I have no headphones on. No music is playing in the background. The room is silent, yet I hear drumming. I recognize the drum beats to be from one of the New Age albums I had been listening to lately, loosely based on Native American songs. Content to let the drumming continue on from memory, I relax into it, floating in that pleasant, drifting way.
The drumming becomes louder, increasing to impossible levels that surround me completely and makes me wince from the volume. It seems to come from all directions at once. It reaches a peak, then recedes in intensity and source until it is coming from directly in front of me at a moderate volume.
I realize I am dreaming. Where I should be snuggled under the covers of my bed, instead I am standing in a dirt field. Looking at the source of the drumming, I see woman sitting on the ground facing away from me. A dark brown shawl is draped over her shoulders and back. A strange headdress, looking like a bundle of loose cords haphazardly arranged covers her head and neck. Because she is looking directly ahead, I can’t see her face from where I currently stand.
Yet somehow, I see through her body, and see the drum she is using. A wide drum, with an unintelligible symbol in the center of the drum face, is laying across the length of her left arm. She is using a crooked stick in her right hand to beat on it.
She is at once very familiar, and yet a complete stranger.
The woman is beating out the rhythms to the album I had played earlier. She continues relentlessly, tirelessly, without any mistakes. The rhythms drive into my mind, holding me fast and buckling my will.
I feel the beginnings of disassociation take hold. I know that unless something changes soon, I’m going to be sent to other worlds.
The woman is deepening in her trance. The drumming is louder as her body sways to the enthralling sound.
“No.!” I cry out, but don’t hear my voice. “I didn’t want this! I don’t want to go!” The woman pitches her head back and cries out. Her voice is shrill, much like the cry of an eagle or hawk. I feel myself scrambling to remember the principles of grounding. Even as I know, it is already too late. The woman’s cry has grabbed me. The sound grabs me, pulls me harshly from my body, and hurls me into other worlds.
The very sound of her cry cleaves me. Part of me is caught by the sound and encapsulated. And as I tumble, I am overwhelmed by the loudness of light. Images, colors, and movements that make no sense assail me. But I know, on a level I can’t express, I understood it all.
The rest of my awareness is transported by the woman’s cry to a world that resembled the physical, the top of a steep mountain. I land roughly on the sharp rocks, cutting and bruising my arms. The air is clear, with a few clouds, and it is very cold.
Three white ravens have watched my graceless landing with aloof amusement. One flies down from a nearby pine, taking on a human appearance as it lands behind me.
“So, you want to be a ‘shaman’, eh?” He mocks me with his question. “Get your ass off this mountain, and you might learn something!” He laughs at me, takes on his bird form and flies back up into the pine trees.
I forget this is a dream, and yelled after him, “I can’t fly! I have no wings! And the face is too steep, I’ll fall and the rocks will break me! How the hell am I supposed to get down?”
The white raven flies over my head, circling. “Perhaps you need to learn to adapt. Look around you, see who can get down, and follow them.” He flies off, out of sight.
I look around the remote mountain top. But all I see is thin pine trees and more sharp rocks. Sometimes, my vision is interrupted by flashes of light that spill over from the other concurrent vision. The other birds are watching me, perched out of reach on high rocks or tall trees. I can tell my predicament is greatly amusing them.
I hear a grunt, and turn to see a bear ambling towards me. Forgetting all warning about being wary of who I meet in dream worlds, I run towards the bear and kneel before it.
“Great Bear Spirit, please teach me how to take on the shape of the bear.” The white ravens explode into peals of raucous laughter. I look up, just in time to see the bear rearing up over me. It descends onto my form with its entire weight. The claws tearing at my flesh, the great jaws clamping around my face.
The bear’s breath is rank and humid in my nose as it slobbers on my head. I hear a sickening crunch, followed by a piercing pain. I gurgle as the bear rips off my face in one quick bite.
A flash of darkness, then I am standing behind the drumming woman again. Trembling at the fading sensation of the bear’s teeth ripping through my face. Both parts of me are together again. I look down at her, but she still faces away from me. The drum is silent in her lap. The crooked stick threatens to slip from her open fingers.
Even though she faces away from me, I know her eyes are open. And I know, she is still in trance.
The sound of harsh breathing is rasping at my ear. But the woman is sitting very still. I suddenly realize my mouth is dry. Focusing on that awareness, I force myself to feel the physical world.
My eyes are open, with tears running from them. My arms are flailed out to the side, hands gnarled into tight fists. My face is in a painful grimace as my teeth are tightly clenched. My spine is arched as if I was in great pain. I probably was, but could not sense it in the depths of the dream.
I tried to shift more than just my awareness into the physical world. I tried to will a movement, knowing instinctively that if I could, then I would be free of the woman’s hold.
I pour all my awareness into the physical world. I start to feel the touch of the sheets, the whisper of air. I am almost able to move.
The woman sighs. And a sense of fatigue washes over me. She closes her eyes and picks up the drum and stick. Humming very low notes, she begins to beat a new rhythm on the drum. One I have never heard before, not from any commercial album, nor from personal drumming.
The sense of the physical world fades. There is only the brown cloaked woman, and her incessant drum.
The disassociative sense of other worlds becomes very strong again. She now takes several deep breaths. Each in time with the rhythm she is playing. Each exhale is a heavy weight on my, pulling me downwards, threatening to pull me into the ground.
Just when I think I could stand no more of the power over me, she moans out a long drawn-out sigh. The utterance grabs me, pulls me into the ground, and into a world of darkness, shadows, and eternal night.
Unlike the first cry, where my awareness was split, all of me descended whole into the darkness. Like the first cry, there were images, sounds, and movements that made no conscious sense, but was understood on a deep level in my soul.
Darker and darker were the images, until all was black and without form. I felt as if dead, and accepted that perhaps, I was. I become part of the nothing around me. Losing even awareness of individual self, I cease to exist.
I am standing behind the drumming woman. She sits on the ground, facing away from me. Our bodies are gently swaying to the rhythm she is playing. I am no longer afraid of her, nor of her power over me. I have a deep sense of understanding.
I recognize the rhythm she is playing. It is the ending pattern to a song on the commercial album I heard previously. I know that soon, she will allow me to return to the physical world.
The rhythm ends, and I fall into a deep sleep.
I wake up fully in my bed, absolutely pissed and agitated. The fullness of the dream fills me with contradictions. Now even more exhausted than when I first went to bed, I toss and turn the rest of the night.