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We filed upstairs hand-in-hand and made a circle in the hall. I saw the three women, who sat facing one another, a single candle in their midst. I soon would see nothing but the faintest shadows of the person next to me. I remember there were dim lights that were on when there was the calling of the corners, but after we were seated, and the first notes went up, those lights were dimmed, until there was only darkness. And the call went up, unsteady and unsure at first…

“Ooooooooooooooooooah.” I breathed in deeply and ventured a little louder. I could hear others around me get louder as well. “Ooooooooooooooah!” I breathed in deeply, settling into a rhythm of quick deep breaths like back when I sang in choir, and the slow exhale of tone that was formless, shapeless, and pure. I felt something staring at me from the darkness, like when you know someone is watching you from the back of the room. The hairs on my arms stood up, but it was time to breathe and “Ooooooooooooooooooooooah”

Swish…

He’d just passed behind me. I could have sworn I was next, but he passed me by. The crowd was becoming more secure in itself and I could hear some people were off key, and others were trying to sing on key (whatever that meant) and we struggled along, some groups going accidentally quiet at the same time as they synchronized breaths, so I tried to stagger mine with theirs so there would be no soft spots, when I felt that chill again. “Oooooooooooooooah!”

Swish…

I felt him pass by me again, and again, I could have sworn it was my turn. But still he had yet to strike close enough to me for me to know what he did. I didn’t want to think about it too long, because it was adding a shake to my voice I didn’t like. I took a breath, and “Ooooooooooah…” I heard the tone from my voice mix with the others in the room and somehow out of out muddled cries came this amazing harmony, at first just an unrehearsed 3-part harmony that made me grin through my fear, Take that! I thought, as I heard it branch into a five-part, No! Seven-part harmony! Oh! My spirit soared! Listen to that! “Ooooooooooah!” That’s us! “Ooooooooooooah!” And the hairs on my neck stood again…

Swish…

He nabbed someone about four people down from me, close enough for me to see, but not anyone I knew. You’re toying with me, you bastard… I thought, as I belted out my next “OOOOOOOOOOoooooooAH!” And the crowd seemed to respond, growing temporarily louder, and I thought to the group, That’s it! Let’s fight back! And I was convinced he was coming for me this time! I felt his annoyance with me grow, hist thoughts narrow on me and… “OooooooooooAH!”

Swish…

He passed me up and took out my friend, who was silenced, and then cast out into the darkness, gone from my side. “OOOOOOOOOOOooooooAH!” I howled in anger and loss, hearing our numbers grow fewer and our voices grow softer. I protested “OooooooOOOOOOOOoooooOOOOOOOAH!” I thought, Do not let Him diminish Us! Just because we are few, does not mean we have to give up! “OOOOOOOOooooOOOOOOOoooOOOOOOAH!!!”

I carried my voice as loud as it could go, but we were faltering. It just was not use. There were only so many of us left, and it was an awful big space to fill with just a few voices. I was not going to go down easy, however, and got even louder, the fewer we were. I was defiant. I thought, Do not go quietly into that good night, Rage, rage! At the dying of the light! “AhoooooooOOOOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOOOOOAH!!!”

And then I took a breath…

And I realized: I’m the last one! “AHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I belted out my last note as he beelined for me. I fell silent the moment his cape draped over me, tipped my head back, and then the world went… Sideways… is the only way I have to describe it. It’s like when you’re able to tune a radio to catch several transmissions at once, only in this case, it’s several realities at once. All of them are broadcasting simultaneously, so it’s often difficult to understand everything that happened, but I remember one thing clearly, I forgot what to do next, but then acted reflexively. I don’t even to this day know if I did what he had originally asked everyone to do. I just remember holding him there for a moment thinking, I could stop this whole thing, right now, bring this entire clockwork to a screeching halt, but…. nah! What’s the fun in that! and I’m not sure why…

But like the others I was cast into the darkness, and again, I seemed to have multiple responses happening simultaneously, so it was difficult to understand what was happening. On the one hand, I knew I was supposed to feel sad for being cast out, that this was dying, being outside the circle of the community, unknown & in darkness. And still another part of me was thrilled. I was supposed to be scared, out here alone in the wilderness, huddled and timid. Yet I was exalted, as if someone had set me loose in the biggest playground ever. I remained rooted to the spot, and part of me ran around—I could see the forrest clearly in the moonlight, it was night, but it was a protective cloak for me, I could run without fear—happy as a wild will-o-the-wisp, free, and Home…

I’m all alone. I thought, and I tried to be miserable…. but part of my spirit soared, Have you seen this place?

I’m all alone…. I even tried frowning.

Psh… When has that ever bothered you? It’s a blast alone! There’s the beach beyond the woods, and the cliffs to explore for hours. I looked at the soil at my feet, and saw it was mostly sand. I could hear the rhythmic waves in the distance. It’s not like it’s your first time here! I heard the voice say.

I’m all alone. I thought stronger, trying to play my part like everyone else, trying to immitate their pain and loneliness at being cast out. I tried to feel so very sorry for myself…. but my heart betrayed me! It leapt from my chest as I saw the faint glow rise in the darkness. Yes! I remember now! I can speed through this forrest to the sea and home!

whump.

His hand came down on my shoulder, hard, and startled me from my vision. He took my hands and led me to meet the end of the new human chain, winding through the hall. Though I joined them in their song, We are an old people, we are a new people, we are a young people, stronger than before! and held their hands, and danced their,spiral dance, part of me lay out there still…. and I had no sense of connection to the community. Now I wasn’t alone, but I was even more isolated than before! I was confused, but I chanted along, danced along, until all were rejoined, and a great triumphant cry ended our part in the rite. We raised hands, cheered, hugged….

And as the lights went up slowly, I felt part of me drift away. And I looked over at where I had been standing. Not three feet from me was a row of chairs and a wall, nothing like the wide expanse I thought I’d been facing. Some people were going up to Shaman to get hugs or give thanks. When it came my turn, I could barely get the words out, I had to repeat myself so he could hear:

“I didn’t reconnect with the community,” I stammered, not my usual bold self, and burst into tears. I was shocked at my own reaction, and started apologizing. One of the women at his side ran to my aid. He just smiled.

“You weren’t supposed to,” he replied, and left it at that. It would be years before I finally understood what he meant, but for some reason, his answer was comforting. The woman helped me make my way to some apple juice and cookies to help me ground, and together, it was enough for now. I’d just been through an experience, I didn’t need all the answers yet.

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