373: Dreams To Remember

on April 18, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Amaranth Is Perfectly Reasonable

I awoke with a stereotypical start, complete with a little gasping choke for air from a chest that felt like it was being crushed by a great weight, though it was only Amaranth on top of me. My mind was a little quicker waking up than my body had been, and I ran through the details of my dream.. the farm, the… whatever it had been with bugs that was already fading, the man… the man.

“You okay, baby?” Amaranth murmured.

“Amaranth,” I whispered, and then, remembering that we were alone in the room, I spoke aloud. “Amaranth, something happened.”

It was about the least adequate description ever in the paired history of adequacy and description, but I couldn’t think how to explain the dream without actually, you know, explaining it, and I wanted to make sure I had her full conscious attention before I launched into the story.

I got her to sit up with me. She seemed groggy, but it cleared away pretty quickly, being just the aftereffect of having been roused from a deep slumber and not actual tiredness. After she assured me she was awake, I told her about the dream, in as much detail as I could remember.

When I finished, she didn’t say anything immediately. After a few seconds, she put her arm around me and pulled me in close.

“Mack?” she said.

“Yeah?”

“You know it was just a dream, right?”

“It wasn’t!” I said.

“You were here underneath me the whole time, I’m pretty sure of that,” she said. “Even if I could have missed you leaving, I don’t think there’s any way you could have been put back beneath me without waking me.”

“I know it was a dream, but it wasn’t just a dream,” I said. “He did something.”

“‘He doesn’t exist, sweetie,” Amaranth said. “We were talking about your parents before we went to bed, remember? That probably influenced your dream.”

It was a perfectly reasonable response, of course, but it was frustrating because I knew it had been different.

“Why wouldn’t I dream about my mother, then?” I asked. “We were talking more about her than anything else.”

“I don’t know, baby,” Amaranth said. “I just had you nibbling my feet and licking honey off of me before we went to bed, but in my dream it was Hazel who was cooking… well, the important thing is that dreams don’t always go in the direction you’d expect them to. It could have been inspired by our conversation, but it wouldn’t necessarily go in a straight line, you know?”

“I know myself,” I said. “I know what my dreams feel like. This was different. It didn’t come from me. And… I’d never seen the man before in my life. How’d I dream up somebody I’d never seen before?”

“That’s actually not so strange,” Amaranth said. “Your imagination doesn’t stop working when you’re asleep. The fact that you don’t know anything about your father… beyond the obvious… just makes it easier since there’s nothing to compare it to.”

“But he wasn’t anything like I would have guessed my father was like,” I said.

I’d never, from the moment I truly understood what I was, actually tried to picture my father… “demon” summed it up for me. The man in my dream hadn’t struck me as nice or good, but I would have thought of a demon comparing humanity to insects as he tore a bunch of them apart with his bare hands, not in a conversational, off-hand sort of way.

“Well, is that an argument for it being real, or against?” Amaranth asked, and I realized I didn’t know. She gave me a tight squeeze and said, “It’s not that I don’t believe you, baby, I’m just trying to be logical about this… there are probably people all over the world right now having dreams that they’re sure are real, and only a few of them are going to be right. Did he tell you anything that you could, I don’t know, verify?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “He knew about… well, actually, now that I’m thinking about it everything he said was stuff I already knew about.” I sighed. “I’m sure it was real, though.”

“There are more than two possibilities here, you know,” Amaranth said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it could have really been somebody or something sending you a dream or talking to you in your head, or whatever, without actually being your father,” Amaranth said. “Like you said, you don’t know anything about him… you don’t even know if he’s still alive or not.”

“Who else would it be?”

“I don’t know,” Amaranth said. “Mercy, trying to trick you into messing up on Saturday? Some aspect of the pitchfork entity trying to lure you back to it?”

“He was acting like I could learn to control the pitchfork,” I said.

“That’s what I would say if I were an evil artifact and I wanted somebody to pick me up,” Amaranth said. She turned her head slightly towards the wall. “Dee, are you awake?”

There was a muffled reply a few seconds later: “I am now. Do you require assistance?”

“Would you mind joining us in here? We may have a problem.”

“One moment, please.”

A few minutes later, there was a quiet knock on the door. Amaranth answered it, and Dee came into the room wearing a shapeless nightgown of some glistening black fabric.

“Oh, that’s nice!” Amaranth said. “The material, I mean.”

“Thank you,” Dee said. “It… reminded me of someone.”

“How sweet,” Amaranth said. “Have you heard from your lovers?”

“I do not expect there to be much news,” Dee said. “Ours is a staid society of equilibrium and order. But you did not awaken me to inquire after my homeland, I think.”

