NIGHT DANCE: Shadow Worlds (Book 1)
©Kory Wynykom, 2022
There is a short scene of (sexual) violence contained within the prologue, which, however, is key for the continuation of the
Her father routinely puts her into a trance. It’s not the first trip into another dimension the professor has taken with his daughter. However, today’s hypnosis session has a shadow looming over it right from the start. The relaxation suggestions take effect in record time. Within seconds, a leaden calm spreads over Zayla.
She deeply inhales the smell of moss and damp earth. Where does it come from? Where is she?
The part of her that remains awake and responsive even in hypnosis registers that her father bypasses regressing her to the scenes from her childhood. He also only briefly touches on the next stage, from before her birth while in her mother’s womb, where Zayla recalls impressions and moods she and her mother experienced. When he asks her to dive once again into a past life that is of special significance to her, images she has long known rush past her as if in a rewound movie. She frowns.
“What do you see?” inquires the professor.
“The lives we’ve already looked at.”
Zayla hears his surprised gasp.
In fast forward, she sees herself not only once again as a thief, a beggar, a victim of genocide and expulsion, but also as a murdering warrior queen and a devious priestess. Anchored most deeply in her, she has found, are those lives that demanded all her strength.
“Is it over?”
“Look down at yourself,” her father asks her. “What clothes are you wearing this time?” When her answer fails to come, he asks her to look around. “Are you inside or outside? Are you alone or with others?”
“With others,” she whispers, feeling a small child lying in her arms. Although Zayla gives herself permission to dive deep and unfiltered into her memory worlds, she flinches as the cruel rain of images comes crashing down on her.
Soldiers and civilians attacking a camp. She sees leather tents on fire. The slaughter of villagers, children pleading for their lives. Babies torn from their mothers’ arms, their heads smashed on rocks. Panicked, she holds one of the children tightly. Zayla glimpses unborn babies, cut out of the bodies of pregnant women. Girls and women who are raped and whose breasts are cut off by their attackers. The bloodthirsty game of the beasts with their prey.
In the midst of the carnage, a lone soldier stands motionless beside the corpse of his horse. At the sight of the men in a bloody frenzy riding triumphantly past him with the genitals of “stinking redskins” cut out, he vomits.
Zayla is breathing heavily and her pulse is racing. The scene breaks off and changes to an icy snowy landscape on the Northern Plains many years later.
She hears the wind roaring and the wolves howling. In blood-red colors, the last rays of the setting sun sink into the horizon.
Her gaze falls on the warrior, marked by the long chase. He is sinewy and lean, and towers over most men. He stands tall in the snow, hands on his weapons, motionless, like a statue. His piercing eyes dart back and forth between his own men and the bluecoats who have surrounded him. Restlessly, the cavalrymen slide around in their saddles. Their horses snort and prance. The soldiers’ tension is palpable.
Like animals, the headman and his people were hunted through their old homeland and captured just outside the Canadian border. The group he leads now consists of only a small band of warriors and a surplus of women and children. The survival of the defenseless is the only reason the chief hesitates. Only if the women and children are spared, he shouts to the commanding officer, will I and my men not go to our deaths fighting.
Zayla looks into the leader’s feverish eyes, then at the soldiers. She can feel the waves of hatred crashing over him, the lynch lust of the bluecoats. She senses the warrior’s despair at the hopelessness of his situation. Countless times in his life he has already defied death and the devil. But the bitter defeat, so close to the frontier, is more than he can bear. He resembles a starving man who had food placed before him, but as if in mockery, just out of reach.
Zayla’s eyes twitch searchingly. Where is the traitor? Her gaze lingers on one of the Indian scouts the army has hired for its hunt. Triumphantly, the traitor moves toward his former headman. The women and children will die if you don’t let yourself be disarmed voluntarily, he barks.
The chief drops his rifle in the snow. The bow follows, then the quiver with the arrows, then the war club: a skull crusher. Threateningly, the scout points the revolver at one of the children. The chief spits and throws his knife to the ground. It is an unusually beautiful and intricately crafted weapon, its handle shaped like a black wolf’s head. Greedily, the traitor reaches for it. For a moment, the chief turns his attention to the women. His eyes gleam moistly. Then he turns his head back to the scout and his expression becomes an impenetrable mask. He looks beyond his enemies and into the blood-red evening sky and intones his death song.
