Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring FFC Entry

For the Flash Fiction Carnival this round, I decided to go with something a little different. This is a vignette of a supporting character in one of my novels. It was written specifically for this assignment, but I'm not sure how it will hold up as a stand-alone piece. I'm okay with that, because I'm glad I wrote it, and if it hadn't have been for this prompt, I probably wouldn't have.

So, here is a short piece with Astrid from Witch Hunt: Inner Eye, for the Spring Equinox.

Ostara, by LustAndDevotion


Astrid wasn’t an Oracle. She’d only studied the basics of divination. And even that was sketchy. Still, she thought, zigzagging her way down the jagged hillside to the beach, it was Ostara – the Spring Equinox. For the briefest of moments, her little part of the earth would be cast in equal parts light and shadow. For the briefest of moments, the energies of the conduit around her would be in perfect balance. If she was lucky, and prepared, she could get a tiny glimpse of the future.

She had the perfect question to ask the universe. She was certain in that fact as she unpacked her bag on the fine gravel. The waves crashed against the sides of the rock cove around her, enclosing her in a bubble of gurgles and whispers. Astrid lit the five candles encircling her and dropped to her knees, folding her robe underneath.

The question was selfless. It wasn’t for her. That’s why she knew she would see the answer. She wanted to know so she could do what was right for Kean. She loved him, and she didn’t want to see him suffer anymore.

Closing her eyes, Astrid invoked her personal circle, and the crashing of the waves beside her seemed more distant. The sky overhead was darkening, still a pinkish hue in the distance, but violet at the edges. She tapped into the conduit and could feel the shifting of the energies around her – each atom re-aligning, as all things do in the cycle of life – coming back to center.

If Briana were ever going to come back to her center, to her home, Astrid needed to know. If there was hope for her two best friends to find love and happiness together, she would do everything in her power to see it happen. She loved Kean. She loved Briana. They loved each other. It was the perfect question – innocent, important, definite. One always had to be careful of the questions they asked. Astrid knew that all too well.

She lowered her head to her chest, focusing on her breathing, on the grounding force of the shore beneath her, and the airy lightness up above. The light, the dark. Balance. She felt the exact instant it happened, as if time stopped. There was no heartbeat, no breath, and no body for a silken moment. She was suspended in between worlds – the now and the never, the substantial and the infinite.

All she needed was the question, but in the place where only spirits dwell, there are no words. Still, Briana was more than a word to her, and so was Kean. They were feelings, and memories. They were hopes, and dreams, parts of her soul. Parts of her soul that had been ripped apart, she realized, when Briana left them. Them.

Briana hadn’t just left Kean. She’d abandoned them both, and left Astrid to nurse Kean’s wounded heart through the aftermath. She was still caring for him, and Briana was off touring the world. Astrid’s question wasn’t selfless at all. She wanted Bri back. She wanted Kean happy. She wanted the three of them together again. She wanted . . . things to be like they were before. She exhaled at last, feeling like she fell back into her own body from miles above the ground. Her shot at a moment of enlightenment had passed. A light spattering of rain peppered Astrid’s upturned face and she blinked her eyes open.

“What? No lightning? No roaring wind?” she asked the sky. One of her candles blew out and Astrid sighed. “Serves me right,” she said under breath as she got up and shuffled about, re-packing her bag. She should have known that she wouldn’t be able to get a clear answer. She wasn’t an Oracle. She’d thought her question was good enough – but now, after the fact, it was silly. It was too close to her heart. She should have just asked Ce-ce to deign it for her.

It started to rain in earnest as she ascended the last curve of the path up the hillside. The froth below her was churning louder with each gust that whistled over the rocks. Astrid gripped her hood over her as she went up the train trestle stairs into the yard. “Screw this,” she muttered as she paused in the back doorway to her house. She looked over her shoulder at the brewing storm, the whitecaps in the straight barely visible past the dusky haze. She shook her head and walked through the door.

If she had learned anything from this experience, it was that she was ready for something to change. As she took off her soaking robe and knelt to build a fire in the woodstove, she reflected that her question was so obviously selfish. She wanted to see Kean whole and happy. She missed Briana. She wanted to be free to find her own happiness, without guilt. She couldn’t be Kean’s security blanket any more. She wanted a life too, free from the saga of Kean’s long lost love. She wanted a love of her own. Yep – selfish, selfish, selfish. She chafed her bare arms, then wrapped herself in the closest blanket and nestled into the sofa. In two blinks of an eye, a little ball of orange fluff and claws found its way into her lap.

Astrid gazed into the crackling flames of her hearth, and stroked her ginger cat’s luxurious fur, wondering, musing, remembering. She laughed to herself when it struck her that she had a lot more than one question when it came to Bri. It had been long enough, hadn’t it? She was coming back? What was she really hiding from?

“Well, hell!” Astrid huffed, and the kitten flounced out of her lap. She would just have to find out the old fashioned way, she decided, reaching for the phone.

Maybe it had been an enlightening evening, after all.

---996 words


Brenda ND said...

Very nice story. I love the ginger kitten and the twist at the end. Thanks.

~Liz~ said...

I thought this was beautiful, but since I haven't read anything else about these characters, I was a bit confused about the setting. It felt either old or other-worldly, so I was very surprised when she was able to reach for a phone.

I love the imagery of the storm brewing outside while her emotions do the same.

Very nice.

Unhinged said...

Like Liz, I did have a wee bit of trouble easing into the setting, but your words drew me in. You are a wonderful writer, Gwen, and seem to be insightful when it comes to a character, too. Kudos!

Love the graphic, too. I can totally see how it inspired this work.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I'm very curious about Astrid. See, me, I'd get up and go make changes. The fact that Astrid won't intrigues me. Why does she continue to let Kean lean on her? How does he do this, anyway? And what was the deal with this Bri chick?

Lots of questions, and that's a good thing. It means in such a short passage, you've created a scenario that's engaged me, intellectually and emotionally. And now, I want MORE.

'cause I'm greedy like that.

Kathleen Oxley said...

I really enjoyed this - great descriptions of the settings and of her emotions. I too was surprised by her reaching for the phone at the end and am curious to know more about this world and these character's story.

My one negative comment is that some of the dialog didn't seem to match the setting of the story. I was thrown a bit out of it when Astrid said, "Screw this." So far the tone of the story had seemed older than that, and a bit more formal, so it surprised me. But, I think with more of the story and with knowing Astrid's character more, it might not be so big a shock.

Thanks for sharing this with us!!

Eaton Bennett said...

I loved that she wants a life of her own and is ready to do something about it. The guilt she feels for wanting something for herself added a very real emotion to the setting. I thought she was in a mystical setting to begin with and was surprised with the twist at the end when she picked up the phone. Very interesting story.

A. Catherine Noon said...

I like this. I particularly like that she won't get an answer unless it's a selfless question. Very clever!

Anonymous said...

You got my attention! I want to know more about the characters. I want to know the answers to her questions.

I also thought this was more of an other worldly setting to begin with. After reading the entire passage, I looked at the gorgeous image and realized that perhaps I put too much stock into my first impression of that and allowed it to lead me to another world.