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   Chapter 12 Brownie Oxford and the Ashland Affair

Brownie Oxford and the Ashland Affair: Brownie Bk1 By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 20016

Updated: 2018-03-07 14:25

Chapter 12

As the dream began, I found myself standing in an endless field of red poppies. I smiled and wondered if I would soon see the cowardly lion and other characters from the mind of Frank Baum populating my dreams as for a moment, it seemed as though my reading had conjured the field.

There was something familiar about the poppies though and I caught myself shivering even though the breeze that caused them to dip and sway on their stems was warm. Oddly the wind smelled like sandalwood incense sticks instead of the flowers around me as I would have expected. I looked up into the Prussian blue bowl of the sky and saw a line of either smoke or cloud lace through the sky to the east. Both the scent of sandalwood and the breeze itself seemed to be coming from the east.

I felt a tug urging me west and I turned to look in that direction. In the distance I spotted the gray tower of stone. It was the same tower from my previous dream and I felt myself break out into a cold sweat. This time I could feel the hunger that lurked in the tower.

"I'm not going in there again, " I thought to myself. Even as the words formed in my mind, I realized I had already taken several steps towards the tower. I stopped moving and stood still for a moment. I took a step backwards, away from the tower. The warm gentle breeze seemed to intensify and grow slightly warmer. It felt as if the wind was trying to push me forward. Personally, I didn't care what the wind wanted. I did not want to go into the tower. I took another step backwards.

Words drifted towards me borne on the wind. "There is nothing to fear Betty, " a gentle male voice told me. It sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place it. "Go into the tower Betty. It is your place Betty." I realized the voice belonged to Matheson. I had only heard it in George's memory, but I was certain it was him. After all, I knew my name was not Betty, why would I think of myself as such in a dream?

"This isn't my dream, " I mused as the voice tried to cajole me into moving forward, to re-enter the tower. As I stood still, refusing to step forward, the voice became impatient and cross, as though unaccustomed to defiance.

"Go into the tower Betty, " the voice ordered. The gently encouraging tones were gone and Matheson sounded angry. I clamped my jaw shut and made my hands into fists. I had always been small and had dealt with bullies all my life who thought that small meant weak. At that moment Matheson's voice reminded me of Kelly Reynolds one of the mean popular girls who had given me so much trouble. I didn't like bullies. I hadn't given into Kelly and I wasn't going to give in to Matheson. Even if the tower was now filled with rainbows and puppies instead of snakes and blood, I wasn't going into the tower.

The wind intensified and as it grew in intensity, it grew in heat, coming on furnace blast hot. Under its pressure I stumbled forward a step, moving closer to the tower. I felt the delight in the breeze and understood that it served Matheson. I also realized that if the wind kept blowing I would be forced forward towards the tower whether or not I wanted to go or not. I simply couldn't physically stand against it.

"So why stand?" I thought. I lowered myself to my knees and then down onto my stomach. I lay flat against the warm earth pressing my body into the ground. The wind roared over me, the plump heads of the poppies bent towards the tower, many being ripped from their stems by the force of the wind. I felt the heat from the wind scorch across my back, but with my low vantage point, it could not force me forward. I pictured one of the car commercials I had seen on the television over the years where the car is put through a wind tunnel to show its aerodynamic nature.

The wind continued to roar, scorching hot across the field, sweat poured out of my body and I felt the ground beneath my turn murky with my sweat. I thought the soggy ground would allow the wind to slide me forward, but instead my body seemed to sink down a little further into the ground protecting me further from the wind. I felt a sense of comfort from the earth as though it wanted to tell me that it did not serve Matheson the way the wind did. I have no idea how long the wind blew, but with the final blast came a scream of frustration that made my ear drums ring. The wind died down and I closed my eyes in relief, resting my head against the ground.

With a start, I woke up in bed. I sat up and turned on the bedside lamp. My hair was slick with sweat and my clothes clung damply to me. Deciding I needed a shower, I flipped the covers off me. I sucked in a lung full of air when I saw the handful of red flower petals in the bed with me, looking like spots of blood against the white sheets. I pulled my knees to my chest as I began to shake.

