They had assembled in ghostly presence, those from early memory who had walked with her through this forest. These spirits had not aged as the bodies that had carried them did over years in the human environment formed in the soft divide of this vast woodland natural to this world. So many of these she had traveled with were gone now. Yet here they appeared to her shifting in guises from that previous time in their lives. Shifting positions, faces, garments, props, several of these dream ghosts bespoke her, as if acting out a morality play, vagabonds in the woods begging for favor. The ground around her shifted as well, quaking, dream sand turning quick, sticky, flimsy, unstable. Yet she was not falling through, but with this slow-motion molten panorama. Voices, figures fashioned of old friends, memories, and memories of what had never manifested past fears and dreams, continued their performances into changing scenes. Too amazed and swept up to notice fear or her own reactions, Caela dreamed unlike any dream she had known before.
“Somebody called me. Was it you?” she asked of each ghostly presence. They all had their stories. These became a song of endless verses. When she awoke with the morning light, Caela was still singing. The feelings evoked by the dream lingered. Still dreaming, she resumed walking, perceiving multi-layered forest imperceptibly interweaving with the many layers Caela had never realized she contained.
Or was it the forest bespeaking her? She felt drawn to shiny succulent fruits when her thirst needed slaking. Their dripping nectar gave not only moisture but renewed energy. When she needed rest, she felt drawn to securely comforting soft vegetation. She found herself frequently accompanied by soft, chittering creatures, droll and endearing, somehow leading her into wordless conversation. Her human ghosts too had their say, quietly, whispering barely discernibly in the shadows. Far from frightening or unwelcome, these gentle, often changing companions amused Caela, engaged her attention, set off trails of reveries. “Tell me.” she whispered in return. Not dreaming, but seeing in a way that accessed unexplored places in her mind, Caela’s rhythmic movement, her very open senses, her willing acceptance of mystery, was rewarded.
“I was a tailor. I measured fabric, repaired treasured garments. I was not a monster. Mostly I was generous and kind. Not always. I still regret yelling so angrily at my little daughter when she scrambled my buttons and clasps in innocent play. I should have made a game of sorting them out together. But they sent us away, tore us from our hard-won through diligent working lives. Not because we may have been at times unkind or foolish, but just because we were.”
Caela felt the memory of tears. “But you found another life.” She wanted to give comfort.
“But it was not the life I wanted, worked for, chose over my years of childhood to give my devotion. I found another life out of necessity. I never found justice for the life taken from me.”
The forest too had life taken from it without its choice. The small clearing her people had taken was not such an issue. Of course over time and human ideas of progress it could become much worse, like the city. When the settlers first arrived, they took over only small areas, as the witchfolk did now. They took only what their several hundreds needed for continued life. They were careful, not knowing what to expect. Now they have claimed ownership of everything within their range of sight, as if by natural order. Perhaps it is the natural order. There they are.