short dream

i was in my living room. Loren was sitting on the couch, doing something with his laptop. there was a young brunette girl present, maybe 10 years old, who seemed to belong, as if we were familiar with each other. since i can't place her, i assume she was imaginary. she was trying to set up a computer in my den, an old one i had lying around that i'd given her. she needed assistance, so i started helping her.

soon she needed some information from a CD, which she retrieved from Loren in the living room, but she was unable to get the computer to read the data from it. i took the CD and checked it out. it was a typical silver-faced writable CD, and the (non-factory) markings on it were in pencil, which is unusual. the pencil markings had worn off to a large degree, and some were obscured, scratched out with more pencil marks. i could make out fragments of writing, presumably telling what was supposed to be on the CD, and though i recognized my own handwriting (all capital letters, in this case), i couldn't make heads or tails of it, and i don't remember what those fragments were now. so i tried to read from the disc.

the contents were corrupted so i tried some more things, eventually discovering that the disc contained the fragmented remains of image files. a little more tinkering and i was able to start displaying them. rather than loading the whole image before displaying, the pictures were painted progressively, much as they are on progressively-encoded images downloaded through slower internet connections. strangely, rather than rendering full rows of pixels from the top down, the images were rendered in a progressively larger block which grew from the top left corner toward the bottom right.

as i watched the display of the first image progress, the first thing i could make out were the backs of two people's heads, in greyscale. on the right was a woman's, the left a man's. the woman's head was inclined affectionately toward and touching the man's. she had long, light-colored hair, drawn back in a pony tail; he had short dark hair, disheveled in a way that's somewhat common among male models. as the visible area of the image progressed, i could see, further to the right, the back of another man's head, similar to the first, and that both men were wearing shirts, and that the woman was shirtless, her back bare. the second man was leaned in affectionately toward the woman, and both men had the arm closest to her around her waist. at this point the image reminded me of an old Calvin Klein or Jordache jeans ad, depicting a calm, basically benign (as opposed to pornographic) but obviously suggestively amorous scene involving three people.

as the bottom of the image kept expanding, i could make out two more figures, these closer to the camera, another man and woman. the man was mostly obscured, as he was bent over at the woman's waist, removing the woman's jeans, which were part way down her thighs. the woman was (again) viewed from behind, and she was leaning on the man, steadying herself while he undressed her. the woman's back and buttocks were bare, and her backside was hideously skinny, resembling that of a concentration camp prisoner or some other victim of starvation, to the point where bones were visible beneath her skin.

the display of the image reached the bottom before it reached the right edge, and the remainder of the picture continued to fill in with vertical columns of pixels proceeding from the left. first revealed here was another man, farther from the camera than any of the others, dressed in similar fashion to the rest, reaching out, toward...another woman, this one fully clothed, the only figure represented facing the camera. she was recoiling from his grasp, with a terrified look on her face, as if the picture was snapped just as she turned to flee.

having finished painting this image to the screen the computer moved on to the next. slowly revealed, in the normal manner, with successive rows of pixels added from the top down, was an alien beach, at night. the sky was completely black, and the water (which seemed like an ocean) was also black, fading into sky at the horizon, each indistinguishable from the other except close to shore. the sand on the beach was a deep maroon, or a dark purple, like garnet sand, and on the beach stood an abstract sculpture, about the size of a man, which i might best describe as resembling an extrusion of some shiny, yellow metal, originally about 1' square in cross-section, about 6' in length, placed upright in the sand, and squished, or bent, or twisted in different places, to remove any regularity the shape once held, much as if it was putty formed by hand. all the contours were rounded widely, its cavities enshadowed, its curves gleaming in light from an unseen source...truly abstract.

looking at this scene, i became aware i was no longer viewing the picture on a monitor, but actually there, and though my point of view seemed to be from the beach itself, i was hearing the scene described by an unseen narrator, which drew my attention as i listened.

the narrator described a noble bird: a large, dark-feathered bird of prey, and as the voice spoke i became aware of the bird approaching the sculpture before me. the narrator described how the bird traveled space, between worlds, on some great, eternal mission i cannot now remember. the bird seemed to be judging something about the inhabitants of this alien world, and approached the sculpture. though the bird gave no outward indication of such, the narrator indicated that the bird found the inhabitants lacking. in the good-natured, optimistic tone often present in narration of nature programs, the narrator suggested that a resolution to their problem might yet exist for these alien people, to be found in the future.

then the narrator intoned that even this great bird needed sustenance, and as i watched, the bird moved away from the sculpture, on foot down the shore. i followed it off to the right, watching as it eventually picked up a small, perfectly spherical stone in its beak. the stone was the exact color of the beach sand. the narrator had fallen silent, allowing the 'audience' to take the scene in on its own. the bird, taking a few steps toward the water, dropped its chin and flung the stone in, and it skipped on the surface a couple times before sinking. another small, black bird, much smaller than the first, emerged from under the water with its prize, walking out of the surf onto the beach, dropping the stone in the sand, calmly settling down on the beach over it, as if the stone were food and it was preparing to eat it. the narrator's voice returned, explaining again in words what i watched unfold: the first bird slowly walked to the second, and bent to deliver (what the narrator explained was) a precisely placed, painless, mortal wound (which involved smoothly removing, with its beak, a good-sized chunk of the smaller bird, at the join between wing and back) that would allow the smaller bird to die peacefully before being consumed, its attention focused all the while on its small stone prize, as its life ebbed away, and the larger bird waited patiently.

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