She remembers this first war in the world,
When they placed Gullveig on pikes,
And burned her in the residence of the Very-High one;
Thrice they burned her; she was burned thrice again;
Burned often, frequently, however she still lives.
Thomas Foster was used to crowds. Sitting at a table swarming with students wasn’t as foreign to him as it looked. He knew that he looked uncomfortable and that he sounded unsure. But that really wasn’t him.
In Virginia, Thomas had very well liked. He played baseball there, a three year varsity short-stop, and his father had been wealthy, ensuring that Thomas always had nice things. Most people at his old school were impressed by that. Of course, the people that were impressed by that weren’t exactly the type of people that he should have been hanging out with.
Thomas’s father claimed that their move to Iceland was due to a promotion in his job. But Thomas doubted it. His father was surgeon, and there were plenty of opportunities in America for his father to advance his career.
No, they were here for Thomas. To keep Thomas out of trouble.
Thomas didn’t want to shatter his father’s picture perfect plans, but, he knew that the plan wasn’t going to work. Thomas couldn’t get away from trouble. Trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went.
His run-in with Norie this morning had proved just that. Only Thomas would pick the most popular girl in school, the one girl with an aversion to her real name, and call her by it. Of course, Thomas hadn’t know any of that at the time, nor had he known that this one transgression would forever mar is high school experience.
It was only his first day and already Thomas had done something unforgivable and blown his “good guy” facade.
Norie and the girl Norie had introduced as Brina had left, leaving Thomas with the table of Norie admirers. They were all talking about the carnival, or what they’d done over the summer and Thomas was quickly getting bored. He was just about to grab his stuff and head to his next class, when a hand grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
The hand belonged to Brina and it was jerking him around the corner and off into a side hallway.
“What are you doing?” Thomas asked, borderline angry.
Norie was lazing against the lockers. She looked over at him, “Getting you out of there, of course.”
But Thomas had had it with these girls. “Look,” he said to them both. “I’m sorry that offended you this morning. I didn’t mean to.” Norie opened her mouth to speak, but Thomas held up his hand and kept going. “I know that your trying to apologize for that, but, really, it’s unnecessary. I won’t call you Norbertta again. In fact, I won’t call you anything.”
And with that, Thomas turned on his heel and headed back into the lunch room.
Norie was fuming. She had visibly flinched when he had said her name again. This guy obviously had no idea the powers that he was dealing with. Norie didn’t like her popularity status, it wasn’t something she usually even acknowledged, but this time it was different. Norie had all the cards in her hand and she was going to use them. She looked over at Brina.
“Now, Nor, let’s just think about this,” Brina said, calmly. She knew what was coming and wished Thomas had just kept his mouth shut.
“No, let’s not think about this,” Norie said. “No one holds up their hand to shush me. No one does that. And no one speaks to me that way, with their hand held up to shush me. No one speaks to me that way at all.”
“Norie, he’s new,” Brina said, but even she could see the holes in that argument.
Norie shook her head. “I told him. He knew. And I let it slide once, but I won’t again. I don’t always like my reputation here, Brina, but, let’s face it, I have one. And if Lord Foster over there thinks that he can just come in and do whatever it is that he wants, well, he’s got another thing coming.”
Brina recognized the spark in Norie’s glare. It was the same spark that was there that infamous day sophomore year.
Thomas Foster had no idea the fire he had just started.
The rest of the day past without incident. And that worried Brina. She knew that Norie was plotting something. And she knew that something probably wasn’t good. And the more time that it took Norie to finalize her plan, the worse the plan was going to be for Thomas Foster.
Brina wasn’t particularly fond of Thomas. He seemed odd. But maybe that was just because he was American. But whatever the reason, Brina didn’t take the shine to him that Norie did. Or at least, had.
As Brina and Norie took the bus home from school, Brina tried to make conversation.
“So, English this year, that should be fun,” she said. Norie didn’t say anything. “Not gym though. Nope. That’s not going to be fun.” If gym class didn’t start Norie into a rant, then nothing would.
