I knew I was dreaming because I could still feel the upset stomach I’d had when I went to sleep, but the queasiness felt different. It was a vague awareness, but one that made me put my hand over my lower abdomen anyhow as I walked into the dream world bar. It was O’Grady’s, the pub in Galway where we had gone the previous evening for a celebration of pizza and beer before everyone went back home that next day. The same pizza that had left me feeling like a lead weight had taken up residence in my gut before going to sleep and caused me to have this strange dream to begin with.
Inside, the pub was packed full of people and they all seemed to be talking all at once. As I moved toward the back of the building through the crowd, I was no longer in the pub in Galway, but in some working class bar that I didn’t recognize. The people stayed the same around me, but as I continued to press my way in further, the bar kept changing and more frequently with each step I took. Some of the interiors I recognized, like the pub that flashed by a few more times, the bar in Nashville that I had been to once with Jared, and Jesters in Salem where the Black Rose Coven liked to hang out. The other places I didn’t recognize, but the effect of motion wasn’t helping my stomach and my arm tightened around my abdomen.
I felt as if something were pulling me forward so I pushed my way even deeper into the press of bodies. Finally, the noise started to lessen and I was able to pick out individual voices. I couldn’t identify any of them, but I was able to tell by body language and facial expressions that they weren’t happy about something.
I saw someone a few feet away from me that looked like Bobby Lonetree, a werewolf friend of Glenn and Siofra’s from Nashville. I tried to get his attention as he looked out over the crowd from the chair that he was standing on, but he never looked my way. I stumbled over my own feet a little and tried to catch myself on the shoulder of a man sitting at a table that I was passing, but my hand passed right through him.
It was then that I knew that I was probably in someone else’s dream. Jared had begun to take me through some low level training exercises in dream walking as part of my studies, but I wasn’t allowed to go out on my own yet. I knew that people and objects wouldn’t always be solid in anyone’s dream, but if you were visiting someone else’s, nine times out of ten you wouldn’t be able to touch anything. But whose dream I was in I didn’t know.
I had a feeling that I would find out who if I continued to follow the pull that was leading me toward the back of the building, so I pressed on. The yelling of the crowd picked up again and I recognized a group of people that were sitting at a nearby table. I knew them from pictures I had been shown at Glenn and Siofra’s. They were friends of Glenn’s that had been killed during the time when Mac had first come to America and they all hunted vampires together.
“Traitor,” I heard one of them yell in the direction I was heading as they raised fists to wave them in a threatening manner.
“Murderer,” came from another as the group of them started to shout all at once, making it impossible for me to decipher anything else. I craned my neck to see who they were talking about, but all I saw was the constant press of people around me so I kept pushing my way through them.
Then I saw Jared off to one side. His face was awash with emotion and hatred like I had never seen in the time I have known him. He opened his mouth and vehemently shouted something in the same direction as the others, but all I was able to hear was, “left us all to die.”
At another table I saw Mac’s vampire sister, Christina Kline, and her husband Jason sitting with and older gentleman who looked forlornly over one shoulder in the same direction that the others were shouting toward. Sadly, he turned his gaze back to the glass of blood sitting on the table in front of him. Christina had her hand on the man’s shoulder as if she were attempting to comfort him, all the while glaring off at whatever was happening to make the man so sad. Jason, obviously upset by his wife’s distress, stood and yelled, “He should have never given you the gift. You don’t deserve it.”
The next table held Glenn, Siofra, and Bobby, who had made his way to the table without me seeing him. They were angry and sad at the same time. I heard Siofra yell out, “How could you have allowed it to happen?” I looked ahead of me, but I still couldn’t see who all the insults were being thrown at through the crowd.
Sitting together at another table was James Price and a man that I didn’t know. He was young and good looking and dressed in a suit similar in design to the one that James was wearing, but he didn’t hold himself in the same manner as Mac’s childe. He looked strangely familiar to me and I realized that I had seen him following me a few times in Salem after Mac’s death. I wondered who he was at the same moment that I remembered that Mac had taken on another ghoul just before he and Eliza left for that last trip Europe. I figured that had to be Eddie, the man that had helped Eliza escape.
Even from this distance I could see that James had his fangs dropped and that the other man was cleaning off an ornate dagger of some sort that he easily twisted in his deft fingers.
“He took my life from me,” I heard James say to his companion as he adjusted his tie and sat back comfortably in the chair. “I could have done so much more.”
“He left me masterless again,” the other man countered with an unmanly pout. “Do you know how hard it is to find a good master?”
I was finally nearing the back wall of the bar when I saw my Grandparents, Uncle Angus, Aunt Cara, Stephen, and myself sitting at the next to last table. We were all facing the last two tables and I heard my Grandfather harshly say, “I didn’t raise you to act this way boy! What were you thinking?”
