By the next morning, I had almost convinced myself that the episode in the ballroom had been nothing more than wishful thinking. I had wanted so badly to be anywhere else that I pretended time accelerated. I thought my attempt at rationalization was pretty good, but there was still a nagging voice in my head that disagreed; that parroted back the words of the strange woman, growing louder and more insistent with every passing hour.
I wasn’t requested at the castle, so after a rousing morning with Rose, I took my violin and headed into the forest outside our cottage. There was only one way to quell the last suspicions, to prove to myself that the incident had been nothing but a daydream.
The ground crunched beneath my boots as I trudged deep into the forest. When I was sufficiently away from the civilized world, I found a clearing conveniently littered with stumps and fallen trees. I didn’t waste time pretending to tune the instrument. It was played often enough that it rarely lost its perfect pitch. Instead, I brought the violin to my shoulder and began the same jig as before.
The sound filled the clearing with a happy bubbling, but all the trees stayed stationary as ever. Relief flooded through me, pushing the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding into existence. So it had been the dust, nothing more.
I settled onto a nearby stump and began a different song. This time I chose a smooth waltz, something with intricate, eerie harmonies and a soothing undertone. Again, the world stayed as it should. Reassured, I closed my eyes and lost myself in the music.
I don’t know how long I played, the composition swelling around me like a sea, but finally the song was over. Satisfied, I opened my eyes.
The forest whirled around me. I fell from the stump, the violin flying out of my hand. The greens and blues of nature spun into one indistinguishable mass above me. Oddly, the ground seemed as stable as always.
I stayed where I was for several minutes, but the spinning didn’t stop. I tried closing my eyes and reopening them, but nothing worked. Why wasn’t it stopping? What had I unleashed? Fear and uncertainty choked my breath into ragged, shallow gasps. I knew I couldn’t lie on the ground forever, but I was scared to move.
Finally, I tried to rise. The spinning continued, but I had no trouble gaining my feet. I had expected some sort of vertigo, the rush of wind, the pull of gravity, something. But everything felt normal–it just didn’t look that way.
I ran, forgetting the violin, bolting for the comforts of home; the comforts of Rose. I didn’t understand how I wasn’t falling; the greenery was a blur, but somehow, I could see clearly within a small radius, enough that I could find my way through the trees.
It wasn’t as long as it should’ve been before the cottage came into view. I stopped at the edge of the forest, watching as the sun trekked its way across the sky in a matter of moments. This wasn’t possible! Why was this happening?
I shook my head, trying to dispel the vision, but it didn’t help. The world continued to move faster than it should.
“Taylor!” The shrill cry caught my attention. I looked up to see Rose. She separated from the blur of the background, moving as if she were searching for someone, her actions jerky, like a bird hopping after worms. She called my name several more times, sounding more and more worried. Yet she was staring directly at me.
“It’s ok, Rose. I’m right here,” I answered, confused. But it was as if I didn’t exist. Her frenzied green eyes looked through me, and my voice landed on deafened ears. It had only been a few moments, but already the sun was setting, the sky darkening at a rapid pace. And still, my world refused to slow. How long could this possibly last? The song I’d played hadn’t been that long.
Rose started to cry, and each tear seared through me. I tried to reach her, but nothing was working. No matter how loud I screamed, she didn’t hear me. Every time I tried to grab her, to wrap her in my arms, I couldn’t catch her. She flitted away like a hummingbird.
Finally, she stopped and sank to the grassy floor. It was fully dark now, the stars watching our painful dance with flickering eyes. Seeing my beautiful Rose crumpled and sobbing was unbearable. I had to reach her. To let her know I was alright.
I moved toward her. The world shivered around me, but Rose stayed within my bubble of clarity. In fact, the harder I concentrated, the slower her actions seemed to become. Her sobs changed from the rapid pace of a newborn’s heart to the regular shudders of someone in agony. Feeling the first flicker of hope, I advanced cautiously.
