dream interpreter – Part 1 : 78-79

78.

They all followed her, mesmerised,
to the sooty innards of the kasbah
slanting up the side of the hill
as if fleeing an ancestral tsunami.

Confronting the steppe, its echo,
towering above it, the city was
doubly castled, with slit avenues
breaking free of the older town.

79.

Apple-tree covers along the walls,
mountains holding on the roots
of the seemingly endless steppe,
it was a shape-shifting, eerie place.

Then the voice of the beggar called.
Now soft, now commandeering, with
chanted words and many tones, it
drew them underground to a catacomb.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 75-77

75.

The city of snow leopards welcomed them,
its huge door grinning wide as they were
robbed at the gates by friendly guards
who were quick to recognize foreigners

and suggest that there might be a way
to skip ahead of the queue. Marco’s
small jewels were taken, and so their
weapons, as well as their good humour.

76.

At night, thanks to the charity of a
clear sky, they found refuge in a moon
illuminated cemetery. Setting their
fears aside, they slept on hard stone.

Twice robbed, they lost clarity at dawn,
once finding out that all that they had owned
had been taken from them while they rested.
Looking at the mountains, they stood alone.

77.

As they felt a great sadness, they were
approached by a street beggar. Her eyes
were sharp with lunacy, a mirror where
one might find measure to one’s misery.

She spoke with guttural tones, a series of
half-digested words, in a strange idiom.
Even if they could not always tell if she
was talking to them, they froze gorgonized.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 51-59

51.

Then the summer came, and time went by,
carelessly they drifted across the steppe
riding past large assemblies of flamingos,
toward the mountains and the rising sun.

Marco found the time to soothe his pain,
his guilt was gnawing at him: he could
relate to Dream-eater, and he became her
friend. The sister kept a watchful eye.

52.

They left the horde – and for the young
horseback riders that was a rite of passage.
Dream-eater had no interest in power,
since she had killed her father – well –

for other reasons. Leaving the tribe
was the easiest thing in the world,
as the age had dared them to leap,
so the three Saka youngsters leapt.

53.

They flew off as a young sparrow
finally leaving the nest after having
been nursed by an unwilling and sour
old man, yet somehow loving of the

small bird. Off, into the summer air,
off – presumably to finding love,
and death, and casualty, leaving
dead and broken siblings behind.

54.

Animals get one chance to fly away,
just at the cusp of meaningful age,
that one opportunity often fails to
reveal itself, and the moment passes,

the small creature in the cage is never
freed, its soul dies at last on a winter
day, no longer pining for dreams that
never existed, accepting a dead life.

55.

The young warrior followed the two
sisters on their journey, and Marco
could not believe his luck, the power
dynamic having changed, and him assuming

the role of guide in this wide world away
from the horse riding tribes, and into
the unknown, where was wont to find fortune
and favour, for a demon was on his side.

56.

Or so he thought. As a child in Venice
he had met a fortune-teller, and she had
been shocked and horrified by his demeanor,
she said: “How can you be so carelessly calm

walking around with a demon on your back,
how can you be so innocent, and so sweet,
yet having a monster whispering in your
ear? One day you might fall prey to sin.”

57.

That distant memory was a long-lost bourdon
note, and Venice felt as if it never existed; now
the mountains were rising ahead, snow capped,
a large forest loomed in between, and Marco

felt an emotion he had forgotten, though
he could not place it. He badly wanted to
share his story with these his fellow
adventurers, and yet he hated himself.

58.

He could not bear to change their favourable
opinion, though clearly the witch sister
was ever watching him; he felt her magic
touching ever tendril of his soul, and the

song that defined who he was kept beating
the drum in his head, and his head hurt from
too much lyric-munching, the same words
kept spinning inside his soul, surely that

59.

was the demon’s work. On occasion he remembered
everything; he could almost touch Dream-eater’s
own pain, and the sister’s heavenly mind, or
the young warrior’s purity: he felt great shame.

As they entered the forest ahead, they went in on
foot, leading the horses into a strange darkness,
a great all-encompassing stillness. It felt like time
had inched on; a tiny, imperceptible tick forward.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 45-50

45.

