“So, until you teach me how, I’m stuck working for you in this generic Dream suit?”
“Correct.” Sarah responds.
“If these are the rules,” I say, “then when in Rome.”
“As Mr. Twain once wrote,” Rebecca recites, “‘Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.’”
“Hey,” I exclaim, “something else just hit me.”
“What now?” Sarah says in her mock-annoyed tone.
“Didn’t that old guardian priest in the cave...”
“Are you referring,” Sarah indignantly asks, “to Kaman-Thah and Nasht?”
“Who?” I ask.
“Those are the names of the two priests who judge all who enter Dreamland.”
Hmm. I saw that old Aztec lady, Mictlan. My journey into Dreamland has been shaped by Tezcat. “Anyway, I was given the impression that they weed out any creeps who try to get into Dreamland. So, how come I got run through by a refugee from juvenile hall? Why should those creeps be here at all?” How long has Lord Mictlan been asleep at the switch?
“If you mean,” Sarah intones, “when did we first notice the appearance of such riffraff in Dreamland? We were told that it started around ten years ago.”
Rebecca adds, “And now those disruptive elements have joined together into gangs.”
“Does anyone have an explanation?” I ask.
“No,” Sarah flatly states.
Hmmm. “Has anyone gone and asked the guardian at the gate of Dreams what’s going on?” I ask again.
“Not that I know of. How about you Sarah?”
“No one that I’ve spoken to has bothered.”
“Hmmm.” Things I would like to do, One, have tea with the Queen of the Night. Two, have a bite with that old guardian lady. Maybe while we dine, they will open up and I can get some questions answered.
“Right now,” Sarah breaks into my chain of thought, “let’s get you out of here, and situated in the living room, I want my bed back.”
“Do you feel up to standing on your own?” Rebecca asks. “And, by the way, what name do you go by while you’re here?”
Then, before I can answer Rebecca, Sarah hastily interrupts. “That spoils everything! I was hoping we could call him: ‘Hey you’, or maybe something that would appeal to his male ego like, Rex.”
“No, I think the name my mother gave me will do just fine. The name’s Lamont. And, yes, I think I can stand now.”
I still feel a little weak, but I believe I can manage to get to the couch, which, I hope, is only a short few feet away in the next room. With their help, I get settled on the couch. I spend the remainder of the day reading and finishing my period of recuperation.
Hmm, I just got myself signed up with two lesbians, that might have been a bit hasty, Lamont. I put up a good front, trying to act all accepting of others life style choice but, is this really okay? Since when did being different been a problem, Lamont? Hey, I’m not exactly normal. In a way, it is actually good that they’re not interested in me, now that they're my bosses and all. The whole sex thing, hetero or homo, is not something I’ve had any experience with anyway. Hmm? If you think about, Lamont, if I was a girl would I really want some guy to be sticking their thing in me?
The idea is kind of gross.
I could probably handle hugs and kisses better than that, so being a lesbian might not be such a weird choice. So, the fact that they want to kiss another girl rather than some guy is really no big deal to me. I’d definitely rather kiss a certain locker neighbor girl than any guy I know! So what’s the big deal, when you really think about it? I guess there isn’t any. They like girls better than boys, well, so do I.
Now that I’ve gotten that problem out of the way, let’s check out more important stuff, like books. Sarah and Rebecca have a fantastic and extensive collection of manuscripts and scrolls, on the subject of Wiccan tradition, the Goddess, and the Kabbalah. Cool.
I was left alone, happily examining her collection, when there appeared a faint silvery light in the center of one of the bookcases.
I was so startled by its sudden appearance, I actually let go of my book. The hairs on the back of my neck and my arms were tingling as I watched in intense fascination. What started as a small globular area, about a foot in diameter, slowly expanded into a translucent mass about five feet in length, which hovered above the wooden floor. It began to take on greater clarity and, to my amazement; it formed into a transparent silvery image of a woman clad in a nightshirt. The woman was staring off in my direction but I had the impression that she didn’t see me at all. Rather, she was examining the paintings on the wall behind me.
“Rebecca! Sarah! There’s a ghost in your living room!”
The ghost continues to explore the room, oblivious to me. A few minutes pass and then Sarah and Rebecca emerge from their bedroom, looking very disheveled and hastily attired, clutching closed bathrobes.
“So? What’s this nonsense about ghosts?” Sarah asks. “Lamont, this better not be some sort of stupid joke, because if it is...”
