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Old 04-15-2008, 04:57 AM   #1
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Earth, Sky, Fire and Rain - Chapter 27 (15/4/08)

Regardless of Lisa's hopes (and possibly yours), this is nowhere near over yet.

Disclaimer: Nothing but an overly-elaborate and thoroughly fictional excersise of an overactive imagination. Lyrics quoted are obviously not mine.



end of chapter 26:
--------

"Well, thanks for letting me know," I said. Yeah, thanks for undermining my grip on reality again. Bloody hell, he actually found it. Or else he's making it all up. Argh. "Sorry, what was that?"

"I said, You're welcome."

"Right, well, I'd better go. Oh, by the way, tell your anonymous friend to back off, will you? He seems to think... well, all sorts of things. Warned me off you and everything."

"... Is that so? Someone called you? Who – no, never mind. Bloody... I must have left your card lying around. I'm sorry, I'll talk to them."

"Okay then. Goodbye." I had the faint hope that this would be the end of it – no more emails, no more phone calls. No more dreams.

I was still staring into space when Glen walked in. He was grumpy about having to stay late at work, so I put the conversation out of my mind.



-----------
Chapter 27:
-----------

Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities



A large fire crackled in the centre of the circle, shooting sparks and radiating heat into the night. Shadows loomed and were pushed back again, dancing around us all as we worked at lowering the latest stone into its hole. Ewain had got his way, and it seemed that everyone in the village had taken a hand in raising the stones. Even, or especially, me. Ewain was behind me, and we were putting all of our weight into pulling on a rope, keeping the stone stable as another team guided its descent.

"Steady!" he was calling. "Take up the slack, Trav! You two, get behind him and pull..."

Between the fire and the physical effort, sweat covered me. My arms burned from the exertion, and the fire's heat on my back felt oppressive.

Something went wrong. Suddenly the weight on our rope doubled, and we were pulled forward. Shouts of warning went up, another rope snapped, and the stone began to topple.

"Raele!" someone screamed.

There was a confusion of falling, and a series of horribly familiar sounds. Raele loosed a bubbling shriek of agony as the stone crashed down, which was cut mercifully short. I picked myself up and went to her, but there was nothing to do. Keening began behind me. I felt Ewain standing at my back. A babble of voices, horrified, shocked.

I was struck dumb, numbed by witnessing another death in this place. More than the grief of losing someone, it felt wrong. It was rare for a life to be given to a sacred place, but when it happened, it should be done deliberately, with proper ceremony. This was all wrong.

Amidst the chaos, under the shouting voices that had risen to mingle with the keening, I put my hand to the earth, and tried to feel something... I wasn't expecting to hear or see the spirits – most Ritemasters needed the spirit mushrooms for that, and I was no different. But I hoped for a sense of things... whether this had affected them... I tried to shut out the clamouring voices, my own horror, the nightmarish light from the fire, and focus my attention earthwards.

At first, nothing. Whether it was a real emptiness, or just nothing, I didn't know. A sense of confusion and wrongness, but that might have been my own feelings reflected. And just for an instant, a hunger... something that didn't feel like Earth. Then I was assaulted, pain and shock, much stronger confusion... I pulled my hand away. It was dark and sticky with Raele's blood, which had soaked into the ground under my hand.
I realised that everyone had fallen silent, and was staring at me. I looked at my bloody hand, at the villagers, and at Ewain. He was staring at me intently, clearly trying to convey some sort of message, but I hadn't heard anything he'd been saying. I knew, without his reminding, that I could not afford to give vent to my feelings in public. I slowly stood.

"We must move this stone off her, and prepare her body," I said, wrapping false calmness around the icy core of my shock. "She will return to the Earth near Ortral. Her spirit was strong." I looked again at the blood on my hand, which had spoken to me of Raele's last moments. Was that what Moryn's blood had given to the Fire stone? Did the stone still hold that shock and pain?

A shock of cold water on my face, and a different darkness greeted my eyes, broken only by Glen's shadowy form leaning over me. Fear was on his face, and an empty glass in his hand.

"I couldn't wake you," he said.

