The Dream Archipelago Week 3: Whores

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SUMMARY

  • A Glaundian officer is recovering from mental disorders caused by the lingering effects of synaesthetic gasses. He is well enough to be discharged from the hospital, but still has 60 days leave and he wants to recuperate by travelling.
  • Several islands are suggested to him, but he settles on going to Winho - the home island of a nurse that had cared for him, named Slenje. Before becoming a nurse, she had been a prostitute on Winho.
  • He travels to Winho, a place we first encountered in The Islanders, where we were told it was known as 'the island of whores'.
  • He makes some inquiries into his friend and learns from the locals that she is dead. This seems to be corroborated by everyone.
  • Some other facts about the island are revealed: It had been occupied by Faiand, but 'liberated' by Glaund. The Faiandlanders had performed some kind of experimentation here.
  • Our lead character is warned that if he is looking for paid sex, he should stick to the garrison women, and avoid the locals, for they have been 'infiltrated' and are 'off limits'.
  • Nevertheless, his search for Slenje leads him to some other local sex workers, one of whom offer him a night for 'fifty'. Her name is Elva.
  • He follows Elva with trepidation. She takes him to an apartment. She has clearly been abused - her legs don't function well, and her teeth have been filed to sharp points. He feels he has made a mistake.
  • In the apartment, she attends to a restless baby in another room for a time. He notes her tenderness, then tells her she can keep the money and he will leave. She convinces him to stay, though, explaining that she needs to work for her keep, and that of the baby. They have sex.
  • The baby stirs again, and she checks on him, but he's fine. As the officer once again makes to leave, she again asks him to stay, saying that this time it is for her benefit. She kisses him over his body and performs oral sex.
  • Once again, he offers her more money, and she refuses. She seems to like him, and asks him to stay, but when he refuses, her manner turns business-like again.
  • He asks her about the boy, and she tells him the boy's father is her husband. Her husband is missing, however - having been taken as a male prostitute for a Faiand all-female regiment.
  • The next morning he decides to leave. He experiences synaesthetic effects, but they seem to pass. Sores start to develop on his body, and blood weeps from these, and from his mouth and genitals - everywhere she kissed him. As he reaches into his shirt pocket for coins, a baby's hand grips his. He struggles to get it off, then throws it on the ground. It continues to come after him like a spider, so he stomps on it repeatedly.
  • He travels on the boat to Salay, sometimes in agony. He dreams of Elva and her sharp-toothed mouth, but wakes with the sheets covered in blood from his weeping sores.

DISCUSSON/COMMENTS

  • I don't think I'm going out on a limb to say that this story made you feel uncomfortable. Was the experience positive, negative? Why?
  • Some 'facts' of this island seem different than what we had previously learned, but did anything actually contradict what we learned during our previous encounter with this island?
  • Has Faiand turned the local sex workers into biological weapons, or is it all in his head?
  • If you had the job of compiling a collection of tales from The Dream Archipelago, would you include this one?

Comments

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    Uncomfortable, disturbing... yes, for sure. But oddly fascinating, largely because of the incorporation of synaesthesia. We learn considerably more about the weaponry deployed - hallucinogenic grenades and neural dissociation gasses, for example, and the main character's synaesthetic suffering seems comparatively common. I guess you could say that this is the Nightmare side of the Dream Archipelago? (As I wrote that, CS Lewis's comment in Dawn Treader came back to me, where the ship sails accidentally into a region where dreams come true... but actual dreams, not daydreams, and the crew turn to flee in terror).

    I think in the last analysis we don't know how much is in his head and how much is real, but if he is typical of the soldiery of both sides then the war is taking a very heavy toll. I ended up not even sure if Slenje was real or a figment of his imagination.

    Returning to your questions, I don't think there was anything specifically contradictory in this short story as compared to the original travelogue, but then I haven't gone back to check. In terms of authorship, it seems he wrote Dream Archipelago before Islanders so we should probably assume that any apparent divergences are deliberate.

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    Another story from 1978. To me, that context is important.

    To me, this isn't a story about sex, it's a story about war and its after-effects. Violence was inflicted on Winho and the effects contineu, the damage increasing over time. Violence was inflicted on the officer and the effects continue, the damage increasing over time.

    Yes, that violence is connected to gender and sex. But I think the point is the violence and the harm. The sex is just the vehicle for imposing harm. Were the women (or maybe just Elva) "turned into" weapons? Maybe, but not intentionally. I read it as being violence breeding violence.

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    Cool creepy horror story! Loved the baby's arm (Holding an apple?) in his pocket! Very enjoyable nonsense!

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