Then the next dream sequence popped in:
a wedding was taking place. Dream-eater
scoffed, there were more crafty half-men
trying and failing to catch her on horseback.

But they were on foot, while the assembly
was burdened by the knowledge of a plague
that had been known to spread in the land,
and yet the festivities continued unheeding.

46.

The next thing she knew, she was carrying
her sister who had taken ill down a country
lane, the time of the apocalypse had come,
the gods had been angered and they had sent

a deadly malady throughout the world, now
all pretence of human life had been wiped,
survivors sought random escape, Dream-eater
anxiously inching on toward the last pier.

47.

Her sister pleaded, then cursed, then pleaded
again. What makes vampires of us all, we
wonder. Dream-eater tried to avoid her bite,
all bitterness instilled in the madly burning

red eyes, hallmark of spiritual possession,
the much-loved sister no longer herself but
now a sub-human growling creature, scarred
over her body with pustules, bleeding wounds.

48.

Dream-eater abandoned her family, she left her
friend. She ran for her life toward the harbour,
wondering whether she had been infected, if
she would see the light of another day, at last

reaching the final bend along the road,
high oak-trees hiding the ship leaving west.
As she boarded the vessel fearing the sea,
for she had never sailed, the waves roared.

49.

Then the ship groaned and cracked in half,
and the curse of her loved one once again
echoed in the maddening dusk, and the waters
rushed in; one half of the ship floated away

to liberation and such. But Dream-eater was
on the half that sunk, hopelessly watching
all the sins of her existence that had led to
that cursed moment. A huge mouth of water

50.

yawned, soared high, then closed. Drowning,
the last thing she saw was her sister’s face,
eyes glowing, sore with hatred. She woke up.
Dream-eater had now been lying, her eyes

close for quite some time, dreading
that this might not have been a dream,
her sister’s eyes might still burn on,
aching, wondering if the curse was on.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 40-44

40.

A dream never starts – just clicks on – being
in medias res. Dream-eater first saw a wall,
a mouldy grey barrier which was below ground.
A sense came upon her that all would die out soon.

Great excitement, a feeling of fear and hope.
An awareness that the world was reaching
an end, and yet infused with a sense of camaraderie,
she was not alone in the underground maze.

41.

‘Twas a narrow maze, or a sewer, nay an aqueduct.
Not sure, but clearly under a great city. How would
she know, never having seen a city in her life!
It was very much real, with crystalline clarity.

The room she was in (or they were in: friends,
companions still unknown to her, except for
being some people she loved deeply) the room
was very small, and breathing was difficult.

42.

The narrow passages of this underground lair
were endlessly going on; then occasionally
a large room with a water tank would appear,
a passage would rise up from the ceiling

shooting up into the above ground space,
she guessed that only a very small person
would be able to climb up and down. Pain,
she felt, trapped in a deadly world below.

43.

And yet she was not alone, and as they wandered
through the underground city in the great blind
she felt more alive then than many a day on the
endless steppe, the horizon forever expanding

to the Altai mountains, forever moving further
apart, escaping her freedom. For an instant she
thought she saw her father; she noticed a mark
on the wall, a double-axe, and then the dark.

44.

A large breathing creature, an entirely oily
mass of grease was blocking the passage. She
panicked, her companions felt a needle touch,
and from the corner of her eye she could see

some ungodly liquid seeping from this large
blob of rot, a grim fat-berg growing below,
a menace to the city, some karmic remnant of
human hubris: a living thing, most horrible.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 29-37

29.

“Your majesty”, began the prisoner softly.
“Don’t kiss ass”, interrupted the sister curtly.
This abrupt warning brought a stillness
to the room, then the traveller began anew.

“Beg pardon. Where I come from, we honour
the rulers of the land. My name is Marco
Querini, of one of the great families of
Venice, a serene city far beyond this land.”

30.

He flashed his white teeth, and smiled.
There came no response, or change in
expression. Miffed, he continued. “I
have travelled with my relations to the

far East, on several journeys to Xanadu.
My family has a personal relationship
with the supreme Khan of Hangzhou, which
goes back for many golden generations.”

31.

