The sun dipped, torching the horizon a familiar red-orange haze. Colleen stood on the back porch and listened. She’d put on an old black sweater before stepping out even though the Indian summer continued without sign of abatement. It draped her as loosely as it had the wire hanger in the coat closet. She held out an arm and observed a bony wrist before stepping down into the yard and heading for the gate.
Up the alley and lightly across the road, Colleen was soon in the fallow field, overgrown in defiant contrast to the sheared barley fields that shouldered it. She slowed her gait and began a meandering zig-zag towards the pond. The sweater was too warm as the day’s heat wafted up, caressing her seductively, but she kept walking not stopping until she felt a sudden chill that warmed her heart even as it dried the sweat on her forehead and upper lip.
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Colleen squatted and began clearing the ground cover with her bare hands. Clumps of dirt came up with each handful of grassy scrub which Colleen tossed with disinterest to either side. When she had cleared a patch roughly the size of a wall clock face, she worked to smooth the surface taking clumps and breaking them to powder with her fingers until a bare, but rough, surface stared up at her accusingly.
The air was colder now. She’d felt the temperature drop around her like a sheet of winter rain as she worked. Dropping out of the squat and coming to her knees, Colleen paused. She brought her hands together and rubbed them as if to warm them but they were colder than the air around her now. She shivered involuntarily, knowing that time was at a premium and not inclined to work to her advantage yet. Determined to have the last word, Colleen reached into the various pockets of the sweater draping her like a magician’s cloak and produced three plastic baggies which she tossed in a pattern to the ground just outside the circle she’d created, careful not to let them contact the edges.
She emptied the contents of the first baggie into her left hand and carefully spread it around the circle until the brown dirt shimmered and the sharp silica-like crystals drew blood. She applied the second baggie in a similar manner using her right hand with the same results and then clasped her bloody palms together, touching her forehead to her thumbs briefly before dumping the last bag’s contents in a pile dead center of the crackling circle. It ignited like a torch and Colleen braced herself as the flame licked at her face. Colder than the frigid air which knifed her lungs with each breath, the flames grew and expanded towards her as she stood, ready to be consumed or admitted.
She turned to face the road, realizing that the searing light was all around her or rather that she was the light because the flame emanated from her now. She lifted one arm and then the other. Delighting in the light that shimmered and dimmed depending on the bend of an elbow or the flick of a finger.
Careful not to step out of the circle, Colleen stilled her body and began to prepare for meditation. She had no idea how or when it would begin or how much time was needed for events to play out. She closed her eyes, wondering what she would see when the time came to open them again.