Scene 7: First Vision
Finding the door was no trouble at all. It was back down the stairs and to the left around the corner of the old rock dwelling. Claire slid her hand along the cool, rough-hewn stones to steady herself as she walked. The steps were slippery. It was starting to rain. She had not had the foresight to change into sturdy boots before her little excursion. The uneven cobble stones were becoming uncomfortable beneath the soft soles of her loafers and her feet felt bruised from only an hour of exploring.
She paused at an old wooden door. The iron scroll work on the bottom was beautiful. Medieval, perhaps. Was the town that old? She made a mental note to research the village.
Claire felt a shiver shimmy over her shoulders as she stared through the window into the house. Though the glass was dingy, she could see through to the window on the outside stairs. The room within was lit only by candle light. She wondered absently what her father would think of her “snooping” when she told him of her little adventure.
She stood there for a few moments supposing the woman would come to the door to let her in. When she didn’t, Claire finally reached for the knob and turned it. Suddenly she was engulfed in blackness, her only sensation the cold metal knob within her hand. Her head was swirling and she hung on with both hands to keep herself upright. What the hell was happening to her?
She heard noises first, then slowly the darkness began to fade and Claire found herself standing inside the large room. It was night. There were candles lit everywhere, but only a small fire in the grate. A young girl in a worn and dirty shift sat on a stool near the hearth examining apples she was taking from a bag. At the table in the center of the room sat two women. The older one had long gray hair flowing to her waist from beneath a brightly beaded head scarf. The other, middle-aged, wore her raven black hair in a braid that hung over her shoulder. Both were dressed in colorful clothes much the same as the ones Claire had seen in the shop window.
She should have been scared, she thought, but her overwhelming reaction was one of curiosity. What was she seeing? Who were these people? And could they see her? How had this happened?
“Mind you don’t get any wormy ones, child,” advised the dark-haired woman. “Wouldn’t want to take a bite out of a nice fat worm bobbing for them apples, would you now?”
“No som,” the girl answered.
A burst of laughter startled Claire and she turned quickly to look in a darkened corner. There in the dim light sat a young couple, arms entwined, heads together, whispering and giggling.
The old woman was tying little scrolls of paper with twine. “Did the two of you writ down your wishes, then?”
“Course, granny. But we’re not tellin’ ya what we wished for.” The young man’s black hair hung in loose curls around the crown of his head. He was darkly handsome. The girl who sat next to him was beautiful. Red glints reflected in her wavy hair which she had tied back with a green grosgrain ribbon to match the long flowing gown she wore.
“Well good night! It’s not hard to guess what you’d be wantin’. When are ya goin’ to be askin’ her father for her hand, then?”
“Soon now,” said the girl, slipping her fingers into the patch of dark, curly hair that escaped from the neck of the young man’s unlaced shirt.
They were obviously in love, Claire observed. What a beautiful couple they would make.
The younger woman at the table was carving faces on some vegetables. On closer inspection Claire saw they were turnips. She wondered why in the world someone would do that. They looked familiar, like tiny turnip Jack O’Lanterns. Rising, with an armful, the woman walked past Claire and opened the door through which Claire had apparently come. Carefully she arranged them all around the stoop. Then she crossed to the fireplace and began stirring the small fire to put it out.
“It’s dusk. Time to blow out the candles. And you two,” she said, smiling at the pair in the corner, “had best leave each other be and go get our light. Don’t want any unhappy ancestors wandering around here in the dark, now do we? That kind of bad luck we don’t need!”
The young people disentangled themselves and hand-in-hand walked to the door — right through where Claire was standing. For the barest of moments she felt sick and squishy inside, then the feeling was gone. They walked out into the night pulling the door fast behind them.
The last of the candles were blown out and Claire was swallowed in darkness once again. When she finally dared let go the knob she still held, the shadows passed away, and she found herself staring into the distant gray eyes of the old woman who had finally come to the door.
It took Claire a moment to gather her wits about her. She was sure she must have looked quite shaken. But there wasn’t time to puzzle over what she had experienced. Without a word the woman gave her a knowing nod and took her still outstretched hand to lead Claire into the house. Perhaps she should have fled, but she didn’t. She didn’t want to. Instead, she stepped inside, pulling the heavy door closed behind her.
(reposted from 1-30-15)