by Dudgeon

A shaman should never mess with a dreamwalker under any circumstances, but especially when he has had a bad day...

D I S C U S S I O N  F O R U M  |  R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E



I was just walking down the street in Winnipeg's Osborne Village, picking up cigarette butts. There was snow on the ground that evening, since it was early winter. Dirty snow, from the sand and salt the city spreads. It was still quite tolerable out, despite the fact that it was almost three AM.

Even so, you wouldn't expect to be attacked without reason, not even by a shaman. The Village is full of pubs and restaurants, you see, many of which remain open quite late. There are usually people on the street, even at night.

That's what happened though. Ironically, it had all begun when he asked me if I had a smoke.

"No," I said. I hadn't thought that my butts counted.

But I guess he figured otherwise.

He ran up behind me, tapping the pocket of my jacket where I'd been storing up my butts. It appeared that he knew they were there, and that is one of the talents of shamans—finding lost objects.

I turned to confront him. "And how may I assist you this fine evening?"

He was just a little kid; maybe twenty if that. Native, with long black hair. He had a speed freak's gauntness; and the sheen in his eyes. I'd seen him around when I was out walking before, but he couldn't have recognized me. He was a gay prostitute, I'd heard, who turned tricks in some of the pubs along the strip. I'd seen him pick fights with people around closing time before. Especially white people. Just to cause a scene. He was six inches under my height, and pretty, really. If it weren't for his history of idiotic behavior, I probably would have found him attractive.

He popped me good, though, right on the nose. The poor little fool.

Blood started flowing immediately; began to stain my mustache and goatee, a fact I studiously ignored.

"And just what is your problem?" I calmly inquired.

He popped me again—bang, bang—knocking off both my black leather hat and my glasses this time.

I went stony calm then. I didn't even let my adrenaline rush. I simply cocked my head and examined him; a predator assessing the weaknesses of its next victim. At this point, I knew he couldn't hurt me anyways. It was just a matter of when he stopped hitting me. I figured I could play the pacifist game until then, like a cat toying with a belligerent mouse, and take revenge upon him later, as is our wont.

"This is silly. Do you really think that you can hurt me?"

He gave me another shot; a black eye this time. My glasses were no longer any defense against his blows.

"All right," I said with a smile, to throw him off guard. My left hand struck like an adder, as I grabbed him by the collar. I gave him a good shake. He was light, like a doll. His change rattled right out of his pockets, and jingled upon the gritty sidewalk at our feet.

"This is getting tedious, don't you think?"

I guess he was getting scared now. It's not often that someone whom you randomly attack speaks to you like an English gentleman. He must have thought I was a psycho killer to react like that. If he did, he was wrong. I'm no killer.

His next swing glanced off my forehead; motivated by fear this time, I think.

"Okay." I was still the image of normalcy. "I think I've had enough, my friend. And you apparently want me to kick the shit out of you in the worst possible way."

I cocked my right fist above my head. It was clothed in a black leather glove with cut off fingers, just like the left one which grasped his collar. With the blood now dripping from my beard, and my long, curly brown hair, I must have looked like a wrestler from the WWE or something. I even took a half-ass swing at him, though he dodged to avoid my blow. It would have felt like hitting a girl anyways, him being so much smaller than me.

That was when his friend ran up, to break things up between us. I let go of shaman boy, who'd been struggling to escape my grasp. He almost fell on his ass from his own backward momentum.

I knew I couldn't act on my threat anyways. I'd been seeking a graceful exit from the situation. An assault charge would mean official scrutiny, perhaps even a genetic scan. I couldn't risk that.

His friend was more my size. We faced one another off; chest-to-chest, and eye to eye. I said nothing; just looked at him with quiet disdain.

When I attempted to bend down to search out my belongings, he obstructed me.

"So what's your problem now?" in the same even tone. "I'm just looking for my hat and glasses. I'm quite sure they're around here somewhere."

His tone was anything but calm.

