The man had been in the village for quite a while. For him, days felt like years in the village. Our in the forest, years felt like days.
He had seen many things that gave him hope at finding the answers he seeked. There was the old man with book with mysterious origins. There were the strange whispered conversations that seemed to stop when he was around. There were the songs at night from pockets of candlelight. People huddled together around a musician or two that could play something. And then there was the old woman.
He had seen the old woman before. She didn’t speak, but connected meaning. She collected odd things – broken toy horse, a rusty farming tool, a piece of frayed rope, a pin cushion — no needles, an old dried nut, a stone, polished and smooth, a piece of a sea shell.
With the way she cared for them, he could tell they were her treasures. She wrapped each individually in fading, soft cloth. Each told her a story. Each were her favorite. Each were used specifically depending on the situation.
He’d gotten into the habit of seeing her once before he left. She had watery eyes, unwavering but soft in moonlight. She would not be seen during day. The first time he say her was the only time he’d ever seen her out and about. He had been walking down the street and when passing an alleyway between houses, he felt her hand grab his arm. She led him into her house and despite his confusion, one look into her eyes and he knew that he was meant to stay and listen. So he did.
Each time, the process was the same and yet different. He entered the house. She knew, but didn’t see. She closed the blinds. He found a seat on the floor and waited. She lit candles around the house in a circle. He closed his eyes and waited. She wore long robes. She had long silvery hair. When she walked, you couldn’t hear her stepping, just the scent of cinnamon. There was something about noticing this, didn’t matter how many times it had happened before, it made his heart race and he began to sweat. Soon, all he could hear was the sound of his own heart beating like a drum. And his breath.
And then, it stopped.
He opened his eyes and was surrounded by candles. He opened his eyes and she was kneeling in front of him. A table separating them with the objects on the table placed in a line. She waited until his eyes met hers.
The next part was always different. Sometimes she would hold up an object and gesture for him to take it, and sometimes that was it. She would walk away after that and it didn’t matter how long he searched, she wouldn’t be found. Other times, the session would last a long time.
The main thing was that in picking up an object he would enter a state of visioning. He would see what she wanted him to see. Sometimes, his visions had little to do with what the object was. He had come to understand that this was unimportant. Mainly because the series of events afterwards helped him understand the message.
This time all seven objects were out. Old dried nut, sea shell, broken horse, farming tool, smooth stone, frayed rope, pin cushion. She waited and watched him as he looked at each then reached for the broken toy horse. She smiled the knowing smile he had seen so many times before. He had come to realize that she knew what he would pick often before he did.
He held the smooth wooden toy with a missing wheel in his hand. Dents on the edges, but it felt smooth like silk to the touch. He ran his finger over its dents as if massaging injury.
As he did so, a candle out beyond her seemed to catch his gaze. He sat transfixed and let the vision come.