startled and disoriented I sat up quickly and just stared at where the voice had come from. It could have been a young boy or girl, it was too hard to tell. It was beautiful though with dark shoulder length hair, skin the colour of mahogany, flashing dark brown eyes and a soft mouth. This person was wearing a bright red jacket.
“Were you the one who was watching me from across the river?”
It nodded. “Haven’t had too many strangers around here lately.”
“Just where are these parts? I’m sort of lost.”
“Where’s that?” I had never heard of such a place.
We seemed to be going around in circles, so I gave up for the time being, instead I asked it’s name. Maybe that would help me decide if it were male or female.
I was still in the dark…it was a name I had never heard before. I must have looked confused as Kinta began to laugh loudly, flashing white teeth.
“I am male.” Kinta replied, laughing still.
“How did you know that was what I was thinking?”
“Just a guess.” He replied, his laughter a low chuckle now. “Many people ask me that…I guess I could be either. Maybe it’s my long hair. You haven’t told me your name yet. Or am I to just call you stranger?”
Now he had put me on the spot, for I had no idea what my name was…it had simply vanished from my memory. I stared at him for a few seconds, feeling very foolish, when suddenly I felt strange, as though I was reading his thoughts. I detected a wariness from him, that belied his outward nonchalant appearance, and he too wondered what sex I was.
“I have lost all memory of who I am Kinta, that includes my name. I think of myself as a he, though.”
He grinned at me. “So at least we have that straight. Do you have any idea where you came from?”
I pointed in the general direction of my journey. “I’ve been walking for about a day, I think, but I didn’t come from around here. It is as though I just appeared, like out of the sky or something.”
Kinta looked afraid for a few seconds, and began to back off.
“I’m not here to hurt you, Kinta…I just simply don’t know who I am or where I came from. I will move on if you are afraid of me.”
This statement seemed to calm him down a little and he grinned at me again. “Well you don’t look dangerous to me. I’ll call you Uwan…which means ‘happy to meet you’, in my language. That will do until you can remember your name.” He began to laugh out loud and sat down on his haunches, digging the ground in front of him with a stick that he had picked up. “Are you hungry?”
“I’m always hungry.” I answered him with a smile of my own, watching, curiously, the strange symbol that he was now drawing in the soft earth with his stick. “What’s that?”
“It’s a horse.”
I moved around so that I was standing beside him, and indeed, could now see what look like a horse, but it had two large wings sprouting out of its back. “Do you have flying horses around here?”
I felt a shiver run down my spine and a vision of another time and place flashed through my mind…a place that was colder than here, filled with whiteness and a dark foreboding sky that flashed with lightning and something else. What was it? Just as suddenly as the image appeared it disappeared again and I was left wondering.
“Are you all right Uwan?”
“Yes!” I shook my head to dispel the fuzziness that had crept into it and turned to him. “Now about that food.”
Kinta laughed again. It was only later that I learned that his name, in his language actually meant, ‘to laugh’. He lifted up his hand and pointed in the direction of a road, partially hidden by some spiky bushes. “That’s where I live with my friends. Come, I can smell the roo already.”
As we walked I wondered what he had meant by the word ‘roo,’ but whatever it was that was cooking certainly smelled fine enough and my stomach juices were working overtime by the time we reached his home. Several others of his kind were wandering about, cooking, talking, lazing about in the sun. I noticed a few who were most definitely female, and some who had fair skin like my own. All of them eyed me with me some suspicion, but none of them said a word, until I was led up to a ramshackled abode made out of rough bark and was introduced to a tall person, with short black curly hair and sparkling eyes.
“This is Apari, our leader, of sorts.”
I felt as though this was a strange and casual introduction to someone who was supposed to be in charge, but this Apari didn’t seem to mind. He looked me up and down, taking in my every nuance, making me feel small and helpless, and then he grinned and held out his hand.
“Sorry?” I had no idea what he was talking about. I could hear Kinta laughing yet again, so close behind me that his warm breath was blowing on the back of my neck.
I turned to Kinta. “He means food, Uwan.”
Feeling slightly foolish I smiled at Apari, nodded and followed as he led me into his shack. The inside was as primitive as the outside looked. The walls were not lined with anything, and I could see splinters and cobwebs in the rough bark, the one window was an open hole with a cotton curtain hanging over it, the chairs looked like they were made out of crates and there was an actual open fireplace right in the centre. I looked up to see that the smoke billowed out of a hole in the roof.
