Nemesis, NoBloPoMo, Stories...

Nemesis… Chapter 7 (Day 11)

“Or am I?,” I ask myself, sitting up at last to look around.  For I do not recognize this landscape at all.

I am sitting in tall grasses that fill an endless meadow ahead of me, the only spots of color, aside from gently waving greens, are small patches of wildflowers scattered about.  I see a patch of blue, a swath of yellow in the distance, small oases of white waving in the gentle breeze.  Behind me is a wall of darker greens and dense foliage, representing the forest from which I so recently escaped.  And far away, ahead of me, a small grove of trees, too distant to make out, but appearing for all the world like an island amid this ocean of swaying grass.

I stand, slowly, testing my body in this new place, but all appears to be well with me.  I brush off my clothes and skin, clearing it of small twigs and leaves, the detritus from the storm I just evaded.  And so it is, while looking down, I miss whatever it is that flies over me; the only indication that it happened at all being the dimming of the light around me as the shadow crossed my path.  I glance up quickly, of course, but there is nothing in the washed out sky above me to see…

I scan the horizon more thoroughly, shading my eyes, in case it is the light itself preventing me from seeing.  But there is nothing there…

“How odd,” I muse aloud…  “How can something cast a shadow if it has no form that I can see?”

But that is only one mystery before me, so I turn my thoughts to other things…

Like “where exactly am I now?” and “where do I go from here?”  Am I still dreaming?  Or is this someplace in between?  That surely must be where I need to start, as everything else will prove irrelevant if this is all a dream.

So, testing the theory that I must still be dreaming, I order myself to wake up…

And nothing happens.

“Hmm…,” I ponder to myself.  “Perhaps if I close my eyes to mimic sleep, I can open them into my own reality…?”

And so I close my eyes.  I breathe deeply of the scent-less air around me.  (“Scent-less?” I question myself.  But it is true, as there are no recognizable aromas coming to me; in fact I smell nothing whatsoever at all!)  I imagine myself in bed, adding this new knowledge to my conviction that I must still be asleep.  I feel the warmth of my blankets covering me, imagine the weight of my cat lying next to me.  I allow my mind to explore the physical limits of my body, starting with my core and spreading out to all of my extremities.  I notice how cold my fingers and toes feel, and realize I must have kicked off my blankets somewhat in the struggle of the preceding dream sequence.  I focus on the light beyond my closed eyes, asking myself if it is daylight, or rather the warm orange glow of the streetlight outside my bedroom window, as that will help me assess the time of day or night; the “whiteness” of the light assures me that the sun has risen in my own world…

“Am I late getting up for work?,” I ask myself urgently.  “Will my alarm be going off soon?”  There is little I hate more in the world than waking up late, and being rushed before work!  “No, it’s ok,” I reassure myself, “today is my day off.  I have plans for lunch today.”

“Good…,” I congratulate myself.  “You have placed yourself in time and space!  It is possible now to wake.”

Confidently, I open my eyes, sure that I will be back home in bed.  Instead I see the same field of waving greens, the same washed-out colorless sky, and nothing else…

“Hmm…  Not so good,” I say aloud.  I cannot help but laugh.  Not only is it rare for me to lose control of a dream once it is identified as such, but laughter is essential at delaying the panic threatening to rise from the seed of nervousness I feel.  I know from past experience that if I allow the fear to gain the upper hand, the lucidity of the dream will fade, and I will become very much trapped within it, until something else wakes me up.  And I have no time for such a nightmare to begin, if I am to fulfill my promise to Blackwing and the other wild beings.  I may not know yet how to solve the mystery of the open gate, but I am fairly certain that I must do so from my side of it. Which means I must wake up eventually…

Not sure how to proceed from here, as my best techniques have failed, I resort to examining the gifts received from Blackwing; if nothing else, such a distraction may help clear my head by allowing me to focus on something tangible instead.  I open my clenched left fist, and there are the three sacred objects: the fish scale/stone, the piece of bark, and the small acorn.  The acorn makes me sad for reasons I cannot explain, so I remove it from the pile, placing it in my pocket.  (“Oh, I have pockets?,” I think to myself.  “How convenient!” I cannot help chuckling a bit, realizing that this pocket no doubt created itself in response to my need for it.)

