Winter – Chapter 26 – 01

            The keening, angry cry jerked me upright in the bunk with a gasp.  The pain in my head doubled and I hunched over, palms pressed to my temples.
            Breathe, I reminded myself.  Goddamnit, breathe.  I took one breath, then another, and a third, slowly mastering myself again.
            Whatever was screaming outside was still screaming.  I cautiously straightened.  The sound wasn’t human.
            You need to be out there, Marin, not hiding in here.
            “Bloody hell,” I muttered, feeling shaky as I threw the covers back and eased out of the bunk.  I wasn’t sure if it was cold or weakness as I yanked on a jacket before I went hunting for my boots.
            The scream was getting louder, pitched higher.  Bile rose in my throat and I swallowed it back down.  You’re in control here, Marin.  Settle down.

            Five figures clustered around a tiny table, their hands linked, chanting softly.  A mirror glowed in the center of the table, the image of something big and green and ugly visible beneath glow and fog.  A dark-haired girl at the head of the table was trembling, tears running down her cheeks, sweat running down her face.
            “Please,” the crying girl whispered.  “Please work.”
            The beginnings of flames began in the mirror, wreathing the huge green figure as it pounded through tangles of brush that sprang up to block its passage, as it floundered through churned earth.
            A larger spark lit the mirror just before it exploded into a hundred shimmering shards.
            The girl at the head of the table fell backward in her chair with a cry, her companions jerking back in confusion.
            “What just happened?” one of the men asked, his voice a deep rumble.
            “I don’t know.”  The woman who’d been crying said, mopping her face with the cuff of her sweatshirt.  “I lost all the images and everything when the mirror exploded.”
            “That’s not supposed to happen, is it?” the second man asked, turning his gaze to another woman, this one smaller, almost childlike.
            “Never mind that,” the other man said, his gaze shifting to the same woman.  “Did it work?”
            “Usually not and I don’t know,” the woman said as she looked between the two men.  “This was uncharted territory for me, too.”  She looked at the remains of the mirror, then at the first woman.  “What do you think?”
            “I think I need a new mirror before I can tell you anything,” she said quietly, staring mournfully at the remains of her mirror.  “I’ll find one and get back to you.”
            The larger man squeezed the shoulder of the tiny woman, who sighed and slumped back into his arms.
            “I hope it worked,” she said softly, “for all of our sakes.”

            “Fucking hell,” I growled, straightening slowly and rubbing my head.  That was the last thing I needed when I need to get the hell out there right now.  I snatched my boots from their spot near the door and sat back down on the bunk to yank them on.
            How long was I out?  I didn’t have any way of knowing and I couldn’t hear anything over a roaring in my ears.  What the hell did I just see?
            The figures from the vision felt strangely familiar, but I knew I’d never seen them before today.
            I yanked on a pair of gloves and stumbled out into the light of day.  My nose closed abruptly against the smell of burning flesh and burning foliage.
            What the hell is going on?
            I started to run, hearing shouts, beginning to hear the sound of the shotguns going off.  I could hear Thom and Phelan above everyone else and my heart began to beat a little faster.  Maybe it hadn’t gone as badly as I’d feared it would.  Maybe everything was okay.
            That was never something to bet on.

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