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* The Library - Fiction for the Heart *

The Gathering
Ch. 16 - The Need

Many days later, Magda sat watching Mara and Desiree dancing and frolicking around the Raggedy Man on the grass not far away. She could hear their laughter and song rise and fall. The grass was sprinkled with white and yellow star shaped flowers, and Mara had woven these into garlands and wreaths. She wore one in her hair and her laughter rose on the air as she placed another on the Raggedy Man's brow. Since his sharing he seemed much younger, more at ease, and quicker to laugh. He was laughing now, as Desiree flew in circles above him, draping him with a long flower chain.

As Magda watched them from her perch on a nearby rock, she felt a heaviness inside that she couldn't name. It was an edgy, poky, ragged sort of feeling. She tried to ignore it, but as she listened to the rise and fall of Mara's voice, that beautiful and beloved voice, she felt a sharp stabbing pain right through her chest.

She gasped and clutched her heart, for suddenly it seemed she saw Mara and Desiree lying on the grass, their bodies covered with blood pouring from many jagged tearing wounds. Hovering over them was a small, deformed gnomish-looking creature, brown and bony and bent, no more than 3 hand spans tall. Its eyes gleamed with hateful glee. It opened its mouth to hiss at her and she saw a dark gaping hole where a tongue should have been. Horror rose in her throat like bile, and she jumped to her feet, a scream forming on her lips.

Just as quickly as it came, the vision vanished. Magda stared in shock. There were Mara and Desiree, still laughing and alive and dancing on the grass. Her relief was overwhelming and for a moment she couldn't breathe. She sank back on the rock and pressed one hand to her wildly beating heart. What was that? What had she just seen? An hallucination? A product of her own feelings? What was that small brown creature?

All the rest of that day Magda felt as if all her senses were hyper-alert. She told no one what she'd seen, but she kept close watch on her feelings, and one eye at all times on Desiree and Mara. Fortunately, they were usually together, and they could usually be found somewhere near the Raggedy Man.

That night around the fire she couldn't stay still. She felt the tension and the heaviness building and she began to pace, trying to ignore the feelings, and listen to what Mara was sharing. She looked across the fire at Mara's tear streaked face, and then at the Raggedy Man, whose expressive eyes held such sympathy and love...

Suddenly there was a streak of brown, and a flash of sparks and ashes flying as the gnome tore heedless right through the fire and lunged at Mara. Brown bony fingers tore at Mara's hair, and one knobby fist pounded on the side of Mara's head. A snarly, growly sound burst from the creature and Mara screeched and flailed her arms, trying to protect her head.

It took all of them to pry the gnome off and they all came away scratched and bruised. Mara's tears were pain and shock now, and she rubbed a good sized bump on the side of her head. The Raggedy Man and Girda held the struggling gnome down on the ground, and Magda took a blanket and wrapped it round and round, pinning the little brown arms to its sides and preventing any more scratches. She held the gnome out in front of her and none too gently, gave it an angry shake. The gnome just hissed at her.

She turned to Mara and cried, feeling somehow responsible for the hurt caused. "I'm so sorry, Mara!" she cried. "I don't know where this came from!"

The gnome began struggling again, its hissing and growling grew louder and louder and Magda tightened her grip. As she looked into the little creatures angry eyes though, Magda was taken aback. There was a frozen moment of silence as she felt a connection being made. Then, suddenly the creature stopped struggling and hissing and began to sob. Magda sank to the ground and held it closely, rocking gently as its tears flowed, streaking the little brown cheeks. The others settled around the fire to wait, a little warily, not sure what this new arrival was all about. Magda loosened the blanket, and the little hands reached out to frantically clutch at her. Suddenly it reached out its arms to the sky and screamed, a thin, high pitched screeching, mouth wide open and eyes streaming with tears. The scream seemed to go on and on forever, but then finally the little body relaxed, curling into a ball nestled against Magda's chest. She moaned and wrapped her arms around it, still rocking, and began to cry herself.

"Oh, oh, oh," she moaned. "I didn't want to feel this."

