“She changes everything she touches.”
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18, 1979
Having told my Mom I would, I keep my ears open to go find out how the Kid is doing. I have to be circumspect in this, Goddess forbid anyone should get the wrong idea about my interested in him. This is strictly business. Yesterday, I decide to start my investigation by checking out the public library on 18th and Judah. The place always looked to me like it was a cross between a tomb and a temple. The Head librarian knew Lamont in an instant and she told me how odd it was that she had not seen him lately.
Today, I noticed how usually in the morning I would bump into the Kid at his locker. But, now that I reflect back, that has not been happening. I cannot fathom him coming in so late. He must be getting to school earlier. So? Where does a bookworm go so early in the morning? To the library. Only, when I ask the head Librarian about Lamont, she says she has suddenly stopped seeing him. He no longer wanders in there at all. This is odd. She had seen him walking toward the school gym.
This is “Curiouser and curiouser”. I ask around at the gym. To my astonishment, he has been putting in an appearance in the morning and after school, working out, of all things. This does not ring true. Physicality and books are usually like oil and water. What is going on here? My Mom is right. Something is not right with the world if the Kid is into the jock scene.
When I finally run into the Kid in the halls, he looks at me differently. When I try to talk to him, he is polite but evasive. I hear discomfort in his voice, but not the cute puppy love manifestation, as before. Now, it’s as if he actually fears my attention.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 1979
“A dybbuk has taken over him,” My mom pronounces, “I’m certain of this my daughter.”
“I am beginning to feel you might be on to something.”
“I have been telling you this for some time now.”
“Anyway, the other day an invitation arrived at the Temple of the Night, addressed to us. It was an invitation to attend an afternoon tea with Zuki. It will be held at her place and there we can meet the Kid. He’s lodging there now. I feel you should be there and talk to him.”
“You go daughter, I think he’d rather be seeing you alone.”
“Fine. I will check it out and report back.”
Zuki sprawls out on the window ledge, sunning herself by the warm light of the sun and the cooler reflected light of the large full moon in the Dreamland sky. Sitting on the futon couch, I cautiously sip some hot honey-sweetened peach tea while nervously waiting for Basha to show up.
She literally shows up as if on cue, appearing like a single match flaring up in a darkened room and expanding into a dazzling flaming vision. She clothes herself, relatively speaking, in the same sort of one-piece article of clothing as I do. But, there’s a world of difference. Wow! I thought seeing her in those tight jeans was fantastic. Be still my beating heart! The difference between my gray suit and her suit is like the difference between the sun and the moon. She is decked out in a crimson, velvet catsuit with a cleavage-revealing neckline. It fits her body like skin. A golden sun buckle rides on her hips. She’s prancing high, in her flame-red cowboy boots, like a show horse in the ring. Hmmm. When you think about it, what can be more appropriate to wear to a cat’s house, than a catsuit?
Oh, wow! I can’t stop staring at her. She’s truly an awesome sight. This must be how Coronado felt when he first set eyes on the Grand Canyon.
I breathe in Basha’s seductive scent of cinnamon as she settles down next to me on the futon. Basha reaches over and scratches Zuki’s head.
“Hello Zuki. Hi Kid, small Universe.”
“Yeah. You look great,” I respond.
“Thanks. You look, plain,” Basha remarks. “So, what does a girl got to do to get service around here?”
I start to pour her some tea but I miss the teacup and begin to spill it on her. Zuki leaps out of the way and gracefully lands on the table. I fumble with a napkin and nearly knock over the jar of jam. While Basha straightens everything up, I meekly tread water in a deep pool of embarrassment.
“Lamont,” Zuki asks, “perhaps you would do better serving me some tea.”
“Zuki,” Basha interrupts, “I feel that it would be better for all concerned if you let me do that for you. The Kid’s must have started drinking before I got here, so for all concerned he should refrain from operating heavy machinery while under the influence of strong stimulants.”
Basha pours the tea into Zuki’s saucer.
“I like my tea with cream,” Zuki says.
“Of course, that makes perfect sense,” Basha says. “Do you take sugar or honey with your tea?” Basha asks.
