The Seventh Layer
New Adult Scifi/Paranormal
As if growing up Amish wasn’t hard enough, Sarah Miller receives information just before her eighteenth birthday about a childhood she can’t remember. Accompanied by long lost friends and a few unlikely relatives, Sarah learns of her supernatural destiny and the race to piece together the jigsaw of her life begins. Amidst the whirlwind of unanswered questions, one stands prominent: will the world meet the foreshadowing doom that lingers in the near future, or will Sarah complete the puzzle in time to save her people and ensure the continuance of mankind?
Somewhere amidst her forty-hour job and playtime with her three-year-old, Rachel finds time to walk the streets of worlds only existing on manmade paper. She resides in small college town Northwestern Nebraska with her young son, just across town from her parents. She enjoys socializing with adults, sipping strawberry wine, and head banging to music that doesn’t carry a beat worth the effort of rock star hair slinging.
It crept down the window like an epileptic spider, jittering from side to side, pausing ever so slightly before continuing its descent.
It always fascinated me. I often sat on my bed at night watching it shatter against my window, then travel slowly out of sight, dancing a sorrowful waltz with the low light coming from the oil lamp on my bedside table. It mattered little if I had to be up at dawn to start my daily chores with Sister. Nothing truly mattered when it rained.
“Sarah, is everything alright?” Mother stood in my bedroom doorway. She was a plain woman, light brown hair lacking radiance, dull gray eyes, and thin pale lips that almost matched the color of her near-white skin. Her cheekbones curved high beneath her eyes, the lines sharp. Almost too sharp, almost masculine. But she was a kind, gentle woman. No one could deny her that. “Sarah,” she said again when I didn’t reply right away. I looked over my shoulder at her then, grinning briefly.
“Everything is fine, Mother. I was simply admiring the rain.” She smiled, but there was a flash of sadness in her eyes. I knew that sadness, but we never spoke of such things. Sadness in our community was often seen as a weakness of faith. Mother sat next to me on the edge of my bed. She smoothed down her skirt until it lay perfectly across her thin frame. Folding her hands in her lap, she let out a soft sigh.
“It is a beautiful sight to behold,” she said quietly, gazing out the window. When she turned to me again, her eyes were brimmed with tears. I hugged her quickly, letting her cry silently into my hair. Three days left. That’s all we had. When she finally pulled away, she dabbed lightly at her eyes and nose with the cotton handkerchief she always carried tucked in her sleeve.
“I will always remember you,” I said just above a whisper before laying a chaste kiss atop her hand. “Though I know you’ll all forget me, in time.” She started to shake her head, but she knew it was true. No one remembered, the human mind was too simple to comprehend it. I had begun to notice just over the last week that people in the community were already beginning to forget. Mainly just the ones I wasn’t in contact with everyday, but they were forgetting just the same. It seemed strange to a point. They were all I had known for the last ten years. How could anyone be in your life for so long and so quickly forget who you were entirely? Yet, somehow I knew and understood it. No one ever had to explain it to me, I just knew.
Mother tucked a strand of hair that had fallen out of my braid behind my ear. Her hand cupped my cheek, warm against my skin. I watched her study my face, trying to memorize it before kissing my forehead and leaving my room. I stared at the empty doorway, my heart heavy. Three more days.
Just three more days.
“I had the dream again,” I told Sister as we scrubbed the kitchen floor.
“It’s so strange to me that you dream so much, Sarah.” Her tone was almost spiteful, maybe even jealous. I’d noticed over the years that either no one spoke of their dreams, or no one really dreamed. I was never really sure which was more accurate. She shook her head at herself. “I apologize. Perhaps I’m not as prepared for you to leave us as I’d convinced myself I was.”
“Sister,” I paused my work to sit back on my heels and look at her. She turned her youthful face to me, looking me straight on with those enchanting brown eyes. “Sister, I can’t imagine it’s easy for anyone to be prepared for what is to come this new moon. How can you, knowing they will use meidung so that no one suspects? That is not a simple slap on the wrist, Sister. I know I can never come back, and it’s not because of meidung. But it seems to give this whole situation a certain omen, does it not?” Her face was dark as she shook her head.
“The Devil’s work, they will say. Cast you out like a rabid dog. Why can we not just say you left of your own volition? Is that not satisfactory? It would be truth! I do not condone this lying for you, but the elders say that God will forgive us.” I smiled then. She had been born into the community and raised according to their beliefs. Not everyone understood why meidung was going to be enforced, not truly. Sister was still young at the ripe age of sixteen. And she was female. Two strikes against her in the community, which meant she was only told that which was required of her to know.
I went back to scrubbing the floor, falling into the silence that awaited us. It welcomed me, embracing me like a long lost child come home. It was short lived. Sister was never comfortable in such an embrace.
“Tell me again about the dream, Sarah. I think I need a distraction this day.” I studied her for a moment. She looked very much like all the other women in the community. Her usual white blouse was fastened up to her neck, the long sleeves shoved to her elbows to avoid the soapy water. Her black cotton skirt billowed down to her ankles even as she knelt on all fours on the floor. Her black bonnet helped tame the runaway strands of her blacker hair, the rest trailed down to the small of her back in a tight braid. She was slightly rounder than the other women, full of hips and breast. Many whispered behind her back that she was the Devil incarnate, come to tempt all of the men into transgression. I knew she’d simply been better blessed, radiated upon by someone watching over. She puffed a strand of that obsidian silk out of her vision, glancing in my direction.
“It was no different than it has ever been. I stood in an open meadow. Larger than any meadow I have ever seen, covered in the brightest wildflowers, as if they’d been freshly painted on canvas. There was nothing else in sight, just meadow and wildflower and clear blue sky. The sky was cloudless, all except that one cloud just above me. It cut out most of the sunlight, leaving the world in a gray haze. Everything seemed totally gray, lifeless. Until I laid eyes on the wildflowers again. There was a loud sound overhead, like thunder clapping. The air itself became thick, so thick it seemed I could spoon it up and eat it. Then I looked up at that one lonely cloud and it split in two. Only it wasn’t a separation of cloud, but an opening. Like a door to somewhere else, Heaven maybe? And there I saw a face, shining at me. So bright was that smile, like sunlight after a spring rain. And a hand descended, coming toward me, growing larger and larger the closer it came. I felt warmth radiating down upon me. Such heavy warmth, it made me feel disoriented. Like how Mother describes the men from the city after they’ve left a brewery. The meadow vanishes and I am wrapped in white light. I smell spices and fermented grapes. Wine perhaps. And smoked meats, such wondrous aromas! But I cannot see past the blinding light. In the distance are voices and laughter…and music. I’ve never known such joyous music! I feel my body rising from the earth, toward where I had last seen that singular cloud. And in a heartbeat, I am surrounded by the blackness of my bedroom, only my racing heartbeat to accompany me.”
Sister had stopped scrubbing, her bristle brush soaking in the sudsy water pail. She gazed at me with dreamy eyes just as though she were witnessing the dream for herself. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mother walk into the house, dirt dusting the hem of her skirt and tipping the toes of her shoes. She tramped across the nearly clean kitchen floor, purposely stomping dirt where we’d just scrubbed. ‘Twas our punishment for stopping before the chore was fulfilled. Sister shot me an apologetic look. I simply smiled at her.