Ice House: Asetma
Brian Mark Weber
Robert 'Admiral' Coeyman
Safely tucked into my bed, my problems had only begun. Oletta's odd discovery had enchanted me so greatly that I found it hard to enter sleep. At first I imagined the power I could have once I owned Asetma. Millions of dollars were endlessly drawn into Asetma everyday. Wealth looked deep into my soul for something I valued that money could actually buy.
I could have joined the ranks of the old men in bad suits. Their secret meetings could have been my business. People could have looked me in the eye as I walked the streets of Obsille. Knowing that I was condemned, they never let their eyes drift to catch sight of my face. It seemed that they felt that my curse was contagious.
Then reality intruded on my bliss. If I owned Th'Estate, then it would also own me. I would never be able to hope for my freedom if the deed for this pit of torments was signed with my blood. Even my children, Orsa's children, would be walled into the barren garden of bloodlust. Asetma was not my bitter pill to take.
I could take having the curse of Asetma, yet I could not handle being the curse of Asetma. Hope of escape had kept me alive for the winters as well as the summers of my sentence. Another winter was on the horizon and I could not afford to lose that hope. There would be no life without my will to live.
Obsille, strange as it may sound, needed Asetma. The curse had poisoned the once fertile ground and reduced the population to poverty. Reopening Asetma, a tourist trap even when barred shut, provided what little sustenance we of Obsille had been given. We were a proud people who didn't like to admit to our lot in life, however, it was our reality. Evil polluted our blood by day and night, yet it was all we had to keep our blood flowing. It was a truth that allowed me to endure through each day even as I dreamt of release and Orsa every night.
Suddenly I jumped from my warm bed and began pacing around the room wildly. Such feverish rage had invaded me that I had to run circles in the narrow space between my bed and the wall. I slammed my hands together until they bled and only then did I realize that I had done it. Then I tried to cast the force out of me. Even the impure touch of my greed had weakened my spiritual defenses.
I climbed back into my bed feeling the peering eyes of something else in the room with me. It was nothing that I could see. The presence became clearer just behind my left shoulder. My warm blankets called to me, promising refuge. True refuge was not in the safety of mere objects and the deepest part of me understood as much only too well.
It was hard to remain silent. I hid there knowing that sleep would not find me, although I begged it to. Then I tried to remember my beloved Orsa. Her image in my mind made me feel her in my heart. There was no room within me for fear with such love in my heart. So often had I held her image in my mind that it had begun to wear out in my memory.
Instantly I found myself lost in a large building. It didn't occur to me that I was dreaming though I know that now. Within the dream I was searching for Orsa. She was the symbol of the peace I sought.
There were a great many classrooms within the building. I often placed classrooms within my dreams. Dreams were the place where I hoped to learn how to get free of Asetma. Knowing now that it was a dream, I cannot recall any more of it.
Next I found myself in a foggy room. The room was neither large nor small; short nor tall. It felt like anything that I thought of when I experienced it. I was in a room formed from thought alone. Inside the room, the fog was warm and lighted the room with its pinkish glow.
A black void formed within the cloud, approaching me from which ever way I looked. When I felt fear everything was drained from my mind and the place owned me. Not feeling was heavenly. I was free of my leash in the void. Within the void I had no owner.
There was a question within the fog, yet there was nothing in my head to hear it being asked. Energy flowed clearly about, vaporizing anytime I tried to focus my eyes on it. My mind fought to return its own will to control of my body. I wanted my mind to fail. It was my will to vanish into oneness with the comforting fog.
The girl with the green eyes was the form, although I know that it was not she who possessed me. She tried to mouth a sentence to me, wording the question of the fog. Her voice was more a feeling than a sound. But I did not care enough to hear it. Then it occurred to me that this must be the infamous Miriam Asetma. Her presence made the darkness feel pleasant. Miriam's name wrote itself on my breath. Who else had such power as to be frightful and beautiful within the same time?
