I cast my torch upon the straw. Tiny sparks flew from the fiery light as atoms merged and expanded, shooting flames upon the rotting post. I stepped back, marveling at how quickly chaos reigned. Flames danced across the boards, weakening their resolve, until they ultimately crumbled to ash, and fell to the ground.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I hesitated, only for an instant; then remembering what she had said, raised my head toward the highest flame and gave up my silent prayer. This bridge would serve as a symbol, as would it’s ashes.
Bending down, I retrieved a small, glass vial from my cloak pocket, and scooped up the ashes from the post, before replacing the stopper into the vial. Returning it to my pocket, I closed me eyes and drew a steadying breath. Hands toward the sky, I recited the incantation, just as the woman had instructed.
I waited, nothing happened. I felt no different than I had the moment before. Had I missed something? Perhaps not, the woman hadn’t said that I should feel anything, I just assumed that I would. No matter. Resolving that I had no choice but to move on, I slipped my feet from my boots and in doing so, nearly lost my footing.
The earth shifted and my vision altered. I felt my body spiral, carrying me full circle before throwing me upon the earth. It writhed and twisted. Soft moans escaped my lips, partnered with words I had never before heard, let alone uttered. I was not my own, yet I was not afraid. It felt almost – natural. Almost.
It was with this realization that my body’s uncontrollable writhing ceased. I lay there, suddenly naked, upon the forest floor. Burning bridge throwing it’s heated glow upon my motionless form as Shadowy figures played upon my flesh.
Though the movement had stopped, the incantations remained. Freckled with the occasional moan, the language came bolder, far bolder than during the madness moments before. I felt an energy growing inside of me. Pulsing through my veins. Building and swimming around my body, until I was full.
Filled to the brim and certain I would burst. Certain my skin would break open and I would explode. Sensation of madness returning to my conscious mind, the words turned to screams ripping woefully from my throat. All sanity threatened to abandon me…threatened to leave me forever until … it didn’t.
The screaming stopped. An ear piercing Snap! cracked through the trees, reverberating off of the forest floor, and back to where I lay.
I opened my eyes and found myself no longer surrounded by trees, but blossoms. Thousands of red blossoms blanketed the earth, yet, the bridge was still there. Still burning.
Looking through the flames, I could almost make out a figure on the other side; cast upon the ground, surrounded by trees. The forest. Was that me ? How could I be there, when I was so plainly here ? How did I cross the bridge, when I had not moved from where I lay naked, upon the earth ?
My fingers encircled the shaft of the torch as proof, for it remained just where I had cast it down. And the bridge still burned. Never mind. There was no time for that. I had far greater things weighing upon my mind, making the how and why of my present circumstances trivial at best.
Rising to my feet, I struggled to orient myself. Which way should I go? I appeared to be in the middle of an infinitely large clearing, unable to see anything but flowers and sky, in any direction I gazed. What I wouldn’t have done for a compass, though I was not entirely certain how that would assist my endeavor, especially considering the fact that I had no true inkling as to what it was that I was looking for. Nor where I was to go in search of it. It would have made me feel a bit better though.
Lowering my body to the earth once more, I knelt, digging my fingers into the soil and tilted my head to better observe the blossoms. They all appeared to have their faces lifted slightly towards the sky and listing a bit to the left. If that was the way that the flowers were looking, that was the way I would go. The soil beneath my hands seemed to pulse in assent. Letting it fall from my fingers, I rose to the ground and began my journey. One foot in front of the other, was to me, the best course of action. That was, unless I wanted to try to cross back over the bridge…but that seemed like a problem for another day, and worlds away.
No, whatever was in store for me, lay to the left, and it seemed, only the flowers knew how to get me there.