Dinner With The Dead – Part Two
As promised, here’s the second part of my response to today’s Daily Prompt.
A Ghostly Family Reunion
An unidentifiable sensation on my face demanded attention, effectively drawing me back to the present. The damp daubing on my forehead felt almost like a tongue swiping my skin. The ludicrous mental image that raised was enough to grant my mind some control over my body once again. As I fought to open my eyes my mind forced my mouth to function.
“Wha… hapen?” I slurred, my tongue still lethargic. My sight cleared enough to find Daniella hovering above me, a small towel in her hand. It was then that I finally realized I was laying on my back, the underside of my dining table before me. A sharp pain suddenly flared to life in my head as Daniella gently brushed the cloth along a tender spot at my temple, causing me to hiss in reaction.
With a sigh, Daniella detailed the incident. “You fainted. It’s a pretty common reaction, really. I take great precautions so no one gets hurt, which is why we always perform summonings while sitting down, but usually my clients slump forward, so the table saves them. Unfortunately, you fell sideways, which also made it impossible for me to catch you in time. You also hit your head on the edge of the table on your way down. It’s pretty bad, so I think I should take you to the hospital.”
I closed my eyes for a moment, hoping it would not only help them focus, but also help me sort out the details floating throughout my muddled thoughts. Little bits of recent memory were easy to recall, but the whole picture eluded me. The babbling of several different voices finally penetrated my mind, delivering a jarring reminder of the strange task we’d performed just before I’d reacted so strongly. “No!” I exclaimed, denying the idea of getting professional treatment. I attempted to sit up, but my movements were too hasty, and a distressing dizziness assailed me. Resisting the combination of my disorientation and Daniella gently pushing me back to the floor was futile, so I conceded and settled back into a prone position. “You told me we could only keep them here for a few hours. I’ll see a doctor after we’re done here.”
Daniella considered my face for a moment, an expression of indecision that I’d never seen her wear before pulling her eyebrows together. She looked as though she might protest my foolish decision, but she knew better than anyone that I probably wouldn’t get the chance to repeat tonight’s event. Our success was practically a miracle to begin with. Grudgingly, she nodded her assent, and gently assisted me in getting back into my chair.
“Here,” Daniella said in a bland, commanding tone as she handed me the wet cloth she’d been using on my wound. “Keep that on you left temple, and be sure to moisten it every so often from that ice water.” She indicated a mixing bowl on the table in front of me, then took her seat.
The vocalizing that had droned on during my interaction with the floor abruptly ceased, and every person in the room, both dead and alive, granted me their full attention. It was disconcerting, to say the least. “So.” I said weakly, unsure of where to start in such a strange situation. Before I could begin to voice the dozens of questions swirling through my mind a man siting on the other side of the table seized control.
“Have you got anything decent to eat?” The man demanded, his thick Scottish accent in keeping with the kilt he wore and the bristling beard he wore, which happened to be a similar shade to my own hair. His voice, which was the type that carried well, reverberated as if the room couldn’t contain the cacophony as he continued. “I’m starving. I haven’t eaten in about 600 years, y’ know.”
I turned to Daniella, the question of whether the reanimated dead could digest food or not on my lips, but a snort of derision preempted me. “Bloody Scots! Always more concerned with trifles.” The male tone was rife with disdain, the inflection blatantly English. I turned my attention to the speaker, finding a young man who looked to be barely out of his teens. His accouterments suggested he’d lived sometime in the 16th century. The Scotsman glared at the Englishman in silence, the tension between them growing to uncomfortable heights. Everyone present could sense the waves of hostility circulating between the two men. A young woman I hadn’t noticed before, who was wearing an elaborate dress and had cowered in the corner, hunkered down into her protective stance even more. The fear on her face was painful to behold.
Before I could circumvent the imminent violence brewing around us I was interrupted yet again. I ground my teeth, my anger burning every part of me from my most hated of slights, as the altercation escalated. The Scotsman rose to his full height, his figure imposing, and drew a large sword for the scabbard on his back, pointing the tip directly at the Englishman’s eye. “I should do everyone a favor and take of your head here and now.”
My ‘bull shit cup’ finally ran over at that threat, causing me to leap onto the table, my balance still shaky. My ire pushed me beyond normal concerns, assisting me in climbing into position. Once I was looming above the antagonistic males I released my own brand of fury. “Enough!”
