Circle of Stones

Thom slept and for the first time, he wasn’t afraid to wake up. For months the nightmares kept his nights a series of restless dreams where his accusers claimed their rightful share of his soul. Their claws shredded him as they fought each other for their portions and he watched as a condemned man accepting his judgment. He was surrounded with flames as the faces of a boy and woman twisted in vengeful rage. He could feel their anger in every scream in righteous fury.

The nightmares hadn’t come. Thom realized he was laying on his back, the surface beneath him was harder than his usual vinyl covered mattress. Where was he?

His eyes didn’t want to open. Partially held down from the weight of blissful rest but to his surprise, bright sunlight forced him to close them quickly.
Sunlight? The fear returned. Where was he?

He forced his eyes open. He was surrounded by a circle of stones in the middle of a hillside meadow. A clear blue sky was overhead and stretched for miles in all directions. The smell of wildflowers drifted through the air. In the distance, a silvery lake filled a corner of the valley. Thom was terrified.

He looked down and was relieved to see he still wore the orange jumpsuit he had gone to bed in. He had expected the cold concrete walls that he had stared at for the past five years. Instead, he saw he was laying on a stone block, weathered from centuries of wind and rain.

A flutter of wings and a bright blue blur distracted him from his confusion.
“Please, Sir.” A small blue jay begged in a squeaky voice. “Please help my mother.”

“I’m sorry?” Thom spoke to the bird, surprised that he was not freaked out at listening to the birds' talk. It was obviously upset and he instinctively spoke in a calming voice. “What is wrong with your mother?” The question was so ordinary, yet extraordinarily out of place.

“We were trying to get away, but they followed us, and Mother didn’t see the tree, and she hit it and fell and “ The birds' explanation spilled out of his little body, his chest heaved with the effort. “Please Sir, help my Mother.”

“Alright, where is she?”

“This way.” The bird took off down the meadow to the edge of a forest.

Thom started to follow and quickly decided he was not going to be able to keep up with the speed the bird had set. The bluebird realized it too and came back to circle impatiently over his head.

“What is your name?” Thom asked.

“I don’t have one.”

“Why not?”

“I haven’t needed one." Did Thom just see Bird shrug?

“What do I call you?”

“You may call me Bird.” Bird chuckled at his declaration. “Do you have a name?” Bird asked, his voice had a small measure of excitement.

“Yea. I’m Thom.” Thom slowed as they approached the forest. The ground was more uneven with thick roots twisting just under the soil.

“Thom.” Bird tried the name before moving from limb to tree.

It took several more minutes before Bird called Thom to the base of a large pine. A larger jay was sprawled on the ground, her wing bent at an odd angle. Thom gently picked her up and carried her back to the circle of stones.

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