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Chapter 21: For a tambourine

April 25, 2013

Lena watched in horror as the soul-light-Helen-Hazel-thing backed away from her.

WE ARE SOUL… it said. It stumbled.

Lena had been on the ground, where Hazel had pulled her down before she stood to face the thing. She forced herself to get up and follow.

She didn’t know what it was, but whatever it was it had got into her beloved.

She followed. It turned back towards her, its eyes blank and silvery, colours moving over its skin. She could see its flesh rippling. Changing.

It seemed to grow in size, and then shrank again.
WE ARE –

It took a step toward her. It tripped, fell forwards.

Lena caught it. It was Hazel but it was not Hazel. It was Andy but it was not Andy – a body possessed by some soul-eating creature. SOUL, trapped in a woman, trapped in a –

She caught it and fell backwards as it landed on top of her.

The creature was panting, effortful. It lay on her for a moment, then tried to get up.
She looked into its eyes as it reared up and –
“Hazel!” she said, urgently. Then: “Andy!”
She clung on. “Are you still you?”

WE ARE –
“Hazel!”

“Lena – ” The whisper came out like the hiss of steam from a pressure cooker when you rock the top.
“And are you – are you, you?” Lena asked.
The glow faded. It did not go but it faded.
“I am me,” said Hazel. She sat up, catching her breath.
“Thank God.”

“What the hell just happened?”
It was Karen.

Lena did not know Karen, did not recognise her at all. She hadn’t been part of the spell. Why was Karen even here? Why were any of those others here?

“It wants to see our souls,” said Hazel.
Her voice sounded distant, and there was still a light sheen over her skin.

“What does that even mean?” asked Pip. A kid. Another one just caught up in things.
Lena put her head in her hands.
“Why?” Karen again. “I don’t understand any of this,” she said.

“It’s because of the spell.”
“That thing at the Women’s Tent?” said Karen.
“You were there?”
“I had a tambourine,” said Karen. “I thought it would be fun.”

Lena’s heart sank. The first spell. There had been so many people.

Fatima moved over to Karen and put an arm around her shoulder.
“I didn’t think it was, like, actual magic,” Karen went on. “I didn’t know it was dangerous.”
“Bloody hell, nor did I,” said Fred.

Nor had Lena. She had meditated, prayed and communed with the spirits daily, for years. She had called for aid from time to time, and had always found it. But not like this. Never anything like this.
None of them had known. How could they?

Except – “Helen knew,” she said. “I think Helen knew.”

“What? What did she know?” demanded the guy, Ian. She might have known he would be like this. Aggressive. It wasn’t helping.
“She knew there would be a price,” said Lena. “That’s what it said.”

“There’s always a price,” said Hazel. “For everything.”
“We have to let it see our souls?” asked Fatima.

“It means -” Hazel began. They all looked at her. “It means you have to face your greatest fear. It means you have to show your true selves.”
“Bare all, you mean?” said Ian.
“Yes,” said Hazel. “Exactly that.”
“Blimey,” said Karen. All for a tambourine.

They talked it over.

“Spiders,” said Fred. “I’m bloody terrified of them.”
“That’s your true self, is it? Terrified of arachnids?” Pip, sarcastic.
“No,” said Fred, quietly. “Jesus.”
“It’s all a bit intense, isn’t it?”

Lena turned away from the group and took Hazel aside.
“What happened?” she said. “Tell me exactly.”

It was like when you shine a light through your thumb, and it feels hot and your thumb glows red.
But it was a light shining through my whole body.

It wasn’t scary though, not too scary, because I’d sort of done it before. The light – that’s how I got here in the first place. It was the candle from the spell. It kept getting bigger until it was filling the whole sky, and then it sort of engulfed us. It was like we became part of the flame. Me and those kids – Fred, Pip.
This was not quite the same – not so hot.

I became a part of something, like the light was an ocean and I was just a drop. I could feel it wanting me to dissolve away. But I didn’t want to lose myself. You brought me back, Lena. You called me back, and I didn’t want to lose you.

I can still feel it, but now I’m not part of it. It’s part of me.

But when I was there – when I was out there in this ocean or whatever it was, it was… I can’t even describe it. It’s like I knew all there was to know, like I could feel everything, everywhere, all at once. I wasn’t just in the universe, I wasn’t just part of it. It was like I was the universe.

“The universal soul…” whispered Lena.
“Yeah,” said Hazel. “Something like that.”
“And you came back.”
Hazel held up one hand, and it still had a bit of shine about it, like a glow-stick the morning after. “I think I brought some of it back with me.”

Lena took the hand, kissed it.
“What do we do now?” she said.
“I don’t know,” said Hazel.

“I don’t want to – when I was in there – ”
“What?” prompted Lena.
“I didn’t want it to know all my secrets. I wanted to keep my secrets safe inside. That’s why I couldn’t let it take me. That’s why I fought it”

Lena considered that. She didn’t know that Hazel had any secrets. Not real, secret secrets.
“You wanted to keep your secrets safe?” she said.

Hazel stayed silent for a long time.
“I’m afraid – afraid it will tell me I’m – wrong.”

“It said you have to face your greatest fears,” said Lena.
“I know,” said Hazel. “And I couldn’t.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2013 11:08 pm

    Word count – 1025
    Prompt – a secret shared (BrendaAlicante)

    Please suggest prompts for Chapter 21 and beyond in the comments!
    (Check the sidebar for a link to more info about this interactive project!)

  2. brendaalicante permalink
    April 26, 2013 1:37 pm

    Nearly there – well done’

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