Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | July 26, 2009

Cracked Dreams

near Sovetskaya, Kyrgyzstan. October 4, 2004.

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Part 8: Statues Along the Path

Part 9

The lightdeer saved my life, but Enid wasn’t so lucky. She wasn’t dead, but she was… different. She didn’t wake up for two days, and when she did, she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, talk. Kilton hovered beside her the whole time, stroking her hair or touching her fingers.

“They’re in looove,” Rolph whispered to me, but I couldn’t tease back. It was too sad. And that could have been me, all gray-faced and silent.

She must have seen the spider-thing, too. What if it was still inside her?

I didn’t dare ask anyone because Kilton would hate me for it and the rest would probably laugh. Wes would ask if the Tinderdeer told me so.

So the secret question burned inside me along with all the other stuff, until late in the evening of our fifth week, as we set up camp beside a majestic waterfall.

“Rune, come sit.” The Mother of Stones gestured to me from her tent.

I looked around to make sure prying eyes weren’t watching, then ducked inside. One lightstone flickered on a stand in the middle of the floor, casting long shadows across the brown fabric.

“Yes, Mother?” I half sat, half crouched near the door, thinking she probably just wanted me to get her something.

“Enid still refuses to speak of what she saw. What did you see?”

I realized then that the sound of the rushing waterfall so close by meant that no one else could possibly hear us talking. Relief flooded through me. Whenever I remembered that moment by the statue, I could feel the spider-darkness creeping through my ears and nose and it made me feel sick.

So I told Y’nessa everything I saw at the statue, and how I thought the spider might be inside Enid, now.

She nodded. “I have the same fears.”

“What can we do?” I asked.

“Let me tell you what I know of this thing you call a spider.” Y’nessa leans back against a sack stuffed with clothing, and I unfold my legs and stretching them out, ready to listen.

“Once, our people lived all across this land. Past the Long River, even on the slopes of the distant peaks.”

My eyes widened. I always thought all the people in the world lived in our city, and that’s where people had always lived.

“But then there came a sickness. It struck silently, and for weeks, the victim wouldn’t know she was ill. The only change was in her dreams, which became horrible nightmares. Often the victim wouldn’t remember them once awake, but those around her would hear screams at night.

“After a time, the victim simply wouldn’t wake up. She was trapped in her dreams, and they dreams, they say, were what killed her.”

“What does this have to do with the spider?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear any more about deadly nightmares.

“One of the most common dreams told by those who could remember was a vision of spidery cracks splitting the world apart and letting in darkness deeper than the night sky.”

“Oh.” That’s exactly how I felt at the statue! And when I first felt the spider-thing before we even left home! “Am I going to die?!”

Y’nessa reaches for my hand. “Everyone will die some day. But I hope you have many years still in front of you, Rune.

“See, if the illness took everyone, we would not be here today. But some were spared–they never had even one dream–and many seeked to fight the dreams. These tried many cures, and some proved as deadly as the illness itself. But there was one who succeeded. Olnessa.”

“The first Mother of Stones!” I shouted, a little too loud. But Y’nessa didn’t seem to mind.

“Yes. The cure she found was the stones. She picked them from the mouth of the Long River, one black, one yellow, one white, one red, one blue, one clear.”

“How did she know they were magic?”

“They weren’t magic. Olnessa made them so. She laid in a still pocket of the river with one stone on her forehead, one on each foot and hand, and the clear stone in the center of her chest. Those around her thought her crazy. They thought the illness would take her soon.

“But when she arose from the water, a light shone in her eyes that none had ever seen before. And with her stones, she could make things happen that none had ever seen.

“But here is the story never told to anyone but Mothers of Stones. Olnessa wasn’t cured. Every night, she still fought the dark spidery cracks inside of her. But with the stones anchoring her down, she couldn’t be pulled out of herself. She couldn’t lose the battle – and when she won, she took some of the spider’s power into herself. The power she could use to do magic.

“Olness gave the power of the stones to others. She told them the power was in the rocks and the chanted words. But in truth, the power was always in the spider-thing. But because of her nightly battles, no one else fell ill, and the small pocket of remaining people settled in our city, sure that the illness would never return.”

“Why are you telling me?” I managed to choke out. “I’m not a Mother of Stones.”

“No,” Y’nessa says. “But neither am I, child. Neither am I.”

“What?” The rush of the waterfall might as well be pounding directly on my head. I can’t think. Everything I ever knew is unraveling.

“It has been one month since I last fought the spider thing in my sleep. It no longer returns to me, which means the darkness is once more loose in the world.”

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  1. […] Part 8: Cracked Dreams […]


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