May 1st, 1946
Craigh na Dun
At the young age of thirteen Amanda Mackenzie had not foreseen she would be dancing at a circle made of stones during her lifetime. But here she was, in the night of Beltane, climbing the steep hill towards them. Women of all ages gathered within the circle to face the menhir at the center. They looked at it in awe, a sense of worship evident in their faces, and Mandy wondered if they even understood the power encased within. Like all natural objects, it is said that stones contain mystical energy vibrations that, in some cases, can heal. But not these ones. These have the power to disrupt lives and families across centuries, to cause heartache without end and even bring death upon the least prepared.
One by one, the lanterns lit around the circle of women, their glow dissipating upwards into the moonless sky. They started moving in harmony to the beat of a song that was only in their heads, and Mandy felt herself pulled by the wave of motion around her. Despite not knowing the dance, her body seemed infused with a life of its own, and followed the others with fluid, graceful movements that brushed the warm air of the night. The light fabric of her dress flowed around her body at each turn, and the lantern in her hand felt like a comfortable anchor to reality, as the stones beckoned for her. The buzzing of what sounded like a hive of angry bees made her bones vibrate and her stomach turn with each step around the circle. But she fought those overwhelming sensations as hard as she could, focusing her mind while allowing her body to move freely.
And she went on, to bring out the sun into a new day, to honor the invisible divine connected to the earth, but most importantly, she danced with hope in her heart that somehow, she could convey a message across time to her family, letting them know she was alive, waiting for them.
The dance came gradually to an end, the motion diminished as the first rays of sun shone behind the silhouettes of the distant mountains and illuminated the stone at the center. And in that instant, the stones were silent, as if at peace for a moment in time, with no haunting calls from the other side.
The women walked down the hill, chatting merrily among themselves. Mandy was halfway down when she felt her unruly, curly hair loose on the wind. She turned around, marched back to the circle and found the fallen ribbon among the forget-me-nots, fully in bloom at this time of the year. Mandy then sat on the thick root of a nearby tree, and contemplated the scenery in front of her, though such peacefulness did not match the agony she felt inside.
A low buzzing began again, and she turned towards the lonely stone. It had been six months since she had last crossed it, and a blend of rage and fear bubbled within her at the memory of it.
Before that, she had been living a blissful life at the Ridge, two centuries ago. Back then, Mandy had seen war and peace unfold, but life within her family was always filled with love in spite of the external forces pulling them apart. And just as she thought her life would carry on uneventfully, everything changed.
Her grandda died, unexpectedly and much to their collective grief, most acutely to her grannie. It was a disrupting event in her young life, one Mandy had never thought possible, for she truly believed her grandda was invincible, incapable of dying. So, just before Mandy could overcome that pain, her father had urged all of them, Grannie included, to the stones and all the way back to a time she barely remembered.
Shortly after her grandda was gone, her father had explained, with a voice thick with unshed tears, that it was Grandda’s wish. Her father should take Grannie, and the rest of them, through the stones and to a safer place, for neither of them would ever be safe again in that time without his protection. The Ocracoke stone circle had been the obvious option for that, but Grannie had insisted they had to take Grandda back to Scotland, to rest forever in his beloved home. So, they journeyed across the Atlantic and made their way towards the Highlands of the 18th century for the last time in their lives.
Mandy noted then, that in the face of danger, normal people moved to another city, perhaps even to another country. Yet, her family was not normal, despite their appearance. They had to move to another time entirely. Once again, they hand plucked her from the world she had grown to know, and thrusted her into the unknown.
She had been livid ever since they left North Carolina, and the few words she said to her father were bitter and rooted in anger. Mandy had not meant them, for she loved her father dearly, but could not bring herself to dissolve the hurt she felt inside.
She was still mad at him on the day they arrived at Craigh na Dun, having said goodbye to her grandda for the last time. It was the morning of Samhain, a day of grief and relief, but also of fresh starts. The veil between this world and the next was so thin, that the spirits of the past were said to roam the earth once more, perhaps it was that veil that allowed them to travel.
Her mind was so filled with resentment towards her father’s choice, that once they arrived at the top of the hill, she ran towards the central stone in spite and disappeared before their eyes with him still on her mind.
It was painful, more so than she remembered as a child. Her whole body felt as if near combustion, bones and teeth on the verge of shattering. Her heart suffered the most, as it felt like it was being ripped in two. And when she landed on the other side, breathless and nauseated, she allowed herself to be carried into unconsciousness.
When Mandy came back to her senses, she was alone and unaware of when she was. It was late in the day, and the sun was setting. She felt odd that no one else had arrived yet, and as the hours passed, a sense of fear invaded her. Still, she remained alone.
The sun was long gone, and she was cold and hungry when she decided to walk towards what she vaguely remembered was the nearest town. Then a series of events had unfolded, completely out of her control. Mandy found herself desperately trying to explain to the people that found her on the road who she was and where she lived, but no one believed her. It was only when she saw her childhood home with her own eyes, decaying and abandoned for decades, that it finally sunk in. She had not arrived at the time she was supposed to.
With nowhere to go, she was taken in by a lady in Inverness. Her kindness and quick wit reminded Mandy of her own grannie, and she felt a little more at ease.
The date on the paper headlines, 1946, seemed to mock her every day, and pulled her deeper into a swirl of longing for her family. In a sense, she felt this was her punishment for being a reckless child. Yet, Mrs. Graham was the only one that believed her, and in the middle of the night, whenever Mandy cried herself to sleep, she brushed a hand through her curls and soothed her loneliness. She was the one who brought her to the stones again, encouraging her to, if not going back to whenever her family was, at least to summon the sun into a new year of the wheel with them.
In the six months she spent in that time, no one had come looking for her. And that was why she came dancing to the stones, hoping they would come this time.
Mandy kept staring at the circle, contemplating if she could survive yet another journey, when her attention was caught by a rustle in the bushes. A face came into view and her heart nearly stopped altogether. She would know that face anywhere, those brown curls and light-colored eyes. Mandy wanted to move, but her body was paralyzed with shock. Pain, longing and fear rooted her to the ground, and she couldn’t do anything else than stare at the first person of her family she saw in a long time.
It was Grannie Claire, looking much younger than Mandy remembered, staring back at her with nothing more than curiosity. And soon after their eyes met in the briefest of moments, she was gone among the leaves and trees, leaving Mandy alone once more.