Finally, Brina gave up. The bus traveled through the stone streets, passing multi-colored store fronts and carts. Brina’s mind slid back into her analysis of her dream.
Norie got off one stop before Brina did. When the bus lurched to a stop, she rose, picked up her bag and sighed.
“See ya, Brina.”
Brina nodded a goodbye and then leaned against the bus window. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do about Norie. Not that there was a lot she really could do. Norie was impossible to stop once she got started. It was like trying to plug up a crumbling damn with your finger. It wasn’t going to work and you were just going to get very, very wet.
And Brina preferred staying dry.
What Brina really wanted to do was further dissect her dream, but she knew that she shouldn’t. People had dreams all the time and they survived. And continuing to scrutinize over the nightmare, was only going to make things worse.
What she really needed to do was relax. She threw her backpack over her shoulder and scampered off the bus. Relaxation, she thought to herself. It was a foreign word to her. She was constantly being told that she was too tense, too uptight. She didn’t try to be, it was just how she came off. Brina sighed to herself, trying to think about anything that might calm her down.
Brina unlocked the gate in front of her house, and trudged up the walkway. She dropped her coat by the door and headed up stairs. And pulled out the one thing that was guaranteed to soothe her.
She took pictures again until dinner. Not a rainbow this time, just the sunset hitting the mountains. Time faded away when Brina was behind the camera. She knew that it sounded lame and corny to say that, but it was true. Brina felt like she had only just stepped behind the lense when Helga was calling her down for dinner.
Brina stepped down the last of the stairs. She stopped on the last step and sniffed. That smell couldn’t possibly be coming out of their kitchen, could it?
“Out of the way,” Hale yelled, as he stampeded down the stairs and nearly smashed in Brina. He only made it several more steps, before he too stopped. He turned around, eyes narrow, and looked at Brina. The same question that was in his eyes, was on the tip of her tongue.
Brina could hear Maura giggling in the dinning room, as well as the sounds of George cooing. It sounded normal enough. She shrugged her shoulders towards Hale and started forward again.
Brina walked into the dinning room. Yep, the view confirmed it. There was macaroni and cheese on the table. Yellow macaroni and cheese. Maura was sitting at her place at the table, talking animatedly to Helga, who was nodding intently.
“Thank God,” Hale said beside her.
“No kidding,” Brina breathed.
Dinner was nice — it was amazing how much one foul dinner could traumatize.
After dinner, Brina trudged back up the stairs and stood, leaning against the wall and staring out her window. She dreaded going to bed. But, even as she fought already heavy eyelids, she knew that she would have to turn in soon.
When she finally laid down on her cool pillows, Brina didn’t think about her dream anymore. She didn’t think about anything. Her eyes fluttered closed, and she didn’t open them again.
The voice was getting angry, Brina could tell. She wasn’t responding as quickly as she had last night. But it kept calling, and as it did, Brina listened even more intently. She could almost recognize the voice. There was something about it that was so........familiar. But she still couldn’t place it.
It wasn’t angry anymore. It was alluring, doing everything that it could to get Brina to react. And it knew that it was working. Brina wanted, more than anything at that particular moment, to look over and see who it was that was so desperately calling her name.
Brina tried to concentrate on something else, but this was a dream. And the tormentor in her dream wasn’t relenting. Things wouldn’t stay in focus, all stretching out, tunneling Brina’s vision to the mystery whisperer.
She finally gave in. She sat up, slower this time, cautiously. And for a moment it worked. She sat up almost completely, giving her a better view of the owner of the voice from the shadows. There was something familiar in the way that they stood, their posture. Brina opened her mouth to call out to the person, but the blanket tugged on her, pulling her downward with more force than the previous night.
And then she was sinking. Sinking through the pillows, the mattress. Then there was nothing. And she was falling.
She fell for even longer tonight. The objects spinning by her were less fuzzy, but not quite clear. Brina closed her eyes, giving up on trying to identify anything. If she remembered correctly, this should all be over soon.
