Dreamed 1997/9/13, drawn as comix 1999, color web version 2001, by Chris Wayan.

I'm on a beach, in Italy, I guess, because just inland, looming over this sleepy coastal town is what looks like the Roman Coliseum. But no Rome! An alternate Earth, I guess, where geography and history got a bit scrambled. A cute Japanese artist named Giriko has been showing me around. Today, she leads me down to the beach, spreads a towel and peels off her jeans to show off her new red bikini. She looks great, and I can't help gawking a bit.

I lie in the sun a minute of two in my ratty blue cut-offs----not long, it's a hot day. Just as I'm ready to get up and hit the water, Giri yells "Perissa!" Aha! She's been talking about Perissa for two days, wanted to introduce us. Perissa said she'd meet us here. We plan to go to a show at the newly restored Coliseum--Giriko reserved seats, center seats she said. I thought the thing was round, but I'm just a tourist.

"Hey, Perissa!" Come out of the water and meet Wayan! We gotta leave soon!"

"We do?" I ask. "I thought we had an hour yet. Damn, I wanted time to talk to her..."

"Oh, we're no really late! But Perissa has NO sense of time."

"Wayan?" a voice calls from the water, and I get up to see a blonde in a lavender shirt wading toward us. She's beautiful but odd-looking: her ears are large and pointed, leaf-shaped really. "C'mon in! It's so warm!"

Before I can respond, Giriko yells "Perissa, OUT!" She whispers to me "I love her, but she's irresponsible. All her kind are... They can't help, being half animal."

"WHAAAT?" I'm shocked. "Just because she's a..." Centaur? But I don't say that, since, as Perissa emerges, it's obvious that centaurs aren't quite like our myths about them.

I meet Perissa at the beach; we see her whole form: a centaur girl with an equine tail but much lighter build and four humanoid legs and feet

Perissa seems as fascinated by me as I am by her. She brushes her wet bangs back nervously. I'm a bit shy too, for that translucent lavender shirt is all she's wearing. That seems to be common among centaurs here, and I suppose they figure the tail is modest enough. But on her, it's devastatingly sexy. Not just because her breasts show through the wet shirt, nearly as clear as gauze; I even see hints of a blonde fluffy patch between her forelegs and realize with a shock she's dual-equipped!

And look up to see Perissa smiling. She pokes her breasts out and suddenly we both burst out laughing.

"Pack UP!" says Giriko. "We don't want to miss the show!"

But Perissa and I can't tear ourselves away. Just talk while poor Giriko packs up around us, unnoticed. Her plan worked too well. By the time we walk inland toward the Coliseum, we're holding hands.

Giriko forges ahead with the cooler. Perissa murmurs with a glint in her eye "So has she told you yet that we're just big kids? We're half animal, you see."

"Well....yeah. I was shocked. Why do you hang with her when she's such a specist?"

"Oh, she's way LESS prejudiced than MOST! I guess it's because she's from another culture. Giriko's LIBERAL! Around here, human supremacy is mainstream." She lowers her voice till I have to lean in till her breath tickles my ear. It'd be exciting if the words weren't so grim: "Human groups, a bit like your world's Klan, play dirty tricks and discourage us from voting..."

I'm shocked and for the first time a bit doubtful. It's looked very free and equal on the streets--no overt discrimination, and I haven't heard specist jokes from the humans. Though it's true, centaurs are a small minority here, maybe one per cent, and Perissa's the first I've spoken to at length...

As we climb the steps of the Coliseum, Perissa argues a bit, more to the air than really to Giriko, who's ahead of us and hardly listening, "If my equine features are 'animal', what are my primate features--or hers? Vegetable?" and she thumps her left breast, making me start guiltily for staring. Again.

Giriko heads for an arched tunnel-mouth. A carved sign says "CENTAURI." I realized, feeling like an idiot, that Giriko meant she reserved a "centaur" spot for Perissa, who of course couldn't fit in a human seat. Giriko leans on the stone arch and waits for us to catch up, deep in argument... I start to realize Perissa trusts me because I'm a shaman, not a human--I just can pass. But I've lived in other forms; I share something with her Giriko can't. No wonder she's snappish...

Perissa and I argue about humans, while Giriko teases us and passers-by gawk.

I do notice many humans get odd flares in their auras as they pass Perissa. A young girl radiates near worship; a potbellied old man in a straw hat and checkered shorts mutters "animal"--or did he? Did he just think it? I wonder if I've it was there all along. I was on vacation and didn't want to look under the surface... Now I've been sensitized.

