The Child Dreamer:
A Dead Dreamer Prequel
Unlike those from the village, the people there were kind. They fed me, gave me clothes, and allowed me to play with their children. They were not afraid of me as the blacksmith’s children had been. It was strange.
I slept in a different bed each night, never choosing one particular bed in the longhouse. But the night the Medicine Man spotted me wandering in the woods was when my life with the natives began to change. He knew what I was. He wasn’t afraid. Rather, he was elated by his discovery.
One morning, he pulled me aside and took me to his home. Once we were inside, he gently said, “You are a Spirit Walker.”
Being that his English was better than the rest of the tribe, it was easy to understand his meaning. But fearing discovery, I merely stared at him in confusion.
“A what?” I asked.
He grabbed my arm and guided me to sit down in front of him. “You walk with the spirits at night. You visit them freely with the creatures of the dark.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said as my body stiffened.
His hand reached for my cheek. “No fear, child. It is not shamed here. Catori is the same.”
As he said her name, she walked inside, smiling. Catori was the woman who cleaned me that night, giving me the warmest welcome I had ever received from any human. She sat next to me but continued to watch the Medicine Man. He continued, “She will teach you what it means to be a Spirit Walker. To understand the balance.”
My eyebrows furrowed. She had only said one word of English the night we met and hadn’t spoken much since then. I assumed she couldn’t speak English like the rest. When the Medicine Man saw the confusion in my features, he nodded. “She has been learning English from me for a while. She will be a good teacher for you.”
That night, I fell asleep next to his bedroll. He instructed me to wait for Catori to find me before wandering off on my own. But I didn’t listen. It was the night of the full moon and I could feel the urge to hunt overtake my instincts. So I ran. I ran into the forest, searching for my prey.
I hadn’t run far before I found the source of them. In the corner of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of something moving from the trees. Carefully walking towards the movement, there was what looked to be a small opened door within a large white oak tree. The beasts, or demons as I had grown to call them, surrounded the door, some dancing, while other flew off in different directions to places unknown.
Enraged by their behavior, I allowed my power free. My eyes widened as I watched they became torched. All I could hear were their screams. The ball of fire erupted, causing every dancing demon to burst into flames. Some screeched as they fled back into the open door, while others flew off, leaving only their cries.
“No!” A voice yelled from behind.
Catori appeared next to me, waving her arms into the air. As she did, the air suddenly began to liquefy, creating a wall of water she aimed at the demons who were still struggling before us. The ones that had stayed were cleansed of my fire and fled into the door before it slammed shut behind them.
I turn toward her. “What have you done?”
“The spirits are not to be harmed. Why?” She asked hastily.
My brows furrowed as my lips began to pout. “They’re evil. They were killing people in my village. I saw it!”
“What?” she asked in disgust.
Her grip tightened as she moved to hold my shoulders. “The spirits are things we do not understand. But they are not the reason people die. They are not evil. Good. Come, I teach you.”
She took my hand to pull me away from the door as she began to lecture me of the spirits within the Land of the Dead. I listened. And she listened to my questions. The question of their appearance, of the marks, everything. Her answers were vague. But I foolishly listened.
That morning, she took me to the Medicine Man to report on the night before. When he learned what I had done, his eyes watched me with pity. “The ways of your people have misguided you. You did not have a teacher when you were blessed with your gift. But now, Catori will help you understand the truth.”
Every night, she would take me to different doorways throughout the forest. We even found a doorway that was far more beautiful than the demon door. She pointed to it. “Do not go near those. They are false. Not evil, but tricksters. Beware of the beautiful spirits.”
The night of the new moon was the first time I witnessed their beauty. I waited by their doorway without Catori one evening, wanting to witness these new spirits. When the silver door began to creak open, spirits shot from the door so quickly, I couldn’t get a good look at them. Only one chose to slowly float back, staring at the flame I held in my hand.
It glared at me before it became memorized by my fire. As it reached to touch it, I jerked my hand away. With unbelievable speed, it moved to grab my hand and hold it up again. The spirit moved to stand on my fist. Causing me to flinch, it made a screeching sound as it burned. But it wasn’t disappearing. It was dancing.
A presence behind me caused the spirit to stop and wailed a cry that was painful to hear. As if the fire was it’s own, it grabbed a ball of the flames, hurling at whoever was standing behind me.
Catori’s cries caused me to drop my fist, releasing the flames. The spirit angrily scratched my arm before flying away. Behind me, Catori was holding her face. I ran to stand over her. “Are you all right?”
Hunched onto the ground, she began to sit up, slowly releasing her face. Where her left eye had been was now black, and burned. Her voice was shaking when she answered. “Do not go near them.”
Because we were both spirits, I assumed once we woke, everything would be fine. Her eye returned, and my hand no longer scratched. But I was wrong. I awoke to the sound of Catori screaming at the other end of the longhouse. Quickly getting dressed, I ran to where she slept. The Medicine Man was hovering over her.
I squeezed through the tribe, to stand at her feet. When he saw me, he quickly demanded an answer. “What happened?”
At a loss for words, I only shrugged. The Medicine Man narrowed his eyes as he evaluated me. He removed the bandages from Catori’s face. The left side of her face was deep red and black. She had been badly burned. When she opened her eyes, the left eye was only white. She had been blinded.
Suddenly, I felt a cold sting at my hand. Lifting it, the same scratch marks the spirit had made while in the Land of the Dead were still there.
He repeated his question. “What happened?”
“My flames,” were the only words that escaped my lips.
To be continued…
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