When I first met the witch, her arrival was like mist from the sea. She came to me in the underworld and had a different presence than the shades of the departed. The shades are like smoke from a dying fire, while the witch enveloped me in moisture. And cigarette smoke. Said she ran an island club for mariners, a strip joint, really, called “Sweet Dreams”. Yul and his crew, trying to make their way home after sacking Troy, stopped by the club for some recreation.
“I lead the Sweet Dreams onto the runway”, she began in her smoker’s voice, very close to my ear, “and see the hero of Troy and his men along the bar”.
“Now I’m an attractive woman, Ti”.
“I know”, I said.
“How would you know?”
“Because you’re attractive to me”.
“Well, in my golden gown I’m a knockout!” she continued. “I strut down the runway, sizing up the heroes, turn, toss my train behind me, and lead the Sweet Dreams back towards the glittering ball over the bar. Then the girls hit the floor for lap dances.
“I sat next to Yul and tried to get him to drink up like his crew, but he just sat there, bleary-eyed, the way salesmen look—distracted, and wouldn’t touch the glass of drugged wine. The others were out of it already, dreaming they were turned into pigs, which is no big transformation, really. But Yul would have none of it and was lost in a dream of his own.
“He asked me what time I got off. ‘Off from what’, I said. ‘Off from work’. I told him, and he said come by his boat when I was done.
“Well, his cabin on the boat looked like any salesman’s room I’ve ever seen—-clothes everywhere, half empty bottles of booze and god knows what else. He fumbles around the mess and emerges with the bottle he was looking for with a look of triumph on his face, the first expression of any kind that I had observed. I shared a glass with him and asked him what was his pleasure. Just a massage, it turns out, so he wasn’t much trouble. I left the towels in the tub when I left.
“Afterwards, he came around the club a lot. Always with that dreamy look in his eyes. His crew was dreaming of pigs, and he was dreaming of home. They seem to have settled in for a while. I told him that I could make him immortal, but he just gets that dreamy look in his eyes.”
The next time she came to me she brought Yul along. He was determined to go home, regardless of her witchery, and she finally gave up and brought him to me. He wanted to see his comrades at Troy amongst the shades, so I told him to put out some blood—gets them every time.
The shades hissed around the blood, and I heard him talking to Ace, the greatest hero at Troy, now just another shade. Ace had chosen the short, glorious life, and died young on the battlefield. Talking to Yul, it sounded like he was having second thoughts.
“What happened, Ace?” Yul asked. “You had it all but seemed to just give up after Pat’s death. We almost lost it all without you. Sure, you got Hector, but that was just your rage. You were never the same again.”
“The old man happened,” Ace replied. “Hector’s father came through our lines from Troy to beg for his son’s body. Reminded me of the father I left behind, the mortal I left for an immortal mother.”
The goddess again. Ace was blinded by the light as much as I. But I heard him confess to Yul that now he would rather be the lowliest slave on earth than lord of all the underworld. I guess his time with the shades had shown him that all that glory was just a dream. It would take more years of wondering for Yul to realize that and finally go home.
So there’s a glory gap along with the desire and knowledge gaps that are filled with dream. All my heroes realize this in time, some in this life and some beyond. It’s like our myth of Narcissus that the Doctor was taken with along with the story of Rex. Narcissus’ can’t bridge the gap between himself and his image in the water and pines away until death closed the gap. He is transformed into the flower with his name—a dream image to fill the gap.
How can a blind seer have insight? How can he dream? I could see before I was blind, was female before male, alive before dead. But we all were. Dreams come from that fuzzy pool of possibilities or the divine, which is the same for us all. You just have to be tuned in.
Perhaps it is easier to dream in the underworld. What else is there to do? The shades are still drawn to blood, to life’s juices like desire and glory. For those who respect the gap, dream is all that’s left. The immortals envy the juice of mortal life and seldom dream. When they do it’s the dreams of the Doctor from Vienna. Somehow a mortal journey, not necessarily heroic, is required to cultivate dream. Again, it takes respect for the gap.