Manitou Island: Part 26
Magical Mystery Tour
SILENCE SUDDENLY CUT through Charmian's mind and she stopped screaming, gasping for breath and kneeling upon the floor of Tal Natha's cave.
"I knew it would be too difficult for you," Tal Natha said quietly. "You're not used to it. There are too many voices, too many thoughts for you to handle."
"No, human. It takes a long time if you weren't born with it. Plus you are not my kind. It comes more easily to us than it does to you. I've made another mistake thinking you could possibly handle it; forgive me for this."
"No..." Charmian tried catching her breath and pushed herself to her feet. She nearly fell over and had to lean against the wall. Her head spun and throbbed at the same time; she couldn't remember if she'd brought any aspirin along, but supposed it didn't matter, as this was a dream and she didn't have her backpack with her anyway. "I'm...okay. It was...just too much at once. If there was a little less of it..."
"I've told you there are many dreams on this Island. If you wished to find the person you seek, you would have to search through many dreams."
"I know...but...maybe you could...I don't know...filter them for me or something? So they aren't all coming through at once? You must be able to do that, right?"
Tal Natha looked perplexed. "Filter..."
"Yeah, you know. Just give them to me a few at a time. I can handle that. It'll take longer, but I'll be able to get through them. You just tried to give me everything at once and of course I can't handle that."
A slight sigh. "Well...I suppose it's worth the try. You're certain you can do this so soon after that?"
"Yeah, I think so...it's just a headache now. I can handle it."
"All right, then...we'll try this again. But the moment I sense you becoming overpowered I'll draw back. I won't subject you to that again."
Charmian sighed inwardly but said nothing. Tal Natha pressed his forehead to hers and his voice came in her mind again:
My dreams to yours. Your dreams to mine. The dreams of all. The dreams of everyone. Their dreams to your dreams. Their dreams are yours. Accept. Accept their dreams as your own.
I accept them. Their dreams are mine.
At first it was still silent, only her own thoughts, and she wondered if Tal Natha had decided against it after all. But then she heard a faint murmuring, seemingly in the distance, and it slowly grew closer...she gritted her teeth and steeled herself as the strange thoughts entered her mind, and they did make her head throb from their unfamiliarity, but it was nowhere near as awful as it had been the first time...
She hadn't been able to make out any distinct thoughts the first time, with how everything had struck her at once; but now she could catch a fleeting glimpse of a dream here and there, each of them different. She frowned and tried to see them more clearly.
You think too hard. Tal Natha's voice came to her from outside the vision. If you truly wish to find that which you seek, you will not have to concentrate. Trying to see everything more clearly will only trip you up. Let it come to you, if it exists.
All right...I'll try.
She backed away and started "skimming" the dreams instead. They flowed past her in a steady stream, rather than engulfing her in a drowning tide. Once in a while, here and there, she saw a face or a vision she recognized, and felt that that must be the dream of someone she'd met on the Island so far. A brief possible vision of Silver Eagle Feather made her think of Black Elk Horn; of course he would be worried about her, not having seen her in so long. She saw someone tossing something into a fire and thought of either Stick-In-The-Dirt or Old Mother Manitou; no telling what they were up to now. A view of the sky and the Island far below brought to mind Pakwa or one of the other GeeBees; then she saw blades of grass rising high over her head, and realized she must be in the dream of a mouse or squirrel. These were only a few that she managed to see; the rest streamed past too quickly to make out, a blur of colors and faces and sounds and emotions that she tried to stay above. What would the dream that she sought look like?
I'm thinking too hard...
She let go again and tried not to think at all. It was difficult, to say the least, when so many thoughts were going past her. She let her eyes go out of focus, like staring at a stereogram, and waited for...whatever she was looking for...to come to her, as Tal Natha had suggested.
And once she did that...she noticed, far off, something shining in the stream of thoughts. Like a pebble in a shallow riverbed it glinted as if struck by sunlight and she focused on it immediately, all senses lighting up.
From outside her: What is it?
I think I see something.
What do you see?
