Have I met the girl of my dreams? That’s a hard one to answer, since my dreams have featured many members of the fairer sex. But, in a rather abstruse way, I have, in the form of Fionnuala.
After talking with Dyisi about posters and the poetry evening, Fionnuala and I met at the Cherry Pit, where we both ordered burgers. Not my first choice of food, but easy enough for me to manage. What she wanted to talk to me about was her… nature. Since I had revealed mine, she felt that she should reveal hers. This she did, over the very romantic setting of bacon-cheeseburgers for two.
She is an exarch, a creature of dreams. Well, sort of. People dream; and their dreams have power. They created something called the Dreamscape, and the Dreamscape gave birth to the exarchs. They are non-corporeal a lot of the time, but they can join with mortals and become sort of hybrid being. So Fionnuala is what she appears to be, a 22 year old woman from Sligo in Ireland, but, since her 11th birthday or thereabouts, she is also a being that dates from the start of the 17th century. It’s a sort of symbiosis, as far as I was able to understand it, but with the ‘host’ and the ‘resident’ somehow fusing.
This was the bit I found hardest to understand. There is, apparently, no duality. The person I know as Fionnuala is that girl from Sligo and the exarch, merged together as one. She is both of them at once. There is no separation, so there is no conflict, no partition, no divide between the girl and the dream.
I had other questions, of course, which she tried to answer. The dreamers are the people who dream; people like me, whose dreams make up this Dreamscape. Some dreamers can be strong dreamers and actually become aware of the Dreamscape. Dreams that rehash the day’s events or some past events are what she called weak dreams. Strong dreams are where you can touch the Dreamscape – so if I dreamed of my old school, that might be a weak dream, but if I dreamed of my old school and a glowing figure offers to smite the kids that bullied me, then that is a strong dream that touched this Dreamscape.
Exarchs could be the people I meet in dreams – if they are strong characters and not pale reflections of people I know in waking life, if they give strange answers to questions, or otherwise do something significant, somebody who challenges me or asks hard questions, then they may be exarchs. I found this curious, but then, I do not often remember my dreams in detail, so I cannot say if I have met one or not. Exarchs, of course, can access the Dreamscape at will. She told me she could go there while fully awake, while meditating and even had a house there. Someday, she said, she would be strong enough to take others, not exarchs, there, but not for now.
I wondered if it was possible to become one of these strong dreamers and she told me it was all to do with creativity. The more creative you are, the more likely you are to dream strong dreams and touch the Dreamscape. She recommended a book on increasing your creativity, written by none other than Stephen Fry. I had not heard of it, but I recalled some books I had purchased some years before on accessing your creativity. I remembered one was called The Artist’s Way, or something like that. Perhaps it is time I dipped my pen into the well again and tried my hand at writing. Creative writing, that is, as opposed to the everyday writing I do in my diary.
Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the burgers, so we gave ourselves over to that pleasure for a while. I told her of my early days, having to become good at appearing to eat, for the sake of my fellow officers and crew, and how I even learned to take pleasure in eating, even if I could no longer gain nourishment from it. She evidently can, and also takes pleasure in it. The burgers did not seem to have quite the same sensory pleasure as the shrimp dish she had at the weekend, but I must admit, it was a pleasure to watch her eat. She takes inordinate pleasure in it, even if it is just an onion ring dipped in garlic mayonnaise.
Things were getting a bit noisy by the time we finished and such privacy as we had enjoyed was lacking, so we decided to finish our dinner here and take dessert and coffee down the road outside the hospital. There we could continue our conversation in peace, at least for a while.
One worrying thing she told me was that exarchs can normally only survive 30 or so years in this union, after which they have to withdraw to the Dreamscape for a period. This concerned me a little, as I wondered what became of the human half. She would forget, Fionnuala told me, she would still have her memories of the crazy things she did in her teens and twenties, but then it would become just memories, with no memory of having been the other person. She sounded as though this was a difficult subject for her to talk about it, so I offered her the chance to change the subject. She was able to continue, even though she said she feared the time when it would happen. The stronger exarchs can last longer, she told me, and here in this town, with its apparent preponderance of magical beings, it might be possible to stay longer. There was one ability she had, she told me, that not many exarchs can do. She would remember being Fionnuala, and the life she had experienced, so, for example, if there was some great love affair in that life, when she took another body, she might be able to find that person again and love again.
