Cautiously Zero pulled open the heavy wooden doors. Layla stood between his legs, ready to pounce. The vision that greeted them left even the dog looking slightly stunned. Standing in front of him was a young, elfin-faced woman. A plumeing mass of corn-blonde curls cascaded down to softly frame her lightly freckled face, out of which shone two large, iridescently blue eyes. She was dressed—or rather, swathed—in white cloth of various shades and hues from head to toe. Silver bracelets encircled her arms and a string of silver bells bound each ankle. She was barefoot, save for a silver ring on every toe.
“Greetings Zero!” She said brightly, smiling a perfectly white smile.
“Uh, greetings.” Zero replied, reeling slightly at the fact that she knew his name. He could feel Layla looking expectantly up at him. “Sorry, but how do know who I am? How do you even know I’m here? And who are you?” The questions tumbled out in a rather aggravated rush.
“I am Helia the witch. Your arrival was foretold.” She continued to smile peaceably at him.
“Foretold? Foretold by whom?” Zero was becoming more and more agitated as the moments passed.
“By The Power.” She replied simply. She broke Zero’s gaze then and looked down at Layla who was still watching her carefully and cautiously. Extending her hand slowly, she began to rub the dog on the snout. Within about a minute, Layla had entirely relaxed, rolling over onto her back and offering her jet black tummy up to the stranger for a rub. Zero sighed.
“The Power?” Zero asked, nudging the dog gently with the toe of his boot.
“The beginning and the end.” Alida told him in a cheerfully matter-of-fact tone, tickling Layla under the ears until the dog’s tongue flopped joyously out of the side of her mouth.
Zero stood stock still, momentarily unsure of what to do. He thought he had escaped all of this. Then he noticed a large wicker basket sitting on the dry, red-dirt ground next to where Helia crouched. She diverted her attention from Layla for a moment and smiled at him. “Ah yes!” She said, leaping to her feet. “Breakfast!”
Against his better judgement, Zero found himself stepping to one side and letting her through the door. “Bread rolls, salami, olives, cheese, coffee…some dog food…even a couple of burger patties…” Helia recited the basket’s contents happily as she made her way up the aisle and towards the vestry.
As Zero began to close the door, he noticed another figure making their way across the field towards the church, this time clad only in black with long, bright red hair streaming out on the wind behind them. Just where had he ended up?