The two women were looking at him in
silence; the young man smiled. Marco
could not read his hosts, though he
felt less like prisoner, and more like

a tourist. “We Querini are Venetian
nobles with a great history, and land
to attest it. We have many possessions,
islands at sea to the East of Venice.”

32.

“The most beautiful of which, and the
most famous, is wonderful Stampalia,
or Astiphalea, as the local fishermen
call it. Venetians are skilled traders.”

“We bring the best deals to your door.”
As he spoke, the smaller woman rose to
her feet. She was barefoot, and her green
garment was bright, which seemed to glow.

33.

He broke off, and as there was no response
from the others in the Yurt, he just sat
stupidly, waiting for acknowledgement.
But he sat a long time without speaking.

At last the small sister came close to him,
and she took his wrist, and seemed to check
his pulse, then she went out without a word.
Dream-eater just sat there cross-legged.

34.

Marco tried in vain to ingratiate himself
with her with fantastical tales of Xanadu,
and Venice, and the journeys he had been
on. She sat there listening effortlessly,

he kept on talking, encouraged by her
half-smile. The young man was drawn in,
increasingly wide-eyed to his ‘slightly’
embellished tales of East and West.

35.

Dream-eater was young with a shapely
round face, and a very nimble body.
She did not seem entirely at ease
with herself, and she seemed angry.

Her face was covered with pimples,
and her hair was short. She dressed in
tight clothing, which showed her form.
Marco soon began to lust after her.

36.

He was a stocky young man, with
thick hairy arms, and a face like
a fox. He talked softly, with a deep
voice which used to make some people

in Venice pay attention to his lies.
He was an expert bullshitter, rising
to every occasion with the right deal,
though he had yet to make his mark.

37.

He was a business-man all in all,
complete with sweet tongue, with an
inexaustible source of confidence,
expertly weaving the art of deceit.

It was hard to get a read on them,
though. And the sister was an utter
mystery! He was exhausted. This
place was the middle of nowhere.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 16-22

16.

Upon his return to the Castle, the pilgrim
became melancholic, and then addicted
to the drink, and then overwhelmed by
family duties. Clearly he found life quite

unbearable. But wait, more about him later.
Now imagine skipping over the ocean across
many miles to a far-away land, to a steppe.
But first dip in waters in front of the Castle.

17.

Right now, back then, a whole armada is
blockading the harbour. That’s the people
following Memetis, here from across the sea.
Friendly neighbours holding siege to the Castle.

That’s one of the armies assembled here
(there). The fleet belongs to the Sultan of
Beştepe, a commander and a hungry ghost.
Definitions of the latter abound, but let us

18.

settle for “a person with control issues”.
Anyway, the Castle is now surrounded,
the trenches are filthy and deep, and the
horses are unstable (no pun intended).

It has been more than twenty years.
A poet called it “Troy’s rival”, as in
equally fantastical fiction. So that’s
at least double the trouble now, surely.

19.

So leap in the ocean in front of Castle,
dodge the ships, past the sunshine,
skip the clouds, beat the storms – reach
the coast, up above perhaps, toward Ilium

(another myth dear to unravished brides,
and school-children on the West side).
So now: that’s a tale of East and West,
as you rightly have guessed,  dear reader !

20.

So then, in the steppe, a very barren
land, full of dull muds and no hope,
where no thing grows, close to a large
and shallow salt-lake, not close enough!

A traveller, a business-man has lost
his path. He was on his way to Xanadu,
or so he thought. Coming from a city
surrounded by water and lies, he knew

21.

well next to naught. He was so young,
so eager. Find worthy love, hoard riches,
please his never-pleased ma and pa,
and so he journeyed to the steppe.

He lost his way though he had followed
the stars. Suddenly, a prisoner to a great
warrior-princess in a very hot place.
Before all that, there was a lot of travel.

22.

Chiefly across endless heaps of mud,
and no grass. Nothing can be found in
the steppe of Kalmuks: not a living thing,
just miles and miles of unbroken clay.

So the prisoner captured by scouts
had time to reconsider his choices,
to beg for a little water, to ask politely
for an explanation. There came none.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 10-15

10.