Sarah never did get to fully elucidate upon the dire consequences of playing a joke on her; she was stopped short by the sight of the ghost.
“Oh, is that what the fuss is about? Foolish male, that’s no ghost.”
The way Sarah says “foolish male” it’s as if the two words were inter-changeable.
“If it’s not a ghost then what is it?” I ask.
“It’s only a sleeper.” Sarah imparts, “Don’t worry, she won’t harm you. If your attention span were a little shorter, like the rest of your sex, you probably would not have even noticed her. Now good night.”
As Sarah turned back to the bedroom, the ghostly sleeper walked through one of the room’s walls, as if on cue.
“Rebecca,” I plead, “could you please explain it all to me, in a little more detail, what that was?”
“As she said, that was a sleeper, someone who has entered Dreamland, without being aware of it, from their normal Waking World dreams.”
“Oh. How come the sleeper didn’t see me?”
“Sleepers are here but are on a different frequency, so they exist in an immaterial form and can usually only see physical objects. Our Dream Bodies are more like an energy pattern than a physical body. We hold our shape and form because we think ourselves into that pattern. The physical, non-sentient things, chairs, pictures, buildings, animals, plants, etc., are all more stable atomic forms. These material objects can be perceived more readily by sleepers. At least that’s how it seems to work.”
“These sleepers are sort of on a different plane of existence than our Dream bodies. While the physical world exists on both our plane and this other plane.”
“That’s another way of describing it.”
“Hmm, meaning, perhaps, the Sleepers are on what has been called the astral plane?”
“I guess so.”
“If you have no more questions, I’d like to retire. I have better things to attend to right now than your further education,” Rebecca says in a tone that implies a demand rather than a question.
She leaves. Hmm. So, some people, through astral projection, enter Dreamland when they dream. This could explain why in some of my dreams I had the impression of being in a physically real place. A place I kept coming back to in many of my dreams. It was a real location, but not one in the Waking World. It was one that existed somewhere in Dreamland.
My head jolts. It’s late. Very late. It’s well into the night. I dozed off while reading the authors handwritten draft of When God Was a Woman. I still wake up not in my bedroom but in this Dream place. Hmmm?
Perhaps this is proof that this is not simply a dream. Perhaps it’s a Big Dream within a little dream. It appears to be so. Huh? What’s that sound? That’s what woke me, that most disturbing noise. Hmm. It’s the distant and muffled voice of some guy crying out for help.
I get up and go to the open window to locate the source of the cry. Most people have deserted the darkened streets. I see only cats, which tread the starlit pavements, and scorpions, which guard the shops. I do not see, but hear, one other evidence of life, the sound of fluttering leather wings belonging to bats. The night air again carries the sound of the faint, deadened crying of an anguished man.
I decide to go out into the street to investigate. The night air feels neither comfortable nor cool. It’s oddly neutral in temperature. As if, it’s hesitating as to which way to go, or perhaps not bothering to decide at all.
I follow the sound to its source, which takes me about a block away to a small three-story inn. From an open window of a darkened room, on the upper floor, I again hear the muted sounds of suffering.
I stand under this window and can hear the plaintive sounds of a man crying out in his sleep. He’s trapped in the cold claws of a nightmare.
This unknown man’s suffering disturbs me and causes me to shudder. I’ve a feeling that I’m overlooking something, that there is something out of place here. On the other hand, what is in place here in Dreamland? What can I do for him? His cries drew me out here. I stand for a few minutes and nothing comes to mind, reluctantly, I return to the shelter of Sarah and Rebecca’s home.
 From Pudd’nhead Wilson, 1894, chapter one: Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar.
“Now,” asks Rebecca, “I imagine you’ve had a great deal of experience, being someone who has spent years between two covers amongst the sheets. I would just like to know, were those covers hard or soft?”
“Both.” I respond, “though more often soft than hard. I generally can only afford paperbacks.” I smile knowingly at Rebecca, “Leaving that subject for now, you mentioned something about pupils, what do you teach?”
“Rebecca and I,” Sarah proclaims, “have trained many young women in the necessary Dream skills.”
“Sarah,” Rebecca asks, “I just had a thought.”
“What might that be, Rebecca?”
“Even after he recovers from his wounds, it’s obvious that he’s still in need of assistance.”
