Dreamed 1995/4/22 by Chris Wayan


I just saw Hayao Miyazaki's film POM POKO at the San Francisco Film Festival. It's a wonderful, bizarre tale of tanukis, Japanese were-raccoons, who fight the human developers bulldozing their woods. I know I'm missing most of it--arguments they don't translate, songs, references to martial arts films, Shinto, animal folklore, and real Japanese history--especially the fight against the Tokyo airport expansion.

It's a slow, quiet tragedy--the raccoons lose their woods, their freedom, and slowly their lives, to an enemy that doesn't even want to be an enemy, installs little crosswalks and signs and greenbelts--and still they die, or live in the cracks, or live in little apartments: reduced to human.


I find myself in my parents' old living room, sitting on the rug, going through Playboy magazines with a scissors, picking out images I think are sexy to scan and paint with. Lola, a co-worker at a job I quit years ago, walks in. She asks "How are you going to use them? I have a wonderful program that can recognize boundaries of figures and pour in textures in perspective, like fox-fur or wood." She looks dreamy for a second and adds "I have a wonderful wood." Fox-fur huh? I never noticed before that she has reddish hair and the lithe body of a vixen. I don't just mean she's hot. I mean she has fox-blood. Not that I mind. I like that.

So I follow Lola to her company in the Mission District, on Valencia Street near 26th. She owns or manages this shipping firm--they operate and unload their own freighters. I'm surprised. It's a big concrete warehouse, only half-built. Huge crisp colored logos on walls. Carts and dollies roll by.

Lola starts talking politics. Our great problem today is that we've built these big concrete castles, but we depend on farms and cattle ranches outside the castles for all our food. And there are terrible ghostlike parasitic entities that can interfere with the life cycle of crops and cattle--just make them stop, even disappear. We know next to nothing about them. Our civilization may live by their sufferance--we just don't know. Terribly dangerous ignorance. A wave of these entities is coming soon, and we're defenseless. Lola says "If you want to understand how come we got like this, read Andre Norton's "Imperial Lady." It's a book set in ancient China as they faced barbarians." I happen to have read the book and I see the parallel. The heroine of Norton's book is a Chinese lady, Silver Snow, who's married off to a Mongol beyond the Great Wall. Her only friend's her crippled maid Willow, who's suspected of being a fox-woman, due to her red hair. We're like the Chinese, ignoring everything beyond our walls. We should be out investigating.

And trusting red-haired foxes. Lola's discreetly confirming my sense that she's one of us too--a shapeshifter.

And as I ponder this, Lola shifts. Not just her shape. Everything.
Lola the fox as my Japanese elder brother, Rora.

Lola is a man now--and my elder brother! Rora, as he now pronounces it, has just come into power as the lord of this Japanese castle, and of our Kitsune clan.

My brother Rora's always patronized me a bit--seen me as his bright but hotheaded little brother. I'm arguing for a crash research program on the entities, "before I'm gone." You see, I'm going to die soon, or transform into another creature, and I know it. Despite my brother Lord Lola's attitude, I know I'm the one thinking seriously about the problem. He knows human power and politics, but not magic or ecology.

"Sorry, little brother. We have to spend on defense, not science." No research program.

Desperately I say "I'll duel you for it." But he laughs at me. "We both know you're sharp-eyed and the fastest blade in the country, but little brother, remember, you're epileptic. You get paralyzed in a crisis, the stress gives you fits. You just can't fight me." And he's right--anyway, I could never really hurt Lola.

The most I can get him to agree to is to experiment with something he likes anyway: bright colors. Old lore books hint that the beings do react to color, but don't say how. Do bright colors hurt them or lure them? Either might help us.
Silver Snow, a Han Dynasty woman, and her werefox maid, Willow.

A Han lady from Manchuria is visiting our castle, Lady Silver Snow. Is she interested in Rora? I can hardly complain, for I'm certainly attracted to her red-haired maid, Willow. She's a fox-woman if I ever met one. Though she can almost pass for human, Willow's as playful as any full-blood fox, and curious about human toys like stereos and cars. She's not intimidated a bit by technology, acts as if it's just a branch of magic. She's already learned to drive a small truck, though I'm not sure she actually owns it, or has bothered to get a license. Somehow foxes and insurance don't go in the same sentence... Silver Snow rides regally beside her in the U-Haul cab; driving trucks is beneath her dignity, of course, though the gleam in her eye betrays a longing to try.

When they leave, I wave sadly and watch Willow drive up the hill out of the Mission. The sea is just beyond, over this seaside bluff. As Willow reaches the top, she hears something and turns back to us, frozen and fascinated, looking the distractable fox she is...

And drives off the cliff!

But the truck goes on rising a moment at least, as if we're in a Roadrunner cartoon. It's a strange instant and I'll always see them there, poised and floating on ignorance. What'll happen when she turns back to find nothing under them? Can she keep that truck flying, let them down gently? She has shamanic power--but enough?

The scene changes. Night. The City. I'm down by the docks, by the the ferries to Alcatraz. Next to them is moored an old sailing vessel: the Gold Rush ship Balclutha. A tourist attraction by day, but locked and dark, this late at night. At first, anyway.

Then a glass horse gallops up the pier, impossibly silent, and leaps onto the ship, a leap no mortal horse could manage. Faint blue torches light. Another ghost horse rides up. I look closer. Yes, a horn on its brow. More glass ghosts gallop up and leap like foam onto the deck. A convocation of the guardians of this city.

I hear voices like ghost cellos. "This council is in session. The question before us is simple: what to do about these parasitic beings? They're due so soon. So are our allies--but how can we plan, when we don't understand what we're fighting?"

And time is up. Under the Golden Gate, the ghost-ships are sailing in. The first to moor by the Balclutha is full of allies: kirin! Asian unicorns. They aren't supposed to mingle with our unicorns till they've dealt with the threat of the parasites. If they do, they'll inevitably mate with the locals and enlarge the unicorn population above carrying capacity. Only if the parasites are defeated and developers brought under control, will there be room (and grass) enough to expand.

But they've been celibate so long. They can't stand it. The captain of the incoming ghost ship feels it too--at last says "what the hell" and lets his crew leap the watergap to the Balclutha.

Ghost unicorns party on the deck of the Balclutha, moored at Fisherman's Wharf.
The unicorns party all night. They're happy--glad they did it. Newly pregnant spirits dance on the deck. Now they're really motivated to solve the parasite problem! For the sake of their ghost colts.

I watch from the pier as they leap and dance and flirt and mate, wishing I could just drop my form and join them NOW.

But I still have work as a human, to make my city safe from developers. And other parasites.


Ghost unicorn in its native habitat: Golden Gate Park.


My housemate Sean has a foxy sister, Jeannine. She comes for a visit. Why'd she choose now? "Partly because my boyfriend is coming through the Golden Gate on a historic sailing ship. He volunteered to help sail it down from Alaska." They anchor at the historical pier near the Maritime Museum--by the Balclutha!

I knew nothing of this two weeks ago, when I dreamed an antique sailing ship would come through the Gate and anchor by the Balclutha, with a horny crew, eager to mate with the locals...

But my dreams knew.

And fox-spirits have a sense of humor.

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