There is a woman in the clearing. She's atop a slab of stone, sitting semi-native style, her calves down and wrapped around a large cooking pot. She reaches around her in the dim firelight, pulling bundles of this, sprigs of that, sections of roots. Into the pot they go.
She is muscular, agile. Her hips are wide, and seductively curvaceous, but she has broad shoulders and thicker arms than most women would want. Leaning next to her is a forked pole, rubbed smooth by sanding and sealed with wax and sacred oils, it is shaped like the tines of an inverted peace symbol. Around her shoulders is a scrap of shawl, enough to keep the chill from her back, should the fire before her not provide enough heat. Around her neck is a mantle of bones, stones and shining beads.
Her face is shrouded by heavy hair, it's elbow-length and wild. The ends are rough in the front, suggesting she's recently cut away the forelocks with a knife... probably to clear her vision. Her face reminds me of Anjelica Houston, twenty or thirty years ago. She is a handsome woman, but razor-sharp, weaponized, and lovely.
Around the fire before her cavort all manner of creatures. They do so with the good nature of somewhat inebriated party-goers, tittering on flutes, bashing drums and whooping every time the fire pops and sends a soap-berry chasing after someone's legs.
It seems that she is a fixture of the land. The beasts and beings neither give her a particularly wide berth, nor stray too close. When one of them crosses before her, they seem to nod a little in her direction. It is accepted that treading directly into the space around her is a poor idea, or so the body-language says. Behind her, in the shadows, is a massive shape of fur and twisting skin.
Opposite her, beyond the flames (where I cannot clearly see him) is a tall man, wearing a hooded cloak made of animal hide, and crowned with a set of horns (antlers? they seem to shift like branches in the wind). To me, he is shadow, and yet his presence reaches around the fire-circle like dark wings. He is sitting on a fallen log, one leg tucked into the bend of the other's knee and his right hand rests in the crotch of a short stang. It is his crutch... I think. The leg which does not touch the ground seems fairly well lamed. I realize that it is his side of the flames where I always am, and he is always behind me, but now I'm somewhere in the middle.
I find myself moving toward her, the razor-faced woman in the threadbare shawl. Goatboy tugs at my pant-leg. He suddenly reminds me of "Dobby", knowing he can't say something important, but imploring me with his eyes to stay the fuck by the fire. I kneel down to him, so we're roughly the same height and ask him if he's able to tell me why he doesn't want me to move. He looks at Her, then at Him, then at me. He gets a somewhat constipated look. I feel a rush of fear.
"It's okay Goatboy... I can always think of my feet." I tell him. He seems to get it, or at least the gist of it, and lets go of my pant leg. He still won't stray beyond the edge of the disturbed soil. He won't go up to where the light of the fire seems to bend to avoid her throne.
I kneel, just off to the right of her. The shadow writhes. I look up at her razor-face, it is physically and psychically painful. And I say "Am I dead?" - It wasn't the question I meant to ask. Far from it, actually. Funny how these things happen. But her face seems to split in two, ear to ear with a toothsome grin, full of absolutely mirthless laughter.
This is the maw of death, just north of the maw of rebirth. She must consume to give birth. She is a black hole which forms around it's orbit a beautiful galaxy. Periodically consuming things, so that the energy of it's decay forces the remaining survivors further beyond reach. But without her pull, nothing would ever form. Without matter being devoured, nothing would survive... And as soon as this vision arises, it departs. She is beautiful again, and not quite so hard to look at. "You wouldn't be here if you weren't a little." she says... without really speaking.
It is by her leave that all things pass to and from death, she rules the Underworld, and all of it's gods, with an Iron fist, for all things must pass between on her roads. Hers are the things that go bump, that hide from sight, and are never truly beheld. The black shucks, and poisonous toads. Rats and crawling things. Beasts which mingle races. Races which no one living ever gets to behold.
I scrape and bow my way back to the firelight, and I feel the rush of air, and light, and sound come back at me. Goatboy pats me affectionately on the knee where I've collapsed squarely on my ass. "You warned me. I ignored you. Let's say score one to you, good sir." Goatboy grins. The sounds of the fire are mostly drowned out by the pounding of my heart. He passes me a horn of mead, with a look stating that I cannot refuse this time, and that if I do he'll personally ram me. I accept the fairy-drink, which tingles on my tongue with the bitter explosion of Solanine and Dandilion. Another human, though debatably so, drags me to my feet and into a dance around the fire. I dance until the sun begins to rewind from the West, and then I run... I fly, I gallop on all fours. I shift and change through a dozen forms and fall from a great height into my body.
I suck down several glasses of ice-water, and sit up in bed for a bit. For all the morons, like myself, who've dance on the edge of death, bang-faced, and arrogant : Never in my life had I been so glad to draw breath.
Also, no, his name isn't Goatboy. But I'm not going to post his actual name. That'd be a bit gauche.