My bellow took everyone by surprise, causing the girl in the corner to whimper. I pushed away the guilt from frightening her and concentrated on appearing as imposing as impossible, which wasn’t an easy feat considering my size. I pinned the men back with my most aggressive of glares. “I didn’t ask you guys here so you could bicker, and we’re a tad short on time. A lot’s changed since you were alive, and your behavior is no longer acceptable. So I want to you sit down, shut up, and be civilized. Understood?!”
The Englishman gave me a bland stare before taking on a bored appearance, but the Scotsman was a little more stubborn, meeting my eye directly in a challenge of superiority. “And since when do women give commands?” His eyes narrowed, his posture hinting at how dangerous he could truly be. Unfortunately for him, I was made of sterner stuff than the generally submissive women he was used to.
I cranked up my ‘evil eye’ stare, then quickly scooped up the little bronze statue Daniella had brought for the ceremony. It depicted an attractive woman, but beyond that I had no clue what the figure symbolized. The meaning behind the hefty object had no bearing on my use for it, however, so I set my grip around the slimmest section of it and wielded it like a baton. The man’s shock at being openly contested by the opposite sex froze him in place, giving me plenty of time to pull back and swing my makeshift weapon at his head. The fact that he was already dead meant I didn’t have to worry about doing severe damage to his thick skull, so I happily packed a good deal of force behind the wallop, aiming for the very top of his head. The contact between metal and empty head caused a curious noise, part thud and part metallic ching. He swayed on his feet for a moment, taken aback from the attack, but he retained consciousness. Without another word, he complied with my demands for decency and took his seat.
“Now,” I said with authority and I tried to step down from the table with dignity. Once I was back in my seat I continued in a business-like manner. “I haven’t called all of you here just so we could hang out. I’d like to ask you some questions-”
“Who are you?” A new voice asked, which was smooth and deep. It belonged to an older man, one of the four Native Americans that sat clustered together. His eyes were bright with intelligence and curiosity.
“I’m sorry, that was rude of me.” I said, somehow not offended by him interrupting me. “My name is Anna and all of you are related to me in some way. You’re my family.”
“I’ve never met you before,” another of the Native Americans stated in a suspicious tone. She was a rotund, substantial woman, and until that moment she’d spent every second granting glares to the light-skinned compliment of the gatherers, myself included. “I know all of my family.”
“Well, I can assure you that I am a member of your family,” I said slowly, my irritation at her stubborn behavior irrepressible. “You don’t know me because all of you have been dead for quite some time.” The woman grunted in response and turned her attention back to starring balefully at anyone who fit the classic description of the ‘white man’.
“DEAD?! What do you mean, dead!? I can’t be dead!” A strident female voice, filled with hysteria, sprang out from the corner of the room. With a sigh of resignation, I turned toward the girl who had forced herself into the corner. I expected her to have the same frazzled expression as before, but the wild look in her eyes, like she was on the verge of having a nervous breakdown, caused a stab of worry to run through my chest.
“It’s alright,” Daniella said, forestalling the appeal of help I was about to voice. She rose from her chair and began to slowly pace toward the girl in the corner, her hands held out in front of her body as if she were warding off an angry animal. As she walked past me she gave me a look that suggested that very bad things were about to happen, and that those horrid happenings would be entirely my fault. My apprehension grew by leaps and bounds. “It’s alright”
“No! IT’S NOT!” The girl suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs, just as Daniella had drawn near her. Before anyone could react to the overt hostility the girl was projecting through voice and body language she attacked, moving so fast that my eyes couldn’t follow her. Before I could comprehend just what had happened a blurry version of Daniella flew past me, not a single inch of her touching the floor. Now that I knew the truth behind people like Daniella I was aware that they couldn’t, in fact, fly, or float, or levitate, so I knew it wasn’t some parlor trick on the practitioner’s part. The speed of her passing generated a wind that caressed my face, causing tendrils of my hair to follow in her wake.
I watched in stunned silence as the strong, self-assured woman flew across the yards of open space and connected with the opposite wall, the force strong enough to knock her out entirely, her body slumping to the floor with an appearance that I devoutly hoped didn’t signal death. As one, the living complement, and a few of the ‘others’, in the room turned to regard the ghostly assailant. Silence reigned supreme once again. What had once been a pitiful looking girl, scared out of her own mind, now stood tall and large as an antagonist, a fierce expression a testament to her inner darkness. The girl slowly scanned the occupants of the room, finally settling her attention on one lone figure: me. Before I could react she was on me, her attack indefensible.
To Be Continued (Again)
I know this is going to get annoying, but this story is becoming a lot of fun and I think one more installment will make it just the right length. So keep a look out for Dinner with the Dead Part 3! I’ll be sure to post a link here. Thanks!