OT: Transference

on January 3, 2010 in Other Tales

Dee stood on the path of darkness once more, the same path she had trod through her own dreams many times during a long weekend of sleep. She didn’t possess full conscious memories of her previous journeys along the path, though she did recognize it and she did have the unmistakable feeling that she had been on it many times before.

She couldn’t be certain, but she had the distinct impression that the last time she had followed it, it hadn’t been labeled with a neatly-lettered placard reading “Path Of Darkness”.

“That’d be her doing,” a voice said.

“Whose?” Dee asked.

“I think that’s my line,” the voice said again.

There was a fluttering in the darkness above Dee… darkness that her eyes could not seem to penetrate or sort out, and then a thing descended into view… a thing that flew awkwardly on flipper-like wings. It had talons somewhat like a bird’s sticking out from a hard-carapaced torso.

“What manner of creature are you?” Dee asked the ungainly thing.

“Well, I think that should be clear,” it said.

“Not in the slightest,” Dee said. “You remind me somewhat of a picture that was labeled ‘tortoise’, but you also bear some resemblance to a night-hunting bird.”

“Like I said, perfectly clear,” the thing said. “I’m some sort of ridiculous owl-turtle thing, as you would well know if I hadn’t left my label behind.”

“Label?”

“She likes labels,” it said. It stopped its flapping and immediately a convenient post (conveniently labeled as such) materialized out of the darkness. There was a sign sticking out of the post bearing the description the thing had just given Dee for itself. “See?”

“Who? Who likes labels?”

“Whose dream do you think you’re in, exactly?”

“I thought I was in mine,” Dee said. “But then… I can see darkness in my dreams.”

“I would think you’d be able to see plenty of darkness in this one,” the owl-turtle thing said. “There doesn’t seem to be much else here to look at, excepting myself.”

“Darkness isn’t usually so opaque and monochromatic,” Dee said. “This is like someone else’s dream of darkness.”

“That’s an astounding coincidence,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“What is?”

“That it’s like that,” it said.

“How, precisely, is that coincidental?”

“In that it precisely coincides.”

“To what?” Dee asked.

“To the fact that it is someone else’s dream,” the thing said.

“So you have implied,” Dee said.

“You don’t believe the evidence of your own eyes?”

“Eyes can be deceptive, and so can dreams,” Dee said.

“Have you ever had a dream where you couldn’t ‘see darkness’ before?” it asked.

“I… don’t know.”

“Why not?”

“I do not always remember my dreams,” Dee said. “They are not always… what is the word? Apparent.”

“You mean you’re not a lucid dreamer,” the thing said.

“To the contrary, I think I am perfectly lucid,” Dee said.

“A lucid dream is one in which the dreamer is aware that he or she is dreaming,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“Then this is manifestly a lucid dream, insofar as we are discussing the fact that I am dreaming,” Dee said.

“No, we are not,” it said. “We are discussing the fact that you are in a dream.”

“You are splitting hairs.”

“Scales or feathers, maybe, but I don’t have any hairs to split,” it said.

“It is a figure of speech,” Dee said. “At least, among the humans of the Imperium. Among my own people, the nearest equivalent phrase has the idiomatic meaning of ‘to do things rightly’.”

“A good phrase,” the owl-turtle thing said. “Some distinctions are worth making, and this is one. You are in a dream, but you’re not the dreamer here.”

“I am not a dream,” Dee said.

“Of course not,” the owl-turtle thing said. “You’re not interesting enough to be a dream. Although you do have a label.”

“I do not,” Dee said, but then she looked down and saw the placard hanging around her neck. She tilted it up towards her and read it upside-down: My Friend Dee.

“Are we starting to form a picture of whose dream it is that we might be stumbling around?”

“Two,” Dee said, letting the sign slip from her hands.

“Correct!” the owl-turtle thing said. “And so now the only question is why you would have entered her dream in the first place.”

“That is no great mystery,” Dee said, memory trickling back into her head. “She has expressed some distress with her dreams and so I offered my services as her telepath and friend.”

“Maybe no great mystery, but it’s at least a copper detective novel to me why you would do that when you’re not exactly master of your own subconscious realm to begin with,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that you might have thought to put your own house in order before opening a maid service,” it said. “You can’t control what happens in your own dreams. What made you think you could do any better in somebody else’s head?”

“In truth… in truth, I never considered that there might be a connection between my own dream states and my efficacy as a dream-healer,” Dee said. “After all, I have recently proven myself to be mistress of my own waking mind, and it isn’t as though I went to sleep before I entered this mind.

“No, it isn’t as though you went to sleep before entering this mind… it is, however, exactly as though you went to sleep as you entered it,” the owl-turtle thing said. “That’s what dreaming is, as she herself might say.”

“I do not believe that she would,” Dee said. “It seems to me that Two is no great expert on dreams. In fact, the thing that distressed her the greatest was the fear that she might somehow be doing it ‘incorrectly’ and never know because she had no basis for comparison.”

“Well, if you’re the basis then I think she’s doing pretty well for herself.”

“I must confess to a certain amount of dislike for you, ridiculous owl-turtle thing,” Dee said. “I do not understand why Two would have dreamt you up, both in the sense that I cannot begin to apprehend what purpose you would serve and in that I cannot imagine her of all people conjuring something like you up.”

“Well, then I guess we know who between the two of you has the better imagination, don’t we?” it said.

“Be silent,” Dee said. “Now that I know I am not in my own dream, I will attempt to dispell this darkness that is no doubt preventing me from seeing what it is that so distresses as she slumbers.”

“How exactly do you plan on doing that?” the owl-turtle thing asked.

“I think a little light should do it,” Dee said. She lifted her hand and concentrated.

“If only you had one.”

“Hush,” Dee said. “I am attempting to impose my will upon the dreamscape.”

“That’s an interesting approach.”

“Hush,” Dee said.

“I don’t mean to criticize, but it looks to me like you’re all wick and no wax, as candlemakers say,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“I do not believe that anybody has ever said that,” Dee said.

“Two’s friend Hazel has.”

“I do not believe that candlemakers have said it,” Dee said. “And even if they had, the analogy is hardly apt. A wick without wax could provide illumination, albeit without the convenient moderation of combustion a proper candle provides.”

“Oh, yes, please, let’s do sit around arguing the semantics of metaphors,” the owl-turtle thing said. “Because when I saw another person, the first new person in here since ever, I said to myself, ‘Boy, some sort of ridiculous owl-turtle thing,’ I said, ‘don’t you just hope she likes doing that, too?’ Because you can never have enough of that.”

“It’s hardly a metaphor to begin with,” Dee said. “But you do have something of a point. It is hardly productive.”

“Of course, it could hardly be less productive than what you were trying to do before.”

“In what way?”

“In the way that what you were trying to do before wasn’t productive at all.”

“What do you mean?” Dee asked. “Explain yourself, please.”

“What you were trying to do was failing to produce results,” it said.

“I know that!” Dee said. “And you seemed to know that this would be the case before I did.”

“Another astonishing coincidence,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“So you did know, then?” Dee said. The thing nodded. “Do you have an alternate suggestion?”

“I do,” it said.

“What is it?”

“Try something else instead,” it said.

Dee sighed.

“Why is my approach the wrong one?” she asked.

“You’re trying to see what’s going on in Two’s dream by imposing your will further upon a scene that only exists because of the imposition your will has already made,” it said. “It’s just remotely possible you could conjure up some light and dispell a bit of darkness, but that would be like erasing a painting of a wall to see what’s behind it, wouldn’t it?”

“So… what do you suggest I do instead?” Dee asked.

“What do I suggest?” it asked.

“That is what I asked.”

“Are you sure you want me to tell you, though?” it said. “Because I’m sure you’re going to turn around and ignore what I say.”

“Hearing advice does not obligate one to take it,” Dee said. “Or do you expect me to agree to do whatever you suggest regardless of how reasonable or not it may prove to be?”

