On the Edinburgh to Kings Cross I avidly read through Book 2 of Dune.
I follow Paul as he is tested by the Fremen, the mysterious tribe of the desert. He is challenged to a fight to the death, and despite having a vision of himself dying, is victorious – fulfilling yet another of the religious prophecies that foretell him as their saviour. Paul and his mother Lady Jessica are then taken to their new sietch – the underground collective of Fremen to whom they have banded.
Now, we have only heard about the sietches on the planet, and heard rumours about how many Fremen there actually are and so as I change trains, and a bunch of several dickhead children and parents alike hop on board, I scramble for my headphones and my iPod nano, because apparently I too have ancient customs, in the hopes that I have some appropriate music. Evidently I’d cleared off my frightfully perfect Clint Mansell scores and the only relatively instrumental music I find is Four Tet’s Randoms from 2016 – a compilation of odd tracks.
It begins electronic, clanky and thumping, giving enough noise to cancel out the tinny phone videos that are playing throughout the carriage. Good stuff.
The sietch! There are many thousands of people. At the heart of this meeting, Lady Jessica is partaking in a ceremony, the details of which remain unknown to her, and us. Only that it involves meeting the Fremen Reverend Mother, a wise and wispy mystic. We are told she hasn’t long to live. Lady Jessica is then presented a sackful of water and told to drink, she is hesitant but can’t stop it from happening. We are in Lady Jessica’s thoughts as time slows down.
At this point the track For These Times comes on in my ears. It is up tempo and industrial, not necessarily something I’d have chosen for this scene. But then the vocals fade in, simply repeating the word ‘Time’. Lady Jessica perceives that the water is drugged and is poisonous, but she feels the effect of the drug allowing her to perceive time much slower and is able to force her body to react to the water she is ingesting. The beat drops, the vocals persist: time, time, time. This is perfect, I am wearing a shit-eating grin and feel a contact high, a rush of psychedelic symbiosis.
Lady Jessica is not only protecting herself from the water, but taking in this psychoactive drug and experiencing many sensations. As the Reverend Mother touches her, they speak almost psychically, and begin to merge – Lady Jessica takes in all of this woman’s life experiences, and the Reverend Mother’s that proceeded her. These are ancient people, that have lived long before the Bene Gesserit, her own bloodline of witches.
Next song is Pockets, opening with an alien whining, a tractor beam that comes in waves, fading to digital twinkling notes and a repetitive beat that take me deeper in. Lady Jessica is not only protecting herself from the water, but making it safe for others to consume; through this ritual she is becoming Reverend Mother, but something is wrong. She is pregnant, and this stream of information is passing through her and her unborn daughter without protection. Those alien waves again. This unfiltered surge of information threatens to make Jessica’s unborn daughter insane and so she must do whatever she can to protect her – finding the best way is to send her thoughts and feelings of pure love.
The music stops suddenly and there is the sound of one voice. A young girl sings a phrase that repeats. Gradually other voices speak in the breaks as a subtle synthetic wave washes underneath. It sounds like call and response. A young girl repeats the words ‘I love you’.
Lady Jessica offers the water out to everyone so that they may share in its effect now that it is safe. Paul retreats with a young Fremen girl that he recognises from a dream. She shares in his visions as they make love.
Book 2 ends and I am left electrically charged. I look at the iPod to the name of the track: Gillie Amma I Love you. We arrive at the station and I practically float home. Once in, with all of our luggage, I rush to look up the song. It is in Tamil, and performed by the Light of Love Children’s Choir from Southeast India. And only just now as I write this did I Google translate the lyrics from Tamil:
Oh mother…mother…mother you are You are the embodiment of love Belong to the world like you No one
Some people think God talks to them through the synchronicity of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz.
Pretty sure he just licked my face.