When you dream,
What do you dream about? ~Barenaked Ladies
Anna rushed down the corridor towards the main hall. She was late again. Anna was always late. Her bare feet made no sound against the hard stone and if it were not for her robes, she would have made no sound at all. Tonight she was late for the group meditation, something she always enjoyed, but she had lost track of time in the library and was now paying the price. The Mothers would be displeased, she knew, but it was a small price.
Anna regarded her life on the island with joy. Having been plucked from a cold and cruel orphanage at the age of seven, she was brought to the island for training. Now in her fifteenth year she was nearly a full Sister in the order and if she could just clear her mind and concentrate on her meditations she would be initiated in no time.
Anna slowed her pace as she approached the large oak door that led to the main hall. She took a moment to smooth out her hair and catch her breath. As she reached for the handle, she could feel the energy start to roll out of the room and stopped short. The energy began to waft around her and through her. It sung in her veins and made her skin tingle. Smiling to herself, she pulled the door towards her as quietly as she could, praying to the Gods that it did not creak. Silently she stepped into the room and took care to close the door as noiselessly as possible behind her. Anna gazed around the room, looking for a place to position herself.
The main hall itself was not particularly ornate. High ceilings seemed to tower above her. A large open area in the middle of the ceiling allowed the moon to shine in and cast intricate shadows around the room. Drapery with the symbols of the five elements lined the walls. Fire, earth, air, water, spirit. All were hand woven and held such detail that Anna was always amazed that a human hand could create such beauty. Each future Sister had to master her manipulation of each element, but each also had an affinity for one single element. The element that would come the most naturally to her would be the easiest for her to learn. When new girls arrived on the island, the Mothers would gather and name the element that called the girl’s name.
Anna had heard “water” whispered in her ear that day. She had not known she was Magickally adept until the Mothers had told her what she was. Now, as Anna made her way across the moonlit room, she could feel the ocean outside within her as surely as she could feel her own heart beat. Finding a spot in the back of the room, she sat amongst her fellow Sisters and future Sisters alike. The women were arranged in three perfect circles in the center of the room. When Anna took her place in the twelfth seat of the outer circle, she could feel the energy snap the circle closed. Twelve women sat in the outer circle, nine in the middle, surrounding the six Mothers in the center circle. All were in identical robes of the richest blue, the meditation tonight was to center around water.
Anna felt badly that they had been forced to wait for her, but managed to push the thought away so that she could focus on the task at hand. The Mothers always started the meditations with the same trance inducing song. Forest Mother starting with a whooshing sound, not unlike the call of the ocean outside. Air Mother began humming an ancient tune that when coupled with Forest Mother’s sound began to sound like the sea creatures singing to each other. Fire Mother began making a clicking and crackling sound. Anna often wondered how she managed to make that sound come out of her body. It seemed so unnatural. Water Mother was crying, silently at first, growing gradually louder until she was wailing. Spirit Mother began to speak words that Anna still did not understand. Finally, Mother All began to sing. Mother All’s voice bounced off every corner of the room. It surrounded the group of women and went into them, became a part of them.
Anna never noticed when the sounds they made stopped. Mother All’s voice always took her away into the trance that would allow her to meditate with the group. It was as though her thoughts were being gently pushed away and all that was left was peace. Anna was only aware of the energy flowing around her and within her. She opened her mind’s eye she could see the room and the women in it. She stood and left her body sitting there in silence and went back through the door from whence she came. Back in the hall, she turned back for a last look before finding her Water. All twenty-seven women sat still as statues on the floor.
Closing the door behind her, she walked back down the corridor and towards the east. Towards the water. She passed by the library and the kitchen. Then the gardens and the dorms, through the main gate and out onto the path towards the ocean. The path was lined with giant pine trees that covered overhead and encroached on the path itself. Anna always felt as though she was being held by the Gods themselves whenever she chose this route. Up ahead Anna could see the end of the path and her ears started to pick up the sound of the ocean.
