Crown’s Plank (forty-three) Breakfast Among Furies

Mad, fever-induced nightmares tormented Tobi’s mind that night. When sleep finally came, hellish visions kept her suspended in that terrible place between the dark emptiness of a dreamless sleep and a paralyzed, nearly awake haze – that place where the soul seems trapped in the weighted body of the sleeper. Visions that felt more real than anything experienced while awake plunged her into realms of frenzy and surrealism. Like Dali paintings smashed into Milton’s words, all come to life.

At one point, Tobi thought she had awakened only to watch in horror as the cast iron candle holders on the wall of her small room creaked to life and crawled over her body, as stealthy as cats on the prowl. In a panic, she attempted to dash from her bed; fruitless effort. Cold bars wrapped themselves around her limbs and held her tight as her mattress flipped on its face and began to hurl her downward. Instead of the floor, there were leaping, cartoonish flames that licked at her body. Rails guided her along a tour of twisting turns and her mind throbbed with deep, slow thrashes from some unseen stringed instrument.

 “Girls! Up now! Breakfast, you have two minutes to form a straight line in this hallway and get your morning provisions!”

In turn, each girl went quickly into the supply closet and retrieved their toothbrush and toothpaste, as well as any other supplies they would need to prepare themselves for breakfast. They had ten minutes each in the bathroom, then they must return their supplies and move into the kitchen while Miss Antonina locked the supply closet tight once again.

Once all the girls were settled at the breakfast table, they began to eat their meager portions. No overeating would be tolerated on the property. Self-control was a virtue. Passion, an appetite for excess, the desire to live without boundaries and devour all that life had to offer was a “sin”, a damn serious one.

Mostly, the girls kept their heads lowered. No talking, of course. But… Tobi couldn’t help but feel like Neem’s eyes were upon her. An uneasy feeling crept over her skin. Neem wasn’t a bad person, but she was full of anger and it radiated from her. Being around Neem felt like standing very still in the presence of a wild animal – it probably wouldn’t attack, but one wrong move…

Tobi had never upset Neem that she knew of.

Crown’s Plank (forty-four) Hex-EL Marrow