For Gabby – miss you!
Take me to the ocean; let me lie there awhile.
The voice echoed through the ether, gentle and soothing, but to Kalima, it rang through her head, torturing her like nails on a chalkboard. The disembodied voice had started following her about a week ago and steadily worsened over the following days.
She rubbed at her temple, gritting her teeth.
Under the bridge, the troll awaits. Go to him not, for your heart he will eat.
Kalima groaned. Nothing it said made any sense, and any time she tried to think about it only made her head hurt worse. Perhaps it was time to see the Healer. It took several more nonsensical chants throughout that day to convince her, and it was by the light of the night-torches that she made her way to the Healer’s premises, her head bowed to avoid being recognized.
She knocked at the simple wooden door and waited impatiently, looking around for any witnesses. When the door swung open, she stepped inside and almost bowled the young Healer over in her haste.
“Kalima!” he exclaimed as he regained his balance and closed the door behind her. “It’s a…it’s a pleasure, as always.”
Kalima rolled her eyes, though her back was to him, so he couldn’t see. She was recalcitrant and uncooperative and rarely followed through with his prescribed remedies.
“What troubles you at this hour?” he said. “Are you having trouble sleeping?”
“Yes, and no,” Kalima said, rubbing her temples. The water takes you where you’ll go, the golden eye where the west-wind blows.
“Ah. A headache, then.”
“Yes, and no.”
His silence prompted her to look up at him. He was looking at her with an extremely patient expression which made her feel like she was being scolded for taking up too much of his time.
“I have a headache, and I’ve been having trouble sleeping for the past few nights, but that isn’t what I’ve come to see you about.”
“Right,” he said. “I’ll make some tea, and we can sit and you can tell me what is really ailing you.”
Kalima sat on the low cushioned bench in front of the hearth. The fireplace was empty at this time of year, and in a few short weeks, the palm fronds in the corner would be needed to stir the oppressive heat to something bearable.
“Thank you, Healer,” Kalima said, taking the cup of tea he handed her.
“Please, call me Doland,” he said.
Kalima frowned. “The Healer always preferred to be spoken to with the deference befitting his station.”
“Yes, but you may notice that I am not he. His hair was quite a bit whiter, I recall, and liver spots claimed most of his skin, while mine is still unmarked by age,” the young man said, his voice even.
“Of course,” Kalima said, shifting uncomfortably at the slight rebuke, and scalded her tongue on the gulp of tea she took to hide her discomfort. “I’m sorry. You must feel his loss quite sharply.”
“I manage,” Doland said, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he smiled at her. “Now, tell me of the purpose for your visit.”
“It’s very strange,” Kalima began, stalling for time. “I’m afraid you’ll think I’m going mad.”
“Why don’t you tell me what it is, and I can judge whether or not your sanity is in question?” he suggested.
Kalima took a deep breath. “I’m hearing voices. Well, actually, just one voice.”
“I see. What does it say?”
“Everything. And nothing at all. It makes up childish rhymes. Or chilling statements that have nothing to do with anything going on around me. Sometimes it gives me riddles with no answer,” Kalima told him, the floodgates now open. “Mostly it gives me orders that I have no idea how to follow, such as the water takes you where you’ll go, the golden eye where the west-wind blows or under the bridge, the troll awaits. Go to him not, for your heart he will eat.” She shuddered. “There haven’t been trolls here for a hundred years.”
“Yes, but perhaps it doesn’t know that,” Doland said. “What does it sound like? A woman? A man?”
“A woman,” Kalima said without hesitation. “A young woman, almost a girl.”
“And do you always understand the words?”
Kalmia nodded. “It is always in a language I understand, yes.”
Doland stared into his cup with a pensive expression, then glanced up at her. “One moment.”
He left the room, and was gone for some moments, which Kalima spent in agony thinking of the horrible diagnosis he would come up with, and the worse remedy. I’m probably going to die, she thought, and blinked back tears that sprung up at the notion. I’m too young to die.
She was brought from her morbid imaginings of flesh rotting off as her mind slowly and painfully disintegration by the Healer reentering the room. He had a large, forbidding tome in his hands, with blood-red pages, and a moth-eaten ribbon to mark the place.
“From what you’ve described, and what I can decipher from this book, what you have is called the Zephyr,” Doland said, frowning.
Kalima didn’t like his words or his expression. “What is that?”
“It’s like a third eye or a sixth sense,” Doland explained, his frown deepening. “But you shouldn’t have it.”
“And why not?” Kalmia asked.
“It disappeared with the witches. Around the same time as the trolls,” he added.
“So you’re saying I’m a witch?” Kalima blinked. “I’m not going to die?”
“Well, you might, if you were tied to a stake and set alight, but short of that, I think it’s safe to say you’ll live to see the morning at least,” Doland said.
“This is not a joking matter,” Kalima said, with great effort to keep her voice below a shriek.
“I wasn’t joking,” Doland told her and closed the book with a snap. “You’ll have to go to the Maribondi.”
“The what?” Kalima said.
“The Wise Women of the Sea,” he said. “They may be able to help you.”
“You can’t give me anything? Or recommend something?” Kalima asked, flutterings of panic in her chest. Leaving was almost as bad as dying in her estimation.
“I just recommended something: going to see the Maribondi,” he said.
“I meant like a tea or a bedtime prayer,” she said.
“I can give you something to help calm your nerves,” Doland said. “But I doubt it will do anything for the voice in your head.”
The sachet he handed her at the door was fragrant with orange and chamomile, but it did little to soothe her nerves. Kalima left the Healer’s with the Zephyr reverberating in her head. Down the river, swift and true, beware the one with three faces, and the words of two.