...Fire Bird/Incineration...Segment 2 of the Forest Labyrinth
Fire Bird ~ Portal of Incineration
The familiar fluttering rose in my throat as She requested my attention on the afternoon of ordinary Tuesday. I had been waiting for Her return for what felt like months. In reality it only was few short weeks. Daffodils had come and gone and spring was in full swing. Ants had become visible on the windowsill by my dresser and I watched them march steadily up and down the wood with forgotten cracker crumbs.
A blast of heat made me sweat and look out across the yard where it was usually dark. There She stood by a portal spun of light and fire. Wisps reached out and flowed toward me. I heard sparrows as I followed Her beyond the threshold but when we entered into the clearing, there was only one. It tilted its tiny head and watched us as we entered a large circle of stones.
She glanced at my face and turned to the sky. She read my random thoughts as if I had painted them across that blue expanse. She never did anything She would not explain if I had the courage to question Her. She sat on the wall and hummed a song that I did not recognize. I listened to the flawless sound reverberate through the sunshine and one by one sparrows began landing on the stones around us.
I shifted my gaze as I noticed the light in the sky change. Smoke had risen in the distance and slowly swallowed the sun. She stood up and became thrice Her size as the darkness rolled toward us. Her arms opened, inviting it.
I stood as a child compared to Her goddess stature. A chill came over me. I watched as figures emerged from the dense clouds. They traveled rapidly forward. She spoke then, and what She said did not comfort me. "The Sentinels are coming."
They were not here for Her. She feared no one and no thing. I trembled as more sparrows arrived. They perched on the North side of the circle. The black army of Sentinels arrived just outside the South wall. They wore dark uniforms that bore skull and crossbones upon the left breast. They moved swiftly as their arms hung loosely at their sides. They were almost zombie like, inhuman. I became more afraid of what they were capable of.
She stood behind me, hands on my shoulders. The mutant soldiers stared with eyes garishly dark and hollowed. They did not seem to notice Her. Perhaps She could not be seen. I listened to their raspy breath grow louder as tiny wings fluttered behind me. Sparrows were trying to lift off but failed in the heavy soot laden air. I looked into a sea of blackened irises. Their heavy lids lay over half closed eyes and their dead gaze made the strength go out of my legs.
I dropped down to my knees as they closed in around me. They blotted out everything else as they reached towards me. It was not me that they physically wanted, it was what was inside. They fed on light from the illuminated ones.
The sun was now completely blotted out as I covered my heart with one hand and my head with the other. Tears slid down my cheeks and gathered at the hollow of my throat. It was then I heard a familiar yet misplaced sound.
A clock in the tower outside the portal began to chime. Once, twice, three times. The sun reappeared slowly, light slitting through slate clouds. The Sentinels became distressed when the light began to slowly filter down. Their exposed skin appeared to smoke as the sunlight disoriented them. They began to hum in a low tone that was agonizing.
The Lady rubbed Her palms together briskly as the humming increased. She created a ball of energy that arched and stretched like a silken web. Gently, She allowed it to grow as reticent birds filled the sky. I watched them arc into a silhouette of a hawk and then it became larger, a swan. The ball became the size of me, the height of me.
She ordered me to walk into it and as I found myself inside of the thin membrane I felt void of flesh and blood. Things fell out of me: regret, fear, shame, guilt. Anger and hatred fell out beside resentment. I became weightless. She held me out to the sky as I merged seamlessly with the membrane. A buoyant rush of cool air placed me into a current to take me away from here. Everything had changed in just a few seconds. I looked back just in time to watch Her turn to the dark army. With a wave of Her arm, fire rose from the stones around the trapped soldiers. I could smell scorched flesh mingled with burning hair and feathers. Looking one last time before I got too far away, I saw Her walk into the fire, becoming one with it to complete the siege.
The sky cleared and the sanguine sunset lay over a layer of rusty smoke. The sparrows were gone as I descended to earth. I was alone and safe in Her Forest. I knew She wouldn't let anything happen to me, especially here.
As soon as I touched the earth my transport dissolved and merged into me. I stood on a small shore overlooking a reservoir. I heard chattering sparrows and turned toward the evergreen expanse behind me. I walked down a plainly marked path and came to a three way crossroad. I was having trouble deciding which way to go when a sparrow fluttered its tawny wings on a branch to my left. I held out my hand, palm up. The little bird hopped nearer but did not come to me.
Something red flashed in the distance amid the dark forest green. It wound like a ribbon around trunks and branches until it spooled at my feet. At first it looked like a giant snake but it was not reptilian. It shifted and changed shape in the receding light of dusk. It split open like a pomegranate gleaming with seeds and juice flowing out on the dirt. A misty vapor poured out and took the shape of a woman. The Red Queen stood before me.
I could not speak or move as She plucked the tiny bird from his roost. She cupped Her hands around it and began to blow into Her cage of flesh. A ball of crystalline energy formed around it and She slowly moved Her hands apart. The creature inside it gasped for air as I watched in horror. My mind could not comprehend what was happening as She shape shifted into a fearsome Sentinel, glaring at me with those same dead eyes.
I began to back away as I heard Her say, "It's time."
She stepped forward and wiped the sweat from my brow. She terrified me with Her black eyes and stirred emotions in me that rose like dust. They mixed with the pollen of my life. They spun up and away and pulled me out of myself. They floated up and then quickly fell down to the earth. I was planted everywhere. I had begun to cry and didn't even realize it. The ground absorbed the wetness as it fell from my chin.
"The time for your Death has been announced. It is Time for you to say Farewell to who you are today. You knew it was close when the Sentinels arrived. I am their Mother as well. I am also their Life and Death. They prepared you then for what will happen now."
She raised Her hands to the sky with the little bird still cradled in them. The energy ball shone and swirled in the sun until the sparrow burst into flames. She stepped back then and quickly put one hand behind my neck. With the other She slammed the orb into my chest. It burned and twisted as I convulsed with agony. I indeed said farewell to myself and everything I knew at the moment.
The pain grew into hot sheets of red and purple and blue. Memories twisted their sinewy fingers around flaps of flesh and bone. Membranes fluttered like tentacles as She stood above me. She was as tall as the trees and as quiet as the sky. She bent forward as I looked up at Her. Her arms were no longer human but great black raven wings. Light filtered down through the filaments and a black rain began to fall. Smoke rose from the smoldering remains of the incinerated bird as he lay within me.
I tried to sit up but it was impossible. I lay staring at the rain falling from a cloudless sky. She flapped those wings then and as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. Everything was cooler now as the orb still pulsed in my chest. A phantom feather drifted to the ground.
I watched as a portal opened across the lake. I couldn't move or understand how I would get to it. Swans floated on the surface like angels. How I wished I could be one of them. She waited for me to ask for Her help. Although I couldn't speak She knew I was ready to return home. She gently picked me up and we drifted over the surface of the water past the swans and through the portal.
My incineration had been a success. I had survived because of my faith in the process. I knew I would be back again soon and recovered as I traveled back home. I waited once more for Her beckoning as I went through the last of my ordinary days.
The Portal into my Other Realms
- Author and Illustrator Carole Anzolletti - Home
The Art and Writing of Carol Anzolletti - Author and Illustrator of "Whispers of the Goddess"