I awoke, sat up and realized that the circular platform I was on was floating high above mountains and under a high cloud. I had no idea how I got there and I don’t know how it just hovered there like that. Two others were there already, Utina and Paul. They immediately wanted to know my story, especially what I’d been dreaming. I told them that I had been in my jail cell, alone, sleeping and my dreams were the nightmares I always had, of combat. My outpost had been overrun by Afghan rebels after more than twelve hours of constant fighting, lots of it hand to hand, bodies everywhere. I was lightly wounded, I thought. My nightmares got so bad that I later tried killing people on the streets of San Diego. SWAT unit stopped me with a tranquilizer dart. I was jailed and went to sleep on the cell bunk. “It’s never ending combat once I fall asleep,” I explained to them.
Suddenly, I heard the whistling incoming of a mortar round. I dragged Utina and Paul into the recessed center of the wheel and told them to get down. Bullets were flying. There was smoke and men running firing weapons. I was sweating and began screaming. I didn’t even have a gun. Utina wrapped her arms around me and said, “I’m here with you” into my ear. Immediately, the bullets stopped, the smoke cleared and all the fighters were gone. The mountains and clouds were back. All was quiet.
They explained that our dreams controlled the wheel we were on. These two had just experienced my combat nightmare. We rested a moment, then I saw that Paul wore a long desert robe from a different tribe than those of Afghanistan.
Paul told us he had been traveling to Damascus by horse with warrants to arrest the followers of the ‘way’. They were to be taken back to Jerusalem to be tried for blasphemy. Just outside of Damascus, a great light came out of the sky, unhorsing him. When he spoke these words, the wheel abruptly shifted under us and light blazed in from every direction. We protected our eyes. I couldn’t look up but I saw Paul reach up with his hands and speak to someone in the air. He begged not to be killed. He grabbed his head and shouted that he had not realized. Begging for mercy for himself and the others traveling with him, he knelt and prayed, then prostrated himself saying he would serve forever. He repeated the name Ananias of Damascus who would baptize him. Slowly, the light dissipated. Utina and I crawled to him and asked if he was all right. He rose to his knees, shaking. His pupils unfocused, he could not fix his gaze on anything. We helped him lean back against the sloped wall of the recessed center. Paul, saidthe light spoke to him and changed him from Saul, his old self, to the Paul we knew. His vision returned after a while. Utina asked if he often dreamed of the light. He said he dreamt of nothing else. His dream always made him relive the great change again.
Utina calls this platform the dream wheel. She’s been here longest. Some guy named Dogen and a woman named Clara were here before her. They told her of people before them and some of the dreams they’d witnessed, the wheel’s power manifesting itself. Utina tried getting off. She jumped over the edge but the thing has gravity. She even crawled around to the underside, but you just hang there, upside down. She’s seen one hundred and twenty-seven dream sequences. Yea, she’s counting. Many have seen her dream.
I asked what her dream was. Without warning, a large man grabbed me from behind and threw me onto the surface of the wheel. Just as I turned over, he was on me, trying to tear off my shirt and pants. I heard the others scream. I slugged the guy and knocked him off me. Rolling away, I jumped up and caught him with a fast roundhouse kick, sending him sprawling. He sat up but a kick to the temple put him out. The guy on Paul looked like a twin. A rabbit punch to the back of the head sent him down, out cold. Paul grabbed the one on Utina and wrestled him off. I kicked him in the kidney and head and he went down. At that moment, the three disappeared. They had been identical. We held Utina, told her they were gone. She trembled uncontrollably. Paul rubbed her hand. “Who are they?” I asked. She said they were her father’s favorite brother, who has molested her since she was sixteen. That the dream multiplies him. I asked if she’d told her father. She huffed and said her father would kill her if she said such a thng. I thought and then handed her my big switchblade knife.
“He’ll put his arms around you. Reach behind him, press to open the knife, stab deep into the kidney and twist hard. Either kill him or use the knife to flee and never return.”
She froze and her big eyes grew even larger. I could see her mind working on it. It happened so quickly that I reached out, but too late, she was gone.
I heard Paul call out behind me. A girl, maybe thirteen years old, was sleeping in the center. She opened her eyes and looked at Paul and I. She got up and slowly approached me. Her dress was animal leather with ornate beadwork and frills dangling from hem, sleeves and bodice. She wore leather moccasins and her hair, blond, parted in the middle, split into braids that reached mid-back.
“Tósa’e?” she said, then added, “What is this place?”
“Some call it the dream wheel. I’ll try to explain.”