“No, but it’s nice to catch up,” Amaranth said. “And if you ever need someone to talk to… well, you aren’t just our friend when we need your help.”

“Thank you,” Dee said, making a small bow.

Her composure broke when she tried to rise back up… a look of pain flashed on her face and she started to fall forward. Amaranth was quicker than me, and probably slightly more graceful than I would have been… she let Dee kind of stumble into her, stopping her from tumbling over, and then she ducked down a bit so that Dee could lean on her. Amaranth helped her over to my chair.

“Thank you,” Dee said. “I am afraid I injured my back.”

“Oh, no… what happened?” Amaranth asked.

“One of my classrooms was closed in the aftermath of some mishap in an arcane laboratory class that shares the facilities,” Dee said. “We had to relocate to another room that had been used for storage while an abjuration professor and the grounds crew found a way of permanently removing the thorn monsters. It was necessary for us to shift some equipment and furniture out of the way to make the space useable. I volunteered…”

“Wait, I thought you were telekinetic,” I said.

“Yes, well, when I began to put my talents to use, one of my classmates made a disparaging comment about the strength of women and elves in comparison to humans and men,” Dee said. “Only ‘elf’ was not the word that he used. I… perhaps unwisely… challenged him to a contest.”

“Dee… however rude he was, you had nothing to prove to him,” Amaranth said.

“Yes, well, I thought that I did,” Dee said. She smiled ruefully. “I thought he was wrong. I assumed that however much he could lift, I would be able to lift more. As Two would say, I was mistaken.”

“Why didn’t you heal yourself?” Amaranth asked.

“I was not certain that I should,” Dee said. “I brought the injury upon myself in my pride.”

“Well, you can let me heal it, then,” Amaranth said. As Dee gathered herself to object, Amaranth added, “I’ll feel a lot better knowing you aren’t in pain.”

“Very well, then,” Dee said, and I took a step back and averted my eyes from the divine glow. “Thank you. Now, what is the problem?”

“Tell her, baby,” Amaranth said, and I did.

“Naturally, it goes without saying that even if it were possible to control the pitchfork entity, it would not be worth the risk,” Dee said.

“It could be,” I said. “I mean… if there was some way to know for sure it was safe, why not?”

“Granting for the sake of argument that it could be possible to know that, it would still be unconscionable,” Dee said. “Even if it were no longer a danger to you, it could still cause harm if it were to be lost or taken from you. If you had an opportunity to rid the world of an entity like that and you did not, you would bear responsibility for every death it thereafter caused.”

“I guess I should just go kill myself, then,” I said. “Since I’m ‘an entity like that’.”

“Baby, don’t say that!” Amaranth said.

“I apologize, that was not my implication,” Dee said. “The pitchfork entity is malevolence without a mind or a purpose other than to exist. It has no redeeming value.”

“It could have a redeeming value if somebody was able to use it…”

“Dee’s right, baby, but that’s really beside the point,” Amaranth said. She turned to Dee. “Mack is sure that the dream, or the presence in it… the man claiming to be her father… was coming to her from somewhere. Is there a way you can tell?”

Dee took her time before answering.

“I cannot think of any easy way,” she said. “I could examine Mackenzie’s aura again to see if another infernal presence has impinged upon it, but that would entail the same level of pain as it did last time, and I do not believe it would be worth it. This was not possession… not one soul overlaying another. It was likely to be a bit of dream-influencing magic, or more likely, telepathy. If it is the former, I would not know how to look for it. If the latter… well, wizards term our natural gifts ‘the subtle arts’ for a reason. They are subtle. I could examine the mind of an elf or human or a similar being to see if it had been altered in some way, but it would be the results of the alteration that stood out, not some residue of the power that had effected it.”

“And I’m not an elf or a human, so you couldn’t even do that much,” I said.

“No,” Dee said. “Regrettably.” She looked at me. “Do you truly believe that this was your father?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I… everything he said sounded so natural, so plausible.”

“My recent studies on the subject have led me to believe that this is to be expected when dealing with a demon,” Dee said. “They are quite as intelligent as humans, and possibly more so, when not in the grip of hunger or rage. Of course, that having been said, if we accept that it’s a demon…”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding. “That’s where I’m at, right now.”

“The question is, why would it… he… contact you now?” Dee asked. “I admit that my experience with the notion of fatherhood is somewhat limited, but that seems odd.”

“He said he couldn’t while I was with my grandmother,” I said. “As for why now… I don’t know. Maybe it took him this long to find me? Or maybe travel was a problem?”

“There is much that we don’t know,” Dee said. “But assuming that he was real and that anything he said was truthful, we know how to keep him away.”

