The Child Dreamer:
A Dead Dreamer Prequel
Neither Catori nor the Medicine Man made mention of my visit with the spirits or the fire that night. Not until years later. But they kept a watchful eye. Because of this, by the time I turned fourteen, most of the tribe was back to treating me the same. They still feared me, but they had become much better at hiding it. It mattered little to me.
Catori would try and pull me into the ceremonial dances whenever she had the chance. It was her way of letting me know she did not blame me for the blindness she now had in her burned eye. From time to time, she remind me it wasn’t my fault.
The entertaining part was, I knew it was not my fault. It was her own for disturbing the spirits. They merely used my fire as their weapon. There was nothing I could have done to stop it. But, regardless, I smiled and thanked her for her generosity. Although she was a foolish woman, she was the kindest to me in the entire tribe. She was the mother I never had and wished to keep.
The Medicine Man made it his goal to watch over me during the nights. He had them build a smaller hut across from the longhouse I had been sleeping in. It was in part to keep me at a safe distance in case I started a fire, but also to keep a watchful eye over me as I entered the Land of the Dead each night.
He continued to take the time to teach me all he knew about the spirits, hoping the education would reflect in my beliefs. On rare occasions, Catori would feel up to exploring the Land of the Dead with me, seeing all there was to see. But neither of them would let me out of their sight.
They both chose to avoid the spirits of the forest, however. No matter the phase of the moon, they wouldn’t let me wander too close to any ancient door. Only a few months after my thirteenth birthday did they start to allow me freedom again. For a time, I listened and obeyed their rules. But it wasn’t meant to last.
For that night, I stalked my prey as it flew toward another village nearby. This village was different from my last. The residents were happier, and seemed content to spend their money in taverns after the sun had set. While others made their way to the church for evening prayer. Even the children were still out to play despite the sunless sky.
The demons had sense their happiness, and were ready to destroy it. This evening was the night I would return to my vengeful ways. One that shook me to my core. Now, I can only look back and chuckle as the event. I was reckless, and walked freely; never afraid of being seen or discovered.
The demon I had been stalking was like the rest. Before making it’s way to the village, it would drop acorns to disturb the smaller wildlife, and throw the fallen ones at the deer that were nearby. After the third time, when the deer stopped running, it grew bored and focused on the village again.
I stayed in the shadows, focusing all of my energy on keeping my presence unknown. It had no inkling it was being followed as it flew towards the local priest’s home. He was an older man, with wrinkles defining every inch of his face, and hair that had balded from the top, but still fell to his shoulders from the sides. There was no hint that he had ever smiled once in his life. He reminded me of my father.
Tonight was the same as any other. As he sat in his homemade chair, next to his small fire that burned in his fireplace. He read the Bible in Latin, out loud. His voice matched the lines on his face as he read. From time to time, he would pause, chuckle to himself, mark something down in his notes before continuing. He was preparing for the next service.
Before the demon had a chance to reach him, there was a knock at the door. As the priest grunted and stood from his chair, he made his way to the other room to discover who his late visitor was. Only then did I realize I was no longer hidden.
The demon turned to point at me and in a raspy voice, it spoke to me, “Unnatural. Disrupting. Stop. Or they’ll come.”
Angered by it’s audacity to even speak to me, I raised my arm to strike it. But before I could swing, it bolted from the room. It flew toward the room with the priest and his guest for the evening.
“No!” I screamed.
When I tried to run to catch it, I was too late. The moment I stepped into the room, the deed was done. The priest had been marked. Before my mind could catch up with the scene, the demon burst into flames as I glared at it. It’s raspy voice now screeched as it burned and attempted to reach me.
The priest leapt back at the sudden burst of light as it fell to the ground. Peeling my eyes away from the ball of fire on the floor, I finally noticed the room around me. The priest had fallen to the ground and was now clutching his chest, gasping for air as he stared at the fire that was beginning to spread.
The man behind him was attempting to pull him out of the house by the shoulders. I followed in suit, my mood now suddenly calmed by the burning demon on the floor. Outside, I stood beside them, watching as the flames began to spread and overtake the small wooden cottage.
Suddenly, a woman appeared next to the dying priest. Although braided, her hair still moved, shifting under a breeze I couldn’t feel. Her clothes were tribe-like, but different from my own. When she looked down at the priest on the ground, her eyes were heavy. She tilted her head to the side to see the flames as they engulfed the cottage no matter how hard the village tried to put it out. Her eyes narrowed as her lips pressed together into a hard line.
I was slightly surprised when she shifted her gaze to meet mine. She continued to glare at me as she reached down to touch the priest where he had been marked. In the air around us, pressure began to build before it suddenly disappeared in an instant. I watched her, curious as to what she was doing. Her energy reminded me of the woman who had appeared the day my father died.
Her eyes never left mine as she stood up again. They were full of hate and anger, though I wasn’t sure as to why. She stepped over the priest to move closer toward me. Her hand reached for my chin, as if forcing me to look at her even though I had done nothing else. For a moment, all we did was stare at each other. There was chaos all around us as people reacted to the flames and the dead priest, but it didn’t deter our concentration.
Finally, she sighed. “She should have taken you the first time. You are nothing but a curse.”
“What?” I asked, offended.
“Stupid child. I hope I will be the one to come for you soon,” she muttered before releasing me and disappearing.
“What?” I yelled again, looking toward the priest.
She was gone, and would not answer my offense. Regardless, it left a foul taste in my mouth and I had the urge to encourage fan the flames before me.
After taking a moment to contain my frustration, I looked back at the cottage. Men were still running about, attempting to save anything they could. The square was now filled as people watched the priest’s cottage burn to the ground. Glancing through the crowd, I witnessed sorrow and anger. Surprisingly, there were a few who were trying to hide smiles as well. It seemed this priest was not well liked by all.
“That was foolish,” a voice murmured beside me.
At first, I did not react to the words. Humans had spoken near me before, but none ever realized I was listening to them. But when my head tilted to the side to see who had spoken them, icy blue eyes met mine. Those eyes, contrasting the dark brown hair under his hat, stared back at me.
“Yes, I’m speaking to you,” he continued to keep his voice low so no other could hear. “I suggest you return here when you’re awake. I will be here for the next few days now that I’m planning a funeral.”
I continued to stare at him, and made no motion to respond. He took my silence as his answer before turning back toward the crowds and the dead priest’s body beside us. He was a tall man. Slender, as well. I could make out his small stature through the large coat he wore. But when he stood, his head was high, making him seem more intimidating than any other.
He never turned back to look at me or acknowledge me for the remainder of the evening. Only when the sun began to peek over the horizon did the fire finally begin to subside, and the people turned to return to their homes. The stranger helped a few others move the priest’s body to the church, and away from the bystanders. No one else in this village seemed to notice me as they turned to leave.
I stood there for a moment longer, as the sun’s rays began to permeate through my soul. It felt as though I were fading from existence again, until finally my eyes opened and I was back in my body. I could hear the sounds of morning beginning outside as I sat up. My entire body was covered in sweat. My mind couldn’t release me from those eyes. The eyes that were like ice that had seen me. That had discovered my secret.
To be continued…
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