“This is true,” Sarah says, “but that’s no concern of ours.”
What are they talking about?
Sarah vehemently continues, “Haven’t we already helped him? What do you call all those bandages? I even gave up my bed for him. What more need we do?”
I notice that every time Sarah refers to me, and my maleness, it’s as if she’s dislodging something offensive that was caught between her teeth. “I know, and we all appreciate what you did.” Rebecca continues, “but, if we don’t do something for him, when he leaves us, his obvious helpless and well-intentioned nature will result in his getting into more trouble causing him even more harm to himself.”
“What you say is correct,” Sarah responds, “only a fool would try and to take on one of those arrogant and vulgar juveniles. Yet, I repeat, why should this be a concern of ours?”
“Excuse me.” I interject. “Since I believe this concerns me, could one of you please be so kind as to fill me in? What help do I need?”
“What help?” Sarah asks, as if appealing to an audience. “It would be obvious to anyone of discernment and learning in these matters. You cannot even dress yourself. You need to be taught everything. You probably don’t even know how to breathe.” Sarah says haughtily.
“As far as I can tell,” I respond in my own defense. “I’ve seemed to master the art of breathing a long time ago,” “Oh Goddess, why me?” Sarah sighs. “You probably don’t know how to breathe with the proper kind of attention, and your breath is probably shallow.”
“Oh.” I exclaim, not knowing what else to say.
“What Sarah is getting at,” Rebecca slips in, “is that all newcomers to Dreamland need to be taught how to master the skills necessary to tap into their power of Dreams. You need such a mentor.”
“Oh yeah, I knew that,” I say, “Since that is what you do, would you two teach me this Dream stuff?”
“We could, but we teach only women.” Sarah responds.
“But that’s discrimination,” I assert.
“We are not prejudiced,” Sarah explains, “We believe it is only a matter of being discriminating in selecting the caliber of one’s pupils. I have always found that males lack the intelligence, patience, and open mindedness needed to be trained. Thus it’s a wasted effort on our part.”
“Ahh, but I’m not just any male, I’m different.”
“Oh really?” Sarah retorts, “I have yet to see any significant difference.”
“Hey! I hope you didn’t sneak a peek while I was indisposed?” I feign panic.
“Not at all, young man.” Sarah replies indignantly. “Nothing you have would be of the slightest interest to me.”
Bingo! I was right. They’re definitely lesbians.
“Which gets back to the point I was making,” Rebecca picks up, “it was his combination of good nature and folly that made him endanger himself on your behalf, Sarah. That should count for something.”
“Well, I am reluctant to admit it,” Sarah says, “but perhaps you’re correct Rebecca.”
“What Rebecca says proves my point,” I interrupt, “if I was a typical male, would I have acted as I did?”
“Aha!” Sarah exclaims with glee, “probably, yes. Males often let their sense of machismo lead then into foolish acts of supposed heroism.” Sarah appears quite pleased with herself for getting out of that one.
“Machismo?” I laugh, “Now, that’s funny. No one has ever accused me of being macho.”
“If it wasn’t your testosterone,” Sarah continues on with her lecture, “that spurred you into action, and then what was it?”
“Ahhh,” I reply. “I honestly don’t know. I saw something wrong and it upset me. I guess I acted on impulse.”
“Maybe,” Rebecca inserts herself back into the discussion, “it wasn’t his ego that was responsible at all. Maybe his rash act of kindness was due to a force outside of himself.”
“Yeah.” I quickly take up Rebecca’s theme, “some force, which, for the record, nearly got me killed in my effort to aid you, a perfect stranger.”
“This,” Rebecca continues, “brought him into our care.”
“Rebecca,” Sarah asks, “are you suggesting that the Goddess had something to do with this?”
“Why not?” Rebecca replies. “What else could account for someone running off into such danger?”
She seems to be overlooking the obvious, that it was probably just a matter of my own general brashness and stupidity.
“Presumably, the Goddess,” Rebecca winds up, “caused him to act and thus brought us together.”
This strikes a chord in Sarah. Thought silences her for a few seconds.
“Your friend Rebecca’s right.” I again pick up Rebecca’s theme and drive home the argument, “it must be the Goddess’s wish that I become your student.”
“Looking back on the whole situation,” Sarah muses, “it does seem to be out of the ordinary. What happened or seem to have happened is just not done. Maybe, just maybe, it was a sign from the Goddess. Even if I agreed to overlook your...maleness, how do you propose that you pay us for our expensive teaching services?”