Into the arching darkness of the long tunnel. We hold hands again and lag behind Giriko, a black, leggy silhouette (but not as leggy as someone I know!) in the glare ahead.

Perissa the centaur and I enter the Coliseum holding hands. Our friend Giriko says 'now don't embarrass me', insulting Perissa.

As we squeeze through the aisles toward the special seating (wide, deep benches suitable for kneeling lying or sprawling) Giriko says 'now don't embarrass me, Perissa."

Giri's gone too far. Perissa's aura flares up like a torch, and she vaults the low wall around the arena below, soars in a brief blonde cometary arc, and lands smooth as a cat on the sand!

Perissa, mad, jumps into the arena, saying

Giriko seems to be taking it personally... As they argue, the crowd gets a good look at her too. She's hard to overlook, perched in a red bikini atop the inner wall, arguing with a naked centaur.

Perissa's serious, I think: letting the crowd compare them... Is she right? Is part of Giriko's anger and sniping really just jealousy, jealousy at her friend's attention-drawing body with its sexy possibilities? Jealousy over me? Giri was quite right--we were instantly drawn together... and forgot her. Surely she deserves some credit and sympathy for that, not this fight!

Wow... it's obvious from Perissa's sparkling aura and rising nipples and red glistening foreslit that she's really getting off on this! Oh, well, an exhibitionist girlfriend is definitely better than a racist one, right?

But I don't think this is just attention-grabbing. Perissa is sure working up the crowd, and not to anger. They're cheering! Is this really about anti-centaurism?

At last she yells "How about it? Am I welcome here? THUMBS (or other organs) UP?"

And the crowd roars back "UP!" Thumbs wave on upstretched arms.

Giriko's aura is black as a thundercloud.

Perissa trots up to me and reaches up to touch my hand and says "Check out this "reserved seat" for me--I have a creepy feeling about it." Her look is fierce and intelligent--flushed with sexual energy, but she's riding it, it's not riding her.

So I do as she says. The broad low benches marked CENTAURS AND GUESTS ONLY are just bare wooden slats crudely nailed down. Nailheads and even sharp points stick up from the cracks between boards! Wait a minute! They look HOLLOW. Are they... syringes? What IS this?

I yell "Perissa, come look at this!" and she rears up and peers over the arena wall, reaches out and touches a syringe tip with her finger. She looks at Giriko and says coolly "I bet I'd be real quiet on this seat. No trouble to anyone."

I can't keep that kind of calm. "You planned to dope her up, didn't you! To shut her up? Or to make her look drunk and foolish?"

"No WAY! They're just loose nails!" Giriko's storm of black hair bristles like a hedgehog and her aura flames as red as her swimsuit--the red of honest anger. I think she means it. Giriko may patronize her friend, but nobody better hurt her!

I just stare at Giriko mutely and look back at the "nails." Giriko crouches and peers close. She sees just what we did: hollow, unmistakably hypodermic tips... She whispers "my God..."

Perissa sees. Her face blooms with joy and relief, and she wheels and bounds to the arena's center and dances wildly as Giriko yells...

Perissa dances with joy as Giriko begs forgiveness.

Giri hops down onto the sand and charges over to Peri and hugs her, tears sliding down her face. She knows, now, what her friend's been facing, and that she must change her attitude. And that she wants to.

I wake.

Perissa raising her tail, showing it off... I wake, knowing I have to change too.

I HAVE been tranquilizing my own urges! Showing off, sex, anger, song, play... I'm ashamed, and talk myself out of them. They're too much trouble, they draw too much attention...

For years, Giriko's whispered inside me "Spontaneity's animal, BESTIAL!" And I bought the lie! I gagged, hid and blinded myself to Perissa's urges inside.

But as Perissa says, to get what I want, whether it's sex or attention or, well, anything really... I have to raise my tail and show it. Oh, how I know it!

It's hard to act on, in the moment. Still--NOW, since this dream, whenever I suppress a deep urge, that damn SYRINGE appears in my mind, and I find myself asking a new question, the one Giriko had to face:

"Tranquility? AT WHAT COST?"

ASPCA/NAACP PLEASE NOTE: no actual centaurs were drugged or harmed in drawing this dream.

ART NOTE: These illustrations were computer-tinted, but originally generated with an ultra-high-resolution device most current browsers can't handle. It's called a "pencil." Remember the word--in years to come, we'll all be using them.