"We are Benandanti"
Something deep inside stirred with those words. It was an unsettling tightening of my stomach, a brief shortness of breath. The words felt right, they felt like they fit. They felt like an explanation. But if Tsillah was expecting me to have some sort of cathartic release with a montage of repressed memories, I'd disappointed her.
"Ummm." I said less than brilliantly. "That sounds Italian."
Tsillah frowned and threw my shirt at me. "Go. Shower. Get dressed. I'll buy you breakfast."
A part of me really hoped she wouldn't be there when I got out. But she was, perched on the seat of the chair, overlooking the street below. Her eyes seemed predatory and I wondered why I hadn't throw her out. Details of the previous nights' dream were still fresh, but I had already distanced myself from it. Bereft of emotion, dreams held no strength.
We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Tsillah ate a small bowl of cereal while I tore into an enormous Mexican omelet.
"The original Benandanti battled malevolent witches in medieval Europe." Tsillah explained. "They fought for the health of their community."
"In their dreams." I interrupted.
"In their dreams." Tsillah nodded. "The Italian Inquisition tried them for heresy and idolatry. They died out. But Italy isn't the only culture with stories of dream-walkers and dream-warriors. Every culture has a mythology of dreaming."
"Dr. Salminiw opened the clinic three years ago. He believes that there are others like us. And in our dreams, there are elements that suggest that something big is going on with the Malandanti."
"Malandanti?" I asked.
"Literally, 'Bad Walker.'" Tsillah scrapped the bottom of her bowl with her spoon, then lifted it to her lips and
drank the last of the milk. "Benandanti means 'Good Walker.' A pretty simple distinction."
"So, what..." I asked casting a doubtful eye at her. "We fight them?"
Tsillah snorted. "You're not ready to fight them. You need practice."
"Okay." I said, dubious. She hadn't really answered my question. "What does this mean for me?"
Tsillah laid her spoon beside the bowl and laid her hands on either side of her place-setting. "There are maybe a couple hundred of us across the world. That you can do something doesn't mean you must. Use it, abuse it, play with it; it's up to you. But once you start, I guarantee you won't be able to ignore it. And if you're going to dream-walk, you're going to need to know how to defend yourself."
"If I do this, will it help me sleep?"
Tsillah nodded. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
I frowned. "That's not exactly encouraging. All I want is to have a good nights' sleep for the first time in months."
"If that is all you wish, then yes. It can help you sleep."
I knew from the way she said it that there was a whole lot she wasn't telling me. But I'd had so many sleepless nights. If fighting these things while I slept meant I would wake up feeling refreshed. I'd do whatever esoteric meditation exercises she wanted me to. "Will teach me?"
"I can teach you the basics." Tsillah said. "But eventually, you'll have to make the journey to see the Abbess."
"I'm sorry." I blinked. "go where to see who?"
Tsillah smiled a thin, toothless grin. "To see The Abbess. At Dream Haven."