I reach out to touch the piece of bark, surprised to discover that it is slightly warm, though I cannot determine if it is because I have been holding it so tightly in my hand, or because it retains the warmth of the Mother herself.  I shift it to my right hand, close my eyes, and focus all of my attention upon it.  (Normally, I would place an object in my left hand to “receive” whatever impressions may arise from it, but for some reason, I feel a need to examine it with my right, instead.)  “Ahh, yessss,” I whisper softly to myself, for I can feel a subtle pulsing in the bark; the Mother’s energy flows within this piece of her.  I am awed and humbled to realize that she has given me a living piece of herself, rather than something already cast off.  I feel loved, and secure, and safe with the energy of the Mother flowing through me…

Sighing, I turn my attention to the scale still in my left hand.  This gift is the greatest mystery to me because I have never seen its like before.  It feels like smooth stone, iridescent and opaque, milky white and silver colored, flashing a soft rainbow of colors across its surface.  And yet it is not a stone like any other I have known.  It seems to blend the properties of opalite, rainbow moonstone and labradorite, and yet it is not any of them.  It is neither warm nor cold, in spite of having been held so tightly in my palm.  And were I to describe its “personality,” I might be tempted to use the word aloof; not arrogant or condescending, but rather supremely confident in its detachment.

“And what am I supposed to do with you?,” I ask the stone, not really expecting any answer.  I know that Salmon is the Keeper of Wisdom in Celtic myths, from which most of my Fey encounters draw their symbolism.  He is also the traditional patron of bards and scholars, making him a modern day patron of writers, musicians, poets, academics, and entertainers of all sorts.  “So why did the Mother include you in my gift pack today?”…

As if in answer, a flash of light and color slides across the stone, catching my eye.  For a split second, the light reflects out into this dreamscape, like a machine projecting a laser or holographic image.  I jerk my head back, startled, but the light is gone…  I turn to look in the direction the beam had travelled, and for a moment…  “Am I imagining that?,” I ask myself, then laugh at the absurdity of such a question in the midst of a dream.  “Well yes, of course I am, but why?  And more importantly, what is it I am imagining?”

For somewhere in the distance (which is impossible to measure in the endless space), I see a hazy shape appearing on the horizon, somewhere near to that lone island of trees.  It is much too far away to make out any details, but it appears solid enough.  And maybe, just maybe, I sense movement around that structure…

“Ok, then,” I say aloud.  “I guess that is where we must go, since it is the only thing that remotely resembles a goal in this place!”

Laughing, happy now that I have some vague beginning of a plan, I place the stone in another pocket, and begin the long walk toward that distant shape…

Later, it might occur to me that in a dream like this I could have merely sharpened my vision like an eagle to better examine the mystery.  Or maybe I might have simply “blinked” myself there.  But neither of these thoughts occur to me as the dream slowly begins to manifest its own rugged reality, becoming more solid and less malleable with every step I take…

   ***     *****     ***

Walking across the endless plain is easy; there are no ruts to trip me up, or distractions to amuse me.  No animals appear, no birds, not even any insects to annoy me.  The lit but sunless sky provides plenty of illumination, so I can clearly see where to place each step, and still avoid that primal fear that comes with impending dark in a strange place.  I am neither warm nor cold, in spite of walking, and I am clearly making progress, measured by the slightly changing landmarks of wildflowers and the rapidly receding forest behind me.  I feel neither thirst nor hunger, which intrigues me, as one or both might typically arise when I am bored like this.  And yes, I am most definitely bored…

The sameness of the landscape, the lack of interaction with other beings, the numbness that follows such an adventure as I had in the forest, have all combined to leave me feeling empty inside.  And that emptiness is clearly reflected all around me…

“It’s weird,” I say out loud, trying to entertain myself.  “It’s almost like I don’t even have a body here.  I literally feel nothing!”

I think back over my life, trying to recall if I have ever felt this way before.  Part of me cannot help but question the wisdom of daydreaming at this time, since I clearly cannot afford to be distracted from my task, but the monotony of the journey, and the lack of danger, reassure me that no harm can come of such mental meandering.  Besides, I have to do something to pass the time here…

“Speaking of which,” I voice aloud, “where exactly is here?”  For that is a question worth answering, I think.  If nothing else, it may well become critical to figuring out how to get out.  I look around with renewed interest, seeking something, anything, that will give me a clue, but there is nothing new to see here…  Bored once more, I slip back into reminiscing…

“Have I ever felt this way before?,” I ask again.  “Does this experience even remind me of anything I might have experienced before?”  I search through memories in my mind, picking each one up, glancing briefly at it, then tossing it aside if it does not meet my needs.  I envision myself sorting through an attic of old musty things, looking for something that intrigues me.  But my search appears to be fruitless, for nothing I come across seems to relate to this…

“An entirely new experience?!,” I wonder to myself.  “That, in itself, is an exceedingly odd thing!”  For there are times these days, as I grow older, when I feel as if nothing I encounter is truly “new.”  Rather, the events of my real life seem to be no more than variations on a theme, repeats or re-visits of old and tired patterns.  The new-ness of this place appeals to me, for it makes me feel young again, and strong, and eager to learn in a way I haven’t felt in so very, very long…

Acknowledging this, my mind steps back, looking for something familiar to grasp, for all new knowledge comes from finding a way to build upon the past.  So I step back in time, to my most recent experiences, those that led me to this place: the Enchanted Forest, and the Fey who live there…

***     *****     ***

(to be continued)

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