When the wind whistled in through Rhea’s window, it was in words she could not speak but without question understood. “Go to the woods,” it whispered, so to the woods she went. If for a moment she looked back to her candlewick, white and wavering in the window, the wind whipped around her in wrath till there was no sound but its wail.
Cold was the night, crackling against her skin, despite Rhea catching her flapping kerchief and clutching it close to her neck. She caught herself staggering, a captive of sticking thorns, scratching her without her knowing, thanks to the lack of feeling the cold created.
Late as the hour was, little was left of the light Rhea would usually use to illuminate her long way through labyrinthine paths filled with low branches. Nearly lying down, she crawled blindly, allowing almost unfeeling fingers held at arm’s length to lead her, letting the lure of the wind’s language alone pull her forward.
Now Rhea knew she neared the end. Nothing in the woods had its natural scent. Where nectar normally bounced the niceties of flowers to her nose before her eyes found them, nestled in amongst the neighboring plants, now strange smells invaded her sinuses. When her sense of smell went entirely away, not certain she knew anymore where she was at all, she knelt down in the center of a clearing.
Then the air thickened, and though she had thought herself alone in this place, Rhea could feel an indistinct throng gathering around her. Their movements were both enthralling and unknowable, giving the impression that they were enacting theater beneath the thickets surrounding their solemn gathering. The few that formed a wreath around her seemed a pantheon of the sort she could not fathom. One held forth a thimble, brimming with thick liquid the color of the earth. The hand she had stretched forth she began to withdraw. “This is not death,” the breath in the wind assured her. “This is birth.” The vial’s contents went through her mouth without leaving any taste there.
Words echoed, lasting into the dawn’s lonely, cold awakening. “When all feeling is gone, only you remain.” Rhea rose, ready.