"Not just a dream, " I said to myself, my voice coming out as a terrified whisper. "Oh God, not just a dream." I forced myself to take deep breaths so I wouldn't hyperventilate.

Eventually, the shaking stopped. Having a screaming fit wasn't going to help me. I swallowed hard and ordered myself to think. I looked back at the flower petals. "Looking at the flowers isn't going to help right now either, " I told myself. I quickly gathered them up and placed them in the bottom drawer of the dresser with the collection of pills. As I didn't want to think about either of them for the moment it seemed like as good a place as any to put them. I tried to ignore the shaking of my hands, allowing myself the pretense that I was now in control. I looked at the bed and knew there was no way I was going to get any more sleep.

"Shower then, " I told myself. I walked into the bathroom and stripped off my sweat damp pajamas, leaving them in a small heap by the door.

"Need a laundry basket, " I reminded myself. "And laundry soap." I absently wondered if my laundry detergent had been packed with my other things and

ke and I found that the act of telling someone completely and totally what had happened steadied me. There was no need to keep anything back. There was no need to hide that I was trying to wean myself off of the pills and break away from the NCS. There was no one who would use my newly developing abilities to increase my role as an asset and no one to think I was crazy for pulling flower petals from my dreams. I felt the rough edges smoothing out even further as Officer Thomas and the assembled others listened to my story. When I was done, I felt steady and clear and a lot calmer about the situation.

"I think that gives us enough to start with, " Officer Thomas said as though beginning an investigation. He looked back to the Mayor. "Sir, " he said stepping back and indicating that Thaddeus was once again in charge.

"Well, " Thaddeus said sounding stern. There was a steely glint in his eyes and I imagined that his jovial manner hid a formidable core. "We certainly won't allow shenanigans like that here. No wonder you came to Mayenfield." He declared. He turned to the crowd. "Does anyone have any suggestions to help our young lady out?"

There were several improbable suggestions from several rough looking men involving hunting down and bringing justice to Matheson. Their suggestion was punctuated with several sharp and rather profane comments that brought disapproving looks from the more staid residents and cheers of encouragement from a rather large group of children. As a large swath of the children looked as though they came from the same era, I had the feeling that Mayenfield had been visited by some sort of epidemic in its past. Eventually, more useful suggestions were voiced.

While no one had any idea how to deal with dreams, questioning brought out a nutritionist who had worked in a nearby yoga retreat, a biology teacher from the local high school, six pharmacists of varying degrees of modernity and a professor of Chemistry who had come to Mayenfield after retiring from teaching at the State University sometime in the 1950s. All were more than willing to look over my data and give me their advice on my pills.

As this was one of the topics I desperately needed help with, I eagerly accepted their assistance. Noting that enough time had passed for me to have cooled down and start to chill, I made my farewells and headed back towards town. Both the run and the feeling that I was no longer alone provided me with a great deal of relief, even if I knew the residents of the Mayenfield Cemetery would be useful only in an advisory capacity.

The morning had truly broken by the time I reached the Bait and Tackle, or B&T as Wendy called it, and I could see that Paul had already opened for the day. He had several customers inside and would probably not welcome an interruption, so I waved to him through the glass to let him know I had returned from my run. He saw me, glanced at his watch to check the time and nodded back. I jogged around to the back of the building, letting myself into the apartment, taking care to lock the doors behind me.

I peeled my sweaty running gear off and dropped the garments into a pile with my other dirty clothes. After a quick shower I dressed and returned to the kitchen, pulling a yogurt out of the fridge for my breakfast. As I did I spotted the package of bacon and carton of eggs. As my stomach was already rumbling, I decided to stick with the yogurt for breakfast and make an attempt at eggs for lunch.

I settled myself on one of the barstools with my yogurt and the cookbook I had picked up the day before. As I ate I flipped through the book finding to my delight and surprise an entire chapter devoted to the egg. I paged through more methods of egg preparation than I thought possible. I settled on scrambled eggs as the easiest looking of the lot and decided that I would try that for lunch. Satisfied that I had a plan, I pushed the cook book aside and finished my yogurt.

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