Gypsy Nightmare
     The caravan stopped well before sunset, when fog first began licking the wooden wheels of their wagons. Beyond the campfires, the world was sheathed in a gray mist where shadows danced around Maura Absole’s husband and the massive trunks of surrounding moss covered trees.  Preston was always the first to bring out his guitar.  It was one of the things Maura loved most about her husband. It didn’t matter to him that the guitar was battered, the bridge held up by a piece of wood his grandfather carved and stuck there after some mishap decades back.  Preston managed to make the world dance with the old guitar and the soul of a gypsy in his music. 
      “When does this boredom end,” Maura complained to herself where she sat in the back of their wagon; the door open toward the fire. She pressed her hand to her mouth, but Preston hadn’t heard her. She would never mean to hurt his feelings by saying such a thing. There was a time when her parents lived in one place for the winter.  Their hearth had been a happy and comfortable place to be.  The little cottage was too confining for a gypsy heart, but there were good memories of life there.  Life with Preston was less comfortable, though Maura didn’t regret their years together.  The lines of his face were smile lines; hers were simply the weary and weathered creases of time. She sighed heavily, pushing her multi-layered skirt aside as she turned to the cupboard beside her. 
            The picture of M. C. Escher’s crystal ball was old and folded at the corners, but on dreary, wistful evenings she still let her imagination play inside the ball.  Her great-grandmother had been a true psychic, she was told: a soothsayer, a mystic.  Maura leaned back from the picture to see it more clearly, and then took the soft edge of her sleeve in long slender fingers to wipe away a smudge on the crystal’s surface.  The blur refused to be removed, and again she sighed.  Maybe the distortion was in her aging eyes and not on the picture at all.   
         The blur before her on the orb became more visible; more pronounced. Maura gasped as the image of the man in the crystal ball suddenly became clearer and he blinked back at her. Perhaps this was a jinni like the one in the story of Aladdin. Perplexed and curious, Maura approached the picture carefully; speaking softly. “Tell me who you are and why you’re here”, she asked the image as it wavered and faltered; then grew clearer again.
            “I am Adai Salom, Priest of the Third Realm.” a disembodied voice echoed through the wagon. “I came at the call of the crystal.” The visage trembled with reverberations. Strains of cheerful guitar carried on the evening air were silenced abruptly as Maura was surprised by the sound of her own voice, “Preston, I think you need to come here for a moment, please!” The next minute Preston was there, guitar in hand with a look of absolute puzzlement on his face. “What’s wrong?” Maura stood pointing silently at the picture on the wall; a shining florescent red lamp began to fill the wagon with an eerie, evil light. 
            “Witchcraft!” cried the man holding the guitar. “They nearly hung us in the last town for palm reading and selling potions; mere parlor tricks compared to this. We have to get rid of this thing before it destroys us all.”
“No,” replied a calm voice. Preston had never heard this man’s voice before, and even stranger, it seemed to be emanating directly from the crystal ball in the picture. “Not witchcraft but the gnosis of a wizard answering the call of a summons. Be still mortal. No harm will come to either of you. How came you to possess the crystal and what became of the protector? You have opened a door between our worlds. I am friend of the crystal; those that befriend the crystal befriend me, and those who trouble my friends never live to tell of their exploits.” The voice stilled.
     Maura never hesitated. As the red light solidified in front of her, she climbed her way up and into the crystal. Preston held back. “Maura!”   She was beyond his reach before the echo of her name died away.
     Usually, she was the more cautious of the two of them, but here was an opened door that drew her to it more than anything in her life had done before.   The tingling began at her ankles and passed upward. Was it the red fog that caused the reaction or was it the surrealism of her surroundings playing with her mind? Looking back to where Preston stood beside the picture, the orb was only a large lens that curved outward toward her husband, offering a distorted view of the inside of their wagon. He stood with hands outstretched and jaw slack, his expression one of absolute astonishment mixed with terror.   Maura strode away confidently, through a gateway of yellowish hue, ornate and exotic. Looking back for Preston, she found that behind her now lay a harbor, empty and unnaturally still, where her wagon had been.