“Neither; thank you,” Zuki responds.
We all take a few minutes to enjoy our tea. Zuki daintily laps her tea up, and when she finishes she licks a paw and rubs it against her face.
“My friends,” Zuki says, “I do not mean to lap and run, but I have some business to attend to on the moon. Duty calls.”
“But, you can’t leave me here all alone. I mean, leave me here alone with Basha.” I glare at Zuki trying to convey my sense of panic.
“Ah, my friend, I must,” Zuki purrs. “Duty calls. Make yourselves at home.”
With that Zuki exits leaving me to face Basha by myself. I sit in awkward silence being once again tongue-tied.
“So,” Basha says as she turns and faces me, “how long have you been coming to Dreamland?”
“According to which time frame?”
“Well, ahh, according to Waking World time, I just came upon this place a few months ago. According to Dreamtime, I’ve been here for at least a year, if not more.”
“So, are you apprenticed still?”
“No. I earned my stone a month ago, give or take a week. This place is rough on the calendar business.”
“Really. Who was your mentor?”
“Mentors, plural. Their names were Sarah and Rebecca, do you know them?”
“What! Are you telling me that you were living with a couple of Lesbians in Dream Land?” Basha says with horror.
“I guess you know them.”
“I have heard of them. Their coven is helping Starhawk to organize Reclaiming’s first public Samhain ritual. We travel in similar but, significantly different Circles. You are avoiding my question.”
“I was their apprentice. Why should that bother me? I didn’t know anyone else who could train me. I had, made their acquaintance at a most auspicious time. Long ago made up a phrase to explain these sorts of things, based on a saying from Kurt Vonnegut’s book Cat’s Cradle, ‘Unexpected invitations are dancing lessons from God.’’ I took advantage of the opportunity. What’s the big deal?”
“You were running around in the presence of two lesbians in just the Dreamworld equivalent of your skivvies and you were at their beck and call. I repeat, didn’t that bother you?”
“Oh. Is there a Dreamland tradition against a guy wearing only his Dream-suit around a female? I doubt it. As for serving them, they explained that was how all their other apprentices paid for their services.”
“They could have been lying to take advantage of you, did you consider that?”
“No,” I explain, “What they said felt right. My feelings on such things haven’t steered me wrong yet. So I believed what they said. Anyway, as I later learned, that is the tradition in Dreamland. Apprentices work for their Master/teachers; isn’t that right?”
“Yes, of course.”
“The real issue here is that you definitely have a problem with them being lesbians, how come?” I ask.
“How come?” Basha says surprised, “my reaction is understandable, what is odd is your acceptance of their sexual behavior. Did it not bother you?”
“We’ll get back to whether your reaction is more typical or not. As for their sexual activity bothering me, why should it? They behaved in a perfectly respectable manner. It wasn’t as if they had sex right in front of me.”
“Okay, so they did it behind closed doors, fine. So, are you telling me that you did not have any qualms about the situation you found yourself in?”
“Only while we were first talking about it, yes, but, once I had made a decision, actually and honestly, no. After that, I really didn’t give it much thought. Probably that’s one of my many character flaws.
“And I did not come here to discuss either philosophy or your poor choice of the social circles you travel in.”
“Why did you come here?”
“Besides the excellent tea and scones, I came to meet you.”
She came to meet me! Could it really be that she likes me? Yeah, dream on. She might like me, only it’s probably like the way she would like a puppy dog. She’s always calling me 'Kid'.
“Kid, do you recall calling my Mom a day or so ago?”
“Hmm? (Why am I suddenly afraid?) No, I don’t think so.”
“Are you sure?” Basha asks again.
“Yeah. I’m sure. (There it is again. Somewhere inside, a voice of fear dwells.) Why? Is there a law against it?”
“Well, you did call,” Basha states. “She told me so. Are you sure you do not remember having called her?”
Could I have called her? I don’t remember... Wait! My blackouts! Did I call her while I had one of them?
(No! Do not listen to her.)
“No,” I feebly answer. “I don’t remember. I’m a bit spacey and I tend to forget little things. What’s the big deal?”
