Authors: Jennifer Foehner Wells
“A hot spot? Like for Wi-Fi?” She tried to keep the amusement from her voice, but wasn’t very successful.
“Look, birds navigate by sensing geomagnetism, right? So, who says we can’t sense it? Especially if there are places where it’s concentrated? What if it affects our brain waves? Our mental state? Gives us a feeling of well-being or enhances our ability to heal?”
“Adam, birds have specialized anatomical structures. They evolved to detect that stuff. We aren’t birds. We’re human. We learned to migrate using environmental cues and maps and things. And besides, if that’s really true, why aren’t birds dive-bombing this place?”
He frowned and shook his head and she felt kind of bad for making light of something he cared about. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“If people feel something here, it’s just because the landscape is breathtaking. It’s so beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes. That might feel like something spiritual to some people.”
“Yeah, probably. I should check the soup, see if it’s ready.”
She couldn’t stop herself from asking, “Is someone making money off this site?”
He didn’t answer and his stride was stiff as he walked back to the campsite. She’d offended him and she’d have to apologize, but maybe it would be better if she left him alone for a few minutes, so she lingered. She found a large circle of stacked stones nearby, divided into four quadrants, very precisely laid out.
The wind made an eerie, mournful sound, sweeping through the gorge. It blew wisps of unruly hair that had escaped her ponytail around her face as she squatted to examine the stacked stones. She picked up a flat rock lying nearby, about the size of a paperback book, and placed it on top of the pile. As she did so, slowly and deliberately, she felt a tingling sensation in her fingertips.
She gasped like she’d been burned, jerked her arm back, and scrambled away. The stack of stones swayed a little, but did not fall. She glanced toward the campsite to see if Adam had seen her. He looked thoughtful, slightly turned away, stirring the soup. He hadn’t noticed.
She stared at the stones, her mind boiling with flummoxed consternation. A powerful instinct told her she should walk away and never think of that moment again. That was the part of her that was always on guard against anything that reminded her of her mother’s foolishness.
But she couldn’t do it. Something equally potent, the part of her that had to
, commanded she investigate further. She stepped to the edge of the circle.
Tentatively, she laid her hand flat atop the stack. This time her whole hand tingled and the sensation began to slowly ascend her arm, pulling her. She shuffled closer, now inside the circle.
She could no longer take her hand away.
The hair on her arm stood on end. She gaped as a faint blue light began to glow around her hand where it touched the stone. Streaks of the light surged up her arm, under the skin. She realized with detached fascination that they traced the paths of the major nerves.
Her body ached with a sudden onset of leaden fatigue. She rocked back, hard, onto her back, feet slipping out from under her, right hand still held fast to the stones.
Her low-rise shorts had slipped down, leaving her lower back exposed. She was horrified to realize a similar tingling sensation was emanating from that point of contact with the limestone floor of the gorge, traveling simultaneously up her spine and down her legs. She looked down to see the blue light outlining the nerves inside her thighs, heading steadily toward her feet.
Her limbs were no longer under her control. Her legs went rigid, straightening and flattening against the exposed rock under her.
Her left hand crossed her body of its own accord, pinning itself to the stone floor, and began to glow in the same way. She arched, struggling to keep the rest of her body from being drawn down. It was futile. As the tingling blue light crawled up her arm, it drew that limb down to the stone and then her shoulder too. The stack of stones fell on top of her with a soft clatter, but she barely felt it as her body stretched over the dusty canyon floor, shuddering with pins and needles.
It never occurred to her to scream. She felt as though she were trapped in a dream where anything could happen to her body while she remained motionless, observing herself undergoing some kind of transformation.
Something was clearly affecting her central nervous system. The glowing lines along her nerves… It felt like that light was being drawn into her. But how? From where? And what would it do to her?
She closed her eyes to shut it out, but behind her lids, there was nothing but blue fire.
he had to be hallucinating
. Maybe she’d brushed up against the wrong plant on the hike or accidentally consumed some kind of psychoactive substance and was tripping. Or it was a stroke, an aneurism, a seizure, or—holy shit—she might actually be dying.
Her head swam. It felt like she was spinning. She was hyperventilating and couldn’t stop. Her vision darkened, spiraling down to a pinpoint.
She was paralyzed, glowing
like a neon beer sign. Why hadn’t Adam seen her? Why hadn’t he come to help her? Had he known this would happen? Was that why he’d brought her out here, speaking of special energy like some hippie?
Her lips pulled back in a rictus. How could something like this even happen?
She was alone. So alone.
Her body vibrated like a tuning fork, grew hot, and she felt sweat bead up all over. Something was building inside her, pouring into her. She was pinioned in the eye of a vortex. It swirled around her, through her, slowly reaching a rumbling crescendo. Her heart pounded so hard it felt like it could burst from her chest.
It was unbearable. It would never stop.
And then, all at once, it did.
The blue aura was gone. She trembled violently. Her body still felt thick and heavy, but she could move again. The sweat on her skin cooled quickly and she began to shiver. She tried to call to Adam, but all that came out of her mouth was a mewl. She gasped for breath and tried again, gaining some strength with each new attempt.
Then he was there, pulling the rocks off of her, cradling her in his arms.
“What happened? Did you fall?”
She sobbed, clutching at him weakly, saying, “I don’t know,” over and over.
“You’re so cold. I need to warm you up. Can you walk? Is anything broken?”