My Grandmother was weeping openly so that she had to be supported by my Grandfather and Uncle Angus. “Look at what you’ve done!” Stephen roared as he jumped to his feet and pointed at Grandmother. “How could you do this to her?!”
I knew that the last table had to hold at least one of them, but just the same, I was surprised to see Eliza sitting alone, with her back to me. I was scared when I saw that she was bleeding profusely from many slashes on her arms and back. I rushed forward to stand by her side and saw more gashes on her chest, but none of them appeared to be fatal, just torturous. I wanted to touch her, but I knew that my hand would only pass through her, so I didn’t.
“You left me alone,” she said, looking straight ahead of her, completely oblivious of my presence next to her. “Not once, but twice. You left me with a baby and no way to take care of her, you bastard. Then you talked me into this…”
I didn’t have to look to know that it was Mac sitting at the table by the wall, but I did anyhow. He sat there alone, facing the rest of the hate filled crowd and taking it all in without argument. He was weeping openly. Sometimes, when the light changed around him, the tears looked like blood.
I wanted to go to him and sooth him.
I left Eliza and went to the table to sit next to him, knowing full well that he wouldn’t be aware of my presence beside him, but feeling that I could help him anyhow. When I looked at Eliza again she was looking down at the table, her hair falling on either side of her face and blood dripping from her lips. She lifted her head suddenly and looked up; right at me it seemed, with sharp, vampiric fangs protruding from her open mouth. They glistened with red blood that now dripped down her chin and onto the table and her shirt.
I screamed in terror at the sight of her in the form that I knew she would rather die than become, and I shot upright in bed, my heart thundering in my chest like a stampede of wild horses. I was fully awake now and scared out of my mind. I had no doubt that I had just been in Mac’s dreams, but I was having a hard time understanding what had happened around me. The obvious conclusion was that the accusations voiced by his friends and family in the dream didn’t show how any of us actually felt, instead they were voicing the arguments he must be having with himself.
I looked at the clock next to the bed and saw that it was almost four in the morning. There was no way in hell that I was going to be able to go back to sleep anytime soon, so I grabbed my robe and put it on as I crept downstairs, intending to make a cup of tea that I hoped would calm my nerves and stop my hands from shaking. I had a feeling that seeing Eliza like that was going to haunt me for a while and I wondered what her presence like that meant to Mac.
I skidded to a halt in the doorway to the kitchen when I saw Mac sitting at the table, looking out the large picture window with his back to me. If I hadn’t been sure that the dream I had stepped into was his before, the way he was dejectedly sitting in the chair would have confirmed it for me. He was slouching in a way that I know Grandmother wouldn’t have allowed at her table, one foot kicked out in front of him under the table and his right hand resting on the placemat before him.
“Hey,” I whispered as I entered the room and he turned slightly to look at me over his shoulder, his lips tilting slightly in greeting. “What are you doing up so early?” I asked as I crossed the room to the stove where I turned on the burner under the kettle that my grandmother always kept full. I already had an idea why he was up, but I wanted to see if he would broach the subject on his own. After all, I shouldn’t have been in his dream to begin with and it seemed rude to bring it up out of the blue. I kind of felt like a peeping Tom.
“Morning, luv,” he replied as he fingered a frayed corner of one of the placemats on the table. “Just couldn’t sleep anymore. What has you up at this hour?”
He was lying, but I chose to not confront him with it for the moment. I moved to his side and hesitantly touched his shoulder. “Weird dream. I couldn’t go back to sleep,” I told him. “I thought I’d have a cup of Grandmother’s tea.”
Mac smiled as he gently covered my hand with his and squeezed it tenderly. “Yeah, I have weird dreams after eating pizza late, too. Want to talk about it?”
I looked down at him, then dropped so that I was squatting beside him. The haunted look in his gaze was all the further confirmation I needed as I turned my hand in his so that our palms touched. “It was you, wasn’t it?” I whispered.
He looked away quickly, shame and anguish visible in his hazel eyes. “What was me?” he asked.
Usually I thought that using magick against a friend or family member was wrong, but I knew how stubborn Mac could be and how he didn’t like to share what he was thinking about. I looked over at the flame on the stove and used it as a focus to change my thoughts to become one with his. I didn’t want to read into his deepest recesses or anything, I just wanted to be there for him after having what I knew had to be a horrific dream for him. I could still see Eliza with fangs and the vision left a chill in my spine.
As I had suspected he was ashamed and embarrassed by the things he thought people had said to him in his subconscious. He was very shaken by the experience, but I could feel the love that he felt for me at being here with him. “I cannot speak for anyone else,” I told him, trying to hold his gaze in mine, but his eyes moved away, “I would never think, much less say those things to you. You know that, right?”
The pretences were gone as Mac’s gaze met mine and he spoke quietly. “Aye. But it was me thinking them. My own conscience.” He turned his head away in shame.