“Hmmm.” She got you there, Lamont, “that’s a tough one, seeing how I lack the resources to even buy clothes.”
“He,” Rebecca interjects, “can pay us like all the rest of our
Sarah glares daggers at Rebecca. She definitely didn’t want me to find this out.
“Yeah,” I chime in, “I’ll pay you back like all your previous pupils.”
“All our prior apprentices,” Sarah proclaims, “agreed to run errands and perform other chores for us in exchange for what we will teach. This reciprocating is the essence of our economy.”
I consider this for a moment. “Hmm. You’ll teach me and I in turn will work for you. This seems fair. Okay, I agree.”
“You may have settled it in your mind,” Sarah says, “but that doesn’t make it settled.”
“Maybe we’ll start a trend,” Rebecca encourages, “maybe ‘everyone’ will have to have their own male servant?”
“As our menial servant, “Sarah mutters, as if she testing the word’s flavor, and find she likes it.
“Apprentice,” I correct.
“Apprentice and servant,” Sarah picks back up, “you must be willing to completely, and without question, obey all our commands. This is the tradition, and law of all of Dreamland.”
“When will this apprenticeship end?” I ask.
“When you have mastered certain skills,” Sarah explains, “the first of which is to clothe yourself. The traditions of Dreamland also require you to solve the ‘riddle of apprenticeship’ before your apprenticeship can end.”
“As your apprentice,” I ask, “do I get some kind of uniform,
something other than this super nylon leotard? I feel like I’m dressed for the ballet.”
“No.” Sarah displays obvious delight in my discomfort.
“An apprentice has to earn the right to choose the clothes she wears.” Sarah states.
“Oh great!” I take a few seconds to mutter over her demands, “Hmm? Do apprentices get to pick the color of their leotards? This drab gray color is just not me.”
Sarah smiles at my come back, and replies, “I think that mousy color sort of suits you. Besides, you don’t seem to understand. Until you acquire the Dream skills to make whatever clothes appear or to transform and decorate your Dream suit-which is the proper name for what you referred to as a ballet outfit-you will have to walk around in that apprenticeship mousy gray color. That’s how all newcomers to Dreamland are attired.”
“What’s the big deal about having to create your own clothes?” I ask. “Why is it that ever since I stepped through that mirror and entered Dreamland my clothes have disappeared?”
Sarah glares at me as if I was asking if the Pope was pro-life or pro-choice.
“There’s some magic spell,” Sarah explains, “which was cast when Dreamland was first created that caused all who enter here to lose their ordinary attire. It’s believed that the lack of distinctive and familiar clothing is a primary motivator in developing one’s needed Dream skills. If you can’t even imagine yourself with clothes on, you definitely won’t be able to conjure up anything else. To clothe oneself is to define oneself.”
“You mean like clothes make the man?” I ask.
“Better, the woman. Exactly.” Sarah pronounces the word exactly
as if she had a claim of ownership on it.
“In a world of appearances,” Rebecca says, “masks, some true, some false, these outward manifestations, become important. How others perceive you affects how they relate to you.”
“Clothes,” Sarah takes up her interrupted lecture, “are part of your identity here in Dreamland. Creating and knowing who you are should be as automatic a task as having your heartbeat and your lungs take in air. Both are being done because, on all levels of your mind/body, you know that you are alive and what it means to be alive. A Dreamer is someone who Dreams, in the same unconscious way the heart beats.”
“Sort of,” I say, “I think, therefore I Dream.”
“Or,” Rebecca puts in, “to be is to Dream.”
“But,” I ask. “Who came up with this system? Your explanation sounds too good. Sort of, like an example of our wonderful ability to rationalize, to create reason out of our own need for things to make sense. Who established all of this and created this bland super nylon uniform to appear so Dreamers would be inspired to learn how to Dream?”
“We don’t know?” Rebecca answers.
“That’s how it has always been,” Sarah states simply.
“Those aren’t very good answers. Someone must know, or has known? Are these traditions written down anywhere? Are there libraries or archives somewhere?”
“Maybe,” Sarah speculates, “the Queen of the Night Knows. She’s the Goddess’s physical incarnation in this Dreamland.”
“So, until you teach me how, I’m stuck working for you in this generic Dream suit?”
“Correct.” Sarah responds.