Chapter XIX: Into the Mind of Fire (4/18)Mature

Hellshaw took a set of matches and lit the three candles they had entered the circle through, then arranged more sweetgrass in a burner. He lit it and soon the smoke was floating around them, smelling of springtime. 'Now, this memory, am I to assume it has been self-suppressed out of pain or trauma?'

Tayna kneaded her hands in her lap, 'yes, I suppose it must be. I don't know how it all came just...happened...'

'That's fine, if you are willing to remember now, it should be easy to retrieve. And do you mind if Mister Willow sees too?' Tayna shook her head, 'okay then. I want you both to compose yourselves first. Tayna, I want you to slowly try and remember, anything that comes to mind and hold it in your head.' Tayna obeyed, and after a minute or so, her brow crinkled painfully and she tried to gather her breaths rhythmically, 'are you alright?'

'Please,' she said, 'just get it over with.'

'Of course, now I want you to run your finger along the edge of the speculum, that's right,keep thinking about that memory, and I want you both to look into the centre where the water ripples.'

Will did as he was told, watching as the water displaced like wrinkles on skin, blurring their reflections, mutating their faces. Then, for an instant, Will thought he saw something deep in the water, like an orange spark. He tried to rub his eyes to concentrate - but he couldn't move. He couldn't draw his gaze away, and as he stared deeper into the speculum, he saw more than a spark, he saw people, first they were darkened blurs but grew more detailed every moment he continued to look. They moved in and out of focus, back and forth, at one point he thought he saw a cart full of hay breeze past his vision. He looked to the background and swore there were buildings now, cottages and farmhouses with thatched roofs. He couldn't even check to see if Tayna could see the same, all that he saw of her was her hand - and at intervals her arm, tracing the speculum's rim with torpid constancy.

 The sweetgrass smoke swirled around him, he realised it had changed natural shape, now it constricted him like a snake, weaving from the ground, up his body to the back of his throat where he wanted to splutter at the perfumed taste. The smell grew so overpowering that he felt nauseated, his eyes aching and his head feeling heavy. 

He felt himself keel over, falling backwards to the floor as his eyes snapped shut, the images in the speculum still ingrained in his mind, and as he drifted away, he felt himself falling somewhere much further away than nothingness.

The End

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