PHANTOM: Phantom Shadow By Sharon Collins

Word: Phantom
Word Count 499

Phantom Shadow
By Sharon Collins

I wake sprawled on the ledge and damp with sea-spray. Struggling to stand, I discover I hurt and I think one of my teeth is loose. I probe with my finger. Yes, one of the grinders wiggles and it should not. I touch the throbbing spot on my head and feel the swelling beneath the sticky mat of my hair. I push gently; that hurts more. I see my yellow-brights and notice my fire has almost burned out. I cannot think why I did not tend the coals properly before I slept or why I slept so near the edge. Suddenly I remember and spin around in panic. The movement makes me gag with pain and the need to empty my stomach. On my hands and knees I stare out in wonder. In the glow of the rising sun, I see the sea has returned. Small waves foam far below; seagulls circle and call. All is as it should be. There is nothing to fear. Slowly this time with my hand to the wall, I manage to get back on my feet. “Where are you Sister? I need you!” I cry as the pain in my head pounds with each beat of my heart. For the first time in a many, many days, I wish not to be alone.

Thinking to make a bowl of pain-killing tea from the bark of the long-haired trees, I spread my soup-stones in the fire-pit and add wood to reawaken the flame. While the soup-stones heat. I gather my yellow-brights and then limp to the pool at the back of our cave The fresh-water is why I chose this cave even though it is so high and difficult to reach. Leaning over the edge, I am startled. Little sunlight reaches this far back, but enough lights the surface for me to see dark stain on the side of my face. As I fill my bowl, I notice something odd. The water-level is rising. The trickle that fills the pool has grown into a small stream. Before my eyes, the surface reaches the lower edge on the pool’s far side and spills away, deeper into the cave. I am grateful my bed-roll and fire-pit are on the high side.

Warmed soup-stones dropped into my bowl, heat the tea. Waiting for the bark to release its magic, I sing Sister’s name as she has taught me. Wolf-song carries far on the wind. I squeeze my eyes tight against the pain and howl her name until I am exhausted, opening them only when I feel a chill. The shadow of a wolf appears as Sister steps between the sunlight and me. Then another shadow, a much larger shadow, appears next to hers. I barely breathe as Sister sings the great, grey He-Wolf’s name for me… the eerie notes of Phantom’s name echo from the rock walls. Sister tells me I may call him Shadow and asks me to make him welcome.

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