Kage Baker has actually been showing up in my dreams lately. This is an enormous relief to me, as I have a dreadful fear of forgetting what she sounds and looks like … of course, in dreams, quite odd things are assumed to be normal, and you can often find yourself taking some enormous anomaly for total granted. It’s only on waking you realize that Aunt Bessie was not, in fact, a badger.
I don’t think I am blurring Kage, though. She isn’t flying, or sporting extra limbs, or the wrong age. She looks just as she did – suddenly slender with that end-of-life boniness that -damn it! – looked good on her, in a Nepenthe T-shirt and a pirate hoodie, jeans and her snow-white boating loafers. Her hair is short, though, as it was there at the end: it makes her look more like the cold-eyed toddler with flaming curls that she was, in my favourite picture of her. It’s a portrait in oil, painted by Momma when Kage was 4 or so – she appears quite self-composed but rather disapproving; and I have thought for years it is just as much a portrait of baby Mendoza as it is of Kage.
The beautiful bonfire dress was painted from life, on a hanger; Kage was painted from a photograph, as she was as difficult to keep still at that age as a candle-flame in a wind. She remembered the photo session perfectly – seated on a box in a sunsuit and sandals in Mamma’s cold, stone-floored, semi-underground studio. She’d been given an apple to keep her occupied, which she eventually flung at the photographer’s head in frustration, and then bolted … one can imagine the poor man as Joseph, chasing her out into the garden.
That torch-shaped shadow at the bottom of the picture, by the way, is the top of Kage’s head at age 56, where she stood with her back to the sun in Anne’s backyard and took this picture. The baby curls in the portrait had been slightly subdued over the ensuring years into the long red braid of her adulthood; but as you can tell, the front of her hair persisted in standing up like flames.
I figured it was a symptom of her brain being on fire. We used to joke about flames showing in her eyes like lantern lights – I rather expected her to show up that way in my dreams, but no. She’s got the same black eyes she always had, slightly unfocused and yet sharp as blades at the same time. Lately, she’s usually hurrying me somewhere, impatiently assuring me that Yes she has the damned map, now get a move on, we’ve got 500 miles to cover, there’s not a moment to lose!
I’ve no idea where we are going in these dreams. I always hated that, when we were on a real charabanc; I really dislike not knowing where we’re headed. In the dreams lately, though, it really doesn’t worry me much; I am so delighted to see her, to be going anywhere at all with her. She’s quite frank about the fact that she is dead, but that doesn’t matter to me either – in fact, it is rather a comfort, as I keep telling myself the dream therefore must be real. Because in a fake dream, see, she’d still be alive. So if Kage admits she’s dead … well, you can see the dubious logic.
Maybe she wants me to write faster, or more. As it’s what I want too, I am trying to oblige. It’ll be useful even if that is not the eldritch purpose of the dreams. Because it could just as likely be my own unconscious, summoning up the perfect goad to keep me on the straight and narrow that Kage wanted me to be on. It could be perfectly normal brain static, a familiar pattern finally finding its way through the shell-shocked muteness of the last year.
And it could be Kage. I have no idea. The unknown, the unseen, the mystical and spiritual – these have never been my fortes. They were hers, though. And if anyone could find a way to give me a guiding kick in the ass from the Great Beyond, it would be Kage.
I’m just glad to be having the dreams. I’ll take all that come my way. Last night, we had stopped off at a RenFaire somewhere and were waiting for Kathy Jacob’s divine potato soup in Celt Camp … no way I’m gonna argue with that.