in the mist of the mind
February 8, 2013 4 Comments
I am, once again, deeply indebted to a flash fiction prompt for the twists and turns The Dark Calling takes this week. I am delighted with the development in the following 1,200 words, but I would have never even considered it left to myself. After last week’s episode, I saw Kenna hopping a helicopter and zipping off to join Ormar and her mother in some hidden location. That’s still coming, I think, but not before a very special, sacred meeting.
Just this past week, I was telling Nimue that if I’m ever lucky enough to be published and if, some day, a young writer asks me, “How can I become a better writer?”, my answer, without question, will be “Writer flash fiction.” It’s fun, it pushes me as a writer and sometimes, like this week, it makes my story better by forcing me to move in a direction I would not have gone in on my own.
My prompt this week comes (once again) from Flash Fiction Friday. I’m growing fond of that site. The prompts are good and the word count is always toward the high end for flash fiction, which works well for this series. Here’s the prompt:
Prompt: Write a story set in or that includes an afterlife
Word limit: 1,200 words
If you haven’t read the other parts of this series, click here to get caught up. Otherwise, this story may not make much sense. Oh, and be sure to read them in the order they were published, starting from the bottom and working your way up.
in the mist of the mind
As Skadi had explained it to Kenna, every person cultivates a meditative state a little differently, but most use a form of visualization. For some, this might mean imagining they are walking down a gentle path in the woods. Each bend and turn in the trail pulls the mind more into a place of peace. For others, it could be a set of stairs. Step by step, the outer world fades into the background as the inner world is brought into focus.
For Kenna, it was a bed located, inexplicably, in the middle of a glade. It was always dusk there, the wind always coming from the north. She could see herself standing before the bed, then slipping onto it, her bare feet sliding between the sheets. As her back came to rest on the mattress, a light blanket would unfurl over her all by itself. And then another. And another. Layer by layer, she was cocooned in warmth, peace and security. Using this visualization, Kenna was able to divorce herself from her surroundings and focus her mind on a vast nothingness from which she consistently drew strength and courage. Many times, in the aftermath of such meditation sessions, the answer to a vexing question would simply come to her, presenting itself as though it had only been waiting for her mind to become receptive.
Of course, the visualizations she used for combat meditation were entirely different.
Within minutes of her phone call, Kenna was on the ground, her legs crossed and her eyes closed. Her breathing became rhythmic and she saw herself there, in the field. A field that looked not unlike The Vaalserberg. In this waking dream, she simultaneously saw from her own point of view, and from above and behind–like she was both living in and watching a movie. She saw and felt her feet in motion. The grass was cool as she stepped toward the bed, a patch of wildflowers nipping at her ankles. The sky burned crimson, as it ever did there. It was a good sign, a red sky at night.
She was just about to mount the bed and ease herself between the covers when she saw another form at the far edge of the field. She blinked her eyes. A stranger. Here. This was not possible.
The place she saw herself in didn’t exist. It was a place within her mind, a sanctuary she went to when she needed respite from the world and its chaos. She hadn’t told even her mother what she saw when she closed her eyes. How could someone else be here, in this place that no one knew of, that wasn’t even real in any geographical sense?
She froze along side the bed and watched as the form moved. It was walking. Toward her.
Her mind considered all manner of possibilities in that moment, but she was able to hold tight to one truth that superseded all others–this was her place. Her mind. Her field. No one, no god, no dæmon, no spirit of wind, water, fire or earth could hold dominion over her here. Her feet wanted to run. Her hands wanted to curl into fists. Her mouth wanted to scream and her eyes wanted to close, but she held all these impulses at bay. She would stand her ground–for it was, quite literally, her ground–and let this renkesmed come to her.
As the stranger drew near, she began to make out details of the form. Broad shoulders, short dark hair and a solid chest. Strong arms. Legs like the trunks of trees. A full but well trimmed beard that showed hints of grey even in the dimming light.
When he was a mere 30 meters away, understanding broke across Kenna’s mind and her legs felt weak. She had never seen him with her own eyes, but there could be no doubt. He was as he had been described her whole life. If he came closer, she was sure she would smell the sea in his clothes and hair and see the worn callouses of a sailor on his hands. A captain. A hero she’d heard tell of her entire life but never dared to hope she would actually meet.
“Papa?” she said.
He smiled. It was a warm smile, the kind only a father can bestow upon his daughter. In it, she saw pride and joy and playfulness and love. Love…from a man who died before she was born. Someone she’d never known. Never seen. Never hoped to meet.
“My daughter. It is good to see you.”
“Papa, how? How have you done this? How are you here?”
He continued his approach, stopping only when he was within feet of his daughter. The wind swept through his hair and the sun’s setting rays lit up his face. It was a hard face, full of wrinkles and scars, but also tender. She understood all at once what her mother, a goddess, had seen in this mortal man.
“I have little time, my daughter. Arawn’s ascension has opened a gate, but it will close soon. I wish I could answer all of your questions, but I cannot. I have come with news, and I must speak it before my time is gone. Please forgive my haste, and know that it is not for lack of love.”
Kenna nodded dumbly, words failing her.
“The King of the Otherworld has come, but his reign is far from secure. He means to take the realm of mortals, make no mistake in that, but he cannot do so quickly.”
“Because this world is not his. Can Odin take what does not belong to him? Can Loki, the great trickster, simply steal what he wants? No. All beings–gods, mortals and halvguds, like you, my sweet daughter–must seduce those whose possessions they covet. He has not come as a thief, scheming to take this world by force. No, he wants to truly own it, and so it must be given to him.”
Kenna listened to her father’s words and saw the truth of them. A thief must hide what he has stolen, but Arawn would never be content with that. He wanted to sit on a throne made of men’s skulls, toasting to their spilled blood for the world, what was left of it, to see. He had come, not to join battle, but to beguile. Battle would come only when he had already been given the right to make his claim.
“How?” she asked.
“He means to court this world, or at least a few of its fickle residents. Not the heads, but the backbone. The spine. It will take some time, what he has planned, and you can use that time to track him down and kill him. It is the only way.”
“Hush,” he said, and his fingertips brushed against her lips. Even as she felt the cool touch of his skin, the vision slipped. The field, her father, the bed, all of it faded away from her, swirling away in the mist of dreams and revelations.
In the distance, she heard the chopping sound of a helicopter’s blades.