“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.