The next few days go by smoothly and without any drama. The shop is doing a steady business, about average for the time of year and I don’t see any of the Pagans at all. Zeke is being a little weird and I can’t figure out why. He has become almost clingy. He barely lets me out of his sight and when we are in the same room, he seems to make a point of being in physical contact with me. I don’t mind it, exactly. But it’s a change from our routine and I am wondering if it’s because of the nightmare or the ring. I do wake up to find him gone most mornings although he’s back in time to scare me in the shower as usual. I know that he’s out meditating in the garden and this is another change in our routine.
Even as I know that life is about change, I have to wonder why these things are occurring now. I realize that I have been taking Zeke as a part of my life for granted. He has been so steady, so omnipresent that I haven’t even considered that things could change where he was concerned. I also slowly come to realize that he has been altering the décor in our bedroom. I noticed the dream catcher the day he put it up and was glad to have it. But I can’t remember when he put the onyx bowl on my dresser or how the crystals that now hang from each corner of the bed got there. He comes in from the garden to find me standing in the middle of the bedroom.
“Hey, thought you’d be in the shower by now.” He walks over and kisses me. I hold onto him and look up at his beloved face.
“Zeke, what have I been missing?” I ask him.
He doesn’t pretend not to understand me. “I have been protecting you – and us –from John Robert and all the rest of that coven. I don’t trust any of them.”
“I see that. You think there’s such a threat?”
“I know there’s danger. I know that you are standing at a place that could end up getting you caught in whatever is coming.”
“I…know…that… I guess I was hoping if I didn’t think about it too much, it would go away. You know, ‘Fate, don’t look at me, I’m not here’ kind of thinking.” I feel foolish. Things don’t go away just because you won’t look at them.
“I know, my darling. I have tried to give you the space you needed.”
“And I appreciate that, but it’s time for me to get my head out of the sand and be a little more helpful to you. You are right, we need to protect ourselves. What are we going to do about figuring out the dream and the reading?”
“I have been working on that. I have some ideas about it and I guess it’s time we talk.”
“Can I take a shower first?”
He smiles and smacks me on the butt. “Go get wet. I’ll be in there in a minute.”
He manages to scare me even though I know he’s going to be there. It’s a real talent and I wish I could figure out a way to combat it. We don’t actually get to talk about any of it until after dinner that night. When he pulls out his notebook, I am surprised at how much he’s written down.
“You really have been working at this! Zeke, why did you let me wander in the mist? You should have made me pay attention.”
“Everything comes in its proper time. It wasn’t time yet. It appears that it is now time.”
“I think so too.”
I re-read the description of my dream. He has gotten every detail, every nuance. There are little notes written all over the main parts of it. One says, “Snake is male figure. Why?”. Another says “Mistletoe – poison, Druids, Yule, parasite”. I try not to let these observations cloud my memory of the nightmare so I focus on the actual description. I am aware of him watching me closely as I read. Vader has laid himself as close up against me as he can, as if he knows that this is hard for me. When I am done, I take a deep breath and set the notebook down.
Zeke sits with his knees pressed up against mine and he leans over to cup my face in his hands. He kisses me, like a benediction. I can feel his love surrounding me, keeping me safe. I know that he will guard me from what we are about to do. I shift my position until I am seated almost in the lotus. I put my hands palm up on my knees and I feel him drop a crystal into my left hand. He holds just the tips of the fingers on my right and we begin to breathe in unison.
He directs the speed of our breath, having us breathe in on a four count and then out again on that same four count. His voice is soft and low but I can hear each word clearly and I center on the sound, relaxing and letting my mind ease into a trance state. Zeke is the only person I trust enough to do this as I am totally without control over my thoughts and actions when I go into this kind of a trance. He could plant all sorts of post-hypnotic suggestions and I would do them as if I had come up with the idea myself. He does not abuse the trust.
Once again, I am walking through the forest. I still don’t see the animals, but I know they are there and I will see them at the right time. I come to the clearing and the snake is still coiled in the center of it. It looks up at me and this time, I am afraid of it. Like before, I am naked and the snake is staring at my crotch. I want to leave the clearing, but know that I need to stay and watch the scene again. The doe steps out of the bushes beside me and walks towards the snake. It is like déjà vu all over again as Yogi Berra would say. I still cannot move and cannot make a sound, but I still want to stop her. I know what is going to happen so I try to pay more attention to some of the details.
She walks lightly up to the snake and licks its coils. Instead of watching the snake, this time I look at the doe. She has blue eyes and there is some sort of band around one hoof. The snake’s eyes glow and it slowly uncoils itself to slide around her. It slithers up her hindquarters and its tongue is flicking over her, like it is seeking where to bite. I can see the white flashes of its fangs as its mouth opens and closes. I can also see a dark patch on her fur, shaped like an ink blot on her back. I try to decide what the shape is, like doing a Rorschach test but it is just a vague blob.
