November 2003

The title of my dream was "The Gift of the Magi," and I was aware of it. I approached the tiny park - really just a yard - to see how the story would unfold. My friend and his girlfriend hurried from the yard. Over his shoulder he asked if I would find his wand for him. He'd stepped on it and broken it by accident - which is why they'd been forced to flee - and I could hear him apologizing to his girlfriend even as I looked around for it. In fact I didn't know what I was looking for, and asked him for guidance. He remained out of sight, but called to me, "It has a white tip! Look for a long broken stick with a white tip!"

I could see it in my mind's eye, but found nothing that matched the description. The grass in the yard was brown - either because of the season or because it had been constantly trampled - and large green and red succulent bushes bordered the area. I got down on my hands and knees for a better look, peering between each shrub, but found nothing but lizards. The reptiles were quite numerous in fact, and aggressive as well. I watched one change color as he made a feint at my hand, but I pulled back in time. Other lizards were smaller, and easy to spot now, in spite of their adaptive camouflage.

It got me thinking about the nature of camouflage however, and I began to wonder if the reason for the wand's disappearance might actually have something to do with willful concealment rather than plain bad luck. Specifically, I saw the bush in front of me move - its reddish seaweed-like polyps shifting just slightly - though there wasn't even the faintest breeze. There was a voiceover describing the situation: "I watched the plant and knew that it was not what it seemed to be. Its stillness masked a conscious effort to remain still." I considered my strategy, and decided to head home for the day. I would return tomorrow.

At home I did some research into mimics, and found that a lot of work had been done recently to create an artificial lifeform with the ability to mimic by a Polish scientist. Unfortunately he had recently contracted brain cancer, and was forced to hurry to complete his work. There were photos of the lesions in his brain, as well as the creatures he's been working to perfect. And I noticed they looked curiously similar: spongy pink translucent lobes trailed by feathery tentacles, and twin points issuing pinkish-orange light from within each hemisphere. These latter were like eyes, though not in any traditional sense. But there was nothing traditional about the Polish scientist's studies. These creatures had a kind of malevolent intelligence, and it was no mere coincidence that they bore some faint resemblance to the shrub in the park. I couldn't wait to return tomorrow, when I would proceed to extract the wand from its captor, and thence realize the reward of this story: a gift from the magi.