“Where are you?” Kaleigha called again as she left the reach of the flames and stepped into the undamaged forest. The light of the fire lit her way. Grey tendrils of smoke spiraled around the thick trunks and hung like curtains from the lower branches.
“I’m here,” The heckler stood tall in Kaleigha’s presence as the other ghosts cowered in the shrubbery. It was a woman, short and plump, who did not gleam in the firelight.
“What is this fuckery?” Kaleigha stopped short of the woman and squinted. The woman’s features were distorted by the dust smudging her skin and by the flicker of the dying flames. “Who are you?”
“My name is Ilma,” the woman smiled and curtsied. “and I am the memory of all that came before.”
“She is a lying old woman,” Kasim suddenly appeared beside her. He was no longer the peaceable hippie from moments before. This Kasim bristled with anger.
“Show respect, Kasim,” Kahrim growled as he took stalked over to Kaleigha. “She has yet to be wrong.”
“She doesn’t fit the pattern. She is stooty, yet we don’t know who she’s killed. She can tell the story without questions. And worse, she is not bound by the call!” Kasim said, never taking his eyes off Ilma. “She is a trick, planted by the living elites and she cannot be trusted.”
“No, we are a trick planted by the elites,” Kahrim said. “We can…”
“Shut the fuck up!” Kaleigha screeched. She gave her brothers icy glares before turning her attention back to the woman. “Ilma, please tell me this damn story.”