I’m Back in the Saddle Again
I know it’s unlikely that everyone was biting their nails in anticipation of my next post, but it’s still no bueno for me to just disappear for extended periods of time. With several birthdays, Mother’s Day, and urgent obligations I had no choice but to abandon my digital refuge for a while, but I plan to rectify the situation and make up for lost time. I have so many things to write about, so I almost don’t know where to start. Luckily, today’s Daily Prompt is quite interesting (as was yesterday’s), so I think I’ll start there. Let’s take a look.
Today’s Daily Prompt is:
If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?
This question delights me since I’ve always had a strong interest in my bloodlines (and that of others), and anyone who knows me is aware of my ability to seize any moment possible to discuss such matters. When most people first meet me and take notice of my strawberry blond hair, blue eyes, fair skin, short stature, and slim build they usually think one of two things: This girl is really Irish! and/or Is this girl an albino or something? (I’ve actually had people flat-out ask me that question). Those speculations amuse me to no end because my lineage is unexpectedly convoluted, so when I reveal the truth of the matter most people end up on the verge of shock. Some people even think I’m lying when I tell them ‘the whole story’ behind my family.
Because of my family’s link to a handful of different cultures, I’ve decided to approach today’s Daily Prompt with a broader method. Instead of meeting just one of my ancestors I’ll present one from each of the major ethnic groups, thus provided a sort of ghostly family reunion. I had thought to write this out as an article, but I think it would be more entertaining if I just use fiction to tell the tale. Keep in mind that the characters themselves will be entirely fictional (for sanity’s sake, since it would take forever for me to track down the records of my actual relatives), so don’t expect to find historical stories about these people. Alright, time for the fun part.
Dinner with the Dead
“Are you ready?” A delicate, smooth voice asked me. I directed my glance to the woman standing to my right, meeting her gaze steadily. I hadn’t known Daniella long, but the confidence and professionalism she projected had caused me to trust her rather quickly. A calm quirk of her lips did wonders with settling my nerves, bolstering my own certainty of success in the strange ritual we were about to perform. I gave her a short nod in response and silently moved with her to take our seats, she at the head of my dining table and myself directly to her left. The four other people, who were quietly conversing in a corner, followed our cue and took their places, their positions spread out around the substantial oak surface.
As Daniella assembled the tools she required for the task we were about to undertake I examined the appearances of the other so-called shamans, still skeptical of their prowess. They all looked entirely ordinary, one of the men even dressed like an investment banker, every element of his impressive business suit well made and stylish. Daniella herself looked like a typical suburban housewife, like she belonged in a mini-van full of kids bound for a soccer game. If it hadn’t been for the assurances of several of my trusted friends and family members I never would have considered handing over the thousands of dollars she required as a fee for her services. Daniella’s efficient completion of her preparations curtailed any further speculations I might have had, her voice demanding I heed my attention to her and nothing else.
“Have you the sacrifice, Anna?” Daniella asked me, referring to the object we’d discussed a week before. She’d explained that our ambitious goal required a good deal of power, saying that I’d have to prove my willingness to the Great Power by relinquishing an object that I deeply loved. It had been a tough decision for me, but I’d eventually found the perfect sacrifice. I retrieved the baby blanket I’d owned since the day I was born from under my chair and reluctantly handed it to her. She reverently caressed the soft fabric, her eyes expressing her empathy with my loss. She then placed my tattered childhood treasure on the table and examined her peers. “You all remember the steps I emailed you, right?”
The nods of affirmation from Daniella’s comrades held no hesitancy. Clearing her throat and closing her eyes, she drew in a deep breath and the others followed suit. I remembered from our previous conversations that their acts were meant to clear their minds, allowing them to gather their inner power. Their slightly odd behavior only lasted a short moment, and once they opened their eyes Daniella picked up my baby blanket and swiftly ripped a strip of fabric from it. She placed the strip to her right, laying it flat on the table’s wooden surface, then proceeded to tear another shred from my most beloved possession. Her face was filled with concentration, a testament to the incantation I knew she was reciting in her head. Once she placed the second piece of blanket to her left, in the empty space between us, she passed the remainder of the blanket to the woman who sat to her right.
The process continued with the rest of the spiritual practitioners, each one violating my memory-laden blanket to produce the two strips, each one arranging the fruits of their labor in the empty spaces along the table. When the last man was done with his part he situated the remaining portion of the abused blanket on the exact center of the table, thus bypassing my participation in the routine. I let out the breath I’d unwittingly held during the entire process.
“Alright, Anna,” Daniella broke the silence, addressing me directly. “I need you to focus as intently as possible on our goal for tonight. You can use any kind of meditation techniques you know, even close your eyes if you have to, but you must clear your mind of everything but our intent.”
“I understand,” I assured her gravely. She had explained numerous times just how important this step of the process was, so I mentally conjured the best methods I’d researched over the previous weeks and began to calm my thoughts.
Once Daniella was satisfied with my acquiescence she stretched her arm across the space between us and clasped my hand to hers. She repeated the process with the woman on her right and the others along the table’s edge completed the circle. Complete silence descended as we all did our part to accomplish the impossible. As time lapsed I began to lose heart, but my tenacity pushed me on. Just as a nasty headache was beginning to settle in the back of my head a hazy figured appeared, perched in the chair across from me. My sharp intake of breath caused Daniella’s eyes to snap in my direction, their strict message clear: Don’t stop!
I forced myself to continue, watching as the blurry form coalesced into the unmistakable shapes of a young woman. Before she fully formed several other indistinct images appeared around the table, each positioned in front of a corresponding shred of fabric. Once achievement was in sight everything seemed to happen quickly, the simultaneous appearance of our ethereal guests too fast to entirely follow. Before the full weight of my shock could settle in eight new bodies had joined us, looking as real as any other living human. Each one wore the clothing typical of the times they’d lived in, varying from roughly constructed bits of hide and leather to the elaborate dress expected of more ‘civilized’ cultures. When Daniella released my hand, folding her own in her lap, I couldn’t resist the urge to slowly reach out to the gruff-looking man on my left, my finger quivering as they made contact with solid, warm flesh. An excited giggle built in my chest, escaping my lips despite my attempt to retain my composure. But it wasn’t every day that one was able to meet their long-dead ancestors in the flesh, so to speak!
As my eyes traveled around the table, voraciously recording every detail of my kin to permanent memory, a strange sensation washed over me, faint but undeniable. I tried to shake the weakness away, but it only intensified. The pounding of my heart extending into my extremities, its reach growing until it resided in my head. A few deafening thumps later, a startling darkness overwhelmed my vision, the sensation unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I didn’t have long to ponder the curious ailment or its onset since a minuscule moment later I collapsed into nothing, awareness eluding me entirely.
To Be Continued
I know this is annoying for readers, but it’s far worse to publish an article that runs on and on in my opinion. This post was beginning to get quite unruly, so I’ve decided to split it into multiple parts. Don’t worry, the continuation will be posted shortly, so you won’t have to wait a week for the conclusion or anything like that. I’ll post the link here as soon as it’s published, which will include a rather strange conversation and a minor bludgeoning. See you there!