He cautiously went out in the rain.
The apple he had left as an offering
had been bitten. Surely, he assumed,
that must have been the evil spirit.

The purple light was glowing in a burn,
but the shadow, the flash in the window
had gone. He had been touched by God.
He went over what God must have meant.

11.

Surely, the light was a sign from above
meant to signal his induction in a world
of knowledge. Surely, he had come all
this way for a purpose. Surely, the spark

that brightly shone in his room was
witness to his hard journey, testimony
of his efforts, and reward for his literal
enlightenment. Surely, that was that.

12.

He stepped out in the open, fool that
he was, and felt the rain avoiding
his body. In the midst of a terrible
storm, he stood with arms outstretched

and claimed that not a single drop had
touched him. More proof, he thought, that
he had been chosen, that he had beaten
the test, and defeated the mocking shadow.

13.

The vision went on through the night,
and after the rain a great stillness
came over the monastery. The pilgrim
was standing motionless where the rain

had left his skin dry, yet looking over
the courtyard with great equanimity.
The moon was shining potently while all
the statues beneath seemed to breathe.

14.

Persistently he kept his addled mind
in a semi-medititative state, while
booming crickets raised several tones
in the air, and the puddle before him

gave reflections of the moon. The statues
were seemingly pointing at the puddle,
and the moon was knowingly bouncing off
stolen light. He felt robbed at heart.

15.

In the hallowed morning, upon rising
the pilgrim distinctly heard kind voices
of angels like children singing praise
in a foreign language. His next choice

had been set in stone. He would return
to the Castle, and work without rest
toward the purpose he had finally found.
He would now follow the inner instincts.

dream interpreter – Part 1 : 4-9

4.

In trying to understand the dream-symbols
of another person, we fill in the gaps with our
own interpretation, assuming our perceptions
to be comparable. Visions and ill-dreams are

gap-fillers in themselves. What is a dream, a vision?
A message from God, as the ancient Greeks intended?
A message from the unconscious? An electrical
phenomenon to be decoded by a quantum computer?

5.

Slowly, the pilgrim rose from the bed of wood,
he moved toward the door. From the other side
of the room, through the window overlooking
the swamp, there came a strong flash of light.

The light was blinding, and he felt confused.
Suddenly all the room lit up; a strange whirring
sound began to drone, like a machine had started.
A heavy undecipherable scent came and stayed.

6.

What the shadow on the wall wrote is subject
of much debate in his frayed mind. It so appeared
then to him, that the devil or a spirit took form
on the wall opposite to the window’s shining light.

The shadow was mocking him with an incredible
jig in a frenzy. As he looked on in amazement, he
saw the monster’s face distort in disgust. Then it
turned from running to a comedy of his artistry.

7.

At home in the Castle, the pilgrim was reknowned
for being a failed artist, and his folly had brought
him far abroad in mysterious lands to seek the light.
Now the spirit was mocking his efforts and talents.

It was all so very personal, as if in this cursed
night all the threads in his life had come together
in a knot, and the knot was being unravelled
before his eyes. His painting was exhausting.

8.

And the shadow on the wall was proving to
him the utter meaninglessness of his efforts,
and the purple light in the middle of the room
was shining all the brighter, and the sound

of mechanical humming was drilling in his ears,
and the scent of spice and moist dread was
filling his senses to the brim. Somewhere outside,
the damp skies hidden from view saw a lightning.

9.

Then a thunder broke the silence, a hard bell toll.
It was a wake-up call for the little foolish pilgrim
looking at the shadows in his monastery cell.
He believed he was being summoned by God.

He was being tested, or so he thought. All of his
life streamed in front of him, and he followed
the mocking dance of the black shadow on the
stained wall until a sharp rain burst his bubble.

sketches on gambling

if a half-grown tadpole

and a fully-formed ghoul

went gambling, what would they say, what would they do?

 

I’m half dead already, and I’ve just come out of metamorphosis.

I’m just here for the weed, and my mind is a fog.

 

I want this.

I haven’t had enough.

 

Mine is the luxury of desire.

Mine is the joy of tearing apart half-formed limbs.

 

My mother was a frog once, and my father a ghoul.

Where are they now?