“You have not been putting in your usual appearances at the store,” Basha says. “For that matter, you have not been going to any bookstore in the last month. How do you explain this?”
“Ahh, (What? How can this be?) Would you believe I took up a new hobby, like knitting instead?”
“No. Are you aware that you have been going to school early and staying after school?”
“Ahh, again, no.” The hairs on the back of my neck begin to stand up. I can smell the unknown and the darkness creeping into the room. “Ahh, how do you know all this?”
“You did call my Mom. You called asking for help one minute and then telling her you were perfectly all right the next. You have even been working out at the school gym, of all things! Are you aware of that?”
Panic grips my throat. I fight it to get out a small breath. “No.”
“My Mom was afraid of this.” Basha continues. “How long have you been having these blackouts and memory loss?”
I’m caught. She’s found out. Rather than panic, I feel a rush of relief.
She’s right, I have been losing memory, and it isn’t because I’m spacey. Confession is said to be good for the soul. “Yes,” I admit,
“I’ve been blacking out. I’ve come to and haven’t been aware of what I’d been doing or how I got to where I am.” Wow, I really do feel like a weight has been lifted.
“How long has this been going on?”
“How long,” I respond, “as in ‘for how long has this been going on?’ Or how long as in, ‘how long has been the longest period of memory loss?’”
“Both,” Basha retorts.
“Hmm. I ahh...recently lost around thirty-plus days.” There, I’ve admitted it; I’ve finally faced the truth.
(No! You should not do this.)
“Dear Goddess! When did all this start?”
“It started around the beginning of this school year.”
“Was there anything else new that you got into around the same time?”
“I found my way to Dreamland.”
“That would not explain this. Have you been practicing any unusual rituals? Been hanging out around graveyards? Visiting sick relatives in the hospital?”
“No, to all of the above. Graveyards and hospitals? What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Soul possession. Dead souls hang around there and some people pick them up. So, what books have you read from my Mom’s store, since the beginning of the year? Have you been trying out some of that material?”
(Get up and leave this place. Tell no more!)
“Hmm? I’ve read books on dreams and dreaming. Then there was, Collin Wilson’s The Occult and Mysteries, Scott Rogo’s Parapsychology and The Poltergeist, Lloyd Auerbach’s ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists, and then...”
“Wait, I do not need a recitation of your whole summer reading list. Focus in on that which is practical?”
“I wasn’t aware there were any books on practical things in your Mother’s store.”
“Practical as in, ‘the practice of’. Books on spell casting perhaps. Wiccan Rituals.”
“Odd,” Basha says, “If you had been meddling in forces that you did not understand, that could also help to explain what has happened to you. Are you sure you have not forgotten anything?”
“I never forget a book. Hmm. Oh yeah. Strange, I almost did forget to mention a new area I’ve begun to explore.”
“I’ve read a few books on Shamans. There was…”
“Please spare me the bibliographic recital.”
“Shamans, perhaps that is the cause, though it might not really
matter. It would be interesting to find out how this happened but the bottom line is to get this thing banished from you. So, teatime has ended. We need to get going. Come on Kid, it is time to blow this pop stand.”
“To the Queen of the Night’s temple and meet up with the members of my coven,” Basha says. “I have planned out a little ritual that should take care of your problem.”
I feel torn. An unknown force tries to pull me back. I want to know what is going on!
(Do not go with her.)
Damn it! I will know the truth! Onward Christian soldiers! Into battle, I go.
(You are walking into danger.)
“Danger? What are you talking about?”
“Kid, what did you say?”
(Do not go with her. You are putting in jeopardy all our efforts. All our plans.)
What plans? Tezcat, are you referring to Lana and Jon? Hey, I remember them, at least their names, all the rest is fog. They sound important. But, something is blocking the memories.
(That and much more.)
“Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t go.”
“What? Why the sudden change? Ahh, of course. Do you feel like you are of two minds on this subject?”
“That is your inner demon, or whatever it is. Do you usually hear voices before the onset of a blackout?”