I'm not sure yet...maybe it's what I'm looking for. How do I tell?
Let me take you into the dream to see for yourself. She felt herself moving forward, slowly at first, then more rapidly; she put up her arms to protect herself as she broke through the speeding stream, but the dreams merely broke and re-formed around her, like water. All the while the light grew brighter. When she got closer she could see that it seemed to be a ring of some sort, a glowing ring with a darker center; she realized it must be a doorway. An open doorway, waiting for her to enter?
She slowed down and came to a halt before it. Do you still believe this is the one, human?
Yeah, I think so...it looks...different from all the others. Let me take a closer look at it.
Inside you go, then. Good luck...
Charmian moved forward, slipping through the glowing ring; she shut her eyes briefly as the light surrounded her, then opened them up again to see what awaited on the other side, and--
--immediately fell to the ground, landing on her chest with a thud.
"Ow," she muttered, pushing herself up and dusting off her hands. She glanced around and looked up.
A man sitting upon a small ledge--a native--stared back down at her, look inquisitive.
"Hi," Charmian said, stupidly.
He tipped his head in what might have been a nod.
She stood up and tried to straighten herself out. Imagine how rude and weird this entrance must be. "Um...sorry to just barge in on you like this, but I'm kind of...looking for somebody."
"In dreams?" His voice startled her, but his expression didn't change. "I must admit you're the first person to ever look for someone else in one of my dreams."
"Yeah, uh...sorry about that. It's kind of an emergency though."
He stared at her a moment more before smiling and shrugging, awarding her the point. "All right. Who exactly are you looking for?"
"I don't know yet. It's more like what. I'm looking for a way to help my friend. He's hurt."
"Who is your friend and how is he hurt?"
"He's..." She trailed off. "He's an Ocryx."
The inquisitive look returned.
"I know what you're thinking and it's not like that...he's a good guy, really. He's the one who brought me here."
"Ah. The Dreamspinner then." He nodded. "I was wondering how you came in here on your own. You say that he's injured? How?"
"He was stabbed with an Ocryx horn. One of the GeeBees had it tied to a stick."
The native frowned now. "This is serious, then." He paused. "You came here looking for something to help him?"
"You must know that the wound from an Ocryx horn is fatal."
"I know, I know...but...well, there's always an exception!"
He pursed his lips. "Well...possibly true, possibly not...but what if I were to tell you that the solution could be worse than the problem?"
"Nothing can be that bad. I mean, come on, if he dies, then so does this dream and all the others, and then the Island. Is there really anything worse than that?"
"There always could be."
"Well, I have to take that chance...why? Do you know of something after all?" Her voice grew hopeful.
He held up a hand. She finally took note of how he was dressed--two feathers standing up straight upon his head, one hanging down, white buckskin and what looked to be a silver moon design on his breastplate. "Don't become hopeful so quickly. What I know has never been proven."
"I'm willing to take the chance."
"But as I said the solution may be worse than the problem. Perhaps you may wish to take the chance, but does he?"
"He told me to try if I thought I were able. Even if he told me not to I'd still do it." She felt like hopping from foot to foot. "Do you have something that can help me help him, or not?"
"All right, since it's obvious you won't take no for an answer..." He fingered the silver medallion. "There's one way to help him. The thing is, it can be done only once--if this were to happen to him again, you would not be able to seek the same solution again--and it may very well be impossible for you to do it anyway."
"Just tell me what it is and I'll find out!!"
"You mainlanders are impatient types," he said, sounding annoyed, but then shrugged again. "Very well. When an Ocryx is wounded by another Ocryx, it is so deadly because his spirit has been wounded. A part of it has been poisoned, cut away. The reason why the Dreamspinner no longer believes in his own abilities."
"So how do you fix that?"
"You have to find a 'patch.' You have to replace the missing part of his spirit with another part. Part of the spirit of an Ocryx, like himself."
"And no," the man said, "it's not as easy as it sounds. It must be a full-blooded Ocryx. Not Silver Eagle Feather. Not X. Their spirits would be of no use to him."
Now Charmian started chewing on her lip again. "You...you mean...?"
