Chapter 5

Aveny knew something was different before she even registered where she was. Her bare feet cringed and twisted along the rocky shoreline, painful despite the otherworldly and ethereal sense of the dream. Each step sent little shocks up her legs, forcing her to stumble back and forth in an attempt to maintain balance.

She didn’t even know why she was walking or where she was going. She simply materialized here out of the hazy nothing of her slumbering subconscious. The sea lapped along the shoreline, calling to her. She longed for its comfort and ease but when she looked about, the skin was nowhere to be found.

And then she saw her, just ahead: the raven-haired woman in the black dress, walking along the shoreline. Aveny started with recognition. “Wait!” She called out. “Who are you?”

Her ability to speak surprised Aveny but the raven-haired woman neither turned nor gave any inclination that she recognized her presence.

Aveny picked up the pace, stumbling, stubbing her toes on rocks, slipping on algae, and cringing over the crunching of tiny shells. “Please, wait,” she called again. “I just want to talk to you.”

The woman gave no response. She only continued calmly sashaying down the beach, the wind sliding through her hair, pulling up tendrils in a soft, acrobatic dance, just like Aveny’s many dreams before. She couldn’t see the woman’s face but she knew it was her. She knew her. It was a recognition more profound than the faces of her own children. She knew her but she had no idea who she was.

Aveny struggled ahead. Her feet screamed in pain but she pressed forward, closing the distance until the woman was almost within arm’s reach. She stretched out one hand, straining to touch the woman’s shoulder, to capture her attention, to find out – finally – who she was and why she’d come, when an unknown voice echoed through her mind. “Don’t. Dear God, don’t.”

 Aveny faltered; tripping, stumbling, falling. She careened toward the rocks, flinching in anticipation of the pain, but none came. Instead she was transforming, swirling through the sea, strands of matter, coming and unbecoming.

She woke panting, sweaty and sore.

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