The other Circle members arrive, but it’s too much for Neil. He heads to the treehouse in the backyard, where Heath joins him. A short time later, Brian and Jordan arrive, sending the others away, while they help Neil relax.
“Apt way to put it. Yes, and yes.” He shrugged when Cynthia glared at him. “Babe, he’s right. I feel strange inside and out. My hair tingles and my teeth itch.”
Brian’s turn to nod. “Yeah. Not to mention the soles of your feet—pins and needles?”
“Yeah. You felt all that, too?”
“The stories I could tell. But that’s not the important thing. What helped, was Lester.” He pointed to the skull. “If I hadn’t had him, I think I would have gone out of my mind. I know that he’s not going to have the same effect on you, because he’s tuned to me, but he will help. When we get you calmed down a little, Jackie said she’ll help you find a skull of your own. She’s worked with me and Lester a lot the last couple of years. She’s the best teacher I know, next to—to Cliff.” He gulped, swatting tears away with the back of his hand. “I’m not as good a teacher as he was, but one thing I learned was to find the calmness within. That’s what you need, Neil. You need that circle of peace, because right now, there is a huge, gaping, jagged hole right there.” He pointed to Neil’s chest, just under his left pectoral muscle.
“I feel it,” Neil admitted. “That’s where Cliff used to be.”
“And we’re going to bring part of him back—to both of you. He’s still with us, we just can’t see him. If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to feel him.”
“You can do that?” Jordan was stunned. “How did you learn that?”
“It came to me in a dream. We ready?” He grinned, nervous energy flowing from him.
Neil straightened his shoulders. “Strangely, I am.”
They joined hands once more, going through their relaxation and meditation routine. When he felt they were ready, Brian put their hands on the skull. A tingling started in their fingertips, running up their arms. It burst from them, meeting at the skull before twining together, spiralling upward. A dark green came from Neil, rosy pink from Jordan, amber yellow from Cynthia and a deep indigo from Brian. The strands wove together, creating a multicolored spectrum which built a cage-like lattice work that wove in with the wood of the tree house.
“This house is made of oak, ash and thorn,” Brian said. “The boards were soaked in rowan berry juice, giving it this distinctive color. It was built as a refuge, to protect and nurture us. This tree is an ancient oak, which has been alive for over three hundred years. It was a sapling when Luminous Cayce deeded this land to Henrietta and Aldus Finley after their battle with Opal.”
“How do you know this?” Neil asked.
“I remember reading it in some of Cliff’s documents. You wouldn’t believe the wealth of information in those archives. Even if I’m not archivist, I’m learning what I can. Everything we know will help us in the next battle.”
“So, you believe it’s coming soon?” Neil asked.
“Yes. And it’s going to be a storm unlike any other. I’m glad we have you, Neil. You’re a warrior. You know how to think in battle strategy. We will need you more than you can possibly imagine. But you need to find your center. Much of what you’ve learned will come back to you when you find it. Right now, you’re in a flat spin.”
That was exactly how Neil felt. A flat spin, spiralling rapidly downward. Closing their eyes once more, the four of them concentrated on finding their spiritual centers. It was a worthy exercise for the others as well. Brian talked quietly and calmly, guiding them through the most basic of rituals. What seemed to be minor to the members of the center circle, something they did daily, was a behavior that Neil had never learned. When it was over, they opened their eyes. Neil smiled, his eyes meeting Cynthia’s across the circle.
“Better,” he whispered. “Thank you, Brian. That’s exactly what I needed.”
The young man grinned, nodding. “Lester is pretty freaking cool. He’s gotten me through some difficult times. How’s the itching, tingling and jangling?”
“Bearable. The tap dance is down to a soft shoe and the jangling’s more like a jingle. Still there, though.”
“Yeah, it comes and goes. If it’s any consolation, it does get better. Or maybe you get used to it.”
“Do you feel that?” Cynthia asked Jordan.
“Not what Brian’s describing. Except for the tap dance on the spine.”
“Girls wouldn’t get the ball thing,” Cynthia teased.
“Do not make fun,” Brian said seriously. “You have no idea how disconcerting it is.”
“Not having testicles, no,” Jordan said stiffly. “Can we change the subject. Talking about—those—is a bit weird and uncomfortable for me.”
Brian squeezed her fingers. “Sorry, babe. You have to realize that, for a man, that’s the most important thing. The protective cup was invented at least a decade before the football helmet, remember.”
© 2017 Dellani Oakes