     A rather unassuming gentleman approached. “Maura,” he bowed. His white hair seemed to flow in slow motion, in the warm breeze as he bowed from the waist. She reached out to touch him to reassure herself that he was real. The idea that he wasn’t there at all was stuck in her throat.
      “I am Adai Salom, Priest of the Third Realm,” he stated in perfectly clear and calm English. “Not what you would expect?” he added indulgently, raising his hands skyward. Was it her imagination that the clouds moved above him? That there was a castle atop the one on the horizon?
     “I don’t know what to expect,” she admitted. Adai cut his eyes at her and in her peripheral vision she saw several rats that were gone when she turned her head their way.
     “Then you didn’t mean to summon me…” It was an accusation, not a question.
Maura watched a large bird rise above a hill and disappear into the mist with a dozen more. Her eyes failed to adjust to the changes in light and shadow “Where am I?” she demanded as sounds and smells of a foreign nature assaulted her senses. The birds’ wings beat in her ears long after they were out of sight.
     “You are between here and there, between now and then, between truth and lie.” She didn’t understand him though his tone was that of a tolerant father who was meant to be listened to, not questioned.
       She put her hand to her head and wondered out loud, “I must have fainted and hit my head.” Maura cut her eyes at the stranger. “None of this is believable.” 
       The man shimmered in the light. “Believe in me,” he said, holding his hand out to her. “We are near your destination. Come with me.” Maura took his hand and let herself be led. The sheen of magic that hung around him was so blinding that taking his hand was a way to move forward without stumbling on the squares of black and white marble that made up their pathway.   Statues of brown, unfinished, but detailed, lined the street. Doubt, frustration, and heaviness pulled at her. 
     “My destination? What do you mean, my destination?” she finally asked. 
      “It’s what this will mean to you as you look back on it, Maura. Don’t question the mystery of the crystal or the power of the protector in summoning me through you.”
      “I don’t understand.” She whispered. A huge statue in the surf was larger than any she had ever seen. At its base it was crumbling and there was a procession of people, like ants in size against it, that were carrying blocks. It was impossible to say if they took the stones toward or away from the statue.   
     “The First Realm is your own.” The jinni announced. “The Second Realm belongs to those who understand and can process the Third Realm.” The jinni sighed and shook his head. “There are so few.” He turned startling blue eyes toward her. “So very few and less now than once upon a time.” His hair blew away from his face in a salty breeze from near the shore. He stared, sad-eyed, at the antlike procession of people carrying blocks of marble. “The answer to your question, Maura-child, is that it never ends. From the beginning to the end, from the end to the beginning. Over and over again, but your mother was the keeper and before her, your mother’s mother,” he said as he raised and lowered the edge of a limp clock like a raven’s wing where it rested over a boulder. Maura stared at where it seemed to have melted.
     “This is your mother’s home,” Adai said with some flourish. The building was mostly open to the elements, the stairs at crazy angles from where Maura stood. “Your key, my lady,” he bowed with a wide grin and handed over a large key. Once inside, the silence was deafening. In the most distant gray corner was a simple table in front of a small fireplace, an odd toy train painted onto the front as if exiting the fireplace into the room itself.   
     “I don’t know that I can play this game of yours,” she said, facing away from Adai. 
     Adai turned his head up, looking into the farthest reaches of the upper floors. Strange stair-like structures adorned each side of the walls overhead. “It’s no game. It’s the Third Realm. So few people from Earth understand it. So few attempt to do more than gawk at it from the outside. Mauk best of all, “ he said, pointing upward. “Here, have a seat.” Holding the straight-back chair for her, Maura took her place in what she recognized as her grandmother’s chair. “We’ll have a nice hot cup of tea and discuss the people of the Second Realm. I think Mauk would be best to begin with. Your people call him Escher. 
     “My people?” Adai shut his eyes and nodded as his face faded into a sepia toned mask.

kt6550   kt6550 wrote
on 3/8/2009 10:48:22 PM
Keep going. You can build on this.

Short Story
Science Fiction
writing GypsyNightmare
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Rating: 9.0/10

A gypsy gets taken into a nightmare world where reality is a mesh of surrealism. Co-written with F. G. Franklin and also posted and copyrighted on under C. Harter Amos.
Published Date
3/7/2009 12:00:00 AM
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