"Where's his glasses? Find his glasses!" he hissed to shaman boy, who was cowering by the stairs descending into the shop below The Tea Cozy.

At least one of them had a semblance of sense.

I found my hat and glasses first. I guess the two of them weren't trying too hard, since they could both see.

Upon locating my glasses through a myopic fog, I made a great ceremony of picking them up. I straightened their wire frames with great precision before I placed them back upon my face. I looked them both in the eyes with clear vision for a long moment afterwards. The larger man still stood quite close to me, while shaman boy hovered behind, afraid to come and pick up his change.

I let a sly smile creep onto my face, and a similar look into my eyes.

"I'll be seeing you." I looked directly at shaman boy, finally giving voice to what I'd been thinking all along. "You don't know who you've fucked with."

I could tell he quivered a little in his pants at that point. Even his larger friend backed off slightly.

As I nonchalantly turned to leave, blood still dripped from my chin. It was then I noticed the two spectators who had watched the entire incident from about five yards away. They simply stared at me, slack jawed.

There was total silence from all as I walked away.

When I reached the second building down the block, I bumped into Phil, the bartender from The Toad in the Hole. He was just on his way home from closing up.

"Ray!" he exclaimed. I was a regular there. "Have you been beat up or something?"

"Don't worry about it." So that everyone could hear. "He was just a kid; that little Native boy down the street there actually. He's a shaman though, so be careful of him on your way home."

Phil was unaltered, either physically or psychologically, and took great pride in it actually.

"But he'll get his."

A shaman should never mess with a dreamwalker, under any circumstances. Especially when he's had a bad day.

* * *

I had been on my way home from another meeting with a potential client when I bumped into shaman boy. Another failed meeting, I might add. It had been corporate. I sat for an hour in a posh waiting area high in the GlobalCom building overlooking the corner of Portage and Main.

When Mr. Vanderbilt, Executive Assistant, finally deigned to see me, the interview lasted all of a minute. He was all Rolexed and manicured, in a hand-tailored suit. He gave my resume a cursory glance, as well as my recently acquired Private Investigator's license. He didn't even bother with the drug test results and criminal record check.

Then he looked at me impatiently over his reading glasses. "Our advertisement for this position clearly specified that we are seeking someone with a minimum of three years' experience, preferably in the corporate sector. I see here that you have none."

I just said something lame. "Sorry for wasting your time, then," or something. That was that.

It's hard to establish a clientele when you have no experience. Especially at that level. Its doubly hard when you can never inform your clients of the relevant skills you possess. It was getting frustrating.

I was beginning to think I would have to start aiming lower. Much lower. Like street level, for instance. I had the contacts too, from growing up there, but it wasn't exactly my first choice.

An eviction notice does strange things to people, though. I'd received one only that morning. I had ten days to pony up my rent or me and my stuff be would be out in the cold, the letter said.

The last thing I needed that day was for a drugged out little prostitute to attack me over something as trivial as cigarette butts. I arrived at my little one-bedroom suite near the Midtown Bridge about ten minutes after the incident with shaman boy. By that time, the plan was already formed.

Revenge can be sweet. Especially when you're angry at the world in general.

In this case it was also simple.

Naturally, the first thing I did when I arrived home was to lie down on the futon and promptly go to sleep.

That's where we do our work, you see.

Dreamwalking is one of several dozen genetic enhancements, which have become popular over the last few years, ever since Dr. Berkes first perfected gene therapy back in 2002.

Before shaman boy could even make it home, I was on his trail.

Not the physical me, but the lucid one.

Lucid dreaming is when you become aware that you are dreaming while you are dreaming. With practice, it can allow for almost complete control over your own dream state, even among normals. You can learn to fly; to perform magic. Even to change the scenes and characters in your dreams at will.

When that gene is enhanced, you can do much more. At least once you've learned the proper techniques. This includes projecting your lucid self into the real world.

We can't fly. Not all abilities from the dreamscape can be translated into the real world. That's why we call it walking. We do have a lot of control over the characteristics of our lucid projection. Whether it is visible; how substantial it will be.

