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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty: Tea for One (Continued)
Previously: Zack’s encounter with the mysterious Rhema had dramatically changed him. But now she was gone…or was she?
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Gina stared at her little brother. He looked different. Not happy, something more complicated than that. Peaceful sorrow, that’s it, like Uncle Robert when he talks about AA. And there was something more. He looks like he’s been forgiven. She felt strangely jealous. It suddenly seemed to her that being forgiven was better than believing you had nothing to be forgiven for. That was what she’d seen in Maerith, and what made her so beautiful.
Zack walked out the door and stood staring at the rutted road. His sister was about to leave with him, when someone called:
A jolt ran down her spine. It was the voice that had spoken to her in the Frengan Light Forest. She’ll have some sort of warning for me, or more mystical words like “you have taken a step you cannot untake.” And “untake” isn’t even grammatically correct! She turned, expecting nothing more than a disembodied voice. She was wrong; although she soon wished the voice was disembodied, because the Rhema she saw standing before her was frighteningly thin and inhumanly tall. Her frazzled gray hair was pulled back in a severe bun and held in place by a twig full of dead blossoms. Her dress was nothing more than tattered cobwebs smeared with ugly berries and mucousy droplets. Probably from poisonous spiders.
“You are angry with me,” Rhema observed.
Gina didn’t answer.
“Yet your anger is nothing compared to the anger I have toward you.”
“You have falsely represented me: you have made the naims fear me, told them that I am their enemy and, in my name, sworn eternal wrath against them.”
“I…I didn’t say that!”
“Don’t add lying to the list.” Rhema pressed her hand against Gina’s chest.
Gina tumbled backward. She put her hands behind her to break the fall, but instead of hitting the ground found herself looking up from the height of a child. No, not a child, a naim. She was back in the clearing at Naimian, only this time she was a naim, and she was looking up at the artificial Rhema she had created.
“I am Rhema,” the monster rumbled, “and you shall fear me!” Gina was experiencing her own impersonation of Rhema exactly as the naims had experienced it, and it was the most terrifying thing she had ever seen. It was the height of a three storey building, shrouded in darkness, with sixteen eyes and eight mouths. “You shall obey all that I command you,” it thundered in a voice that threatened to rupture her mousy ears, “or I will surely smote you! For you are my enemies now, and my wrath is eternal!”
Gina began to scream, but suddenly realized she was back in the cottage…
standing before the real Rhema.
Thoughts: Sins often masquerade as virtues. Pride, for example, is a particularly clever chameleon.
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