Suddenly, the chief lunges at the traitor with a mighty leap. The soldiers are in an uproar. Several shots crack. The warrior is hit, staggers, but straightens up again. With hatred, the scout thrusts his bayonet into his side. The leader collapses and falls to the snow, gasping. A shrill cry of victory sounds from the killer’s throat followed by piercing screams from the ranks of the women.
Zayla also screams, but her throat is tight. No sound escapes her as her body twists and writhes on the couch. Tears roll down her cheeks. Her father places a hand on her arm. She hears his attempts to bring her out of her state of hypnosis, but they have no effect. Everything in her resists returning. Only when the professor gently but persistently pleads with her to retreat to the place she has designated as a safe haven for this journey do her tears dry up. Her pulse returns to normal, and she is once again on the snow-blown prairie.
Teary-eyed, she looks into the eyes of the commanding officer. With a barely perceptible movement of his head, the colonel nods at her. He still loves her, she notes, but she wishes him dead. His men mutter witch as they recognize her. Along with the chief’s two other wives, she kneels beside the dead leader. The widows inflict wounds on their arms and legs as a sign of mourning and cut their long hair. Incessantly they sway their bodies in the snow. From their throats resounds a lament so muffled and melancholy through the icy winter landscape that even the howling of the wolves and the raging of the wind fall silent. Nature listens to the grief of a defeated people and its lullaby of death.
Zayla hears her father’s sharp intake of breath as she begins to hum and then sing in a language she never learned. He holds her hand.
“Are you ready to move to the moment when you leave this life again?”
Zayla answers in the affirmative. A cemetery appears before her eyes, a field littered with white wooden crosses. In its midst, she settles down, exhausted, and asks her body, over one hundred years old, to die. It is a quick and peaceful death.
“What happens now?” her father asks.
“I’m starting to come out of this avatar,” she whispers. “Every weight has fallen off me ... and I’m floating upwards.” She takes one last look at the body she left and feels relief and joy.
When Zayla turns around, she bumps into her mother, who embraces her wordlessly. Smiling, she takes her daughter by the hand and accompanies her part of the way. Near a clearing in the forest, Zayla says goodbye to her mother again.
Around a crackling campfire, Zayla sees the colonel and the chief sitting together with the murderer. They are joined by the soldier who threw up during the massacre, the brother-friend of the murdered headman, and his friend’s grandmother. Zayla approaches the small group. She sees the murderer shrug his shoulders.
I was not involved in the massacre, she hears him say. But I have contributed to driving the sandy-haired witch mad.
Zayla puts her head to the side and blinks at him. Something you won’t succeed in doing a second time, she replies calmly.
The brother-friend of the murdered chief and the colonel reach for her hand. The grandmother giggles and teases the three with such crude sayings that they bring a blush to their cheeks.
The killer looks at Zayla challengingly. Don’t you want to try again? So far you haven’t regained your old strength, he mocks.
The grandmother nods in agreement and gently pinches Zayla’s cheek. All that you wanted to achieve, child, is still a long way off, she says.
The two bluecoats here, the traitor adds with a smirk, are just waiting to get another chance. While these two, he points to the murdered chief and his brother-friend, intend nothing less than to rewrite world history.
I’ll think about it, Zayla murmurs. She strolls toward the lush green deciduous forest at the edge of the clearing. She wants to be alone with her thoughts. The wind comes up. With her eyes closed, she listens to the rustling of the treetops.
When she opens her eyelids again, she looks at a mighty cross of dark gray stone enthroned on a boulder where the forest path forks in front of her. A little girl emerges from the shadow of the cross and saunters toward Zayla. She is wearing a Santa coat made of dark blue fleece with a pointed hood and colorful flowers, and she smiles tentatively. When Zayla returns her smile, the girl’s face beams. A feeling of deep, all-encompassing love washes over the young Englishwoman, and for minutes she bathes in it as if in a fountain of youth. She kneels and pulls the girl to her. Deep sorrow pierces her heart. At the same time, she feels a tugging as if on an invisible string.
She snaps out of hypnosis as if she were flung from a rubber band that had been stretched and released. From one second to the next, she is pulled back into her body. She again feels the couch on which she rests her arms and legs. Zayla recognizes herself in her father’s house, in the English seaside resort of Brighton, and opens her eyes. “Papa,” she whispers, throwing her arms around the surprised professor’s neck. “Nell has been murdered.”
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