Dark shadows flowed through me as I was pulled to another place. It was a much darker place. Miriam was a darker presence. The girl was not Miriam, yet Miriam had been there. She had come to my call. My ignorance had opened the unseen door for her.
Then I found myself standing naked in a rocky desert beneath a pastel green sky. The soil beneath my feet was orange, doted with short sandy mounds and fist sized boulders. It wasn't a dark place, by feel, yet neither was it a light place. I thought of cover because I was naked, instead finding comfort in my nudity.
I did not hear the slightest sound nor did I feel the slightest movement of air. My body became unbearably hot at the thought that there might not have been any air at all. Comfort returned to me in the idea that nothing had shadows in this strange world. Reason tried to enter my mind although it only succeeded in clearing my thoughts. Excuses had no value to me in that place.
Thought was no longer thought as I had known it. Complete ideas popped into and out of my mind with incredible speed. I found complacency within the immense intelligence that I'd mysteriously acquired. Shock slapped me and I felt myself entering into death. My spirit was merging with the desolation of that place.
A low voice echoed up from the void. "Don't indulge, mortal!"
With a flash the whole world around me vaporized. Then it reformed around me. This time, I noticed a long haired, short man standing before me. His grey streaked dark hair ran most of the way down his back, parted in front just above his phosphorescent green eyes. He grimaced when I thought, "He's wearing a dress," so I'll call it a ritual robe here.
"Who are you?" He knew what I was really thinking.
"Indulging is focusing your mind on your enhanced perception. It is also quite fatal so avoid it in this place."
"What am I supposed to do then, Mr. someone?"
"Accept this reality as a child accepts yours. Let your perceptions combine to form a new awareness of all worlds. This is a real place. The other realm is the illusion."
"But who are you supposed to be?"
He took a gracious bow. "I am sent to be your teacher. You are to call me 'Elder.'" Then he stepped toward me.
"Do you have a real name?"
"Real names have already gotten you into enough trouble."
"All right, Elder. Teach me who sent you and what this is all about."
"We must be quick about this--your body cannot survive being dead for more than a short time."
"You mean that I'm dead, Elder?"
"Your spirit is in the crossroads between worlds. Your body can survive only a short time without it."
"Why is my soul out of my body? Isn't that fatal or something?"
"The soul is formed by the union of spirit and body and thus cannot leave its body. You are here for your first real lesson in magic."
"That means there will be others. Can't I refuse?"
"Refusal is not permitted. You signed on for the duration when you allowed Miriam Asetma to leave our world and enter yours."
"I don't want to go back, Elder."
"The first lesson is never to call a spirit's name in the dream plane. The Black Scabbard is a portal through which demons may easily be conjured. It only allows you to control the ally when awake."
"And the spirit introduces himself," echoed off into the distance.
My final words to Elder might never even have been heard in the higher plane. In all likelihood, I spoke them entirely out of spite. "You picked a fine time to tell me."
Something pulled me out of the dream and I awoke with a hard gasp. I was feverish, requiring several glasses of Iced Tea to rehydrate myself. Tired as I was, I could not sleep without the drink. Eventually I found sleep, if not rest, within my warm bed.
It wasn't easy with Miriam on the prowl again.
There is no comfort, aside from the arms of she whom you love beyond all mortal life, like lying into your own bed. I'd only taken one suitcase into Th'Estate when my sentence had begun. That was all that I was allowed. I knew that it was all that I would need. I remember thinking that I would go in with one box and come out in one. My bed, like the box I felt that I would be leaving Th'Estate inside of, was issued to me. But, in my time, that bed was as much mine as was the body that still clothed me.
Much time had passed and Miriam had many things to catch up
on before she would have the time to toy with me. That night, she left me to rest in my issued
bed. Like Oletta, her absence for that
night and in the coming day helped to convince me that I had only been
dreaming. Maybe Stan was right and I
was, like the town of
Elder, however, did not keep his peace. In the foggy mirror just after my morning shower, he sent me a message. His penmanship was beautiful, the doubtless work of a lifetime's study and practice. The writing did not frighten me as it should have because I allowed myself to be taken by its beauty. As the words found meaning in my disbelieving mind, I found malice in them.
