It was night, very late and I was wandering through the woods alone. Alone and lost. Moonlight shining through twigs and limbs cast a mottled silver glow on the narrow path. The surrounding black and mysterious forest seemed filled with wicked fairies and evil night creatures. I rubbed my arms with my hands against the light October breeze that chilled me through the thin material of my nightgown. My bare feet slid and slipped on damp, musty leaves. An awful stillness, the quiet of a tomb, hung over the forest. No insect buzzed, no bird sang, no animal scurried across my path. The silence amplified and made terrifying the sound of my own breathing, the thump-thump of my heart and the sharp crack of twigs breaking underfoot.
Not only was I lost but I was not even sure where I had intended to go. I could not recall why I had come to the woods so late and in such a state of undress. Yet somehow I had a feeling, a premonition, that I was about to make a wonderful discovery.
After a while I felt the presence of others, although I neither heard nor saw their approach. I could not imagine who else would be in the woods in the wee hours. Yet I did not feel threatened. The idea came into my mind that whoever these people were, they were not to be feared, that they were gathering to experience a marvelous event.
I stepped from the dark woods into a circular meadow which the moon had magically transformed into an arena of silver enchantment and soft shadows. The others appeared from every section of the wood, women and men in ankle-length white robes. I gazed about, hoping to spot a familiar face -- but they were all strangers. Strangers yes, but kindly strangers who, although no word passed between us, welcomed me with smiles and nods. Beautiful classical music surrounded us, a light and airy tune played by flute, strings and harp.
As if by a secret prearranged signal all at one time shrugged off their garments and stood naked in the moonlight. At first I was abashed and uncomfortable, but since nudity seemed important to what was to take place, my inhibitions left me and without shame, I let fall my nightgown. I joined hands with these strangers to form a circle and dance to the music like children around a May pole. Although the steps and figures were intricate and unfamiliar, I followed along with ease. I became exhilarated, laughing and gay, intoxicated. Dancing nude in the moonlight with strangers was delightful. Who would believe that I could do such a thing? Yet there I was.
After a while the beat of the music changed, becoming wild and strange, the dance frenzied. People paired off -- men with women, men with other men and women with other women. We gyrated in erotic ways. I became caught up in the mad, macabre whirling. Later I could not recall what my partner looked like. This insane revel went on until I became breathless.
Just as it climaxed, with everyone spinning like a top, I opened my eyes to the ceiling in my bedroom. My clock radio was blasting rock-and-roll into my ear. It was time to get up to go to work.
It had been such a strange and vivid dream that I stayed in bed for a while thinking about it. I recalled in exquisite detail my emotions, sounds and even odors. It had to have a hidden meaning. I resolved to ask my friend, Betty, about it. She was good at interpreting dreams.
I had contemplated the dream so long that I had to rush through my shower and breakfast and skipped my usual yoga and meditation.
* * *
I did not talk to Betty until lunch. My duties as an assistant editor at a downtown publishing firm kept me too busy to chat with her over the phone for a few minutes. The editor is nice, but really piles on the work. In addition, I'm responsible for taking down telephone messages, kicking the copier or fax machine into operation and placating authors and agents.
Around eleven, Betty called and we agreed to
meet at a coffee shop on
My interest in the occult stemmed from the
years I lived with Aunt Jennifer, who made her living as a fortune teller. Dear
Aunt Jennifer. She was my mother's sister but an outcast from our family
because of her profession. She lived in
My aunt is dead now of breast cancer, but when she was alive, she impressed me greatly. When I was on the brink of teenhood, my parents were killed in a car crash and my aunt took me into her home and her somewhat odd life.
I'll never forget the bus trip to
* * *
When I entered my aunt's tiny cottage, I was appalled, revolted and yet strangely intrigued. Walking through her front door was like stepping through the fabric of time into a bygone era. Aunt Jen had no air conditioning although the temperature and humidity were both in the nineties,. To cool the house, dark drapes covered every window, making the interior murky and mysterious. Dusty haze and the odor of incense permeated the thick, musty air. I carried my suitcase into my aunt's living room, a crowded conglomeration of threadbare overstuffed sofas, shiny leather chairs with worn seats and round tables covered with colorful silk doilies with long fringes. She had so many plants that the living room could've been a tropical rain forest. Large ferns in pots sat squatly in the corners, flower and herbs graced every window sill and ivy trailed leafy tendrils from ceiling-hung planters. I gazed around at shelves and shelves of books and knickknacks in a chaotic order. A faded Oriental rug beneath my feet was covered with mysterious designs and mystical symbols.
I dropped my bag and glowered around the room until my eyes alighted upon a crystal ball on one of the tables. This magical object instantly fascinated me. "Can you really see the future, Aunt Jennifer?" I asked and added with the candor of the young, "Dad said, all that stuff is bunk."
From too many hours in the harsh
She ran her hand through thick gray-streaked curls which she seldom combed or brushed, so that strands stuck out in all directions. With her long skirt, her peasant blouse pulled down to bare her shoulders, her heavy jewelry and colorful scarf, to my youthful eyes she was the consummate gypsy fortune teller.