“We do?” I asked.

“Certainly we do,” Dee said. “You have just said it: he fears your grandmother.”

“He didn’t say that,” I said.

“Her presence was enough to dissuade his,” Dee said. “Call it what you will. If you believe there was anything of truth in this visitation, I do not see how you can refuse to contact her.”

“He stayed away while I was living under her roof and was under her supervision,” I said. “What can she do now that I’m here? She can’t ward the room or anything because then I couldn’t use it, and she couldn’t exactly move in. Anyway, she’s three provinces away.”

“Perhaps she had some specific means of keeping him at bay,” Dee said. “I do not know. The truth is that none of us can say what she could or could not do, which is all the more reason to ask her.”

“I’d say it’s all the more less reason,” I said. “I’m not opening that can of worms on the off chance that the worms are licorice.”

“I suspect I am missing an idiom,” Dee said.

“Oh, um… that was a better metaphor in my head,” I said. “The point is, it’s not worth giving her a chance to get her hooks into me again.”

“You are being woefully irresponsible,” Dee said.

“To who? To myself?” I asked. “It’s my decision. Maybe if he does something more hostile, I’ll change my mind… but probably not. My grandmother’s an aging exorcist. He was probably more afraid of what more powerful clerics would do to him if he hurt her than he was of her.”

“We could find out for certain,” Dee said.

“You want to know what she would say?” I said. “I’ll tell you. I write to her and tell her that my father came around in my dreams and said he wants to get to know me but he couldn’t while I was living with her, she’ll tell me I should come back and live with her. Forget about school, forget about my friends, forget about love… I might as well let Mercy turn me into her lapdog.”

“You cannot believe going back into your grandmother’s care and becoming a creature of Mercy’s would be equivalents,” Dee said.

“Well, no,” I said. “Except in terms of any real kind of a future for me.”

“It’s your choice, baby,” Amaranth said. “But really, it’s making more and more sense. We could have a temple organization here contact her, if you don’t want to do it directly… I mean, with all charity towards your grandmother, I’m not certain if myself or Dee would be the best go-betweens… I’ve had some recent experience of how biased the older generations can be towards nymphs.”

“I… I’ll think about it,” I said.

“I’ll ask you what you want to do on Sunday,” Amaranth said. “One thing at a time.”

“Two will be waking up soon,” Dee said, rising to her feet. “I should go say my waking prayers and prepare for our session… if you are not thoroughly discomfited, Mackenzie, I suggest you join us. If an entity is entering your mind, the self-awareness and self-control you gain from meditation will be useful, regardless of the interloper’s actual identity.”

I thought about it… there would be no point in trying to go back to sleep if I wasn’t going to sleep on through until breakfast time. Now that the initial rush of wakefulness was subsiding, I was starting to feel weariness creeping in… but Amaranth and I had actually crashed fairly early the night before, and Friday meant I could take a good long nap if I skipped or rushed through lunch.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’ll be there.”


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5 Responses to “373: Dreams To Remember”

  1. Psi-Ko says:

    I’m beginning to see why some people hate Amaranth with a fiery passion.

    “You were underneath me all night!”
    YEAH!? SO!? That means absolutely NOTHING. Even in OUR universe would I sooner jump to dream-telepathy than a damned kidnapping or sleepwalking.

    Current score: 3
  2. MentalBlank says:

    Oh settle down with the Amy hate! Kheez, I like Amaranth personally. Tired of reading about people hating on her.

    Current score: 4
  3. JerK says:

    I don’t get the Amy hate either. She’s the healthiest intimate relationship she has by far. Steff is all about getting off on her kinks and to hell with anyone she drags down with her. Ian has his own anger issues that Mack makes worse every time they interact. It’s like training someone to be a woman beater under the guise of a Dom/Sub relationship.
    I admit that I’m no expert or even an amateur in that department since it doesn’t do anything for me but I doubt any relationship like that is meant to dominated by out of control anger.

    Amy has her own issues but when they’re together it’s the only time I feel like Mack tries to be a better person. Heck I feel like its the only time Amy tries to fight her own nature. They’re good for each other MOST of the time. The other two just bring out the worst in Mack.

    Now if we’re including friends I really wish she’d spend more time with and listening to Dee.

    As for the grandmother I feel like if Mack would be a little more open about her actual experiences with her grandmother people would give her a break on trying to get her back into her life. I mean the few hints we’ve had as the reader are far more than she’s actually told her closest friends. Heck she told Ian the most and that was when they barely knew each other.

    Current score: 4
  4. Jechtael says:

    I like that metaphor.

    Current score: 2