“Not a bit,” the owl-turtle thing said. “In fact, I expect the opposite. I expect you to ignore what I suggest regardless of how reasonable or not it may prove to be.”

“For one who despises semantic arguments, you do seem to go out of your way to provoke them,” Dee said.

“Yeah, I’m just a bundle of contradictions,” the thing said.

“I cannot imagine that Two cares for you very much,” Dee said.

“Well, that’s your problem,” the owl-turtle thing said. “Maybe if your imagination was better you wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“I am not in any ‘mess’,” Dee said. “I am endeavoring to aid a friend and have encountered an unexpected obstacle. If you don’t have any idea on how to remove it, then I do not see the point in further conversation with you.”

“But I do have an idea for removing this and any other obstacles you might encounter in this task,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“Then let me hear it,” Dee said. “I do not promise to follow it, but I will give it a fair hearing.”

“It’s very simple: give up,” it said. “You’re in over your head again, Dee… you’re unqualified and under-equipped. You’ll be lucky if you get out of this without injuring either or both of your psyches.”

“You do not know of what you speak, ridiculous owl-turtle thing,” Dee said.

“I do,” it said. “Because you do.”

“You are not my dream,” Dee said.

“No, but as it transpires, you’re leaking quite a bit of yourself all around the place,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“What are you exactly, the manifestation of Two’s insecurities?” Dee

“Well, I sure ain’t her conscience,” it said. “And I’m not trying to sabotage you, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“And yet by following your advice, I will guarantee that my task will instantly fail,” Dee said.

“Right, so you have a lot to gain,” it said.

“I do not follow your logic.”

“You’re not succeeding here to begin with,” it said. “You’ll be giving up prolonged failure in exchange for instant failure. Seems like a good deal to me.”

“I’ll be giving up the chance of eventual success for nothing,” Dee said. “That hardly seems like a bargain.”

“Well, that all depends on what exactly ‘the chance of success’ is and how long ‘eventual’ might be,” the thing said. “I mean, if the chance of success is zero percent, then it’s easy money that I’m right. If it’s somewhat higher than that… well, you have to decide how you prioritize your own time.”

“Perhaps I have more faith in my abilities than you do.”

“There is no ‘perhaps’ about it,” the owl-turtle thing said. “You do, and that’s exactly what the problem is. You have overestimated your abilities again, just like you did when you decided to try to fix your own sleep-related problem… just like you did when you decided you could handle a cursed implement all by yourself.”

“I was able to resolve the repercussions of that latter incident by myself,” Dee pointed out.

“Well, with a little help from a friend,” the owl-turtle thing said. “But I’ll let that go, because I think we both know what I’m talking about.”

“I most certainly do not,” Dee said. “I have always striven to cultivate a measure of humility.”

“Yes, I’m sure you pride yourself on how humble you are,” the owl-turtle thing said. “But let’s face it: the friends you have on the surface don’t make it very easy to be humble, do they?”

“I do not hold them to the same exacting standards I hold myself,” Dee said.

“Ah, that would be the humility talking again, wouldn’t it?” the owl-turtle thing said.

“I came here to help Two and I do not intend on leaving until I’ve done so.”

“Then we might be here a very long time,” the owl-turtle thing said. “On the other hand, if you leave now, I can guarantee you will help her.”

“In what way?”

“In a way that she will appreciate,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“And what if your guarantee proves to be false?”

“Then you can come back and try this again,” it said. “Assuming you remember this.”

“I do not always forget my dreams,” Dee said.

“Yes, well, this is not your dream.”

“Should that make it any harder to remember?” Dee asked.

“I don’t know, and neither do you… so it’s probably not safe to assume either way,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“Then I have little incentive to take your bargain.”

“Unless you’re confident in your ability to remember this dream if you really mean to,” the owl-turtle thing said.

“You will not bait me,” Dee said.

“Oh, I don’t mind it,” the thing said.

“You do not mind what?”