Smiling, she began walking faster. The ocean was calling her, begging her to come play. She burst out of the trees into the moonlight. It drenched the beach with its bright whiteness and cast shadows amongst the rocks. The sand gave way between her toes as she made her way to the shoreline. Anna liked the way it seemed to part under the weight of her. Never on solid ground, that’s the way she liked it. The ocean gave life to that ideal as well. Its ebb and flow of the tides always brought new sand and with it new energies. When she was a child, Anna would sit in the sand and imagine that each grain had come from a different corner of the world. Tonight though, she stood at the edge of the water, allowing the waves to lap at her feet.
She raised her hand towards the ocean, as if in greeting. A small line of water rose from the surface and formed itself into the shape of an arm and hand. Raising her other hand, another small line of water came up from the surface, forming another arm. Anna stepped a little further into the water and she could see feet and legs begin to form in front of her. A few steps more and she was more fully submerged. A glistening water version of herself took shape. Giggling, she grabbed the hand of Water Anna and together they dove. Down they went towards the ocean floor. When they reached the sandy bottom, Water Anna began to sing the song of the ocean. Anna had been learning all the plants and creatures of the water this way. Once a week, she would swim with Water Anna and always saw something new and beautiful.
Time stalled and slowed as they swam. Water Anna took Anna’s hand and they swam back to the surface. They both walked out of the water and lay down on the shore. Anna watched as Water Anna began to seep into the sand next to her. It always made her a little sad to watch her go, but she took comfort in knowing that Water Anna was always a part of her and would never really leave her. Anna closed her eyes and enjoyed the time she had left. She could feel that the circle was nearly over and relished the time spent alone. Soon there was warmth on her cheek, and sitting upright quickly she began to panic that she had fallen asleep. Falling asleep in meditation was bad; she had heard tales of Sisters who had wandered around in their minds for years because they couldn’t find their way back after falling asleep.
She turned her head towards the warmth. A bright light blazed at the end of the beach. Frowning, Anna stood and brushed the sand from her robes. She must not have fallen asleep since she was still wet. How much time had passed? She started for the path back, she could feel her Sisters pulling back as well. A small voice inside her told her to stop. Turning, she looked back towards the light. Someone was there. Someone was the light. Anna made the trek across the beach with caution. In her mind, it was only ever her and Water Anna. There was never anyone else. Gaining ground on the figure, she became alarmed. This person wasn’t just light. This person was Fire. No, that wasn’t right. This person was on fire!
Anna stood in horror; frozen to that tiny little patch of sand. The figure heard her choke back a sob and turned to face her. It was a woman. It was a man. How could it be both? The faces melted together and flickered before her. Man. Woman. Man. Woman. The figure held its hand out to her and, finally finding her legs again, she backed away. The heat poured off of the person in front of her. Sparks from the fire singed her robes. The figure advanced on her, mouth wide open showing nothing but blackness inside. Anna was left speechless. She thought she might even faint. The figure’s mouth grew wider, still alive with flame, and unhinged itself at the jaw. From the gaping hole in the neck, something moved. Little by little, a baby blackbird emerged from the blackness. Standing on the teeth of the figure, the blackbird began to grow rapidly in front of her.
Just when she thought she could take no more of this horrific scene, Water Anna emerged from the sea and came running at them. Shrieking like a banshee, Water Anna threw herself around the fiery figure. Smoke and steam exploded into the air, leaving the entire beach thick with a new kind of fog. Anna covered her eyes, trying not to cry. Opening them again stung. She was not prepared for what she saw.
Lying on the ground was a boy. Ashen and bloodied. Uncertain, Anna tried to call out to him but could not find her voice. She approached him as quietly as she could. Reaching out to brush back the hair from his face, she hesitated. Resolving to see if he was breathing or not, she placed a hand on his chest. Steam was still rising from him and she could feel his steady breathing underneath her touch. Anna did not understand how his skin was unharmed from the flames. Where did he come from? At that instant, the boy sat up straight in the sand, and grabbed her face.
“I’m coming, please wait for me” he said. He then shoved her away from him. With that one motion Anna was flung back down the beach at an alarming pace. The energy was dragging her backwards through the path, back past the dorms and the gardens, the kitchen and the library. She was yanked through the door and slammed back into her body. Gasping and shrieking she writhed in pain on her mat.
The last thing she saw before she lost consciousness was the Water drapery. On fire.