"Sleep not with anger or inequity. Put to right the wrongs of your day in that day."
I'm not sure how he fit all the words on the foggy mirror. There was no room for a signature, as though he needed one. Elder alone would write to me with such authority. It seemed that, in his mind, he owned me.
Oletta spoke aloud any errant thought that took root in her mind. I did not doubt the singularity of her purpose. If she had not taken to announcing her presence with such vociferous intent to control me, then I would surely have respected her. To be honest, I would have envied the strength of her focus. Even Stan, in his time, had an innate strength that I felt was denied to me.
Proud Oletta was gone for two days before everything seemed to be as it should have been. The green eyed girl came each day and I was beginning to take her presence for granted. She was almost a comfort to me. As with me, each of the tour guides saw her in their times, however, we no longer spoke of her. I was alone in my desire to speak to her.
Lying restless in my bed, I watched the emptiness in the doorway of my room. I asked myself if the fact that I could see nothing meant that there was nothing in that space. Is seeing belief or is disbelief a blinding light? Either the power of the dream was truly mine or I was as fruity as the world around me. Things had been getting too normal for me and I had to know.
The moon passed behind some clouds and the space in the doorway darkened considerably. There I saw a shine like two green jewels suspended in an updraft. As the moon cleared the clouds, a shadow formed around the vibrant green eyes. Passing back into darkness as clouds again consumed the moonlight, I saw a book, clenched tightly in the shadow's pale hands. She was the size and shape of the girl with the green eyes.
Renewed, the darkness in the doorway held no glimmering shine. The moon beat back the clouds one last time as my eyes drifted shut. Something larger stood in the doorway, blocking the light against the far wall. It could have been Elder to my eyes, but the feeling in my stomach told me that it was not him. In my chest, I felt that I had swallowed a vacuum and was caving into the nothingness. This shadow also had green eyes. Malice stood in the doorway as my eyes fell shut under their own weight.
Elder had not come to grant me the vice of his wisdom. All that I had was the power of the dream steaming up from deep within me. It built up until I could no longer contain the heat and the pressure. The temptation was unbearable. I chose to use the gift that I had been given.
Clearing my mind as best as I could, I tried to reach out with my feelings. The darkness stood on the boundaries of the two worlds that I straddled. She was a dark flame consuming the light surrounding her. My mind could see her in the shades of night even with my eyes clamped shut. Such noise rattled my thoughts that I could not hold the window open with the force of my will. I had failed.
My eyes opened with renewed vigor. All of my body danced with small pinpricks of chaotic energy even as the whole of my being knew only fatigue. I was alive with a power that consumed life. No dark shade in Th'Estate stood near to me when my mind fell back from the real world into the physical world. In all the centuries, it may have been that mine was the first force that Th'Estate feared as much as Obsille feared Th'Estate.
One try was not enough for me. In any case, I was not ready to enter into a full night's sleep. Sleep refused to take me. The power of the dream echoed in my mind with all the strength that was left to me. What words are spoken on the edge of reason, when the inner voice stops telling the waking mind what is real and what to deny, become real in the greater fabric upon which destiny is written.
This time, I let my mind go its own way. I chose instead only to hear what was real to me. The noise died down not because I could force it out but because I did not give it the benefit of my voice on the edge of sleep. Whiteness formed around me as it had when Elder had entered my world. It was the warming blanket in which rest came upon me at last.
Miriam was really free in Th'Estate. I knew that it was my fault. God alone knows what more damage I could have inflicted on creation had I not entered directly into sleep as I ascended past the bounds of my physical prison. My will was alive both with power and the desire to use it. All that I lacked was a goal.
Elder had almost commanded me to restore Miriam to the dark place where she had been placed in generations far before mine. Maybe that is what I should have used the power for. Orsa could have been mine. It may even have been within me to restore to right the great evils done by the curse of the Asetma name. There was a real reason why I did none of these things and I was not ready to know what it was.