“Take a seat.” Apari looked at Kinta. “You didn’t tell me your new friend’s name.” He looked slightly angry with my friend for a second or two but his expression of anger soon metamorphosed into a wide smile.
Once the formal introductions were complete, Apari picked up a leg of some cooked beast and handed it to me. “This is the best bit, nice and juicy.”
I held the piece of meat in front of my face for a few seconds, sniffing it, looking at its texture, trying to decide whether it was safe enough to eat, when Kinta explained to me what it was.
“It’s Roo, Uwan…you know a kangaroo. We have lots of them round here…”
I had heard of them of course, from somewhere in my fuzzy memory I pulled a picture out of my mind of the said animal, bounding about with one strange long tail.
“You eat them?”
“Well the station owners don’t like us killing their sheep or cattle, so there isn’t much else around worth eating. We catch a few rabbits now and then, occasionally a snake or lizard. The birds taste like the shit, except for the emus, and koalas…” He winked at me. “They’re as tough as old boots.”
I must have gulped, for they both laughed at me again. However the smell was incredible and I was hungry after all, so I began to chew on the leg. It was a bit strong for my liking, but it was filling my empty stomach. As I finished it and tossed the bone back into the fire, Apari handed me a can.
“It’s not real cold, the generator packed up a while ago, along with the fridge and the lights and the telly. But it’s a beer, and in my opinion you don’t drink anything with roo except a Coopers.”
I held the can in my hand and stared at it. It was such a seemingly incongruous item to be found in such a primitive hut. But these people were most definitely an enigma. It was as though they were a modern people thrown into this alien land to survive as best they could.
I opened the can of beer and drank down the contents. If it had been cold it would have been delicious…as it was it wasn’t too bad. A loud burp escaped my lips…greeted by grins from both of them.
“Now Uwan…where are you heading?” Apari leant back against the wall of his hut, still sipping on his beer.
“Well if I could work out where I came from, maybe I could answer that.”
“Your accent is strange, can’t quite work it out.”
“Well I’m not from around here, that’s for sure.” I spent the next few minutes explaining to Apari how I happened to arrive in his hut, and that I was devoid of any other memories, except basics, like knowing what food was, understanding their language, knowing that I wasn’t a man. Not in the true sense, and not in the way they thought I was. In fact, I knew that even though I called myself a ‘he’ I was most definitely more than that. But I wasn’t going to let them know this just yet.
The three of us sat and talked for some while, Kinta and Apari trying to help me remember, to no avail. While I asked them about their situation. It shocked me to the core.
The next evening I found myself sitting around a campfire, the smoke continually drifting into my eyes and the strange throbbing sound of their musical instruments reverberating down my spine. Everyone around me seemed to be part of the music, part of the whole feel of the circle, and I was a little afraid.
At first, I had thought they were merely going to dance, tell stories and listen to their music, but after a while the whole ambience of the place changed. No narcotics were involved, from what I could tell, even though a few of them were smoking what appeared to be hand rolled cigarettes. But suddenly it was though the whole tribe became one, as though their thoughts and feelings were melding together.
I cannot quite explain how I knew this, except that to begin with I was aware of several thoughts, and then after a while there was only one powerful mind drifting within the smoke, swarming around the circle of people and becoming part of the night.
Then it happened…
I joined this mind as well, I was swept up into its vortex leaving my body behind warming itself by the fire. I didn’t feel alienated, just a little strange. I could see my own face, my eyes were closed and I looked serene and at peace. In fact I no longer felt afraid of anything… I felt protected by the whole.
Suddenly this mind moved away from the bodies left behind and began to travel over great distances, quickly flying over mountain ranges covered in grey leafed trees and scraggly pines, through skies of molten red and shallow rippling lakes. We soared along a rocky road that turned into a highway of asphalt divided with white lines.
A city loomed ahead with basalt towers surrounded by swirling purple mists. We dipped down the wall of a glass tower and began to fly along a canyon surrounded by buildings of every size and colour. It was chaos… people running, vehicles smashing and fire on all sides.
The flickering red glow reflected in the glass making the fires seem like huge volcanos spewing up towards the sky. I sensed the heat, but did not feel it. I sensed the panic all around me, but it did not consume me. I was merely a watcher in a dreamscape.
As our mind flowed up this canyon, passing bodies charred by the fires, I could see a large crowd up ahead, dancing jubilantly, waving spears and guns in the air. These creatures were covered in paint and weird decorations adorned their hair and ears and any uncovered parts of them.
I felt elated, proud, part of this group of creatures now. As we flew overhead, I could see them all looking up at us… for we had taken on the form of a large bird, with a wing-span the length of a city street and long curled claws.