(I command you to leave her. She is a danger to us.)
“I...urrghh…” Suddenly I feel as if someone is trying to choke me.
“Kid, what is going on? Are you okay? I need your cooperation to help yourself.”
(Do not listen to her. Listen only to me. I know what is best for us.)
“I’m hearing voices!”
“Uhhhhh….not this time,” I call out to Tezcat, trying to break free from her hold on me.
“You are hearing them right now?” Basha asks.
“We need to drown them out.”
“We can chant. If you focus on the chant maybe it will prevent you from focusing on the voices. It is worth a shot. Which chant? Perhaps, ‘We all come from the Goddess?’ No. Need something innocuous, nonthreatening. I got it. Here, Kid repeat after me: She changes everything she touches and, everything she touches, changes.”
“She changes everything she touches....”
“And everything she touches, changes. Again. That is it. Repeat the tune; keep on chanting it with me. She changes everything....”
“She touches and, everything she touches changes.”
“She touches and, everything she touches changes.”
Over and over, we chant. She holds my hand (!) And we sing as we walk.
“She changes everything she touches and, everything she touches, changes.”
“She changes everything she touches and, everything she touches, changes.”
The chanting frees up my conscious mind somehow. I try not to focus on Tezcat.
Sing the song, and think other thoughts. I notice, while we’re walking, that today the Mayor has added a gentle breeze to the otherwise stable warm climate of this part of the city.
“She changes everything she touches and, everything she touches, changes….She changes everything she touches and, everything she touches, changes.”
Tezcat’s voice is gone. I guess I can only think or hear so many thoughts at one time.
“She changes everything she touches and, everything she touches, changes. …She changes everything she touches and, everything she touches, changes. Well, Kid, how are you doing? You sound better, less nervous.”
“I think I’m doing okay. The other voice is gone.”
“Good. Let’s keep up the chanting as we head to the temple.”
 Vonnegut’s original phrase was, “peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” Cat’s Cradle, pg. 50, Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 1974 paperback edition, Delacorte Press, A Seymour Lawrence book, 1963.
So, I practice and I mull over all of these little puzzles. My unconscious keeps churning away on this stuff and then, one day, at least one thing gets resolved. It ain’t the answer to one of those big questions, but hey, it’s something. “When first I appear I seem mysterious, but when I am explained I am nothing serious.” The answer just rises out of my unconscious like the sun appearing over the ocean at dawn. I realize that my mind had approached the question of when an apprenticeship ends as it would any other childhood riddle, a riddle being something that has a hidden meaning, which turns out to be a pun, or a twist of logic, or a shifting of perspective.
I had been assuming that an apprenticeship could only end when the master decides. This is the key. The riddle takes this traditional fact and turns it on its head. Question: when does an apprenticeship end? Answer: when one realizes there is no longer a need, or a want, to be an apprentice.
After a couple of more weeks as Sarah and Rebecca’s apprentice, I realize that I’m as good a Dreamer as I’m going to be, at least for now. What few skills I have seem to plateau. Now, all that remains of my apprenticeship is what of my vast repertoire of talents I’ll demonstrate to earn my citizenship in Dreamland. This doesn’t pose much of a dilemma; I have very few Dream skills from which to choose. Thus, I work on my stupendous talent for juggling as my means of completing Dreamland’s rite of passage.
The day of my performance arrives. It is a small gathering of my three friends, and the mayor. For my efforts, I am awarded by the mayor a moonstone in order that I may participate fully in Dreamland’s economy, which is based on either barter of things, skills, or the direct exchanging of one’s own energy. The gemstones facilitate this by acting as storage receptacles for energy that one can draw upon to perform the Dream conjuring. Creating or manipulating things is tiring work. I’m told that it gets easier the more time spent in Dreamland. Some people can tap into the energy available in humanity’s collective unconscious, and some truly powerful Dreamers can even tap into the energy bound up within atomic and subatomic particles.
