Back the Great Northern Forest, Artemis called the Arktoi to help her reach the Diana Circle girls. The sunlight filtered in green and gold patterns as the small group gathered around their beloved leader. Artemis was wound up and feeling impulsive, like she sometimes got when things felt urgent. She picked up a long stick off the ground and started snapping it into smaller and smaller pieces.
“Listen Missy, you gotta unwind” Nyx told her, as she sat down on one of the mossy “chairs” that they had crafted out of fallen branches, stones and earth. The chairs were in a rough circle around a fire. This was where they gathered when they had matters to discuss.
“I hate that nickname” Artemis growled.
“Oh, but it’s so cute!” Iris chimed in. Artemis stabbed the remaining length of stick into the fire, causing sparks to fly up into the late afternoon sky. She grumbled and poked as Sylvia and Iris found their seats.
“I didn’t call you here to talk about my name” Artemis started, only to be interrupted by Sylvia.
“I’ve always liked ‘Temi’ for you. It’s short, easy, a little more androgynous…” she smiled her most charming and daring smile.
“I’m going to kill you all, I swear. Don’t think I won’t” Artemis threatened. “I’ll turn you all into squirrels and let the wolves and hawks hunt you down.”
The Arktoi laughed. They knew her well enough to know when she was really angry, and this wasn’t it. Nonetheless, they stopped their teasing and listened as Artemis described Philadelphia, the creek that was trapped in a sewer, and the Artemis Pack girls. They needed to find a way to reach the Artemis Pack girls, to make contact with them. It wasn’t enough that Artemis had made an alliance with Tara, the girls’ leader. The individual Artemis Pack girls would need to be initiated if they were going to be able to see into the spirit world and use the gifts that were available to them. They wouldn’t be able to see or communicate directly with Artemis until this initiation happened. They talked long into the night, debating and scheming. As the moon rose and the stars sparkled in the heavens, they made their plan.
Kory had been having the weirdest dreams. For the past few nights she had woken up with a start, feeling disoriented and woozy. She kept seeing flashes of herself digging and digging, and a pipe bursting. Then she’d see some girls she’d never seen before cheering and laughing and running toward some silvery forest. She wanted to follow them. But then she’d wake up.
During lunch that day, she sat at her usual table with other Artemis Pack girls who went to her school. She didn’t feel much like talking. She felt tired, as if she hadn’t slept at all. Mixch (pronounced “Meesh”) sat down next to her and immediately put her forehead down on the edge of the lunch table. Kory vaguely noticed a headband with cute animal ears attached. Mixch loved all animals and you could tell by her vast collection of animal-themed accessories. “I’m so tiiiiiiiiired” Mixch mumbled toward the floor. Then she popped back up, looking slightly delirious “my mom says it’s hormones and I’m about to get my period, but I don’t think that’s it.” She looked around to see if anyone was paying attention.
The rest of the table included Stella, Sage and Melika. “Your mom talks about periods a lot” said Kory, dryly. “Yeah I know,” Mixch said, “but I’m telling you, that’s not why I’m so tired. I keep having these super intense dreams...”
“NO WAY” exclaimed Stella, leaning over from the end of the table. She had been the last to join the group and was just getting her lunch out of her lunchbox. Stella usually said everything as if it was spelled in all capital letters. “ME TOO!!! Only, my dreams aren’t stopping at night. Anytime I start feeling tired or space out in class, they start up again, like there’s a weird movie in my head!”
“You guys, this is super weird” Sage said, looking uncomfortable. “I’m having having the same thing happen to me. I’ve never had dreams like this before.”
Do they feel real?” asked Melika, quietly. Everyone at the table nodded. “Is it happening to all of us?” She asked, looking around and making slow eye-contact with each of the six girls at the table. Melika was witchy. There’s just no other word for it. She could be wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but there was something about her that felt magical and mysterious.
Kory shivered. She took a slow breath, in and out. “Do you think everyone at the school is having these dreams?” she asked. They all looked around. As far as they could see, the kids at every other table were laughing or arguing in the same usual way. No other table looked like they were about to fall over from exhaustion, like the Artemis Pack girls did.
“Let’s not make assumptions” Sage suggested. We should ask people in our classes for the rest of the day and see if anyone else is having this experience. Sage was the most practical of the group. She was down to earth and liked to get to the bottom of things. It seem like good advice, so they all agreed. As they packed up from a lunch period that always felt too short, they decided to meet after school and discuss what they had learned.
