Every peripheral and direct line of sight was consumed by what gods reign over Cold, Grey, and Empty. The voices of those whose company I thought were just so close seemed secondary to the dulling sound of silence.
“Breathe.” My Belahan’s warmth against me contrasted all else and his sense brought momentary clarity to decipher the group’s need to make haste before the mint candy spell elapsed.
They need me. Focus, Nekez. Focus. Close your eyes…
‘What is your purpose?’ Irakasle voice was low and cutting.
‘To fulfill the will of yours and His,’ I would recite.
‘What is your will?’ He spoke it more of a command than question.
‘Power.’ As quickly as the words came from my lips, a pain struck across my ear to my chin, followed by an angered growl, ‘FOCUS!’
Universes around me scattered and swirled as every sound ever made rang in unison to no sense, rhythm, or direction until a screeching halt. A third eye sees a pathway, suggesting access out to the brighter lights. A fourth eye sees a hallow, lone above a hilltop. My first and second eyes opened as, “Hallow” escaped quietly. Everyone turned in anticipation for more. "There is a Hallow, " more loudly, motioning to a direction. The aroma of rotting meat spoke up, “Hallows typically have doors to get back out of the hedge,” before herding the rope-tied group towards my notion. Belahan bit the rope as I took my place in the back.
What is my purpose? What is my will? Your voice is engrained, Irakasle. Power.. Yours.. His..
As we turned, childlike giggles bedeviled through the trees beckoning for Mary and Noah. Though words were inviting to play, it was a consensus that the intention was not as light if our companies met face. We set foot quickly, bounding over the blood-stained vines lifting from the trees. The roots came up from the ground as if reaching for us, each having a malicious intention of its own. Every paw step had to be carefully calculated. Belahan bound so seamlessly as I’m sure my efforts to keep up did not look as graceful. Bones and Dark Lady were having a much harder time and went down, both quickly being wrapped in red. By the time we had caught up with the fallen, the Dark Lady had wiggled free and Bones was chopping away at the last grasp of vine. The calls for Mary and Noah grew louder and the chill felt like spikes in the spine.
Heart beats bursted as lungs expanded as much as they could in life-threatened adrenaline to keep running. A hill in the distance teased mortal eyes and all I could do was hope with everything in me that the visions were not defected. With each step closer, I could see the memory more clearly until at last it was a reality. The lawn spanned around the log cabin and there was no grey lingering in sight.
Could this haven be genuine? Surely not.
Thirteen smooth stones paved a footpath to the front porch. Bones pressed forward, unlike the rest of the party. He only made it to the third stone before CLICK! and a collective gasp fell around the grounds. The spoiled sausage inspected the stonework before abuptly shoving the bag of bones aside. Flames flared out around the flat piece and the odor of gasoline filled the air but the grass and rest of the area remained unlit before dying down moments later. Small bits of smoke rose from the tips of Bones’ clothes and Spoiled Sausage’s blanket.
“Most hallow wards are meant to distract those trying to break in so those inside can escape. Not usually meant to harm,” warned Spoiled Sausage. Still, there was no need to test the rest of the pavements so the roped-brigade trailed along the grass around the last ten stones. Stopping at the base of the three steps up to the porch, the collaboration seemed to warily pause before putting weight on the first step. As quick as they stopped, the Spoiled Sausage leapt upward and over all steps, heavy-dropping to a land. His weight broke through he floorboards and jerked the rope, with its attachments, down with him.
THIS BAFOON! What was he thinking?! Broke though? No, you led us right into a trap! We are so far down and it’s all your fault!
I bellowed silently before hearing a loud CLUNK as the trap door closed and barred. A deep chuckle was sent down into our dark holding followed by heavy steps walking away. Bones took the opportunity to use Belahan as a steady anchor to rise up to the door. He spent some time working with his blade hand. The Deep Chuckle returned and deterred his work before chuckling and thud, thud, thudding, away. The bunch take a second try and Belahan launched Bones right through the trap door. I sat stunned for a moment, wondering if it was best to stay in the prison.
A rope dropped down and the Dark Lady climbed up first. Spoiled Sausage tied Belahan next, and me after before making his way up. They tried to burst through the door but it was already opened. It was a very simple cabin that made very clear that we were not presently alone. The group spread out into e small space. There was a lone bookshelf, bed, table, and chair. A still-smoking pipe lay waiting on the table. I knew the Deep Chuckle was still near. I sniffed at a pantry door and inside, found simplicity: barrels, burlaps of food, mason jars… and one tea cup.
It’s him. Grrrr…
The teacup shivered. The room’s attention quickly drew to my stare. I growled again. The teacup shivered once more before dusting into into slumped, large man, too large for the cabin, with eyes filled with pain.
What have I done?
“Hello, I’m Baugh.” He introduced himself and questioned our intentions. I spoke of the laughter and how our hopes were to stray away from it. Baugh looked as if he did not know if trust was warranted for the group. Bones had stolen a book in which Baugh seemed grateful to have back and granted Bones forgiveness, yet sorrow still lingered in the air. Bones seized the opportunity of silence to inquire if Baugh heard of the red witch and girl crying in the thyme of morning dew. Baugh replies, “I have. That’s why I’m here,” but leaves it at that.
There’s more. I feel it.
We gathered around a hand-drafted long scroll that possessed an unfinished map. As Baugh began explaining it’s imperfection, it still noted Thyme of morning dew but it’s location was far from where he drew his too-tiny hallow.
The Spoiled Sausage offered a hospitality gift and the herd paced out the back door out into a cornfield. Without warning, the gifter stuck hand in ground, and caused one huge corn plant to bear the most beautiful multicolored mosaic form of artwork. I was sure it was too perfectly painted to eat.
He has magic, too? What if they all do? Is power what they seek as well?
I sat questioning all that I had witnessed and learned in such a short time while the others turned inside. Bones and Baugh have a moment of understanding silence before soft spoken words of Elenora seeped with saddened air. As we walked back into the cabin, I watched the Spoiled Sausage and Dark Lady pass through the gentle glow of the fridge back to the world from before. Bones took pause to hug the large and sad man, “I know what its like to lose your family. I had a daughter as well.” Baugh took his embrace and said farewell.
My words were lost. I took one last look around at the gloom, slumped large man in his small cabin, with only his small furniture as company. My heart mysteriously ached.
Why do I feel pain for him? I owe him nothing.
My thoughts and my words collided in battle and before I could process, “I’m sorry..” came apologetically spilling from my tongue. Baugh nodded but the pain didn’t lessen.
Through the door, I stepped outside to breathe a familiar air. To process the journey so far is no small feat. My mind flashed back between each inhale and exhale. A bus screeched to a halt and the gaggle all climbed aboard. The bus driver played a light tune that quickly lulled and quieted my thoughts as the sea of trees over water darkened into slumber.