Only moments after falling asleep, I walked through the front door of my apartment, in complete stealth mode. No need to open it that way. Nor would anyone know I had left, or when I returned.

I retraced my steps back to the scene of the crime. The tall elms that lined the street appeared pale and skeletal; yellow and brown-stone apartment buildings appeared ashen, sapped of color. Reality itself appears slippery and surreal through a dreamer's eyes, as though it can be transformed with a stray thought.

No shaman boy when I arrived back before The Tea Cozy. That was expected, but I had a good idea where I could find him. I went there myself sometimes. When I was in the mood for that flavor.

As I passed the twenty-four hour joints on the corner of Osborne and Roslyn, I considered for the tenth time that day how easy it would be to just slip in and steal a pack of cigarettes. The pale brick wall at Mac's convenience rippled into transparency as I passed, the mere thought revealing the object of my desire—the rows of packs neatly displayed behind their counter.

I just turned away. I was too honest for that. One of my fatal flaws, I guess.

Honesty and vindictiveness, however, are two different things.

Sure enough, just beyond the Osborne Bridge, I found shaman boy in the park south of the Legislative Building. That's where the gay prostitutes hang out after last call. Apparently, he was looking to turn a trick so he could get another hit of crack or meth or something. He was alone now, without his larger friend. Not that it mattered.

I tapped him on the shoulder from behind, not allowing him to see me. He turned rapidly, obviously frightened and confused. He did have some skill as a shaman, so he must have sensed my presence. That's one of the reasons we are leery of shamans. None of the other psychjobs can detect us, and we do like our privacy. It appears to be connected to their ability to find what's lost. When we're walking, we are out of place, in a sense. Not where we should be.

Shamans tend to be loners, unlike ourselves. Nor was there anything he could do to stop me. A shaman's primary skill is as a healer, and I planned on giving him something to heal, or attempt to heal, for the rest of his life.

I reached into his subconscious mind. We can't directly read thoughts. At least not conscious thoughts. Our playground is much deeper, in the subconscious. The part of the mind that controls dreaming, obsessions, compulsions... and nightmares.

I was searching for something which could irreparably damage him psychologically, without actually killing him. Also something which would prevent him from ever hurting anyone again.

Then I found it. Deep within his subconscious mind.

He'd grown up on the Rez. Opaskwayuk they called it in Cree. Us white folks just called it The Pas. That's the name of the town located across the river from the reservation itself. I'd been there when I was younger. I was doing lights for a rock band at the local bar. Not that that matters, but it's where the long hair comes from. I could also recognize some of the scenes that flitted through the deeper recesses of his mind. The subconscious is long on imagery; on raw feeling. Short on dialogue.

What shaman boy's mind concealed was a deep, dark secret. A deep-seated fear. Not about being exposed as gay. He was open about that, just as I am about being bi.

Shaman boy was frightened to death of becoming a stereotype.

Both of his folks, you see, had been alcoholics. They were picked up drunk in the streets of The Pas while he was young so many times that he'd lost count. Even now, he continued to be obsessed with it. There were two series of images that were central. Themes with variations; resonating through the dark corners of his mind.

The first was of his parents coming home drunk. It was always late at night. He was still up watching TV. His little sister slept on the couch next to him. They'd been left to fend for themselves again.

After they stumbled in, the inevitable incoherent screaming and name calling followed. Half in English; half in Cree. Especially if there was no more beer. Sometimes things got broken. Sometimes there were blows.

It always ended with the same image of his little sister. Screaming, crying, and stamping her feet. In fear. In confusion. In a five year old's rage. Tracking his mother's vomit across the living room floor.

It's amazing what two generations of having your kids kidnapped by the federal government and incarcerated in boarding schools can do to a people's parenting skills.

The second scene was out in the school yard. The way the white kids continually belittled him as a consequence, accompanied by derisive laughter. Every day, it seemed, a new story to remind him of the latest incident in which his parents were found by the RCMP; passed out in the snow, or on the bridge back to the Rez.