The day passed in slow motion for Kory. When the final bell rang, she hurried to stuff her books in her backpack, throw on her favorite hoodie, and get out the door. By the time she got to the far end of the school yard, she saw the rest of the Artemis Pack girls already huddled close together in a tight circle. “Well?” She asked, suspecting that they had all heard the same thing people had been telling her.
“Nope” the other girls said, in unison. “No one else is having intense dreams,” Sage continued. “And, they all looked us like we were trying to play a trick on them or something. Like we were making it up or being creepy.”
That had happened to Kory, too. She nodded along with the others. “Well. I guess we should talk about what’s in our dreams, huh?”
They dropped their bags and sat down near the fence. Stella groaned “does anyone have any SNACKS?” And Sage, who always had a well-stocked supply of all things, handed her a granola bar. They discovered as they talked that their dreams exactly the same, but there was overlap. And all of them, in the end, followed the group of girls in their dream to the doorway of a little white domed house-tent-looking thing, where they laid a bunch of food on a blanket. It was like a picnic. Except they didn’t sit down. They stood back and waited. And slowly, there was a light that glowed brighter in the doorway of the structure and it felt like something important was going to happen, and that’s where the dream ended.
“I feel like I’ve seen that white hut before” Kory said, “But I can’t quite place it.” There was quiet for a while.
A few days passed, with the dreams getting more vivid and insistent. Kory felt like she was supposed to do something, but she didn’t know what. She also for the life of her couldn’t remember where she’d seen the white domed hut. It was a relief to get to Artemis Pack. The girls had all decided they’d ask Tara what the dreams meant. They were sure she of all people would take them seriously and have some idea what to do.
When Kory arrived, Tara was bustling around the kitchen making snacks and tea. “Hi!” she called “wow! You all look terrible! Go make yourselves comfortable while I finish up getting things ready.”
Tara’s living room was one of Kory’s favorite places. It was filled with all sorts of cool magical things like antlers and feathers and beautiful cloth. The Artemis Pack girls always raced for the best spots on the couch, because if you didn’t get a good spot, you’d have to sit on the floor. Normally, Kory was all about trying to get one of those good couch spots, but she was just too tired to deal with the elbows and knees of whoever else was trying to claim seat there too. So Kory shuffled over to the window seat and sat down, harder than she meant to, knocking her head on the wall behind her. “Ow!” she cried out. As she rubbed the sore spot, she turned away from the group, not wanting them to see the tears that had crept into her eyes.
And there it was. The dome! The one from the dream. She sprang up and pointed, calling the girls to look. And that’s how Tara found them, crowded together staring silently.
“Did I miss something?” She asked?
The girls turned. “We need to talk to you” Kory said. And the whole story came out in bits and pieces as they took turns sharing the events of the past few days. Tara sipped her tea and listened, stopping them occasionally to ask a question, shushing them when too many girls were trying to talk at once.
“Well”, she finally said, when they were done, “it sounds like we need to go make an offering.”
“You’re not going to tell us what the dreams mean?” Melika asked.
“I have an idea” Tara admitted. “But I think it’s best if we go and see for ourselves what happens when we do the one thing that all of your dreams have in common.”
“Right NOW?” Kory heard herself squeak. All of a sudden, she was terrified. Dreams were one thing, but actually going out there felt like another. Kory wasn’t really what you’d call a rule breaker. Even just going into the neighbors yard without permission made her feel uncomfortable. What if someone saw them? But the rest of the group leapt into action, splitting up to gather food, a cloth, and some dishes. In what felt like a heartbeat, they were out there, setting it all up.
“Now,” Tara said, “what we’re doing here is making an offering to the spirits who have been sending you those dreams. If I’m right, they are trying to get your attention because they need your help. So you need to decide, right here and now, if you are willing to open yourself up to what that might mean. There might be dangers involved. It might be hard. But spirit only chooses those who have the ability to do what asked of them. And I know each and every one of you can do it, if you decide you want to.”
Kory looked into Tara’s eyes. She saw herself for a moment reflected in the ways Tara saw her - not as some shy, awkward, kid, but as a brave warrior. Around her, she saw the other Artemis Pack girls standing up straight, grabbing each others hands and squeezing tightly. They were all terrified, but they were also brave. And they knew that something in those dreams felt real and true and important. Something, or someone was calling them. And Kory wanted to know who it was.
They stepped back as a group. They sang one of the songs they’d learned in Artemis Pack. And the doorway started to glow…..