How do you know you’re broken? When does suspicion become truth, or worse, self-pity?
My boots sank into the powder, ice welding me to the earth. Moonlight silvered the clouds, mirroring the snow. Was I up or down, earth or sky? Mouth dry, head achy and spinning, I paused.
For a moment I felt the other, roots extending from my feet into the hard earth, and hope sparked in my chest. Was this my vision? But the thought banished the strangeness of the scene.
It was only me. The pine forest. The shifting dark.
I blinked and swayed. Exhausted, I trudged on, the only sound the crunch of snow beneath my feet. Not even the branches rustled. It was unnerving. Unnatural. As if I’d entered an in-between world, not quite real.
A pop shattered the forest’s quiet. My sore muscles jerked.
A spray of blue sparks shot above the treetops. Then a bigger bang and a shimmering gold flower. Fireworks. Midnight. New Year’s.
The fireworks blurred. Dazed from fasting, I reached to rub my eyes, then dropped my arms to my sides. I didn’t want clear vision. I wanted shamanic vision. Wanted it back.
Coyotes exploded from the shadows. They bounded past on silent paws, tails tucked, and were swallowed by the trees.
I exhaled shakily. Had they been real? I’d never done a year walk before. Should I follow the coyotes, or see where they’d come from? Or was seeing the coyotes enough? Coyotes symbolized both wisdom and folly. My year walk was desperation. But I’d learned when you stumble across a trail, it’s wise to follow, and I needed to understand what was blocking my magic.
I stumbled into the trees, emerging in a clearing, and a fist of chill air squeezed the breath from my lungs.
A still figure sprawled, a malformed shadow on the snow.
This couldn’t be real. It had to be the year walk, speaking to me at last.
But my gut twisted. I didn’t want to see this.
Reluctant, I walked toward the twisted mass, my boots crunching on the snow. A man lay, supine. Starlight glittered on his staring eyes.
I fell to my knees and dry heaved.
Hand trembling, I wiped my mouth.
This was real.
Coming next in Episode 2: Lenore encounters an angry sheriff and discovers she’s a suspect in murder.
Photo (top) by Kimson Doan on Unsplash. Photo below by Daniil Kuzelev on Unsplash.