She spun about sprightly and headed back toward the hut, practically skipping as she went. I remained for a few seconds, still taking in the bizarre array of antics all those around were thusly absorbed in. Not a single other person as much as raised their eyes from their business as I emerged from the trees into the starkly unnatural clearing. Of the diversity of people around, the girl was clearly the youngest amongst them. I was puzzled momentarily as to why she was the only one who seemed awake. She was standing with one hand on her hip, motioned for me to follow, and gave another exasperated sigh. I obliged, quickening my pace across what was now sand beneath my feet, until we came to the purple curtain.
“I can tell you haven’t been here very long- have you. But have they?” I pointed as discreetly as I could muster at the others, still engrossed in whatever each took fancy to.
“Nope,” she chimed, “my parents just finally brought me out here for the first time, after my 12th birthday this last April. Just like they-”
“And you’re not the least bit weirded out?” I interjected.
“I can tell you ask too many questions.”
I couldn’t help but allow a glimpse of amusement to cross my countenance at her tone- like a chiding parent, in her squeeky little voice.
“Go on, go in and talk to him!”she gestured again toward the entrance.
I hesitated still. Equivalent to my inclination to simply barge in, was my desire to even be there- much less to get at all involved. I already had more than enough confusion in my life. Despite finding her feisty spirit refreshing- I was still reasonably uncomfortable about the whole scene. I looked back over at her, and back at the doorway, which at a closer vantage was interwoven with shining gold thread. I instinctively recognized a small, metallic sound resonating from up above us, and glanced up to see a tiny red-throated hummingbird glaring back down, red chest glinting in the dying lights. Chirping in such a manner that I guessed he may have been reciting avian profanity; I had always wondered why it was generally accepted that hummers were of docile nature, I knew firsthand that they could also be little devils if in a mood.
The girl was making play fists and rolling her eyes again, so concluding that there would be no knocking, I pushed the curtain aside and stepped inside.
The space was surprisingly large and well furnished for the poor state of everything outside; filled with a warm energy, I saw that the walls were in fact made of rich, sturdy oak logs underneath the brittle sticks and straw. There were bookcases both short and lofty, stacked and filled in disorderly array with hundreds of shabby leather- bound, paperback, wooden, and hardcover books. Many were exceedingly thick, with the initial appearance of research and reference documents and journals. I still didn’t see or sense anyone at all, and continued to observe the spread of tubes, vials, darkened bottles, syringes,papers, and seemingly plant matter strewn about on two rectangular wooden tables. There was a third table, bright red and only the size of a square end table, with three broad candles exuding a fragrance that brought me to feel of a frustratingly indescribable nature.
Time seemed to be crawling at half the speed, as I loitered around waiting for someone potentially as disconcerting as the public outside that violet tapestry. I decided to further tarry only long enough to study a staff leaning in the corner. It appeared to be made of a finely smoothed Yew wood, with two snakes- one of gold and the other iron- encircling its length, heads nearly meeting at the top. Captivated by such a prepossessive work, I flinched to suddenly sense a hand on my shoulder.