"Yes. If you wish to help him, then you'll need the help of either Ocryx or Ocryana."
The anxiety came welling back. "But...but that's no good! Ocryana's the one who wanted him dead!"
The man nodded slowly. "I told you it was going to be difficult."
"So--so that means I have to ask Ocryx?"
"He is the only choice left."
"But--he hates Tal Natha! He told him to never come near the lake again. He sounded like he meant it. How am I supposed to ask him to help Tal Natha?"
"That's for you to find out."
"But I can't ask him that!"
"If you want to help your friend, you will."
Charmian let out a huge sigh and sat down on the ground, putting her head in her hands. She tried to think. "Well...okay. So say I have to ask Ocryx to give up a part of his spirit to help somebody he hates. What do you think he'd say?"
"You don't need to ask my opinion to know what the answer is."
"So how do I convince him to do it?"
He cocked his head. "Is this another matter you'd like assistance with?"
Charmian clenched her fists. "AAGGHH!! Are all of you so damn obtuse?!"
A wry smile. "I merely wish to know if I should bother giving you any more advice."
"Well, I'm ASKING for it, so why don't you GIVE it already!"
"You've seen how he likes to hoard things," the man said, and Charmian clammed up, remembering Silver Eagle Feather offering Ocryx the small stone, how torn and undecided the demon had seemed on refusing it. "Shiny gems and jewels?"
"Yeah," Charmian said. "You mean, I should try to offer him something in exchange?"
A shrug. "It's the only way you're likely to receive any assistance from him. Ocryx doesn't offer things for free."
"But...I don't have anything he'd want." She looked herself over. "No gems or jewels or anything. I left all that at home. None of it's expensive anyway."
"I doubt Ocryx would offer up part of his spirit for any normal sort of gemstone you could give him," the man replied.
She gave another flustered sigh. "So why did you even bother bringing it up?"
"I said no normal sort of gemstone. Perhaps...perhaps he could be persuaded with something a bit more than normal."
"Like what? What is there?"
He ran his fingers along the edge of the medallion again. "You're in a dream right now, are you not? You entered Tal Natha's dream to come into mine?"
"If he could be bothered to carry you into another dream, perhaps you would find that which you seek."
"Another dream? But--whose?"
"A bit further away than mine. But you might be able to bring back something Ocryx would consider interesting." He looked upward, toward the ceiling of the small cave they were in. "Call to Tal Natha and ask him to carry you into another dream. One further away. He doesn't bring the dreams of those on the mainland, though he can see into them and influence them."
"Mainland--?" Charmian managed to get out, before the cave started fading around her. She gasped and looked at her hands, only to find she was drawing back toward the bright ring, which had reappeared, and out of the dream. She threw out an arm.
"Wait a minute! Who are you? And where am I going now?"
"Moon Wolf," he called back, holding up a hand as if to say hello--or goodbye? "I'm certain I'll see you again--he had his reasons for bringing you to the Island."
"But--but where am I--"
"He brings you to another dream. The dream of the one who may help you. You already know where to go. He only shows you the way." He raised his hand higher. "Good luck!"
Charmian tried to yell back at him--she had no idea where she was going!--before the bright ring surrounded her and then shrank away, the dream sealing off and swirling away in the stream like a leaf trapped in a current. She clenched her fists again, still feeling herself traveling backwards and sideways in the flow, picking up speed.
"Tal Natha?" she shouted. "Where am I going? I don't have any idea!"
You already know the way, the demon's voice came to her. I take you there now.
"What?" Even as she said it another bright ring opened directly before her; she gasped and tried to stop, not expecting it, but slipped through and fell out the other side, crashing into something tall, landing hard on her shoulder and rolling to a stop. Her forehead pressed against glass.
With a groan she sat up again--why did these entrances always end up hurting so much?--and rubbed her aching shoulder. She turned to look at the glass object she'd bumped into and then her eyes widened. Her gaze traveled up, up, to the top--of a glass display case--and then around the rest of the room.
She was back on the mainland, in Miss Anne's antique store.