In my dream I am dancing barefoot across clouds. They are just the impression of a platform; my feet could fall through at any moment. The uncertainty leaves my stomach fluttering. I keep dancing, turning faster.
I’m wearing a light nightgown that twirls around my body. It opens up like a blooming flower. The gentle touch of the cloth feels like a kiss. White turtle doves fly around my head and are join me in dance. They start to sing a string of notes. It’s enchanting and light and easy to dance to. I outstretch my arms as I spin and the birds come to sit on my shoulders, my forearms, my hands, anywhere they can find a spot. Their feathers are soft and bones fragile. I keep dancing, turning faster.
The dance is becoming too fast, too dispersed. I want to hold onto the movements for as long as I can, but I feel my feet falter. The birds are no longer singing me sweet things. Now they sound like they are warning me, wanting to save me. Their dove eyes watch me with urgency and concern.
Before I know what’s happening my feet break through the veil and I rapidly descend. I try to grab hold of the platform but the mist escapes my hands. Talons clench tight around my arms, and I can hear the flutter of wings trying to help me stay in the heavens.
I lurch upright and grip the bed sheets tightly. Adrenaline rushes through my veins. For a second it still feels as if I’m falling, the feeling you get in the dark when you think there’s one more stair than there really is. It’s still dark outside, but I am not falling. ‘I am not falling,’ I try to tell my beating heart. My words are ultimately useless and my heart stays stubbornly suspended.
Outside my bedroom window I can see the tops of trees swaying against the dark blue sky. It’s not quite dawn yet. In the quiet stillness I focus on my breathing; respiring is an easy pattern to loose myself in. I'm wide awake now. There’s no way I could go back to sleep.
I let my legs swing out of bed and rise from the covers. There isn’t much I need to get me through the day: a folder for school, a book, and blank pages to fill. My eyes sweep across my bedroom to look for anything I could’ve missed. Petrified wood and rose quartz sit together on my desk. I slip the raw stones into my pocket and silently bid my bedroom good bye.
By this time the sun has started to rise. His first rays warm my chilled face. He paints the cool blue sky with golden flames. His canvas is framed by tall oak trees that permeate the air. I watch his work in progress as I walk out of town.
One foot in front of the other brings me to the forest’s edge. There’s an old stump here. I can tell it’s been around for a long time because there are too many rings to count. The bark is rough against my thighs, but I sit anyway.
Birds sing hidden somewhere in the trees. I try to look for them, but they can’t be found. Their melody sounds similar to that in my dream: plaintive, haunting and somewhat familiar. Last night wasn’t the first time I had dreamt it. I’ve known it before, in another life lost to time. Memories are shrouded in the veil of my subconscious and each time I hear those notes it jostles something. I try to pull the cloth away so I can remember but it always seems to get caught on something.
My arms wrap around my slim frame pulling my wooly cardigan closer against my body. I barely register the cold, but I appreciate the comforting weight of my own embrace. The birds are talkative today; I want to talk with them, so I pucker my lips and let out a whistle.
Silence is all I hear. Maybe I scared them off. The only movement I can see is wind in the trees. I keep looking anyway hoping to find the turtle doves. Something bright flashes in the lower right corner of my eye. It was much too big to be a dove, but when I turn my head it’s gone. I convince myself it was just the light dancing through leaves.
“Did you see it too?” The sound of another’s voice makes me jump. I could’ve sworn I was alone, but there’s a tall girl to my left casually propping herself up against a tree. Though she’s trying to come off as nonchalant, I can see the intensity in her big brown eyes as she waits for me to say answer. She stares at me like she already knows who I am. That couldn’t be possible, because I definitely would have remembered her.
“Well, I saw something,” the words leave my mouth,“I just don’t know what..”
“Why don’t you take another look?” The girl nods her head in grim respect towards the expanse of open forest. She seems wary. Something about the silence starts to sting.
Curiosity grabs ahold of me and I’m pliant in its grip. It guides me to where I last saw the flash. For a second, it still seems as if there isn’t anything there. I’m not sure what I was expecting. I start to feel hoodwinked; this girl must take me for a fool. Just as I start to turn my blushing face to say something to her, I see it.
The figure stands maybe 20 yards out on what could be loosely considered a path. It looks vaguely humanoid, but it sure isn’t pretty. It’s taut, leathery skin is the color of spoiled milk and fully exposed to the early light. It’s so big its bald head brushes the gnarled oak branches above. A wide grin splits its face revealing yellowed fangs jutting out every which way. The thought of spoiled milk returns to me as my stomach churns.
I can’t bear to look at it for much longer. “What on earth is that thing?” I turn to the girl.
“Doesn’t matter,” she says simply. She brings her arms upwards to collect her black hair in a ponytail. It curls like fire against her back. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” to my surprise she slides out a large knife with a jagged blade from a sheath behind her waist. Her leather jacket was baggy enough to have hidden it.
I’m much too curious to leave the situation well enough alone. “You don’t know me! Maybe I would believe you,” I protest. “You don’t know a thing about me..”
For a moment she regards me out of the side of her eye. “I know you’ve got some pretty rocks in your pocket,” She doesn’t wait for me to follow before she’s walking into the woods. “They’d be a great help if you felt generous.”
The petrified wood and rose quartz are heavy in my pocket. When I roll them in my palm I can feel the powerful energy they exude. However could she have known? If I follow her, I won’t be able to make it back in time for school. I’m not sure I really wanted to go anyway.
My feet travel after the strange girl. She can’t take on that monster alone.