Martha, looking over Mikaela, spoke to Jonathan. “Do you think she’s the one?”
Mikaela could hear them, but was not able to move. She struggled to open her eyes. She realized she was blindfolded and her hands and legs were bound.
Jonathan replied, “Of course she is.” He bent in front of her and waved something in front of her face. As she faded, she heard him continue. “She was riding Pepper. We have to stop this. I’ll take her to the mountain clan. They’ll know what to do with her.”
Mikaela blacked out again.
The cart jostled Mikaela back awake. She found herself in the back of a horse drawn wagon in a pile of hay. She was still bound, but the blindfold was no longer over her eyes. “Where are you taking me?” she demanded.
Jonathan looked back toward her, “Don’t you worry. No harm will come to you, but we had to intercede. No one gets their acushla in Nowhere, ever.
Mikaela thought to herself, There’s that word again. “What is an acushla?”
Jonathan laughed heartily as if Mikaela has just told the funniest joke ever. “Never you mind! If you don’t know, you don’t need to know.”
He snapped the reigns. Pepper and another horse were drawing the wagon. Pepper whinnied in protest.
“Stop, you’re hurting him!” Mikaela pleaded with Jonathan.
Jonathan slowed the wagon and stopped. He turned around. “I’m not going to take any sass from you.” He climbed over the seat and waved something in front of Mikaela’s nose which knocked her out again.
Mikaela returned to dreamland. The jostling of the wagon translated into her riding on the back of a magnificent stallion. She realized the man from her earlier dream was riding with her, his arm loosely wrapped around her waist.
The rhythm of the horse’s stride lifted them up and dropped them in unison on its back.
His breath was warm on her neck. She turned to catch a glance of him. He whispered, “Keep looking forward,” in an ominous voice. “It’s the only way through.”
She found herself looking forward and watched the light stream down, lighting the trail’s path. The forest around them was dark. Mist floated above the forest floor. The call of an owl echoed through the trees.
“Where are we going?” she asked the man, who started holding her tighter against him. She relaxed in his arm; she knew she could trust him for some reason.
“You’ll make it through. Just hold on.” With that, the stallion began to race as did her heart.
Mikaela’s eyes opened with a flash. She realized she was no longer bound, but instead found herself in a makeshift tent. A hand made quilt covered her. She was free to get up and move. There was a small bowl of food and some water on a wobbly stump next to where she was laying.
She could hear voices outside her tent. They spoke English, but with a heavy accent. She caught pieces of conversations as people passed the tent.
“Yeah, she’s the one they say. I don’t believe it. Pepper’s lost it.”
“Did you see her hair? It’s dark and short. I’ve never seen a lady with short hair!”
“I bet she’s a witch!”
“We can’t let them meet. What do we do with her?”
The voices carried on. Mikaela walked up to the flaps of the tent and spied outside. There was a large man standing in front of her tent, looking toward the door. He saw her come to the flap.
He smiled a goofy grin and waved at her, then stood imposingly, raised his eyebrow, and signaled to her to stay in the tent.
She shrunk back from the flap and sat back down, wrapping herself in the quilt. The chill of the mountain air streamed into the tent.
She could smell food cooking outside and realized she was hungry. She picked up the small bowl and looked into it. There appeared to be beans in the bottom, so she ate a few spoonfuls to quiet her stomach. While eating, she heard approaching steps. A voice came from outside, “Ya’ decent?”
She was surprised she was asked. “Um, yes.”
The flap lifted and a man with two women entered the tent. He took a seat and the women kneeled, one on each side.
One woman had two very long braids, one on each side of her face. The other had her braids coiled up on her head. They appeared to be sisters, with light eyes and auburn red hair. They were clothed in simple dresses, no adornments and no jewelry.
The man was dressed in pants covered by chaps and a simple shirt. His hair and beard were salt and pepper.
The women whispered to each other, but loud enough for all to hear.
“Her acushla awaits.”
“She cannot reach her acushla.”
“We must prevent her acushla from getting her.”
“No one gets their acushla in Nowhere.”
The man raised his hand. “Shush, women! We are not the ones to decide such things. Only fate can.” He turned to Mikaela. “I have something better than your acushla. Will you entertain us first?”
Mikaela still had no idea and frustrated, asked, “What is an acushla?”
The trio bust into laughter. The man spoke up, “Jonathan was right, you are hilarious!” He turned to each of the ladies, “Will you get her ready for the evening?”
They shook their heads at him indicating yes. He stood up and departed the tent.
Mikaela looked at these two women who started busying themselves in the tent, pulling out a gown and what looked like charcoal and berries.
Mikaela thought to herself, I really need to wake up from this dream soon. This is getting weird!
The woman with the long braids signaled to Mikaela to stand up. Mikaela looked around, realizing they were going to force her to change into the gown they had pulled out. It was a light white cotton dress. She recognized the stitching around the neck. It was similar to the nightgown Mrs. Taylor had given her, but this one looked to be suited more for wearing as a dress.
“I’ll dress myself, if that’s okay?” Mikaela requested.
The ladies looked at each other and shrugged, and turned back to the other items they pulled out. One looked over her shoulder and waved at Mikaela to go ahead.
Mikaela shimmied out of her riding pants and shirt, then quickly put the gown on. It was very sheer, showing the outlines of her undergarments.
“It’s too sheer. Do you have something else? Can’t I just wear my clothes?”
The ladies giggled again and turned around. “No dear, this is what you must wear. It’s what we all wear on these days.”
Mikaela became concerned. What was this group planning to do to her? She started thinking about ways of escape.
The ladies added ribbons to the waist and sleeves of the gown, smashed the berries and applied the juice to her cheeks and lips. They then outlined her eyes with charcoal.
Mikaela was certain she looked affright. She rarely wore make-up as it was and this felt heavy on her skin.
“She’s beautiful, sister. Don’t you think?”
“Oh, most definitely. Hank will be pleased.”
Mikaela picked up the name, “Who’s Hank? Is he the man I met earlier?”
The ladies just giggled again. “We’ll be back to get you in a bit.”
Mikaela peeked out of the tent as they left. There appeared to be a festival like atmosphere outside, but her large guard still stood at the entrance of the tent. He gave her another grin, waved, and pointed her back into the tent. His deep voice said one word, “Wait.”
She stepped back into the tent and started devising how to get away from this encampment. She longed to just wake up from this dream as it had started turning into a nightmare.