The Five

The structure was much larger than it had appeared at a distance. Megan tried to take it all in, but doing so while keeping pace with Delfine was no easy task; it seemed as though her impromptu guide was moving faster the closer they got. A million questions swirled in Megan’s head, still too frantic to be articulated. Up close, she could make out intricate patterns etched across the edifice of the towering building as they approached.

“Welcome home,” Delfine said with a knowing grin as they came to the entrance. Up close, Megan could see intricate patterns etched into the silvery exterior, swirls and waves that curled around the entirety of it in fine lines that were invisible from a distance. The door, carved or crafted from the same shimmering material, was decorated with its own unique patterns that seemed to glow with a soft blue light at Delfine’s touch.

The door swung inward; for all its outward simplicity, the interior of this place was lavishly ornate. Everything within was lit by the warm glow of what appeared to be gas lamps, wrought in shades of copper and gold with intricate filligrees coursing throughout. The red-orange light spilled out into a pool of thick maroon carpets shot with bands of gold, with delicately-carved wooden chairs placed near the edges. From the moment she stepped inside, Megan was staggered by its scale.

Above her, the room seemed to encompass the height of the building; she could see levels above, but just inside the door, there was only the full length of the wall running upward and into the blackness. It seemed, somehow, to defy basic structural norms, yet the warmth and rich colors of the chamber itself were very inviting.

“Sit,” Delfine instructed her. Still searching for words or desperate for an explanation, Megan simply placed herself in the nearest chair. “I’ll be right back.”

And then, she was alone. Delfine strode across the foyer and into a hallway, soon vanishing around a corner. Studying the lines sewn into the carpets was somehow soothing, and she felt her eyes tracing the tangled patterns across the floor. Around her, the light of the gas lamps danced across everything. She noticed, as if half aware, that her fingers were following the grooves carved into the arm of the chair. Everything around her was a shifting, winding pathway. Every pathway wove into one.

Her vision blurred momentarily, and the wavering shadows seemed to dissipate into a dark mist. Her eyes closed in reflex, and when they opened again the darkness ebbed. She still sat in the chair that she’d been in, but the room was entirely new. Now, the decor had shifted to dark blues and greens complimented by silver metalwork. The cushion of her chair, too, had shifted to meet the new requirements. Seated in chairs surrounding her in a semcircle were Delfine and three others, each in a cloak of a different color.

Sitting closest, to her left, Delfine’s green cloak had taken on a peculiar ripple, like leaves swaying in the wind. Next, an older woman with a kind, dark-skinned face and deep brown eyes looked at her from under a flame-red cloth that seemed to radiate heat in the already-warm chamber. Directly across from her,  a deep purple hood completely engulfed its wearer in shadow, their stillness almost palpable from across the room. To her right, a young, bright-looking girl of about twelve or thirteen was wrapped in a bright blue that nearly melted into the similarly-adorned trappings of this place.

“Welcome.” It was Delfine’s voice, but it seemed to drift into being, coming from all sides. Her lips did not move. “Megan. The waitress. Servant, and one who takes pride in her work. That’s you, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Megan heard herself say; she did not think she’d spoken.

“You are safe here, Megan,” a new voice added. Though she had not heard it before, Megan knew it to be Celia, the woman in red. “We have done enough that you — that we — are safe here.” Her tone was as warm and kind as the rest of her, carrying a soothing quality that put Megan’s mind at ease despite the whirlwinds of confusion.

Johanna, the child, spoke next, a sing-song lilt to her words. “You’ve come a long way, but you’ll be back home in no time. We wanted to meet you, and we’re really glad you showed up!” Her youthful exuberance shone through in every fiber of her being.

Silence came over the room; at first, Megan wondered if she should speak. She waited three seconds, four, five — why weren’t they saying anyting? Her thoughts turned again to finding words, anything to dispel the stillness hanging over the room. Her mind raced, struggling to remind itself of how she knew these people, of how she’d come to be here. Just when she couldn’t stand the quiet any longer, Lilian spoke. Her voice roared like thunder inside Megan’s head.

“You are here because you are one of us. There are many lessons before you now, many paths. The one you choose to walk is yours, but those paths walked by we five will always intersect. It is not fate, it is not design; it is fact.  From this day forward, your life will change in ways that you had never believed to be possible. This, too, is fact. If you are strong, if you are wise, if you are ready — these things will be wondrous, and you will know such joy as you have only read about. If you are not, then this will ruin you. We believe — I believe — that you are ready.”

The echoes of her deep, resonant timbre filled the room like liquid; while Megan could still see nothing of Lilian with her eyes, she knew every detail of her face, every line that formed her body. The authority with which she spoke left no quarter for doubt or question. As the last lingering reverberation faded, Megan felt the air shifting, saw the shadows resuming their dance and soon, she was back in the reds and golds of the first chamber again, as though she’d never left. Delfine was happily making her way back down the hallway towards her.

“Well,” she said as she drew nearer, “you’ve met the others, just like I promised. It’s probably about time we give you a rest from this, so you go ahead on home for now. We’ll catch up when it’s time. In the meantime, I thought you might want this.”

Delfine held out the wine bottle that had accompanied Megan on her journey. It was filled with a honey-gold liquid, and had been sealed with a cork. As Megan reached to take it, she felt a twitch; her fingers missed, and the bottle slipped from her hand before she could grasp it.

Jolting, she reached for the bottle, afraid that the fall would break it. Both it and its contents, still sealed safely inside, landed softly on the carpet just before she fell from the couch and joined them.

This entry was posted in Stories and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.