“You acknowledging that I’m right about your likelihood of remembering,” the owl-turtle thing said. “I was trying to get you to recognize your limitations and that’s an excellent start.”

“I recognize that you are a pest,” Dee said. “And that you have no intention of leaving me alone so I may muster the concentration needed to leave this demi-dream I have created and attend to the task at hand. Therefore, I will take my leave of you, and you can rest assured that you will see me again, because I will be back, whether or not there is any truth to your ramblings about helping Two… and I will be better prepared for dealing with the darkness, you, and any other obstacles I might encounter.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt that we’ll be seeing each other again,” the owl-turtle thing said, though Dee only heard its words dimly and from a great distance… she was already pulling herself up out of the trance. The darkness of the dreamscape dissolved into the dimness of the meditation chamber where Two slumbered on the floor in front of her.

Dee felt like she herself had been asleep for a long time, though a glance at the timepiece on the wall dispelled that notion… it had been mere minutes. Her memory of what she had done was nebulous and rapidly dissolving, though she felt an acute sense of frustration… frustration that turned to a prickle of dread when the first thing that Two did upon being roused was to thank her for getting rid of “that ridiculous owl-turtle thing.”


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12 Responses to “OT: Transference”

  1. Kit says:

    But….I love the ridiculous owl-turtle thing. I want a plush of it. Why must it go away? Okay, I understand why. Still.

    Current score: 1
    • Hiinst says:

      The title of the chapter is “transference”.

      Current score: 3
  2. Anachron says:

    Don’t worry, Kit. The owl-turtle thing has not gone far. Between it’s warning of permanent mental damage and it’s confidence that it and Dee will meet again… I think it’s safe to say that the dear creature has simply taken up residence in a different dreamscape. TWO may no longer need a voice of somewhat pessimistic reason… but Our Friend Dee is exactlly the kind of outwardly confident in-control type of person who goes right to pieces internally when confronted with circumstances outside her experience and control. Those kind of people practically beg for somewhat pessimistic voices of reason.

    Current score: 1
  3. JimTheEternal says:

    My reading of that was that the ROTT was absent from Two’s dream because it was busy trying to enlighten Dee. It doesn’t say in the story, but while Dee was in Two’s dreamscape, I suspect Dee’s scene wasn’t what Two was actively dreaming about. I think it’s still in Two’s dreams, just not in *that* dream.

    Current score: 0
  4. pseudopoiuytfgh says:

    I liked 2’s dreams the way they were…why’d she want to kill something that awesome in the first place?

    dee can’t have as absurd an interaction with the rott than 2, why’d it have to go into her head?

    Current score: 0
  5. Christy says:

    Oh no, not another unknown entity…

    Current score: 1
  6. pedestrian says:

    In over her head. Very amusing.

    Current score: 0
  7. pedestrian says:

    Charles Dodson/Lewis Carroll has always been one of my favorite writers. And now I have to put Alexandra Erin up there on the pedestal with him. Her writing is just so damn clever.

    She takes right up to the precipice overlooking the chasm of the absolutely ridiculous and then gives a good hard boot up our butts right over the edge.

    Current score: 3
  8. Anonymoose says:

    I believe I speak for everyone present when I say:

    UH-OH

    Current score: 2
  9. Anthony says:

    The ROTT is supposed to have been something that Two *ahem* dreamed up, but if you look at the way it behaves, I can’t help but wonder if Dee didn’t have a hand (mind?) in its creation. It showed up after Dee had been touching Two’s mind multiple times, and it behaves almost exactly like the Steff-figure from Dee’s coma dream…

    Current score: 0
  10. Grimm says:

    …I want a Ridiculous Owl-Turtle Thing plushie too. Someone make this a thing!

    Current score: 4
  11. sengachi says:

    Wouldn’t it be amusing if there were some dream-entity that shapes itself in the form of a ridiculous owl-turtle thing, and hops from mind to mind? From Hazel to Two to Dee. Lo does the ridiculous owl-turtle thing spread its pessimistically reasonable advice.

    Current score: 1