Brina knew that it was getting brighter. It didn’t matter that her eyes were clamped shut, she could still feel the heat at her back. The heat was getting more intense by the second, and no arms were catching her. What did that mean?
And then, they were there. Two arms, gripping Brina and carrying her back up, away from the heat. And the light.
The arms carried her longer. They got far enough away that Brina could tell that the arms were cool. Too cool. Almost cold. In surprise, Brina opened her eyes, and turned towards her rescuer.
Then there was the blinding light.
And she was awake.
Brina was breathing fast. There was a light sheen on sweat on her skin. She glanced at her clock. 5:30. Too early to get up, too late to go back to sleep.
Brina laid back against her pillows. Gently, making sure that these pillows would hold her. She knew that people had had recurring dreams before. But Brina couldn’t help but think that this wasn’t an ordinary dream. It seemed much more like some sort of message, or warning.
But, then again, it was 5:30 AM, so maybe Brina’s opinion on anything couldn’t be trusted at this hour.
Brina rolled over onto her side, and tried not to think at all. She thought that this would be easy. But it was harder than she’d thought.
Norie was in an odd mood this morning. She wasn’t mad, per se, but she wasn’t happy either.
She was in a meditation mood. Sort of calm, sort of zen. And it was odd for her.
Norie had come to an interesting conclusion the previous night. A conclusion that she would have never thought that she would have come to. A conclusion that she had shunned for as long as she could, denying that it was a possibility at all.
But, despite all that, Norie accepted her decision. In fact, she was rather proud of it. She had spent most of the night debating the Thomas issue, before she came up with this very sensible solution: she wasn’t going to do anything.
She. Was. Not. Going. To. Do. Anything.
It was a strange sentence, that one, with those words fitting together like that. And yet, it filled Norie with an incredible sense of tranquility.
And that was the reason that Norie found herself, once again, leaned against Brina’s locker, waiting for her.
She couldn’t wait to tell her friend this rather bizarre piece of news. Norie needed to talk about it to someone, and Brina was the only one she trusted.
But when Brina finally stumbled up to her locker, Norie knew that her news would have to wait.
“What’s wrong today?” She asked, not with dread, but with concern.
Brina shook her head, as if to clear it. “Nothing. I’ve just been having an odd dream lately.”
“Oh. Is that why you kept asking me about my dreams yesterday?”
Norie scrunched up her forehead. “Well, I’m probably not the best reference, though. All of my dreams are rather weird. You might want to ask someone else more normal if you want real answers.”
“Norie, I don’t need my dreaming patterns analyzed. I’m sure that it’s nothing.” Brina was obviously lying, and Norie knew that, but she also knew better than to press the subject.
The bell rang, reminding Norie and Brina that they were indeed in school, and that standing around idly was not advised if one wanted to get to class on time. So, much as they had done the day before, the two slung their bag over their shoulders and headed towards the gyms.
And yet, also very much like the day before, they were still late for class.
Coach McKellen was not happy with them. And he proceeded to give them a 10 minute lecture on the importance of punctuality. Norie nodded enthusiastically throughout the whole thing. Too enthusiastically. Brina noticed this, and had to bite her lip to kept from laughing.
There was a vein in Coach McKellen’s neck that stood out when he got really mad. And today it was bulging out of his head. This brought no end of joy to Norie. In fact, if it didn’t bring her so much joy, she would probably stop being purposely late to class. She knew it was wrong, but it was so much fun watching that vein threaten to burst.
Gym started late due to the Coach McKellen’s rant. And of course, that was just another reason that the class loved Norie. She didn’t even try in gym. If a ball whizzed past her, she made no effort to catch it. If someone threw a ball at her intentionally, she stepped out of the way. She didn’t run, skip, or jog. She didn’t involve herself in anything that would cause her to break a sweat.
And yet, Norie was always the first one picked for teams. Everyone loved being on her team, and her team always won. It was astonishing, even to her, the power she held over people.