Anyway, no longer being an apprentice, I didn’t need to stay on with Sarah and Rebecca. It just would not be proper for an apprentice to remain under their mentors’ roof at the end of their apprenticeship. So I took up an offer from a friend of Sarah and Rebecca’s. Her name is Zuki Farwanderer. She lives in a home on the outskirts of the city of Atlantis. It turns out that she was the one who had first found me when I met up with the umbrella-wielding punk.
Zuki has sleek black hair, which blends into the soft small patch of white on her chest, and she always wears white on her hands and feet. Zuki’s home is Japanese in architectural design and is a specially commissioned Dream by one of the city's talented Japanese Dreamers. She is entitled to such a home, being one of the captains of the guards for the city of Atlantis. Her home is decorated in a black and white motif, with a white futon couch and black pillows, for use by those occasional living companions. I was not her first. In the room’s center area is a small wooden box, which is ornately carved with Japanese crests, and a golden paper bag, which has a Japanese coastal scene hand-painted in dark blue ink. Off in the corner is a tall multi-tiered structure. It rests on a platform covered in lamb’s wool the four posts supporting the structure this in thick cording, which shows signs of clawing. The rest of it is an elaborate thick black carpeted combination tree house and jungle gym, of jutting platforms and varying geometric shapes.
Today we are leisurely chatting and Zuki asks where I live in the Waking World. I realize what an odd question this is. No one in Dreamland has ever talked about their Waking World lives. I see no reason to refuse to answer. So, I tell her where I live.
“Well my fine M’an-friend Lamont,” Zuki purrs, “the best territories in the City I have found were the areas around Golden Gate Park.”
“You’ve been to San Francisco?”
“Oh yes. That is where I live in the Waking World.”
“Really. I can see why you were attracted to that location. It is a good location for hunting.”
“Very right friend Lamont. Excellent hunting, Fla-fa’az, Rikchikchik,
and Mre’az abound in the area.” Zuki twists herself around so as to carefully lick her back.
I wait patiently as she grooms herself. She gives herself one last lick, stretches her head towards me, then settles down, carefully placing her front paws together in front of her.
“Lamont, my friend. Perhaps you have met my other friend.”
“I doubt it. I have no friends in the Waking World. Only here.”
“That is a shame. But I think not true. You told me of a Mr. Wells and a Mr. Kay. Are they not among your friends?”
“I guess so. But I’m beginning to believe that I, I mean they, were just a dream. It’s just that I’m getting so confused. Lately, I can remember things that happened here more clearly than something that happened in the so-called Waking World. I’m not sure which is which.”
“Perhaps you are just trying to learn how to adapt to things here?”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s something else, like, I’m losing my grip on reality.”
“Do not despair, my friend, sometimes, at the beginning of one’s stay here, one can get disoriented. It will get clearer, my friend, Lamont, in time.”
“I hope so. Enough of my complaining. Who’s this friend of yours you were referring to?”
“She is friend Miriam, a Wiccan priestess, with a daughter named Basha and a good looking ‘tom’.”
“Miriam and Basha? (How many Basha’s can there be in any world?) Well, Zuki, when did you know her?”
“I have known her ever since we both came to Dreamland. I met her during my first years with the force and I was first assigned to patrol the streets in the city of Ulthar.”
“So, Basha is in Dreamland. (She’s here! Basha has been here in Dreamland all this time.) Where do they live?”
“I would imagine, friend Lamont, that they live at the Queen of the Night’s Temple.”
“Well, thank you Zuki Farwanderer for this honor you have shown me of telling me of your friends. I look forward to meeting Basha and Miriam here in Atlantis.”
“Good, then it is settled. I will have them come over to my house and meet you.”
“One thing. Who is this tom person? I didn’t know Basha had a brother?”
“She does, but he’s adopted and he lives with her father. I was referring to the male cat that lives with them named Gizmo.”
 From Monika Beisner’s Book of Riddles, Jonathan Cape, Ltd., printed in Singapore, 1983. First American edition, 1983, Sunburst edition, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1987.
. Zuki is referring to birds, squirrels, and mice. Widespread knowledge of the language of the Az-iri'le / Feline Folk became available when DAW Books Inc., published Tad Williams' scholarly work, Talechaser’s Song, in 1985.