I was still shaking from the force of the dream, and I realised the covers had been kicked and flung off the bed. Only now did I recognise the source of those previously unremembered nightmares – the fire's heat, the crashing stone, the screams of pain and loss.

I covered my face with my hands, and took a series of deep, ragged breaths.

"Are you okay?"

"I'll be fine, thank you," I said automatically. I could almost hear the frown on Glen's face.

"You don't sound fine, and you don't look it either. What happened, love?"

"It was just a dream," I replied, voice still muffled by my hands. I almost laughed at the hollowness of the words. Then I pulled my hands away, afraid of seeing blood... but they were clean.

"Lise, please tell me. It might help..."

"How? What's the point?" I sat up, fumbling for the covers, and my own glass of water on the bedside table. "If I tell you I just saw another villager crushed to death by a falling stone, what good will it do? How will it help to share Mag's misgivings about all the blood that's been spilled in the circle, a place that should be sacred to Earth and life? What about Ewain getting so agitated about finishing the circle, and pushing the whole village to work faster? What about that hunger Mag felt in the earth? The blood of that poor woman – she was hardly more than a girl – crying out to her?" I stopped before my throat closed entirely, and took another sip of water. My hands were shaking so much I nearly spilled it. Glen reached across to rub my back, but I just sat there, staring into the dark. Trying to distance myself from what I'd just dreamed.

"This is where those nightmares were coming from," I added. Glen nodded. The concern on his face was still far too close to fear.

"Lisa, you can't keep going on like this. It's wearing you down, you have to do something."

"Like what?"

"Well, there are—"

The phone rang. We had an extension of the line in our room. My heart stopped for just a second.

"What the hell...?" Glen reached for it, but I caught his hand.

"Don't."

"Why? At this hour, it could be an emergency..."

"I just..." I trailed off. How could I say that I was sure it was Ed, and not some sort of family crisis? It was nearly 4am. Why would anyone call at 4am without a very good reason?

The phone rang out while Glen was searching my face. I think he realised what I was thinking.

"It can't be him again, love, don't worry about it. You're just rattled... And if it his him, we'll get the number changed. I know it's a pain, but..."

The phone started ringing again. Glen went to pick it up, gently removing my hand from his arm.

"Hello?"

I held my breath. Glen was turned away from me, so I couldn't see his face. I did see his shoulders tense, however.

"I believe you've got the wrong number, sir," he said in a cold voice. Then: "... And you must be Ed. No, she's not here." There was a pause. "You listen to me, mister. I do not 'have' to tell her anything. I especially do not have to help you perpetuate this delusion that you've cooked up. ... No, stop. I'm not interested, and neither is she. Furthermore, if we hear from you again, I will have absolutely no compunction about getting the police involved. We're changing the number anyway. Do you understand me?"

I could hear an agitated voice from the other end of the line. I pulled the duvet further over me.

"No, I think I DO understand, perfectly well. This is nothing short of harassment, and she's in a bad enough state as it is. ... Yes, it is your fault! Whether you believe your own delusion or not, I don't care. But this will stop."

Glen slammed the phone down, and turned to face me. He was furious. "The nerve of that bastard... Who the hell does he think he is? I could have sworn I heard his wife in the background too. Is she American?"

"I think so," I said absently. "He must have dreamed it too." That stopped Glen in his tracks, and when he saw I was serious, the fear came back into his face.

"Love, you know that's impossible," he said gently.

I looked at him with red, haunted eyes. "How else did he know, Glen? What did he say? What did he want you to tell me?"

"I told him I wouldn't help him carry this nonsense on, and I meant it. It was just a co-incidence that he rang then – if you've been having these dreams so often, it wouldn't have mattered when he called, would it?"

"Did he say that Raele was killed? Did he mention that?" I saw from the look on his face that I'd struck home, but he refused to budge.

"No, this has to stop. I know it sounds extreme, but perhaps we should get a bug-detector or something..."

"I already did that," I said wearily. Glen stared at me. "There was nothing here, no bugs or hidden cameras. I even went to a doctor and got tested for hallucinogenic drugs, but I was clean. Clean, Glen; no one's been putting things in my food, no one's been spying on me. Tell me, how could he have known?" Months of my own anxiety and frustration came through in my voice.