Rocking and moaning, "I need," she cried through clenched teeth. "Aching. Empty. Hurts." Rocking and rocking and rocking. "I need!" she screamed to the sky.

Visions flashed before her...

Formless dark...
A slow building awareness of ... LACK. Emptiness. Something missing, something needed.

A light, warmly glowing, pulsing.
Hope flares. Need aches. Desire burns.
Fanning the flame until emptiness becomes action.
She reaches.

A long blankness… dark forgotten stretches of time...
Then a voice, whispering in the darkness.

"You don't love. You NEED.
You're a great pretender. But I know the truth about you.
Manipulative, greedy, insatiable.
You know nothing of real love."

Pain inflicted, screaming in the dark, endless pain...

"You brought this on yourself...
YOU are to blame..."

Her tears had stopped and she sat breathing quietly, head hung low. Mara came to sit next to her and gently squeezed her arm.

"I'm so sorry, Mara," Magda whispered. "I didn't know this part was out there. I didn't want to feel this need. I won't let her hurt you again."

"Her?" Mabel asked.

"She's one of us," Magda said. "She's my need, my desire to be loved. Condemned and blamed and cast out and ... empty and needing all this long time. No wonder she's so angry. And jealous. I didn't want to know her, I want to be loving, I didn't want to be petty and jealous."

Mara said, "It's ok, no matter what it is. This is our healing circle, and whatever we feel is ok here, right?"

"I remembered, Mara. I was there too, long ago, when we reached. I… We blamed the need, and the desire." She began to cry again, "I'm so sorry, for her, for you, for all of us!"

Magda dropped her head. Soon she was sobbing deeply and clinging to Mara's hand. "I see you and Raggedy Man together and I hate you. I want to hurt you. He loves you and not me and it hurts so much," she cringed away from Mara, but Mara held on tightly. "I hate my need," she shouted. "I hate you for being able to love, I want to be loved, I need that love.. And I hate my need!" Mara held on tightly and Desiree came to land nearby, her wings fluttering a little in distress as Magda's cries became louder and more terrified. Mabel and Girda came close too, and they all surrounded Magda, forming a safe cocoon around her and the little gnome.

There, safe in the circle of their arms, she broke through the locked door to another room full of memories. She found herself screaming "I hate you!" to a long ago lover… a lover who was also the Voice, she realized. Yes, the Voice, but not the warm Voice she knew now… a colder, sterner version. In some long ago time when she loved him and he rejected her, he was so cold, so hard. Hatred turned to heartbreak. "ooooh", she groaned and clutched her heart. She saw him standing over her, glaring and sneering. She remembered him turning his back to her, and her heart breaking, shattering into a million pieces against the cold wall he presented. There was nothing she could do to gain his love. There was no way to reach beneath the impenetrable coldness to touch his heart. Perhaps he had no heart.

Love and hate broke free and flowed in tears down her face for the Ice-Man-Ex-Lover… "Heartless," she sobbed. "Cruel, cold, heartless bastard. I pleaded, I groveled, I made a fool of myself in a hundred ways, all for nothing. I'm so ashamed."

Mara squeezed her hand. "There's nothing to be ashamed of."

"I am ashamed!" Magda cried. "How could I be so stupid? How could I love someone who was so heartless? How could I demean myself like that for someone so cold and cruel. He didn't love me!" She ground her teeth together and growled, "I will never, never, ever, love like that again. Never will I need someone's love like that, never! I hate him!" She shook her fist at the sky. "You were right, the more I remember, the less I like you!" she shouted to the Voice. Whether he heard or not, she didn't know.

She blew her nose and was quiet for a moment. "The stupid thing is," she said softly, "I still love him. And I still want and need his love. It was buried really deep, but I guess you can't entirely kill love, no matter how hard you try." She began to weep again from heartbreak and longing, big crocodile tears rolling down her cheeks. A small brown hand crept quietly out from the folds of the blanket, and gently patted her cheek. And they all held her and rocked her while she cried.


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