The snake continues to move its head back and forth on the doe’s rear end, and then it dips down and disappears once more into the doe. She trembles and stands there. The other animals come into the clearing and form their circle around the doe. The fox sits at my feet, staring first at her and then at me. I reach down to rub his head, knowing this time that it is Vader. Rabbits gather in their little clumps, and the badger waddles to stop just in front of the doe. The bear stands next to her and the wolf has taken up his position on the other side of the doe. I know that this is Zeke and I feel safer.
I become aware of the humming and the moonlight shines brighter. The doe is rocking back and forth, and I watch as she’s struggling to give birth again. There is the gush of water from her vagina, and then the baby pops out. The doe transforms into the young woman that I know I should recognize, but I still don’t know who she represents. She takes the baby into her arms and puts it to her breast. Once more, it becomes the snake and bites her. Knowing that she is going to scream doesn’t make it any easier to hear her. The other animals try uselessly to take the snake off of her.
This time, I don’t try to help and the wolf walks over to sit next to me. We watch the animals claw and bite at the snake as it repeatedly strikes at the woman. She turns back into the doe and thrashes against the snake. It has moved around so that it can hold her nose in its mouth and it slowly suffocates her. Her eyes glaze and go dull, and she stops moving. Then she disappears. The other animals are gone and I didn’t see them leave.
The snake is still in the center of the clearing but it has been killed and the spear pins it to the ground. I slowly walk towards it, the wolf at my side. The eyes are wide open, black and staring but with no sign of life. The mouth hangs open and I can see the mistletoe. I look up and watch the tree grow again but this time I do not look down. The fox leads both the wolf and me back into the forest.
I very slowly come back into the room and my body. I sag and Zeke catches me, stretching me out on the sofa. He leaves me long enough to bring a cup of spearmint tea. I have to push Vader off of my chest to be able to sit up and drink it. Zeke doesn’t say anything; he just holds the hand that is not holding the tea cup and stroking my hair.
“Did you get it all?” I ask him.
“Yes. It still isn’t making a lot of sense. We have some more details but it doesn’t add up. Yet.”
“Do we need to talk about it now?”
“You’re not in any shape to talk about it. Drink your tea and then we’re going to take a bath.”
“Yes sir. Bossy, aren’t you?”
He leans over and begins to tell me just exactly how we were going to take that bath and I forget about snakes and other creatures. Zeke is imaginative in all things and very good at relaxing me. I like taking baths.
He doesn’t bring up the topic again for several days but I realize that he is meditating about it. I am not willing to explore the nightmare on my own, so I ask if I can join in with him. I am surprised when he refuses and in fact asks me not to think about it if possible. Since it bothers me a great deal to think about it, I am happy to obey even as I know that ignorance, while it can be bliss, may not always be the best course of action.
Samhain is coming and I decorate the shop with autumn-colored leaf garlands and pumpkins. I won’t put up anything that will offend Pagans, but the “regular” customers would think it strange if there wasn’t an acknowledgement of the holiday they call Halloween. I go for the fall harvest theme instead of witches and black cats, but no one seems to notice. Zeke and I talk about how we will celebrate the Sabbat but we haven’t made any plans when I get a call from Rhyssa.
“Hey there, girlfriend.” She says in my ear. I hate it when she is in her mock “in the hood” moods.
“Hi, Rhyssa. What’s up?”
“I was wondering if you and Zeke are going to attend ritual with the group for Samhain. We’d really love to have you join us.” She waits for my eager acceptance, like we had no other plans for it. We don’t, but I’m not sure about this. I stall her.
“We haven’t really decided for sure, but we were talking about staying in that night. You all got something special planned?”
Oops. Wrong choice of words, for her answer is highly indignant.
“Of course it’s going to be special. It’s always special. Lord Candeur makes every effort to create rituals that are all special, all unique in their own way.”
I’ll bet. Like getting naked. Which I will not do in front of him. Better ask that and get it out of the way at once. Maybe they will be doing it skyclad and then I can beg off.
“Ummm where are you all doing the Samhain ritual? At his house?” That means naked for sure. Any time he can have it inside, you can count on the clothes coming off.
“Ahhh, actually we have chosen to hold it in the Johnson’s backyard. They live just outside of town and there is plenty of room for circling and a bonfire.”
“Who are the Johnsons?” I try to remember if I know them.
“Mike and his wife, Shelly. She’s rather um large and has blond hair, he’s short and has a beard.”
Now I can place them—it’s Brunhilde and the Green Man. And if it’s going to be outside, there’s no way Lord Kiss My Ass is going to take a chance of the cold shriveling up his athame. It might be interesting.
“Let me talk to Zeke, see what he wants to do. Is there a deadline by which I need to call you and let you know?”
Rhyssa asks me for an answer within the next couple of days and I agree.
That night at dinner, I bring the subject up to Zeke.
“I talked to Rhyssa today.”
“When and where is Samhain?”
I should know better than to be surprised that he knows what I’m going to say. He has been positively spooky the past couple of weeks with how much he has been tuned into me and my thoughts. I tell him what Rhyssa has told me and he looks thoughtful.
“Let me think about it and I’ll let you know tomorrow.”
I am surprised when he says that we will go. But I call Rhyssa and tell her that we will attend ritual. She seems relieved but I don’t pursue why.