The dancing creatures began to form a line as they followed our bird along the city streets, weaving around debris and blocks of concrete that had fallen from overhead. After a while the line of creatures fused together and it became a long snake, slithering, its skin every hue of the rainbow… its forked tongue darting out, killing everything in its path.
With a jolt that knocked me backwards onto the ground I felt my mind re-enter my body and for a while all that I could see was the moon slewing about in a black starry sky. Then I felt warm hands lifting me up and one of them handing me something hot to drink.
For several minutes I was completely disoriented as I drank the hot liquid, the whole time just staring into the fire. The images I had seen had been so vivid, but totally wrong.
“What the hell was that all about?”
Apari was crouched on his haunches in front of me, a serious expression on his face. He did not speak however, and I gleaned from his mind that it was up to me to interpret the dream, if that is what it was.
“Where were we?”
“In a city.”
“I know that, but which one.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
I took another sip of my drink while I stared at him. This going around in circles seemed to be the norm with these people. “Was it now?”
“Might be. Could have been the past, or the future. It’s up to you to decide Uwan.”
I knew he was going to say that, but it still didn’t help. I did know that at one time during the dream, some of it had seemed familiar, but the images of the snake and the bird, I had never experienced anything like it before. Maybe it was merely a metaphor for something else. Something I didn’t understand… or maybe I just didn’t want to understand.
“You don’t have to know now, Uwan, but you will know eventually. The dreams always reveal themselves.”
I began to shiver and realised that we had been sitting there by ourselves for sometime now, and the fire had gone out. He pulled me to my feet and led me to a hut. It was the same one I had slept in by myself the previous night, but this time I could see someone sitting by the window looking out at the night. It was Kinta.
He turned when I entered and in the darkness I could only see his white teeth and the whites of his eyes.
“That was some dream, Uwan.”
“But I didn’t do it on my own.” I replied, as I sat down on a crate beside him.
“It was your dream… we were merely there to help carry you.”
“Is that what you do when you sit around the campfire? I mean, do you dream all the time, meld your minds?”
“Sometimes… usually we just float over the land at night keeping watch out for them.”
“Them?” He was making me nervous now.
“Who are these others?”
“We don’t have a name for them yet, but there are many of them, not like us. Sometimes we cannot tell the difference between them and humans. Sometimes they just pass through and don’t do anything. Sometimes they kill, or take away the young men, to become like them.”
“What are they like, Kinta?”
“Beautiful… dangerous… strange. They only take those who are fine of form and face.”
“You are beautiful, Kinta, so why haven’t they taken you?”
“I haven’t been old enough, but I’m turning seventeen in two weeks. That seems to be the age they like.”
“Do you want to go with them?”
“I don’t know. The old ones and the women are afraid of them, but most of the young men of our tribe think it would be a great adventure. Haven’t you seen them Uwan? Were they in your land?”
“I think I must have. They were the ones who became the snake weren’t they?”
“If you say so, Uwan.”
For several days life continued on at a tranquil pace. I felt accepted by everyone, especially as I had contributed so actively to their dreaming of a few nights before. Several of the young men and women kept following me about, wanting to know if I remembered anything of where I had come from, and what I thought my dream had meant.
Kinta rarely left my side. He showed me where they found their water, in the small springs that bubbled up through the rocks in the side of the hill near their encampment. He helped me find edible fruits from the scraggly bushes that dotted the terrain, and even tried to teach me how to kill the wallabies and small kangaroos with his rifle.
I was a lousy shot, and hated the thought of killing these very appealing animals. He would grin at me, with those perfect white teeth of his, nudge me in the ribs and tell that if I had to live in the bush alone, I would starve. Well I would be skinnier than I already am anyway.
I sat with him one night, by the campfire, after the other members of the group had gone to bed, or drifted off into their own little huddles of two or three. He seemed to be bursting with some information that he wanted to tell me, but he couldn’t seem to find the right words.
He began hesitantly, talking about stuff that at first, didn’t seem that important. “I never used to live up here. I was born and brought up in a city a few hundred miles south.” He indicated the direction with his thumb. “Went to school, up until year nine, in fact. I was good at drawing and playing footy.”
“Footy?” I must have looked confused because he giggled.
“Football. You know, where you run around a footy field and kick an oval shaped ball about. You have to try and get it between two white sticks.”
I had never heard of such a game, but I made out I had, just to please him. Nodding, I encouraged him to continue.
