The ear-piercing screech rent the air and, again, I tried to cover my ears but I couldn’t. I still couldn’t move my hand or any other part of my body but I could see, hear and smell with astounding clarity. And I could feel the heat as the soft breeze blew hot air in my direction from the blazing fire a short distance away from where I stood? Was tied? Lay? I wasn’t sure. From the position of the fire, I guessed I was standing. But I couldn’t look down to see the rest of my body. Neither could I feel any ropes binding me, preventing my movement. But I could feel the drops of perspiration coursing down practically every part of my body unhindered. Was I naked?
I still couldn’t understand the scenario unfolding before me. Nor could I remember how I exactly I had gotten here. Last I remember, I was…..I couldn’t remember where I was last. But I was quite sure there was no fire around…..or wasn’t there? I couldn’t remember anything at all. I was only aware of a vague consciousness of who I was and that I wasn’t where I should be. And that I was scared. Very scared.
Now something caught my eyes; something that all of a sudden appeared but seemed like it had been there all along and I had somehow failed to notice it. I was a person, dressed in pitch black robes, prancing around the fire wildly, almost maniacally and chanting something that chilled me to the bones, yet sounded strangely familiar. I guessed it was a woman from the wild hair that stood almost at end as she pranced around the fire, chanting in a guttural voice that reminded me of….yet again, I lost track of what I felt I knew but couldn’t remember. Had I lost my memory? Where was I? And who was she? And what was I doing here?
I tried to speak, but like the rest of my body, my lips failed to move. I couldn’t even feel their presence there, like I had suddenly become lipless. I could not even produce the faintest of whimpers or any other sounds of any kind. And the prancing woman seemed totally oblivious to my presence. Now and gain, she would raise her hands, still prancing and look skyward. Then drop them and hiss before continuing her chant. And the more she did this, the more terrified I became.
Suddenly, she stopped and stared into the fire intently, like something there had just caught her attention. I still couldn’t see her face clearly, in spite of the fact that she was at the opposite side of the fire from me and the light from the blazing fire should have illuminated her face. I wondered what she was staring at and looked from her face to the fire. It was still burning as brightly as before. But strangely enough, I couldn’t see anything different about it. Probably she was seeing what I wasn’t. I looked from the the fire back to her only to see her staring intently at me. I still couldn’t make out her face but those piercing eyes…….seemed to burn right through me and I looked away from them back to the fire, still confused and terrified.
The silence that reigned now was ominous and I wanted to hear a sound, any sound to assure me that I wasn’t alone with this woman. Even the crackle of the fire was gone, and all that was left was a chilling silence. From my peripheral vision, I could tell she still hadn’t moved since I last looked at her and I guessed she was still staring at me. I wasn’t sure what I felt now; fear or discomfort. I definitely was scared but i wasn’t feeling comfortable under her gaze. I tried to shut my eyes and….I couldn’t.
“The last of the stone eyed.” Her voice jarred me back to reality and, against my wish, I looked at her. Her voice was unlike her appearance. It was soft, more like a young girl’s than the ragged old woman that I saw before me. For a moment, I wasn’t sure if she was the one that had spoken. Then she spoke again;
“My greetings.” And with that, she curtsied, a slow curtsy that struck me more as mocking than respectful. I still didn’t understand. The last of the stone eyed? What was she talking about?
“You understand it all. You just don’t realize it yet. Don’t worry. I shall lead you.”
Lead me? What was this all about?
Suddenly, she stiffened and stopped focusing on me, like she was listening for something. After a few seconds like this, she looked back at me, deep into my eyes and as much as I wanted to look away, I couldn’t. And strangely, my fear suddenly disappeared, and I felt like I knew nothing bad would happen to me. She smiled.
“A part of you is now here. But I have to leave now. They’re coming.”
As she said this, the fire began to burn in a whirl and brighter and grew bigger till I began to fear I would get consumed by it. At this point, it was so bright I couldn’t see anything else, including the shaggy woman. Still I heard her clearly.
“Worry not. We shall meet again.”
The fire burned furiously and then, with a sudden blast of hot air, exploded. Then just as suddenly, it went out, plunging me into perfect darkness. then a voice whispered into my left ear.