"To answer your question though, Melody," she went on, "yes, I believe I can see what may lie ahead -- not always, but sometimes, and then only darkly. You see, the future's not fixed. So what I do see may be changed. Otherwise there would be no reason to peer into it.
"But come girl, before I tell your fortune or cast your horoscope, let's get you settled. Let me show you to your room. Then we'll have a nice dinner and a long chat."
All evening we spoke about my parents sudden death, who was at the funeral, how I was getting along in school, what were my hobbies, did I have boy friends, what were my plans for the future and so forth.
The next morning she drove me around the area, introducing me to various people, most of whom were her age or older. In the afternoon, she had clients scheduled, so I strolled around her grounds. She lived in a rustic rural area. I explored a stand of trees, a dusty field and abandoned outbuildings. During my wanderings I did not meet anyone. Once I got a momentary glimpse of a doe at a distance before it quickly scampered away.
When I returned to my aunt's cottage, she was still with a client. I did not disturb them, but peered through the beads which separated the hallway from the living room and eavesdropped. My aunt was gazing intently into her crystal. The nervous young woman across from her was just as intently hanging on to her every word. As I listened, it seemed to me that Aunt Jen was merely giving the woman advice couched in metaphysical jargon rather than actually saying anything specific about the woman's future.
After a while, I got bored and went to my room to read. That evening at dinner, I asked Aunt Jennifer to tell my fortune.
"I'll do better than that, my dear. I'll cast your horoscope. It will tell you everything about your future, and how you should deal with the life that lies before you."
After we washed the supper dishes, my aunt rummaged in her messy desk until she found some battered old books, a compass (the kind for drawing circles), pencils and typing paper. First she drew a circle and with a ruler divided it neatly into twelve pie-shaped sections. At the bottom of the sheet she wrote the date of my birth. "Do you have any idea what time of day you was born? The closer to the exact moment, the more accurate your horoscope."
"Let me think. I'm sure mama told me once. Yeah, that's it. It was around She told me her water broke at two in the morning and made a big mess on the bed. Dad was half-asleep and all nervous when he drove her to the hospital. They almost got into an accident. They laughed about it all the time." I choked up and tears welled up in my eyes when I recalled that I would never again hear them kid around like that.
Aunt Jennifer placed a comforting arm around me. "There, there, dear." She handed me a Kleenex and sighed. I tried to be as brave and stopped sniffling. My mother was her sister, and I knew she too was in pain. Mom and her had been close until mom married Dad.
"Go on with my horoscope, Aunt Jen, I'll be all right."
"Sure. Well, let's see now. We don't know the exact minute when you was born, but I'll assume that it was between five and five thirty."
Consulting her books often, she drew mysterious symbols in various places on the circle. When she finished, she studied the chart for a while, consulted another book and made cryptic notes. Finally she said, "Your life is going to be eventful, Melody. In a few years, there will be turmoil but you'll find happiness from the chaos. Then I see a dark period. A disaster will take the light from your life. Afterwards there will be a long period of seeking after truth for you. Eventually someone extremely exciting will come into your life. I see here that it will lead to a great spiritual awakening." She paused, frowning with concern. "But there will be danger too. Terrible danger."
"Is that all?" I asked. I don't know what I expected, but felt somehow cheated. Everybody has tragedies and exciting times in their life. A lot of people seek after truth and sometimes find "spiritual awakening." What she had described could be anyone's life.
"Yes, what we can see of the future is always dim and shadowy. I don't believe it's God's plan to allow us to see it any other way. He does not want us to know the exact details of what awaits us." She patted my hand. "Except sometimes when we get a clear premonition of some extreme danger or a great change to our life. These come to us as especially vivid dreams."
"Could you cast anyone's horoscope if you knew when they were born?"
"Certainly. Why do you ask?"
"Would you do President Nixon's?"
My aunt chuckled. "Sure, why not honey. Of course, we only know the date of his birth, not the hour or anything, so my prediction may be even vaguer than yours."
"But I do know the exact time. I read it in a magazine article."
"You did? Well, that's great. Tell me."
So I repeated what I had read and she worked up his horoscope. Afterwards she stared at it with strange expression.
"What does it say, Aunt Jennifer?"
"Funny. It says that he will make friends with a former enemy and that the conflict that brought him success will end in defeat. I wonder whether that means the Vietnam War. It also says something strange. Something to do with water will cause him much concern and may even cause him great pain."
After Watergate, I became somewhat of a believer in the occult, at least in my aunt's brand of astrology.
The Morgaine Series of E-books can be obtained at Renaissance Page Turner Editions On Page Turner Editions, click on Futures/Past SF/F/H and then on Fantasy. At other online booksellers, search on Author - Vadalma. Also available on Page Turner Editions and other booksellers, Raven Lenore, Psychic Investigator, a series featuring the character Raven Lenore from the Morgaine series.