It was winter again. Snow heavy on the ground, the thick coldness enveloped my bare feet. I was in another gown — thick and intricately woven, rough embroidery scathing against my skin as another train dragged the ground behind me, growing heavier with each step as it absorbed the snow. The sky above me was murky and inky, thickened by smoke. To my left, a giant circle of people surrounded a bonfire. There was drumming, shouting, and chanting. Somehow none of them saw me here, barefoot and freezing in a ball gown in the snow. They were too entranced by their fire, their celebration.
To my right, there was a deep forest that grew dense not far from its edge so I could not see into it. There was only blackness.
I looked back and forth between the two spaces, not sure which way to go. As I watched the people at the fire sway and dance, losing themselves in the moment, I felt even lonelier. Why couldn’t I lose myself in something, especially now?
But then someone was behind me. I sensed the presence. Behind me, above me. Then there was a breath on my ear and I jumped. It felt too real.
“You don’t want to join in the festivities?” the harrowing voice of Alexander Raven rang in my ears.
I turned to face him. He wore a suit and fur coat, dressed just as he was when I met him. I began to realize this look he wore on his face, the one of malevolence, of an air of ease and a slash of seduction, would wear on me quickly, even in my dreams. Alexander Raven would always be there to taunt me, to destroy things I loved, and he would do it all while crushing me under the strain of unwanted advances.
“What are they celebrating?” I asked, surprised by my dream self’s confidence and even ease. The real me was too terrified of him to know how I’d act, should we ever meet again.
“Something they’ve awaited for centuries,” he said, lifting a lock of my hair away from my chest. His hand trailed along my bare décolletage as he did this, and I shivered uncomfortably at the contact. He held the hair close to his face and then inhaled it.
“Do you ever wonder what the vieczy smell when they smell us? Or when, say, that lover of yours smells your hair?” he asked.
“No,” I said. A half-truth. I didn’t wonder—thanks to my extended trips into Noah’s brain, I knew. And what I didn’t know—say, how my hair smelled—I didn’t want to.
“You look sad, Sadie,” he said.
“I am sad, Alexander,” I said.
He smiled. “And yet what makes you sad makes so many others happy,” he said, gesturing to the circle. Why was I here in my dream? Here where Alexander Raven would say one thing and mean another, no one thing connecting to the thing before it? Why would my dream self do this to me? I wondered.
He faced the people and the fire, but then turned on his heels and walked toward the forest. For whatever reason, I followed him. The trees seemed to consume us, pulling us into spaces so tight that my dress pulled and ripped against the bark of the frozen trees. Snow fell off branches as Raven’s tall stature rattled them in front of me. As clumps of it hit my shoulders, I shivered as they took just too long to melt. After all, I was the same temperature as the snow and air around me. Frozen.
Raven seemed to move faster and faster, adeptly navigating the spaces between trees, making it hard to keep up with him. Soon he was entirely out of sight, and as I wove through the trees in search of him, I got more and more lost.
Raven’s voice echoed in the air around me, a maniacal laugh that rang in my bones as much as in my ears. “So happy. They’re just so happy!” he’d said.
I called out to him, but he didn’t appear. I caught a glimpse of him to my right and went after him, only to see him disappear between two trees on my left. I ran faster and faster, until I was nearing my top speed, and the artwork I was wearing began to lose layers of fabric, whole sections of the skirt. Branches and bark grabbed out at my arms, tearing at my skin, as if I were as vulnerable as a human.
Eventually I had to stop, breathless, cold, and covered in tiny wounds. I reached a clearing different from the one where we were, or so I imagined because there was no sign of the fire anymore. The sky above was clear and unmarked by smoke. The darkness was pure. The woods, silent.
Then he appeared in front of me, laughing still.
“There’s my Sadie. Always chasing,” he cackled. “Always chasing something she’s not even sure she wants to catch.”
“What are they celebrating, Raven?”
He reached his ice-cold hand out to my face and stroked my cheek. There was a light in his eyes that haunted me. “The rarest thing in the world, dear girl,” he said. “The death of a Sorcerer.”
© Amanda Havard, 2013 the Survivors Series All Rights Reserved