Hours after lunch, Freya still couldn’t relax. She tried to read, but the words swam together in her brain. She considered calling Mary, but she didn’t even know what she’d say.
She’d seen a veker out of control in the world, in exactly the way people feared, and had watched people run, heard them scream on the sidewalks. It was terrifying. What would happen to the man? What if it had been her instead?
Freya put on her shoes and jacket and slipped outside. It was early evening but already getting dark, and for a moment she felt a little glimmer of pleasure at the thought of taking a long walk. She could leave the Annex, maybe walk north and see where she ended up.
Suddenly, anxiety gripped her. No. Too far north and she would be close to the restaurant. Too close for comfort. What if she saw someone who recognized her? She never wanted a reminder of today ever again.
The Spadina streetcar screamed on its rails. She returned home with takeout pierogies from Future’s and opened a bottle of wine she’d been saving. Best to stay home in a nest of blankets on her bed, laptop propped up, stack of DVDs wobbling precariously on the uneven nightstand she’d found at the end of her street last summer.
Start with the classics, maybe they’ll be boring and relaxing. Breathless. Breakfast at Tiffany’s—oh wait, Mickey Rooney playing that racist Japanese caricature. Okay, a bit more modern. Can’t go wrong with some Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Stay away from Sixteen Candles though—another racist Asian character. Should probably just throw those movies away. Fuck it, put on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and stop thinking about movies. Just throw the dinner stuff on the counter, ignore the clock, curl up and let the world slide away. Imagine a world more fantastical, where people with weird abilities are respected, spoken of reverently, in hushed tones, are made members of important councils that make important decisions using unique insight that regular people simply don’t have. Where people like me would go on adventures, quests that could change the world.
Where could she go to escape on a quest of her own? Maybe the Philippines, the one she knew through her father’s stories. Humid and hot, land of mythological creatures—maybe she could meet a real nuno sa punso, gain its trust. Or maybe tame Dad’s favourite, the half-horse trickster tikbalang.
Or maybe she could go to Norway. The cold wind, the northern lights, the crackling quiet, the land of her mother and her name and her power.
She shifted her legs, felt the air around her change, grow hotter and then colder.
How long had she not been alone?
The shadowy figure in the corner of her small apartment filled her with dread, but also a strange comfort. A sense of inevitability. The stale taste of red wine gummed her mouth shut as she tried to greet it, but a greeting wasn’t necessary. The shadows shifted as it moved, changed size. It turned from a half-horse creature into a tiny old man, his long beard trailing on the floor as he moved closer to Freya using a strange crouching hop.
The nuno touched Freya’s wrist and she knew she had been cursed. The imprint of his hand flared. And then he was gone.
Freya tried to move, talk, anything, but she was frozen, curled around her dead laptop, her useless books, the detritus of her waking life.
She wrenched her eyes toward the window, willing her heart to slow. Why was her window so big? Why were her curtains wide open? Falcons soared across her vision. A cloak drawn across the moon. A glittering chariot pulled by two cats. They burned the goddess Freya three times, she remembered, and it was the cause of a war, a war so endless that everyone just got tired of fighting. Freya banished to the wrong side, forever.
She couldn’t wake up. The night so long that she saw every Vanir, every Aesir, learned all of their faces. A dream so long that she saw every nuno sa punso in every mound of earth, learned their names and their histories. She wondered if she had become a manananggal, separated from her lower body, flying forever in a desperate attempt to rejoin herself before she was burned by the sun.
But when the sun finally rose, Freya welcomed the fire, welcomed the release from the endless night.