It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark.
The meal was of well-roasted bird and acorns, garnished with greens. For a long time afterward Meagan stared into the dancing flames that brought warmth, food and security. Early dusk had fallen, and light raindrops were still tapping softly on the tent.
One of the dark women came to sit with Meagan. She leaned over, peering into the fire. Her jewelry jingled slightly with the motion, and a tendril of her long hair trailed across Meagan’s arm. “What do you see?”
“Oh, I … nothing.” Meagan shrugged. “I was just watching.”
“It is wise to be careful of looking into fires, young one.” The woman’s voice was soft and low. “You do not know what might be looking back.”
Well that’s creepy enough, Meagan thought as the woman seated herself, crossing her legs and making herself comfortable. Meagan pulled her blanket tighter and shifted to make room.
The woman’s perfumed scent soaked into the cold air of the tent. Shadows from the fire played over the olive face. The woman was nearing middle age, but in the flickering light she could have been a mere youth—or ancient. “Who would you hope to be looking back, if it was someone?” The woman said this seriously, and leaned forward to hear the answer.
“I … don’t know.”
“Think. Look back to the fire. Look until you see black flame.”
The fire danced invitingly. It struck Meagan how the flames shifted between infinite shades of red, white, yellow and orange. She had never thought of fire as having different colors. She looked longer, until another color stood out: black shadows danced among the flames as lively and real as the others.
“The fire itself may be a shadow of darkness. If something is watching you, they will be in the black flames. Who is it you wish to see?”
Meagan swallowed. “My parents.”
The woman stretched her arm towards Meagan. “Here, give me your hand.” Turning Meagan’s hand over and gently opening her palm, the woman traced over it as if to wipe it clean.
“Do you read palms?” Meagan asked.
“No, child, I read lives. Let me see the other.”
Obediently, Meagan held out her other hand. The woman knitted her brow and peered closely. “Your life line…” The woman’s eyes grew large and she gripped Meagan’s hand more tightly. “Who are you, girl?”
Meagan tried to pull away. “Please, let go.”
“Where are you from? I want to know the place.”
Meagan wrenched her hand away.
The woman rose. “Your line has no roots. Where is your home?” She knelt and put her face close. Spice perfume washed over Meagan. They looked at each other a long moment. “Child,” the woman said finally, her voice gentle. “Tell me. I can be trusted. Where is your home?”