"Maybe you missed something... or..." Glen's voice trailed away, and some of his own apprehension showed on his face.

"Or?"

"I have to say this," he began. "You're not going to like it, but it has to be said. There is an explanation we've both been avoiding..." He swallowed, looked me in the face, then glanced away. "Have you ever considered that... just maybe... it really is all in your head? You might need real help, love..."

Now I stared at Glen.

And I remembered one of Ed's emails. 'I need to know that I'm not going completely insane'... Another fraction of my world tilted off-centre.

"You think I've actually gone mad."

I knew Glen didn't believe me, but this felt worse. It felt like betrayal, a stab in the heart. And the worst of it was, I never HAD considered that possibility, not seriously. Wasn't it one of those things – if you think you're mad, then you know you're not? It had never entered my mind that I was really delusional, that I needed professional help. Did that mean that I really had lost my grip on reality?

But I was considering it now. Resisting it with every instinct, but forcing myself to think about it nonetheless. Mental illness has such a stigma about it... for a second I had the dizzying sensation of being prejudiced against myself. I shook it off, dismayed. I knew better than that... but it was never something I'd expected to think about for myself. I supposed that no one ever did expect it, but it happened anyway. I was not immune, no more so than I was to con-artists or any other random misfortune that could befall anyone.

If Ed had gone completely insane, he had company.

But even that didn't explain everything – for a start, I was sure Ed had mentioned Raele's name to Glen just now. It threw everything else into doubt again, though. If I couldn't even trust any of my own perceptions... Perhaps I'd invented every encounter with Ed, every strange and inexplicable reaction. Even the emails? Would I show those to Glen, just to see if they were really there? Had I been editing my memories retrospectively, without even realising it?

I almost preferred the supernatural explanation. But mental illness was a documented reality, and sharing dreams was not.

Unless things like that really did happen, but society had labelled them as mental illnesses and thrown pills and psychology at them, forcing the sufferers back into the accepted shape of 'sanity'. Or locking them up when they wouldn't, or couldn't assume that shape.

No, no no no. That was how a crazy person would think. I was not a crazy person... or I didn't want to be.

Glen touched my arm, and I started violently. I'd sunk so deep into introspection that I hadn't heard anything he'd said.

"Geez..."

"Sorry. Look, I'm not saying that's what I think it is... but I couldn't help thinking..."

"I know. You're right, I never considered it. And that is frightening."

"It's probably nothing... maybe you just need to talk to someone, and figure out where those dreams are really coming from."

"Maybe." I fought back tears. Would this never end? As soon as I thought I'd found some sort of solid ground, it would turn to quicksand under my feet. "I'm sick of it, Glen. I just want it to stop, I want things how they were before."

"I know, love. So do I."

He held me until I finally went back to sleep, a long time later.

--------------------------
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Old 04-15-2008, 06:03 AM   #2
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fantastic chapter Ali
god wish lisa and ed would just talk !
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Old 04-15-2008, 08:31 AM   #3
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Ali, you're the best! What can I say?
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Old 04-15-2008, 11:38 AM   #4
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poor Ed! Going insane and getting shouted at!
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Don't worry baby, it's gonna be all right. Uncertainty can be a guiding light...
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Old 04-15-2008, 01:17 PM   #5
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i like it.
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Old 04-16-2008, 04:38 PM   #6
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...and I still can't imagine where all this will end. You got me perplexed, Ali. Good chappy.
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Old 04-17-2008, 03:04 AM   #7
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Thanks guys....


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Old 04-17-2008, 09:11 AM   #8
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I don't like the looks of that...
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Old 04-17-2008, 09:15 AM   #9
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must we fear the next chapter already?
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And if U2 EVER did Hawkmoon live....and the version from the Lovetown Tour, my uterus would leave my body and fling itself at Bono - for realz.
Don't worry baby, it's gonna be all right. Uncertainty can be a guiding light...
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Old 04-18-2008, 11:06 AM   #10
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