I sat on the steps to the clinic, just trying to calm my racing pulse. The afternoon traffic thrummed on, a cacophony of jagged noise. In my own bleary state, I stared, slack-jawed, my mind awhir. Had I misread Salminiw's reaction? His rage? The world tilted sideways and I found it difficult to breathe.
Tsillah was his daughter?
Across the street, a blonde woman in a blue dress stopped and answered her cellular phone. She waved her hand when she talked, like she was conducting an orchestra. She seemed to have it together. She was in control.
For a moment, the blur of noise around her synchronized. There was a palpable beat, a melody and counterpoints on such a subtle level that I was hypnotized.
Ka-thum, Ka-thum, Ka-thum.
It was a sad reflection of my life. Even before the car accident, I'd never had my crap together. I'd always felt removed, disappointed that this is all there was. Now, there at least seemed to be something else, something more grand. A taxi honked its' horn, ending one movement; a door creaked open starting another. The music went darker, somehow, slower, more brooding.
I looked around, feeling my pulse synch to the beat of hte world around me. Then it skipped a beat as Dr. Salminiw took a seat next to me. I went terribly still, the music of the street fading to the background, but still present. The woman in the blue dress glanced up at me and smiled. Her eyes glowed gold.
Salminiw took out a pair of glasses and a handkerchief. He breathed on the lenses until they fogged, then rubbed them in a slow ritual. "My daughter is in a coma." Salminiw said without preamble "Autonomous functions only... no higher brain function. She had a history of sleep issues. Then one day.... nothing. It's not public knowledge, Tsillah's state. So, I need to know. Really. Did you know her from before?"
"I--" I stammered. It sounded crazy to say she'd come to me in my dreams, like some sort of amazon inspiration, a muse or a lamia. "She is Benandanti." I said.
The woman in the blue dress smiled and folded her telephone into her purse. Then she dropped the purse to the ground and reached down to lift the hem of her dress.
Salminiw made a horse sound, like he was clearing his throat. "There is no such thing. An obscure religious cult from the middle ages. Interesting from a historical perspective. But dreams are not the batlteground for good and evil."
The woman in blue lifted the hem as if she were stepping daintily through a flowerbed. Smiling at me, still, she stepped off the curb and into traffic. Traffic didn't stop.
I gasped and stood so suddenly that Salminiw stood also, his eyes on me. I lurched forward to call out to her, hand stretched out uselessly but Salminiw grasped my arm, holding me back.
He was stronger than I had expected. He prevented me from pitching forward. But all around me, the pulse of music fragmented to discordant barbs.
Salminiw hauled me back until his face was right next to mine. "Shut it down." he growled. "It wasn't real. Whatever you saw. It didn't happen."
He must have been right. Traffic hadn't stopped. There had been no scream, no impact, no staccato burst of shattered glass.
"Shut it down." Salminiw said, releasing my arm. He remained so close that I could feel his breath on my cheek. "You walk both sides of the shroud and you'll go mad. Dreams belong in the dreaming."