I put my hand on the side of his face and turned it until he looked at me. “We are only human,” she said, then rolled my eyes as I realized we weren’t really, and continued, “in a sense, anyhow. We aren’t perfect by any means and we shouldn’t expect to be. You can’t hang onto thoughts that you were wrong for any of your actions because you have always looked to make the right decisions. You’ve never let me down, Mac, or anyone else for that matter. Anything that has ever happened that may have hurt the people you love wasn’t you’re fault. Bad things happen sometimes. It’s what we do afterward that matters.”
Mac wordlessly pulled me into his arms and hugged my tightly against him. We stayed that way for a time and as I felt his heart beat next to mine I knew that we were going to be okay. It had been less than a week. There were lots of things that everyone needed to adjust to now that Mac and Uncle Angus had returned.
He grinned when we finally pulled apart. “Ya do know its poor manners to be walkin’ uninvited or without good cause,” he said, trying his best to imitate Grandfather’s voice for his warning.
I smiled guiltily as my eyes met his. “I didn’t mean it. Really. I’ve never done that on my own before. Jared has led me through some exercises before, but always with strict guidelines. I don’t know how I ended up in your dream.” Thankfully, before he had a chance to lecture me further, the teakettle started to whistle and I stood and touched his face with the tips of my fingers. “Do you want me to make you a cup of tea?”
He smiled, all traces of what he was about to say leaving him, but only on the surface. “Yes, luv. So, you’ve never done that before?”
“Not like that,” I informed him in an excited, but low voice, so as to not wake anyone. I went to the cupboard and pulled out the tea things. “Jared has led me through some exercises, but he always makes sure that I promised not to try on my own. He and Rachel have been careful that Sam and I aren’t pushing ourselves too much.” Expertly, I made the tea and brought the two cups to the table, then sat next to him.
Mac brought the cup to his lips and blew before taking a small sip. “So, how are your studies going?”
I smiled. “They’re fine. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a good work, you know?” It was nice to talk to him about my magickal studies and to see the pride in his eyes as I spoke. It was something I wished I could share with my Dad because I knew I would see the same pleasure in his expression as well.
Mac’s lips spread in a small smile. “Yeah, I remember,” he replied wistfully. There was a hint of remorse in his voice that reminded me that he had once been a mage himself, and that years ago he had gone through the same things I was going through now.
I didn’t want to cause him to remember anything else that would trouble him further, so I reached over and put my hand over his. “How are you coming with Gwrhyr? Learning anything there?”
He shrugged. “I’m getting the basics good enough, but… I still have all the knowledge from all my other abilities bouncing around in me head. It’s a little confusing at times.”
It was a huge admission for Mac. I looked compassionately at him and squeezed his hand as I smiled reassuringly. “Do you remember everything from before you were a vampire now, too?”
“Aye,” Mac replied softly. “Everything.”
I sat quietly for a moment, allowing a comfortable silence to fall between us as we drank our tea. Finally, I said, “I know that I’ve said this before, but if you ever want to talk about anything, I’m here. I know that Gwrhyr is supposed to be your guide, or whatever, but if you want me to do something… anything… I will.”
He reached for my hand again. “I know you would luv. I know.”
I glanced out the window and wondered how long it would be before the sun came up. “We should probably go back to sleep. I’m surprised that Grandmother hasn’t heard us yet.”
He smiled. “You go on; I think I’m up for the day.”
I yawned widely and stretched before I stood and took my cup to the sink to rinse it. “Actually, a shower sounds wonderful right now. Why don’t we meet back here in twenty minutes and go for a walk? I love Ireland in the spring and I want to soak in as much green as possible before I go back to Salem.”
Mac smiled and nodded, his whole face agreeing to the idea. “Deal.”
It was actually closer to forty minutes before we met back in the kitchen and surprisingly enough, the house was still asleep. It felt like Mac and I had the world to ourselves for a time as we were headed out to The Point for a quick look. Gwrhyr joined us, his tongue lolling out of one side of his mouth in a way that was almost animal in nature compared to his usual human characteristics. He told us how he too loved the waking earth in spring and cajoled Mac and I until we raced the rest of the way to The Point, the wolf winning with his natural agility.
The morning was glorious. The sun was rising at our backs, causing the sea to reflect the orange and pink streaks of the new day sky and I felt the power of Gaia fill me as we stood in silence. As I held my father’s hand, I thanked the Great Mother again for bringing him and Uncle Angus back into our lives. I didn’t know what the future held for us, but I did know one thing for certain, I wouldn’t be seeing the haunted look in Eliza’s gaze anymore and as long as that held I could deal with anything.
Heart of the Witchs Path YouTube channel:
PodOmatic site for podcasts:
iTunes site for podcasts: