On June 2, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt involving a shadow, a wild party, and a wheel.
This Tale of the Navel was the result…
It was the sort of party where no one was still for long. One person started cheering, singing, leaping and up down, only to have everyone cheer, sing, and leap. If you saw the shadow of someone who haunted lurking in a stranger’s eyes, cheer up! Liquor flowed liberal amounts. Drink enough and those shadows faded into a glorious rainbow blur.
Of course Peter was amongst those shouting the loudest, singing in a clear, beautiful baritone about heartbreak, bouncing up down with a bunch of scantily-clad party-goers of varying genders in way which guaranteed none of them would take his words of heartbreak too seriously. He hailed the sphinx upon the spinning Wheel of Fate with a generous swig of whatever bright-colored concoction he was drinking.
The sphinx inclined her head graciously in response, confident once the guests were drunk enough, one would be foolish enough to agree to answer her riddles.
Trying to weave my way through the crow without pushing anyone (and not having much success), I made my way to Peter’s side. “Peter!”
He pushed an auburn lock of hair out of his face, laughing at some joke aimed at him by select members of the crowd.
Surrounded by sweaty exuburance, seeing the sweat glisten on Peter’s brow, I lost control. I breathed in his enthusiam, drank down his delirium which burst with salty sweetness upon my tongue, rushing down my throat, exploding in my belly. For a moment, I saw exploding rainbows.
Peter’s eyelids fluttered. He stopped bouncing and swayed on his feet. The Wheel spun, flashing colors to match the rainbows I’d just seen until it slowed, showing a single image within its spokes.
The Fool danced near the edge of a cliff. Sometimes he had fair hair, sometimes auburn. He could have been Peter. He could have been me.
The sphinx raised a winged eyebrow and gestured with a meaningful paw at the Wheel.
I swallowed and held my breath. I caught Peter before he could fall to the floor.
He leaned against me, gazing at my face as if he wasn’t sure if it was me.
“Do I taste good, Christopher?” He offered me a suggestive smile. “Do I taste as good as Damian Ashelocke did?”
These words were as good as a slap in the face. I recoiled from him, only to recover myself enough to retort, “And does touching me feel as good as touching Paul did? Or would you prefer to have him here?”
“Oh, why must I choose between you?” He giggled. “You were never mine. Paul was mine, but he gave himself away to mysticism and monsters!” He cackled at his own words. “You both rejected me in such different ways, it’s hard to say which hurt more.” He clapped his hands together. “No. I won’t choose and I won’t brood. I’ll dance and sing until I die!” He turned his last sentence into a whooping cheer.
Many in the crowd whooped along with him. “Yeah! Dance and sing until we die!”
The sphinx nodded and began to sway in time with a tune that filled the air. Everyone began to clap and cheer.
“Peter…” I began, but he picked me up, swung around in a wild arc amidst the whooping. I ended up holding onto his vest for dear life, faces and colors blurring with the movement. I thought I saw Dyvian swinging Danyel just as Peter was swinging me while Damian lifted Tayel high up in the air. Ashleigh sidled up to the sphinx of all people. Well, the mythical beast’s face did look a bit like Map’s.
Was I actually seeing them or just shadows of them? Shadows could have shadows. Was this party happening in the Shadow Forest or a pocket realm of the edge of it? Was that why I saw familar faces in this strange shimmering crowd where everyone glistened, sweated, and cheered? Was this all a dream or a vision?
Perhaps it was a warning. A warning of what might happen if we allowed ourselves to be carried away. Was it so wrong to take a moment to enjoy yourself? To lose yourself to the moment?
Peter put me down. It was my turn to sway on my feet and catch my breath.
“Peter, listen to me.” I tugged on his sleeve. “Something happened to you outside this place. You’re become this entity whom feeds upon wishes. The part of you I once knew is trapped here.”
“Does that matter?” He shrugged as if it didn’t. “I’ve become you, a creature whom feeds upon the emotions of others. Only I can still drink actual liquid.” He took another swig of his cocktail to prove his point.
“Peter, please!” I tightened my fingers upon his arm, feeling the hard slipperiness of his arm beneath the damp silk hugging it. “I’m not sure how long this party will last. I’m not not sure how long this part of you will linger here.”
“Again, does it matter?” He twisted his mouth into a bitter attempt at a smile. “I’m dancing with the Wheel of Fortune and only wishes can change my fate.” He turned to press his forehead against my hair. “I lost myself in the Shadow Forest seeking your happiness, Christopher. Tell me, did you ever find it? Did you find Damian?”
He pressed damp lips to me. I felt the water rushing over my head, waking to splutter, finding myself in the pond.
Yes. I’d been leaning over to the pond in the circle of stones, trying to see a vision. I’d almost lost myself to it. The rocks cast their shadows over me in judging disapproval.
Spitting out water, I paddled to the bank, pulled myself up onto the grass. Perhaps like Map, the stones were right to disapprove. The pond had almost gotten me. I must have fallen into a trance, leaning too close to the edge. My attention had been fixed upon the colors, sparkling upon the water, lurking below the surface. Visions lurked within them, visions of other versions of me. I’d been trying to see one more clearly…no. Whatever I’d seen or felt was gone.
I rolled over on the dry ground, trying to remember. Something about a wheel, a wild party, and the shadow of someone I’d loved. I’d been trying to tell that someone something important, only I hadn’t exactly been myself at the same.
Argh, it was maddening! Visions were too much like dreams, so vivid when I was having them, but they vanished as soon as I returned to the waking world and wet clothes. I didn’t want to forget. This was why I kept making the hike up this hill, the hill everyone in Omphalos was afraid of. Even if I risked falling into the pond and drowning, I wanted to see what the shadow me saw, to see what worlds he walked within, the other people who were part of his life. People who weren’t Map or Ashleigh, but were important to me. Him. Us. Those people kept slipping away along with the visions.
Maybe I’d be able to remember a name next time. Or something. Anything.
I glanced down at my drenched clothes, feeling only too soggy. Map would be furious with me and Ashleigh, she would want to know why? Why did I keep leaving our home, our village, to chase phantoms? What was so seductive about this pond within a stone circle?
“Because I don’t belong in the village,” I murmured the forbidden truth out loud. “There’s somewhere else I’m supposed to be, there’s someone I need to find. I just don’t know where or whom.”
I glanced at the pond, wondering if it might reveal answers.
Ripples lapped against the bank, but nothing appeared. Perhaps the waters had given me all it could for this particular visit.
I would just have to visit again. And again and again. And yet again until I got the answers I needed or I drowned in my own dreams.
Either way I wasn’t giving up.