English class today, Norie knew, was going to be interesting. She thought about all the possible scenarios of what might happen.
Today the gym class was playing basketball. The ball bounced towards Norie, interrupting her thinking, and she shot a glare in the direction of the person who had thrown it.
At the end of the period, the final tally put Norie’s team in the lead, of course. Several people offered Norie unearned high fives as she walked back into the locker room. Brina was already in there, trying to tame the mess that her hair had become.
“Brina, why do you even try? If you don’t run, or make any effort at all, nothing happens to your hair.” Norie flipped her dark brown hair for effect.
Brina glared at her. “Well not all of us can not play and not have everyone hate us. If you don’t play, everyone congratulates you, if I don’t play, Caleb will stab me in the back with a tennis racket.”
Norie stared at Brina. “That’s.......probably true,” she admitted with a grin.
Brina didn’t answer.
Norie waited a few moments, before saying, “Well, I’d really love to continue this very riveting conversation, but if we don’t hurry, we’re going to be late to English.”
Norie had expected Brina to laugh at this, or at least to smile, because Brina knew as well as she did, that being late to class was never a problem for Norie.
But Brina just sighed, picked up her stuff and headed to class.
Brina knew that she was being mean. She knew that none of this was Norie’s fault, and she also knew that she was using up way too much of Norie’s already minuscule good nature.
Brina walked into the English room. She knew that most likely sparks would fly in this room very soon. Brina took her seat next to Norie, eyeing the empty seat on Norie’s other side. She wondered where Thomas was.
Norie hadn’t said anything else to Brina about the dream. In fact, the whole way to English, Norie had been strangely quiet. Brina would have expected her oncoming rage to be louder than that.
But when sitting, waiting for class to start, and when your best friend is lost somewhere deep in thought, there is not a lot to do. Not a lot to do except obsess over your latest nightmare.
Brina knew that she was very possibly crazy for letting this dream consume so much of her life. And for thinking that it was in some way trying to communicate something with her. Even if she suspended reality, there was still nothing in the dream that would indicate some sort of encoded message.
Brina couldn’t help but wonder why everything seemed clearer last night than they had the night before. She hadn’t made any conscious revelations yesterday. Had she?
Mrs. Howling entered the class room, pushing a cart hat nearly toppled over with the weight of the twenty-five or so books upon it.
Brina tried to clear her head as Mrs. Howling began to pass out the English textbooks. She sounded insane. Her dream wasn’t telling her anything. She just needed to let it go.
She glanced over at Norie, and saw that Thomas was there. He must have snuck in when Brina was deep in reverie. He had taken his seat next to Norie, and, from the looks of it, was making a point of not even looking in her general direction.
Norie, however, seemed oblivious to it all. She just sat there, flipping idly through the pages of her English book. Brina narrowed her eyes at Norie. Something was wrong with her too.
Brina sighed as she received her own English book. She leaned back in her chair. Something wasn’t right. She couldn’t concentrate, Norie was acting calm, and this Thomas kid was just plain weird.
Brina got the feeling that Year 11 was going to be very interesting indeed.
Thomas wasn’t sure why he was taking this class. Sure, it was a requirement, and he guessed that was really why he was in that particular classroom at that particular time, but it was still annoying.
He’d grown up in America. He’d lived there. He could speak the language, he could speak it better than any other person in the room, including the teacher.
What annoyed him more was that she was in this class. Naturally the one class that he didn’t really need to be taking would be the one class that his apparent mortal nemesis would be in as well. It just made the whole situation that much more unbearable.
Norie Malin was like no one Thomas had ever met before. She was popular, that was obvious, smart, or at least her classes would indicate that, and she was very easily offended.
Thomas had met girls similar to Norie. There had been girls like that at his old school. But there was something different about Norie, some hidden trait she possessed that put her apart, as well as above, the dime-a-dozen wannabes back home.
But even Thomas could tell that Norie was no wannabe; she was the real deal.