I’m not quite sure if there was some sort of hint there, a little nudge. With the normal mortal lifespan, I could see complications – if they parted when they were, say, in their 40s and then the exarch returned in a new body, it might be a bit strange, a teenager trying to get with somebody in their late 40s, whereas with somebody of a longer lifespan… I didn’t say anything on that score; instead, I remembered the vow from a pagan handfasting I had once attended for some friends of mine. How did it go again? “Nor shall death part us; for in the fullness of time we shall be born again at the same time and in the same place as each other; and we shall meet, and know, and remember, and love again.” I jokingly referred to the Burton/Taylor relationship, divorcing and marrying again so many times.
She changed the subject slightly, or so I thought, making reference to my prodigious, her word, not mine, memory for poetry and how that had come about. I didn’t really have much of an answer for that. My memory is patchy at best, but somehow, the poetry sticks, maybe because I keep reading it and reading it. I told her how Mother had read to me from a very early age, and how I had insisted on being taught how to read – not from the primers that were used for kids at the time, but from the poems and books she read to me. She told me that I would have made a good exarch, which set me to wondering if this was something you could actually do, become one. She told me that her father had been a teacher, and so she had learned to read early, but hadn’t gotten onto the serious poets until she was older. Poets and authors were common hosts, she said, naming Jim Morrison, Anne Sexton and Phil Ochs as exarchs. I asked about Elvis, since practically everything fanciful had been assigned to him at one point or another, but apparently he was not an exarch. I asked about the likes of Keats and Shelley. She did not know. I got the impression that it was a lot harder, in those days, to take physical form. Now that kids grow up dreaming of being on the moon or being vampires etc, there are more dreams, and exarchs becoming more numerous as a result.
I asked if I was one, given my poetic and creative bent, and if exarchs could sense each other in this form. They can, as a sort of aura, but she was fairly sure that the exarch would not survive the transition to vampire. That led to discussions about past lives and I confessed that I had wondered about using my childhood as though it were a past life, had she actually tried the regression thing on me as she had threatened. She said that she would likely know if I was lying.
Somehow that led to a little confession. Apparently, my suspicions regarding Brigitte and Fionnuala at that Sunday lunch were quite correct. They had gotten to talking and Fionnuala told a joke about Irish oral sex (staying up all night talking about it) and Brigitte offered to tell her about French oral sex, but she couldn’t do it in the dining room where the staff could hear. And so, they went upstairs and, well, it ended as a worldly guy like me might imagine it did, to quote her words. I told her I wasn’t the least bit surprised, knowing Brigitte as I did, and assured her, since she seemed to be worried about it, that it didn’t diminish my opinion of her. I told her that I would never judge and said I would tell her about my youthful indiscretions some time. I didn’t own her, I said, and even if we were an item, it still would not bother me. That appeared to relieve her fears. She asked how long I had known Brigitte, which was something I could now answer honestly, so I told her briefly of my time in London and how Brigitte and I had come to be real friends.
Further conversation on the matter was interrupted by the sound of Alina and her friend Anna, circling each other round one of the trees, like children chasing each other, taunting each other with the name Nipples, which I had heard one of them use that first night we met Anna. It sounded as though they were fighting over the necklace again. I would have hoped that Alina had learned after her punishment from Brigitte, but apparently not. From her manner and the way she was hissing, I feared she was close to losing control. Now much as I hate exerting my abilities, I figured it was time to do so. I excused myself from Fionnuala with a sigh and confronted Alina, willing her to calm down, which she did. Anna, meanwhile, seemed concerned for our safety, presumably knowing what Alina was, but not knowing we were anything other than human, warning us that her friend was not as she seemed and advising us to run. I assured her I had nothing to fear and asked her for the necklace. She tried to make a run for it, but I was far too quick for her, again, using powers that I normally prefer not to. This time, I managed to force her to calm down too and she gave me the necklace, albeit reluctantly. I found an envelope in my bag and wrapped the necklace in it. Fionnuala, very sensibly, seemed to decide this was not her business and excused herself, saying she would see me back at the hotel later. I just nodded, giving my attention to the two youngsters. I told them off for acting like children, then, on a sudden generous impulse, gave them a couple of twenties and told them to go get themselves a pizza, or coffee or ice-cream or something and that I did not want to see them again until they had made friends again and stopped behaving like children. Fortunately, I seemed to have awed them enough for them to take the money and disappear off without further argument.
I sighed heavily and headed back to the hotel myself. I do not quite know what this Anna is, but I know what Alina is, and she needs to learn some self-control. I have excellent reserves of that myself, but how to teach it is another question. I shall really have to speak with Brigitte and see what I can do.
A rather pretty song from Kirsten Dunst…