Daughter of Light (rewrite) / Chapter 7
Posted January 21st, 2019 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
Plains of darkness stretch on for eternity.
No stars, no moon, just emptiness. It’s smooth to walk on, cold under my bare toes. I can’t see where it ends but when I turn around I also can’t see where it began. If it began. Like time it may be a line that stretches forever, forward and backward.
There’s no wind but also nothing tethering me to stay on the ground. I choose to because it is what I know—it is what is safe in a foreign land like this. My hair and clothes disagree—my brown locks flowing freely like seaweed dancing in the ocean, and my long white dress rippling like waves. And each time my feet touch the ground, the surface hums against my skin.
This is a land of darkness and cold.
A land where happiness is throttled and laughter dies.
Where I belong.
I know this is where I am supposed to be, what I was made to do. The song in my blood and bone tells me so, a melody singing to me of my true purpose. And though I understand its contents in my heart, my brain cannot wrap around it. Though my soul feels the truth of the song, the instructions—the words—fail to connect to my living brain.
My living brain.
This is a dream.
Eileen’s eyes shot open and squinted against the glaring light coming in through the leaves, everything bathed in a soft green glow. A few branches away, a bird sang from its nest, joining the chorus of its brothers and sisters throughout the forest. It was a miracle she hadn’t fallen off the branch she straddled during her slumber—a fall from this height would’ve broken both her legs, if not killed her.
She slid one leg around and readied herself to descend, but the movement spun her brain like a wheel, warping and waving her vision and balance. With both hands clenched around the wood, Eileen waited for her senses to settle. A vile queasiness tangled her gut. Even through the treetops, she had to squint for the glaring sun not to sting her eyes.
You’re okay, she told herself.
Little by little, with only a few breaks to catch her breath, Eileen dropped to the pine-strewn ground. Her shoes crunched against the twigs and moss, sending a nearby deer shooting through a thicket of greenery. Everywhere she looked, she saw traces of her dream lingering. In the shadows still clinging in deep hollows and beneath the blanket of leaves on the ground—the shadows that swarmed like flies around tree trunks.
Eileen halted, her breath catching as she mistook her drab garbs for a gauzy white gown.
She pressed her hands against her eyes and continued on. Not much farther until she reached the village. Loren would know what to do about this—she would be able to tell Eileen what her dream meant—why she felt as if the world were going to shoot out from under her like a rug.
She heard the gurgle of a stream rise and the birds singsong fade, and she knew she was home. All of the houses in the village swirled and blended into a whirlpool of charred wood and thatch. The stream that shot through the settlement spun around like a ribbon.
“Eileen!” Rosalyn’s voice screamed out of the ether.
“Saoirse help us, get her inside,” Loren said.
Eileen squirmed, stumbling forward into a pair of arms.
“She’s shivering like a leaf.”
“And sweating like a pig,” Serilda remarked. Eileen’s urge to claw at the Witch’s eyes exploded, but all she could do was groan. Loren’s grip tightened around her. Rosalyn helped lift her right shoulder, and together they helped her hobble back into the cool shadows.
The world drifted when Eileen laid horizontal, her mattress soft like moss on her back, and her pillow like a cloud built to hold up her head.
“Go to sleep,” Loren murmured, brushing her head. “Sleep.”
Eileen’s mind sailed away on a crystal blue sea.
“What the hell happened?” Loren said.
“She just walked out all angry,” Rosalyn said.
Eileen’s lips parted in an effort to defend herself but then everything shut down.
“Is she actually awake this time?”
Eileen’s eyes shot open and glared at the Witch with perfect posture and silky black hair sitting at the foot of her cot. She dragged her gaze upward, to her sister with bright red eyes standing over her.
“Yes,” Eileen answered. “She is.”
“Excellent.” Loren stepped out of the corner, her shawl wrapped around her broad shoulders. “Girls, please leave. I have to speak with Eileen alone.”
“Can this wait?” Rosalyn asked. “She should eat something.”
“In just a moment,” Loren said.
Serilda left without a word, but Rosalyn planted a kiss on Eileen’s forehead before slipping out the bedroom door.
Loren took the chair Rosalyn had occupied beside her.
“Eileen, yesterday morning you were muttering something about—”
Eileen shot up, throwing back her blankets. “Yesterday morning?”
Loren pursed her lips. “Yes, but—”
“How long have I been sleeping?” She sputtered.
Loren shrugged and laid her walking stick across her lap. “Twenty-six hours.”
“Wow,” Eileen breathed, sitting back.
“You were talking about a dream. You kept saying something about a dream.”
Eileen’s mind fluttered with a series of images—darkness and a white dress and cold and pain—and a piercing shot of darkness cut into her head. She gritted her teeth against the feeling, hoping the pressure would ease it.
“Are you okay, Eileen? Are you reliving it?”
She opened her blue eyes and glared at the old woman beside her, the woman who expected so much from her.
“I’m fine. Yes, I had a dream. It meant nothing.”
Any desire for Loren to explain the meaning behind her dream was squandered by her burning annoyance with the Elderwitch.
“Just tell me, Eileen. I might be able to help you.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. It meant nothing. I’m fine.”
“You couldn’t make it back home yesterday without help. You were far from fine.”
Eileen’s jaw tightened. She had no choice. Her bubbling curiosity won the fight against her stubbornness. “I was in a world where everything was dark. It was cold. I wore a white dress. But the scariest thing is that…it felt like home. More than any place ever has. I knew that I needed to be there.”
Loren chewed on her lip while she soaked in everything Eileen said.
“You’re sure this was a dream?” She asked.
