Saturday, June 13, 2009
The sloping hill faded from view and Rachael Stone Crow found herself in the courtyard of what until the Autumn had been a Hilton hotel. Brown Lizzy had wandered off somewhere during the night, as she was wont to do; and Stoner somehow had fallen asleep on the rusted skeleton of a pool chair, as she was wont to do; leaving only Snot Boy and Kopczik to keep the vigil while she had explored the dreamtime.
The pungency of burnt sage filled the air, though it didn't make Rachael feel particularly clean. It had been a week since she had been able to get to the river to bathe, and almost as long since she had been able to wash the clothes that were almost her only possession in the world. The embers on the fire were a dark red, turning ash, and the light of the stars above was blocked by the trees that had grown around the hotel courtyard.
"You back with us now, Rachael?" Kopczik asked. "What'd you see?"
The dream flowed through her conscious mind like a stream. Rachael felt that she could just perceive its edges and its general flow, but knew that once she tried to grasp it, it would slip through her fingers and be gone. She closed her eyes and let herself get the feel of the dream once again. It was slipping away, the lightest gossamer being torn asunder on the wings of waking.
A gnat from the brackish mess that had once been a pool buzzed in her ear, and suddenly a piece of her dreamwalk fell back into place. She opened her eyes and looked across the dying embers at her two companions.
"I was someplace restless," she said. "It had a kind of beauty, but I couldn't enjoy it because whenever I stopped, gnats would bite me." She felt her wrist and there, sure enough, was the angry welt she had discovered in her dream.
"Gnats," Kopczik repeated. He sounded disappointed. "That's no surprise. They've been bothering us all night."
Rachael scowled angrily at the interruption, but didn't say anything. She was already struggling to retain the least bit of the dreamwalk. Letting Kopczik get to her would cost her everything she had gained from the night's work, and it was already too vague for her tastes. There had been a journey she was trying to avoid, somewhere she was being forced to visit that she didn't want to go. She almost had it, when Brown Lizzy stepped into the clearing from the tangle of brush and spoke.
"Allens coming, maybe twenty of them," Brown Lizzy said. "They's gonna be here'n about five minutes."
"Sark," Kopczik swore as he jumped to his feet and grabbed his iron. "Snot Boy, wake Stoner up and make sure she's got her shiv. We got to get out of here fast."