Catherine balked at the entrance, and only the gentle prodding of Aureole's hand moved her past the doorway. The altar was now aflame with the light of hundreds of candles. A makeshift cot had been placed in front of it.
"Aureole, are you sure about this?" Catherine whispered, watching Grandpa as he stirred something into a steaming cup of liquid.
Aureole nodded and led her to the cot. Removing a pot from the altar she set it down beside Catherine and picked up the nail clippers. "This is called a pot et. Pieces of the nails and hair of the initiates are placed inside." Picking up the clippers she took Catherine's hand. "Normally we would have made you a necklace to drape over the pot, but we don't have time." Aureole clipped several nails, dropping the clippings into the pot before picking up the scissors and snipping off a short piece of hair adding it to the pot and placing it back on the altar.
"Why nails and hair?"
"Shhh. We will discuss this later." Aureole took the cup of liquid from her grandfather and handed it to Catherine. "Drink it quickly. It's easier that way."
Catherine gagged as the smell reached her nostrils. "What is it?"
Aureole grinned at her. "The knowing won't make it taste any better, and the not knowing may make it easier to swallow."
Catherine gazed into the deep brown eyes above her, seeing something she'd missed for a lifetime. Concern for her well-being, but also something else--Aureole's eyes mirrored the fear in her own. Closing her eyes Catherine lifted the cup and downed it quickly. She gagged, bile rising in her throat.
"Bend over and breathe deeply," Aureole instructed her. "It will pass."
Catherine did as she was told, a fleeting thought in the back of her mind that this was much like the sleep walking when the devil took over. Fear seized her as her heartbeat increased, and her body broke out in a cold sweat. A deep throbbing drumbeat echoed inside her head, spreading outward. Aureole spoke to her, pressing gently until she was lying flat on the cot. Her words seemed to come from a long way off, and the room shimmered in bolts of beautiful glassy colors.
Catherine fought to bring her mind and body under control, glancing around the room. The colored bottles around the room vibrated and shimmered in glorious color. Grandpa was sitting a few feet away, eyes glazed, drumming on a strange looking drum. "What's he doing?" She asked, her words sounding elongated and strange.
Aureole knelt beside her, picking up one of the gourds and rattling, as her voice rose in song and prayer.
Catherine felt her body numbing, growing cold. She groped for Aureole's hands. Something was wrong. Terribly wrong. The room began to spin. Aureole dropped the rattle grabbing her arms and holding her down as spasms ripped through her muscles, jerking her in all directions.
"Don't fight it, Catherine. Please don't fight it." Aureole whispered in her ear.
Catherine closed her eyes, willing the spasms to stop. The colors still swirled inside her head spinning her down a tunnel. She saw them then, waiting at the end of the tunnel. Their faces twisted and torn in the agony of death, blood dripping from their wounds. They reached for her as she sped past them, screams echoing inside her head.
Aureole rung out the wash cloth and gently wiped Catherine's face. At least the screaming had stopped. All they could do now was wait. Rising she emptied the water and joined her grandfather outside.
"She has passed through the outer sanctum. Stay with her."
Her grandfather reached for a bucket. "If she lives she will need food when she wakes."
Aureole hugged her arms close around her body watching as he faded into the darkness. Fear started in the region of her bowels, rising up like bitter bile. Her grandfather had spoken English only a few times in the past 22 years since Abigail Blanchard had disappeared. He spoke it only when the spirits were angry, or someone was going to die.
The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery
Sacred Secrets, A Jacody Ives Mystery