Eileen furrowed her eyebrows. “Of course what else would it be?”
“Did it feel real? Like you were there?”
Eileen blinked. “Yes, but my dreams almost always feel like that.”
Loren leaned forward. “Dreams are gateways for our gods to communicate with us. That is what my grandmother taught my mother, and what my mother taught me. For most, dreams are simply an escape into a make believe world. But for you…for me,” Loren said, averting her gaze as if she was embarrassed by the fact. “Dreams are realer than that.”
“You’ve had dreams like mine?”
“I’ve had dreams that came true. Dreams where I had discussions with people, and when I saw them later in person, they remembered what we talked about. Dreams are more than just what you see while you’re sleeping, Eileen. They are windows. They are messages. They are worlds within worlds.”
Eileen shook her head. “So I was really there? That place actually exists?”
Loren said, “Possibly. But it could have been a warning. Of the troubles coming our way.”
“You mean the war,” Eileen said.
“I am not being your leader.”
“I wasn’t asking you to be.”
“But you did. You expected me to just step up and put on a brave face. I can’t stand up against armies and fight. I’m not trained.”
“You killed two men.”
Eileen fought back a laugh. “On accident!”
“Accident or not, you did it. You have potential to be more than you are.”
Eileen swung her legs off the side of the cot and stood. “I’m going to get something to eat.”
“Keep me informed on your dreams, Eileen,” Loren called out before her voice could get cut off by the slamming door.
“So what did she want to talk about?” Rosalyn asked at their kitchen table. Eileen chewed on a slice of salted deer jerky and shrugged.
Serilda lifted her cup of tea to her face, the steam curling around her eyes like smoke rising from burning red coals.
“It sounded like you were yelling,” Rosalyn said.
“It was nothing,” Eileen struggled to tame the edge in her voice. “She just wanted to talk to me about how I had felt yesterday.”
“And that couldn’t wait until after you ate?” Rosalyn asked.
Eileen groaned and set down the rest of her jerky. Why did her sister always have to question everything, always have to be such a little investigator? Couldn’t she just let things go?
“I told you,” Eileen said. “It was pointless. I don’t understand Loren anymore than you do.”
Serilda sighed. Both Eileen and Rosalyn turned to the third Witch sitting at their table.
“What were you muttering about yesterday?” She asked in a gentle tone that made Eileen want to cut off her own ears.
Eileen’s anger flared, but she kept it under control. “Nothing.”
Serilda looked down with her red eyes.
“What are you suggesting, Serilda?” Eileen asked.
“Nothing, it’s just that you kept talking about a dream and darkness and cold. None of it sounded very chipper.”
Eileen scoffed. “Did I seem very chipper when you three had to haul me back here? I didn’t think so. You see, Serilda, being chipper wasn’t really that high on my list of priorities.” She kicked back her seat and slammed the bedroom door behind her. In the kitchen, she could still hear her sister and Serilda’s muffled voices. They were probably talking about her.
Eileen didn’t care. She was done dealing with everyone. The overwhelming urge to take off for the forest roared in her body like a song calling her, the need to be surrounded by dirt and trees and wildlife.
But the fear crept in just behind that need—a darkness hiding behind it like a shadow behind an object. If she went into the forest, what if she got attacked again? What if the village was attacked while she was gone? What if she fell asleep and had another nightmare? Or…or whatever that had been…Loren’s speech about dreams being reality caused a pounding ache in Eileen’s skull. She had trouble wrapping her brain around the idea that what she’d experienced in her dream scape had been a real physical place—that she had actually visited there in her sleeping consciousness.
Instead of sneaking out the window and running to the woods like she would normally do, Eileen dropped onto her cot and buried her face in the pillow.
A city of glass, dripping with a downpour of crystalline black droplets, springs to life around me. Towering rooftops and buildings thirty and forty stories high—balconies and archways—parapets and catwalks. Everything that a beautiful city would look like, bathed in an inky, starless night.
I walk along the road, the bricks beneath my feet rough and grainy. Shops aren’t open yet—it’s too early for that.
But I’m not looking to buy anything.
I know where I’m going.
Flashes of a tall ebony throne cross my mind—a long white rug trailing along a black marble floor.
My gown spins on a phantom wind, swirling my hair like a vortex. The castle sits at the head of the magnificent city, its highest spire shooting up into a snow-capped point. From here, it’s a mountain of obsidian staring down at me—the most ominous villain I can ever imagine facing.
And its staring right at me.
Its gaze burns my insides, shooting through my veins and my heart. I can feel my blood turning to ash, my brain rotting inside my skull. A scream rips through my body. Being this close to the mountain—it’s too much for me to handle. I can’t help but claw at my own skin, peeling off layers and layers and—
Eileen shot up in a sweat-soaked, moon lit swirl of blankets.
It wasn’t real.
She broke from the comfort of her bed and padded across the cool floor, opening the creaking door into the main room. The cupboard squeaked as she searched it for a cup, and she half worried about waking Serilda up where she slept on a pallet of old quilts. Though not for the sake of the other Witch’s health, only because she would rather not have to speak with her at this hour of the night.
Once she found a cup to her liking, a ceramic mug made of hardened red and brown clay, she focused on the bottom. She allowed her abilities to awaken, the power vibrating through her veins, tingling her arms and legs and making her mind buzz with possibility. Though the small pool of water that rose close to the rim of the cup was not sufficient in easing her longing to release her power, it did dry her throat and clear her mind from her dream. The cold liquid trickled down her throat. She sighed as she drained the last of the cup, relinquishing the memories of her dream along with it.
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