My name is Russell, Russell Maynard Davis to be precise. I know, weird name, huh?
Guess I was lucky, in the early 1900’s there were a lot of really weird names out there. That, plus the fact I was a really tough scrapper with a few odd talents really helped me out. I go by Rusty, but that gets a lot of sideshow comments, in and of itself, too.
Back in the day, in the beginning, I pretty much kept to myself. Between laying low from the heavy handed old man, which was also a trend in that era, and trying to look out for my Ma I spent most of my time dreaming, and figuring out myself. I guess I was just a normal, everyday kind of kid.
Except for the dreams. I loved to dream, the way most guys love to masturbate. Again, two totally different types of escape, but my way led to a longer excitement, and personally, more self-gratification. Ever since I can remember, the second I take that last deep breath and let myself fade into slumber, the next breath in is followed by paradise when I open my eyes.
It all began with that very first dream, in it I stood in my father’s outdoor workshop, staring out through the old glass windows at myself, sitting in our backyard daydreaming. It was a Lovecraft wet dream. Dark, menacing, foretelling a future that might be. This baptism still brings tears to my eyes, for it was my golden ticket out of accepting a mundane reality. Yet, I regress. The dream was not about me watching my dream self in the yard, in truth, it was the magician in crow form, that came to me speaking of power and strengths. The crow, in truth was a mirage, power masked in a mystery. It was simply put, a hunter, looking for an apprentice, and I was a ripe candidate.
The following is the tale that the crow told, as it perched on my father’s work table, while we watched the innocent day dreamer version of myself.
** ** **
The ground flew past as they raced, each intent on the win. The rabbit’s plush form streaked ahead of the cat, dodging all of Nature’s obstacles. The cat’s sleek shape flowed like a shadow, mere inches behind the rabbit. Up ahead, they both could see the rabbit’s hole, and the cat slowly gained ground.
“Can you hear it?” The Rabbit whispered, hearing the hymns of freedom .
“Of course.” Replied the Cat.
They pounded on, their heartbeats echoing out into the wind, the ticking of a stopwatch that timed an infernal race.
“Is it worth it?” Whispered the Rabbit.
“The gain is worth the loss.”
The rabbit hole loomed closer, wicked thorns filled the opening. The long sharp barbs waited patiently for their sacrifice. In a last burst of strength, the rabbit thrust himself forward, the thorns were preferred to the cat’s claws. The cat slowed and watched as the rabbit’s plush coat was ripped and shredded. The rabbit inched his way through the final agonizing steps to safety, then turned back to his adversary.
The cat’s electric jade eyes studied him, the elegant head resting on velveteen paws that seemed more suited to carpet. The rabbit’s wounds bled copiously, as he contemplated his situation.
The rabbit hole was a dead end, the tunnel a fruitless attempt at escape. Hard-packed earth on one end; thorns and cat on the other, a desperate last-chance bluff. The rabbit would lose if he stayed or fled.
“How much is your soul worth?” The Cat asked.
The rabbit looked at him, solemnly, not quite sure what he was asking.
“You can die from pride, holed up like a coward. Or, you can come to me and die an honorable death. I’ll get you in the long run, regardless of which you choose.”
The rabbit watched him carefully, pondering his choices. Who had ever truly thought of how much their soul was worth. He watched as the cat lay in front of the thorn bushes, winded from his chase.
“Will your soul bear the stain of my death?” The Rabbit asked.
“Not a stain, but a strengthening.” The Cat said. “I will gain from the essence of your body and spirit.”
“So,” said the Rabbit. “All will not be lost, part of me will live on in you.”
The cat’s eyes widened innocently, trying to draw out his victim. He started grooming his ears, time was his luxury now. The rabbit watched him, knowing if he waited too long he would bleed to death.
“Give me the chance to emerge, and I will lay down peacefully at your feet.” The Rabbit said.
“Of course.” Replied the Cat.
Slowly, the rabbit eased his way back through the long thorns, the warmth of the sunshine timidly falling onto his bloodied pelt. The cat watched, a sinister gleam in his eyes. He kept his word, he did not move while the rabbit struggled free of the thorns.
The rabbit crawled the final steps to lay himself down at the cat’s feet. His soft fur was matted with blood and dirt. The cat rose, stretching confidently, even if the rabbit tried to escape now, he was too injured to go far. The cat stretched, celebrating the easy victory, arching his back and unconcernedly rolling out the vertebra of his spine.
Suddenly, the rabbit lunged up at the cat. The cat was too startled with the direction of the rabbit’s flight to react with any comprehension of self-preservation. The rabbit’s teeth sank into the cat’s soft, unprotected throat, the rabbit’s powerful hind legs digging into the cat’s stomach. The claws finding purchase in the soft skin.
“My soul is worth more than you had to offer.” The Rabbit hissed, tearing into the tender skin between his teeth.
The cat struggled, trying to break free of the rabbit’s teeth, his life blood flowing quickly away. He was unable to break free of the terrible, crushing teeth, and his blood was mixing rapidly with his opponent’s.
They slowly approached death together, wrapped in each other’s embrace.
“It was worth it.” Whispered the Cat.
“Even though all was lost, and nothing gained?” Asked the Rabbit.
“Someone will gain.” Whispered the Cat.
They lay silent until death claimed them both. Neither became the victor. A magnificent crow happened by, his plumage shining in the sunlight and his strange golden eyes glowing in the afternoon haze. He noticed the two dead beasts, and thankfully accepted his next warm meal.
A sly smile filled the crow’s expression as he gulped down the barely dead flesh.
“It was worth it.” He croaked out into the still afternoon.
Their memories filled him, and true to the cat’s word, all was not lost.
** ** **
Somewhere in that space between asleep and awake we all must decide how much our soul is worth, and how much our dreams are worth versus the risk of obtaining them.
This was my first lesson in the Dream World. The last words spoken in the fable, were followed by a cruel talon slash that nearly opened my artery. Thankfully, my cries were quickly answered by my concerned mother who rushed to attend me and swiftly staunched the wound, though she was hard pressed to understand how I was wounded whilst being deeply asleep in my very own bed. I have never forgotten the crazed look of dominance in the Crow’s golden eyes. The power in my spirit called out to him, but in this instance, I escaped.
He would not gain power from me on this day, and yet I wondered, was I the rabbit or the cat?
It was the first lesson of a new Dream Hunter.
So, the story of the Dream Hunter starts. It has been fighting its way out for a while. I wrote this fable a while ago when the idea of this story first began in my dreams. It made its rounds in my writer’s group, and has now finally broken out. It is a copyrighted story. The image was so much fun to create, it is a composite of 7 images from my own library of photography. The boy is my middle son 16 years ago in St Petersburg, Florida. The crow a friend I photographed in San Francisco in Yosemite National Park. The back yard is in Florida, and the outhouse in Punta Gorda, Florida. The antique car is from a car show, the rocker is from another old family shot. The old Schwinn bicycle is from a museum in South Florida.
Rest well until our next time together,