Norie was pretty, sure, but it was more than that. She was compelling in her beauty. Her hair and her eyes were both dark, but her skin was light, almost a translucent shade of pale. Her hair was long and cut unevenly, creating a curtain around her face. But it was her eyes that set her apart from the crowd the most. They were dark colored, almost black, but with a hint of an almost indigo hue as well. When they flashed with anger, as Thomas had seen on more than one occasion, they looked exactly like the sky before a storm.
Thomas wasn’t sure if it was because of those intriguing eyes that everyone listened to her, or if it was something else. Norie certainly had an air of confidence around her, as well as a commanding presence, at least when she wanted it.
Thomas was glad that he had stood up to her. It didn’t seem like that sort of thing happened to her often, and it might have done her some good. Thomas, of course, was blithely unaware of the tragedy that would have befallen him had Norie not been in such a peculiar mood, and he incorrectly assumed that his rebellion had caused Norie to lay off.
He wondered to himself why someone as exceptional Norie would hang out with someone like Brina. It wasn’t as if Brina was a bad person. Thomas was sure that she was probably very nice, most likely a fair bit nicer than her friend. But Thomas just couldn’t figure out why Norie would deign to be friends with Brina Stuart.
Though, the longer Thomas looked at and thought about Brina, he found he could some up with several reasons why.
While Norie was clearly prettier, Brina wasn’t bad too look at. She had shoulder length golden curls that lay relaxed around her face. She was a few inches shorter than Norie, and almost pixie like.
As she worked on her English assignment, Thomas could tell that she was deep in concentration and that she obviously was a scholarly student. Maybe that was Norie’s draw to her. Yes, Norie was in the “smart” classes, but Thomas knew from experience that class placement didn’t always indicate actual brain power.
Maybe there was a myriad of reasons that Norie would choose to be friends with Brina. Thomas wasn’t sure. He couldn’t figure out either of them.
Thomas laughed to himself. He hadn’t understood that girls in America either. It was good to know that girls were mysterious universally.
Lunch today was different. Thomas stayed clear of the table of Norie sycophants, though if he had looked closer he would have seen that Norie and Brina were missing from the table.
The girls had dodged all of Norie’s many admirers and took their lunch trays out into the courtyard. It was warm enough to be outside without a jacket, but the chill of the wind told them that it wouldn’t be long until coats were required.
“So, tell me about this dream,” Norie asked Brina.
“Only after you tell me what’s put you in such a placid mood,” Brina said.
Norie smiled. “Placid? Me? Well, if you say so.”
Brina laughed. “But really, what’s wrong?”
Norie shrugged. “Nothing is wrong. I just decided to let it go. I’m not seeking revenge this time. It’s a peculiar feeling. Not nice, but not bad.”
“Hmm,” Brina said thoughtfully.
“So, tell me about the dream.”
And Brina did. She told Norie about the whispering shadow, the falling, and the arms that caught her. She felt a little ridiculous when she told Norie about how obsessed she’d been with the dream, and how she thought it was telling her something.
“Maybe it is,”Norie surprised her by saying.
Brina blinked at Norie. “What?”
Norie shrugged. “Maybe it is trying to tell you something?”
Brina bit her lip and tried to digest this. Maybe she wasn’t crazy after all.
Norie waited for Brina to say something else. She started to get anxious when she didn’t respond right away. “Brina?” She asked quietly.
“What do you think that it means?”
“The dream?” Norie wanted clarified.
Norie knitted her eyebrows together. “I dunno.”
“No ideas at all?”
“Brina, I said that it could be saying something. That’s all I got. Whatever it means or whoever it is that is saying it? That’s up to you.”
Brina exhaled. She didn’t want think about this.
Norie seemed to notice her friend's darkened aura. She did her best to cheer her up with a few jokes, a witty remark, even a limerick, but nothing worked. By the time the bell rang, the two simply picked up their trays and headed back to class.
She remembers this first war in the world,