“Well, we weren’t rich, or poor, right in the middle I think. Dad worked in town for some Government office, and Mum was a nurse. I had three brothers and two sisters.”
“Are they here with you now?”
“One of my brothers is, don’t know where the others are. I know my dad is dead.” He brought his hand up to his face then and covered his eyes for a few seconds. I thought he might have been weeping, but when he brought his hands back down, there were no traces of tears.
“He was killed by a group of them.”
“Them?” I wasn’t really sure who he was referring to.
“The others; the ones in your dream. I don’t really think they meant to kill him, but dad always said the wrong thing. He had this terrible temper you see.”
I nodded again.
“He was coming home from work one night on the train, and there were a heap of them, just mucking about, acting stupid.”
“Were you there?”
“No, I was told about what happened by my older brother Rob, he was on the train in a different carriage, coming home from college. He told me that he heard a commotion coming from the next carriage and he and the rest of the passengers rushed in to see what was happening. He saw dad, standing in the middle of this group of ‘them’. A rag tag bunch they were, leather vests, lots of tattoos, dreadlocks and bleached hair. They were holding knives and chains. I don’t know what Dad had said to them to get them so upset, but it wouldn’t have taken much. Mostly we kept to ourselves and they kept to themselves. There was a kind of nervous truce, you might say. But now and again something bad would happen.”
“Any how, Rob said that Dad was trying to back away, to placate them, but they kept menacing him, circling like a flock of crows on a piece of road-kill. Then all hell broke loose. One of them let out a banshee cry and lunged, knifing Dad in the side. He didn’t stand a chance.”
“That’s terrible. Couldn’t any of the other passengers help?”
“Two other humans got killed that evening, and ten of them got injured. It was a fucking blood-bath. Rob was hurt, and ended up in hospital. It was the beginning of the end really.”
“Is that when you decided to come up here?”
“Shortly afterwards. We stayed around for a couple of months, just trying to stay alive, but the night my sisters came home and said that my brother Michael had been taken away by them, we decided to move away.”
“What happened to Michael?”
“They incepted him.”
I must have looked confused. “Sorry, Uwan, I mean they turned him into one of them. At least that’s what I heard.”
“Do you think he wanted to become one of them?”
“Well, I have been told that he’s happy…and hanging out with one of his old friends who has also been incepted. I’ve not seen him again, and he’s made no attempt to contact me, but I know he’s alive.”
“That’s something I suppose.”
“Yeah!” Kinta seemed to drift off for a few seconds, his eyes blurring and his bottom lip quivered.
“You miss him don’t you?” I put a hand on his shoulder and could feel him shaking.
“He was my favourite brother. He protected me from the bullies at school, and taught me how to play footy. Yeah, I do miss him.”
We sat together for a long time after that, not talking, just being there for each other. It was so quiet, that after a while I thought I could hear his heart beating, but it might have been some sound from the bush that surrounded us on all sides. He turned to me eventually, and I could see the gleam of tears in his eyes. He wiped his face and took my hand in his.
“I like you Uwan, you’re different from other white boys that I knew back in town. It’s like you don’t see my colour.”
I touched his face. “It’s a lovely colour, Kinta…I see it, and I like it. How am I different?”
He grinned at me. “Just that, Uwan. You don’t see anything other than that you ‘like” my colour. I like yours as well…such a beautiful golden colour, and that hair of yours is like the sun. So thick….” He brought his hand up and ran his fingers through it.
The touch of his hand in my hair made me shudder and I reached up and grabbed it. He looked embarrassed and pulled it away, standing up quickly. He looked as though he was about to run away in fright…I had upset him.
“Sorry Kinta…it’s not that I don’t like you…it’s just that I’m not sure.”
He had begun to blush and looked down at his feet.
I felt awful.
“I’m sorry Uwan…I thought you had feelings for me…you know, more than just friend type feelings. I misjudged things. Can you forgive me?”
I stood up in front of him and cupped his face in my hands. “I have similar feelings Kinta…but do you think your tribe would approve.”
“I don’t care about the others, it’s you I care about. I’m gay, Uwan, and that’s all there is to it. I can’t help how I feel. I’ve felt this way since I was little. It’s one of the reasons why I miss Michael so much…he didn’t just protect me from the racists, but he stopped the other taunts as well.”
I stared at him for a long moment, wondering how anyone could taunt just a beautiful creature. Someone who was kind and sweet as well as strong and lithe. I was attracted to him, but knew that I could do nothing about it. This feeling deep inside was warning me, and it was more than just a flash of a memory, it was something important, something that had to be heeded.
To be continued…