Friday, June 28, 2013

Thirty-Seventh Beginning: Sharper Than a Serpent's Truth 03

Anne's backpack was lighter the next time she came.  And she brought potato salad rather than sandwiches.  She chattered as they worked.  Her chatter was more soothing than Patch's chatter; which was, at a deeper level, more disturbing.

It was nearly dark when she left with a backpack full of spelled items and instructions.  Patch was silent, which should have been a warning.  Cordelia's nightmares began that night.

"You lost a baby," Patch croaked in the morning.  Cordelia had tried and failed to remember the nightmare.  How fortunate that Patch could remind her.  "It cried.  It was gone.  The waves came."

Yes.  She remembered.  She was going to drown if she stayed.  It was going to drown if she left.  But she could never find it so it would drown anyway.  But she couldn't leave.

Anne came after school.  They reviewed family histories.  Anne was astounded that Cordelia's mother was a witch.  It was beyond her experience.

"Yes.  She's proud of me for carrying on the family tradition.  She thinks there's nothing I can't do."

There was no sign of the wards working.  Anne left to stay at a friend's house.  That night another nightmare came.

"You lost a baby."  The magic voice seemed to lodge behind Cordelia's throbbing eyes.  "It cried.  It was gone.  The winds came. Oh, yes.

The sinds had howled that they had stolen her baby.  They would trade it for her heart.  Cordelia had pulled out her heart, which was a seed; but her heart cracked in her hands and the shell was empty.  With nothing to trade, she had howled into the wind.  The wind had howled itslef away, taking even the hound of her baby's cried.

"She is here," Patch announced before Cordelia was completely detached from the dream.

Cordelia was barely dressed before the knock came on the door.  Anne was outside holding a flat of seedlings.

"I'm sorry.  Is it too early for a Saturday?  These are mostly climbers and runners.  I brought string for the climbers, and I thought the runners would fit in those gaps in the sidewalk.

"It's not too early.  I'm usually out here my now.  I had a bad dream."

"You, too?  I kad a doozy.  I was killing my mother but she wouldn't die.  I tried to pack her in a crate to bury, or something, but I couldn't put on the lid because there was always an arm or a leg or - something grosser - in the way.  No matter how I tucked her in, she kept sticking out.  And the police were coming.  It was wild."

"I'll get my trowel.  Do you want some orange juice?"

They worked all day:  on the garden, on cleaning the apartment, on maintaining the apartment's basic wards.  They discussed spells and familiars and the established lineages of witches.

Over their meals, Anne chatted about friends and clothes and music.  Anne liked Patch.  This was aided, of course, by the fact that she couldn't hear him.  Some of the comments he had made as she discussed her friends would have ended that real quick.

At last she left.  They decided, at the door, to give it one more day before declaring the spells a failure.

"You know they failed.  They all failed."

"Do you know you have the voice of a toad?  A gravel toad?  It's not birdlike at all."

"You won't do it.  You're afraid."

That night Cordelia awoke at the end of the nightmare, remembering it all.  Patch still slept.  She had heard her child crying from the ground.  She had removed her heart, thinking to offer a trade; but when it broke, she used the empty shell as a scoop to dig with.  She had uncovered her mother's face.  As the wails of her child rang within her mother's dead body, Cordelia had held out the shell of her heart, confused.  When she looked down, the shell was a bowl made of a human's skull and filled with blood, and her mother and child were gone.

She woke expecting that something might come and drink, sometime, if she continued, but not knowing what.

She was ready when Anne came.  "We're going to the zoo,"  she said.  "Here's the bus schedule."

"I brought muffins," Anne said.  She looked wan, again, but didn't complain.

"I can't eat yet," said Cordelia.  "I made this at dawn."  She held up a dead rat, festooned with a pattern of tied colored threads.  Anne could feel the magic it had been stuffed with.  It was beyond anything she had experienced so far.

"Time to punt," she quipped, swallowing.

"Time to blitz," Cordelia corrected.  "Time to sack the quarterback."

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