Her voice had dropped from the high-pitched sounds of a squirrel to her normal range, but as I got closer it began to lower, her sobs turning to a frightening wheeze. She was moving in slow motion now. She’d gone from one extreme to the other. Why was I the only thing that moved at a normal pace?
I stood over her, confused, watching her pain in heightened detail, trying to decide how to reach her. I couldn’t let her continue on broken like this—I was ok, and she needed to know that. I bent down, reaching out slowly, afraid she’d jerk away again before I could wrap her in my arms.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
I froze with my hand outstretched and turned to find the voice. Standing on the edge of the forest was the blue-eyed woman. She stood calmly, her dark hair fluttering in the light breeze, her sinuous frame relaxed in hunting garb, her piercing eyes serious.
“You!” I cried, staring in shock. What was she doing here?
“Step away from the girl, Taylor.”
“Why? I have to comfort her, tell her I’m alright!” My gaze fluctuated between Rose and the strange woman. Uncertain, I lowered my hand, but remained crouched, waiting.
“When you touch her, her life will be forced outside of time and she’ll become part of the blur around you. Except that when you stop Spinning, she won’t. She’ll be trapped in the Spin. Forever,” the woman explained, looking at me gravely. Completely lost, I shook my head.
“What? I don’t understand.” I felt thick-headed, but the woman’s vague words made absolutely no sense and didn’t explain why I couldn’t comfort my wife.
“If you touch her, she dies. Simple enough for you?” she said condescendingly, her blue eyes flashing with annoyance.
I stared at her while her words sank in. Looking at Rose in horror, I scrambled quickly away. I still didn’t understand, but I didn’t want to risk that what Blue-eyes said was true. No one spoke for what seemed an eternity. I watched Rose’s shoulders rise and fall in painful heaves and felt powerless. Helplessness was a new sensation, and I didn’t like it.
“If you know so much, then you fix this. Make it stop so I can comfort my wife!” I yelled at Blue-eyes, frustration boiling over into anger.
“Come on, you have a lot of training to do,” Blue-eyes answered, turning away and moving into the shadows of the forest.
“No…wait! What do you mean? I’m not going with you. I can’t leave Rose like this!” I couldn’t believe she had completely ignored me. I stood, my hands clenched into fists. My rage needed an outlet, and the only thing I was certain of was that this was somehow her fault. I advanced on her, planning to intimidate her into doing what I wanted. But she just gazed at me, unconcerned, her hands on her hips. The lack of response doused my fury, withering it like a fire sputtering without oxygen.
“Please, I don’t understand what’s happening. Can’t you give me something? Some sort of explanation? Can you stop this?” I begged, the embers of my anger cooling into despair.
“I’m sorry for your confusion Taylor, but I can’t give you any information,” she said, her voice softening, “You need to come with me; I’ll take you to the one with answers. And no, I can’t stop another’s Spin. Only you can make it stop, but without training, it will have to play itself out. Now, shall we?” She offered her hand, her body angling away toward the forest.
“But Rose,” I said, looking back at the crumpled figure in the grass. I didn’t want to leave her this way–couldn’t leave her this way! She was everything to me, and I’d promised her. I wanted so badly to go to her, but the woman’s warning held me back. I felt a black hole forming in my chest; subconsciously, I was accepting the inevitable.
Blue-eyes was beside me then, her hand on my shoulder. “There’s nothing more you can do for her. You have to let her go.” I stared into those blue eyes, feeling their ice seep to my core. I nodded silently, giving up.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” she murmured sympathetically before moving away to the edge of the forest. “It’s time Taylor, we must go.”
“I love you Rose,” I whispered, refusing to concede defeat by saying goodbye. This wasn’t the end—couldn’t be the end. I would find my way back.
I turned and followed the blue-eyed woman into the darkness of the trees. Each step was more painful than the last, and though Rose’s sobbing was fading as the distance between us grew, I knew I would always hear it.
~© Copyright Kisa Whipkey 2009~
All Rights Reserved
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