"Drunken Injuns," they'd say. One of those rare, iconic phrases that echoes through the subconscious. Haunting people. Taunting them.

He just cried, left alone on the swings by himself. Afraid to go into morning classes for fear of having to face them.

The shame of it was still more than he could bear.

That was his greatest fear. Of becoming one of those drunk, panhandling Native folks. The type you often see around the streets of Winnipeg, it being the Canadian city with the highest Native population.

So I gave my pretty little shaman boy an incurable lust for alcohol, implanted deep within his subconscious mind. Addiction is one of the most powerful obsessions of all, or so we've found. It's largely subconscious, but there are also physical and chemical components to consider.

Rock would not be his thing any more; nor meth, nor beans, nor whatever else he may have preferred previously. Only alcohol would satisfy his cravings now. Every dream he ever had from this day forward would be about alcohol.

He would become everything that he had ever feared to be.

* * *

By the time I arrived back home I had finally calmed down a bit. I awoke completely refreshed, an hour's dreamwalking being pure REM sleep. I arose and went to the washroom, both to clean up my face, and to examine my black eye. I then began emptying my jacket pockets of butts, so that I could roll a cigarette from the tobacco I crushed out of them.

When I finished I lit it up and took two or three deep drags. I let the rush of nicotine fill me, soothe me. I almost felt a twinge of guilt for what I'd done to shaman boy then, as I surrendered to my own addiction.


Then I realized why the whole experience had aroused such a deep-seated anger in me. Anger and frustration, despite the external facade of calm I'd maintained. Because aside from that stony calm that makes us appear utterly fearless, which scares the hell out of most people all by itself, we are completely vulnerable while we are awake. We're forced to fight with threats and fists and weapons, just like the normals.

That's what the incident with shaman boy rubbed my bloody nose in that night. No matter how great our powers may be, they can't be used as an overt threat in a situation like that. In any situation.

Shaman boy and his friend would have killed me on the spot if they knew what I was capable of when I got home and went to sleep. He would have been willing to die to prevent it.

I would have.

I'd had the others in my head before. As part of the initiation. As part of the teaching. As part of impressing upon me the absolute sacredness of complete secrecy. What would happen to me if I ever broke that compact.

Having other people toy with your nightmares is not exactly a pleasant experience.

The psychjob we use was originally developed for some obscure type of psychotherapy. What we've done with it remains something that only our small group knows about. At least to our knowledge. So it shall always remain.

Anyone else who discovered it would be equally secretive. They would have to be. For their own self-preservation. Not only because our great power would create fear, and fear create paranoia, but because of our total vulnerability. When we're awake, we're no different than normals. When we're out walking, away from our bodies...?

You figure it out.

We'd soon all be rounded up and killed, or reverse engineered back into normals. If people find out who we are. If they learn what we are capable of.

No, our powers can only be used, as a weapon, or in any other way, if they remain completely and utterly hidden.

Besides, it was already too late to help shaman boy. If we could cure addictions, rather than induce them, I wouldn't be out in the street picking up butts, now would I?

* * *

I still see him sometimes, leaning up against the railing in front of The Tea Cozy. Right where he attacked me. I also implanted that location in his mind, you see.

He now begs for beer money by day, and spends most of his nights passed out in the street.

Sometimes, I even stop to give him a buck or two.

A shaman should never mess with a dreamwalker, under any circumstances. Especially when he's had a bad day.





Copyright © 2008 Dudgeon

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

Dudgeon is a social scientist from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He has published a couple academic books and scattered articles under his real name. He is the editor of Satirica: An Anthology of Satirical Speculative Fiction, published in Summer 2008 by Cowboy Logic Press, and the editor of CLP's first published novel, Guardian of the One by Roger Haller. His fiction and poetry have appeared on-line and in print in: The Written Word, Phobia, Bewildering Stories, Horrotica and Silverthought.

--  O N L I N E  |  F O R U M  |  P R I N T --