His warm, brown eyes were so worried, searching. It helped to ground her. She stared into them and worked to match his breathing, to calm down so she could think more clearly. “I don’t think I broke anything when I fell. I should be able to walk.”
He stood, pulling her with him. She swayed on her feet, grateful for his support. They stepped outside the stone circle and a weird feeling came over her. She stopped moving.
“Yes.” She forced herself to take another step. It felt like she’d just disconnected from something powerful, like an appliance being unplugged.
He helped her back to the campsite and wrapped her up in her sleeping bag. He put a blue metal coffee mug, half-filled with steaming soup, in her hands. Then he settled behind her, wrapping his arms around her as though he could still her violent shivering with a tight hug.
She slumped against him, completely enervated. “I think I just had a seizure,” she whispered.
“Have you ever had one before?”
“No. I an’t think what else it could be.” The mug was too hot. She loosened her sleeves and pulled them over her hands so she could grip it more comfortably.
“I should never have left you alone. I’m so sorry, Darcy.” He buried his face in the nape of her neck. “I pushed you too hard when I knew you were stressed.”
“Adam, this isn’t your fault. Things like this just happen.” She was feeling much warmer now. The shivering was slowing. She could feel the weakness subsiding.
“I should hike back until I can get a cell signal so I can call for help, but I don’t want to leave you.” He sounded anguished.
“No…that’s not…don’t go. I’m okay now.”
“But you need medical attention—”
“No, they can’t do anything for me tonight. I wouldn’t even see a neurologist if I went to a hospital right now. Only twenty-five percent of seizures are caused by epilepsy. This was more likely from sleep deprivation, dehydration or…meningitis or something.” It felt good to turn off the feelings and just be analytical about it. That was what she did best.
“Meningitis? Jesus! Darcy—”
She leaned back to look at him. His eyes were wide. She was freaking him out. “Oh—no—it’s definitely not meningitis. I don’t have any other symptoms of that. It’s probably just dehydration. I tried to keep drinking all day, but maybe I didn’t drink enough. My electrolytes must be off.”
She blew on the soup to give herself something to do and sipped at it, guiltily. She was saying all this stuff to make sense of it, to reassure him. And herself. She was trying to explain away the experience, rewriting her own memory to make it less strange.
She was lying to both of them. That scared her because that wasn’t something she did. That hadn’t been a seizure. Something had just happened to her, something beyond current medical explanation. She just didn’t want to believe it.
She knew that and yet she couldn’t stop. She didn’t want to be that person—the one who had a bizarre experience and squandered a lifetime catechizing about it, searching for meaning, living for the sole purpose of telling the story to others, with people like her mom as devout followers, believing themselves chosen for some special purpose.
She wasn’t special. Not that way. No one was.
She couldn’t explain what had happened, but that didn’t mean some scientist someday wouldn’t. Adam had said there was geomagnetic energy documented in the gorge. Maybe it was a rare phenomenon, a discharge of energy of some kind, something like lightning. It had scrambled her neurochemistry. It had made her hallucinate the blue glow and the lines under her skin. She was lucky to be alive.
If she told someone, they’d think she was sick or insane or explain it away like she was already doing. She was probably fine, so there was no logical point in telling anyone, no matter how badly she wanted to. Adam might even believe her. Her mother certainly would. But everything would change. She didn’t want it to.
Maybe some people would curl up in a ball and brood over what had just happened. That was not how she operated. She ignored things she didn’t want to deal with. She moved on.
Her father had taught her that. He was black. He’d helped her see that it was the only way to deal with the slights and microaggressions she dealt with every day as a person of color, something her mother, as a white woman, didn’t understand. Ignoring some things was the only way to stay sane.
Though it had seemed like hours at the time, that strange episode with the stones had probably only lasted five minutes. How could she let five minutes of weirdness change the course of her life?
She turned, straightened, and smiled at Adam. She needed to act normal, to feel normal—and fast. “Well, that was sure weird. Sorry.”
His eyebrows drew together and he leaned in, touching his forehead to hers. His breath came out in a rush against her cheek and he cupped his hand at the back of her head, holding her close. “Damn. You scared me, Darcy. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yup. I’m fine. Soup’s good. It’s really warming me up.”
He pulled her pack closer and poked the bite valve near her face. “Drink up, girl.”
She complied and he produced a plastic spoon for her to slurp up the soup’s noodles with. He kept fussing over her until she complained about it. She had to admit though, it was nice to be the one someone else took care of, for a change. Usually she was the one who cared for him, her friends, even her parents. It was just a part of being female and being strong. It was also the path she’d chosen for her career. She liked taking care of people. It felt good. But in this moment, it was nice to be on the receiving end.
When Adam was satisfied she’d had enough to eat and drink, he cocooned them together, wrapping her sleeping bag around them both, and produced her favorite chocolate bar—dark chocolate with crunchy, caramel bits. It was still warm from the heat of the day, despite the chill that had descended on the desert. By the time they’d devoured it, his fingers bringing soft, gooey morsels to her lips, she’d almost forgotten anything had happened. She felt normal—better than normal, actually—giddy, happy, and warm.
She kissed him—a delicious, sweet kiss—and licked at a dark smudge of chocolate trailing from the corner of his mouth. He kissed her back, reverently, holding his sticky fingers away from her.
“My gentleman,” she whispered huskily, and she captured his hand in her own to bring it to her mouth. She licked and sucked his fingers clean, avidly watching his expression.
It was nearly fully dark now. In the pale light of the small LED lantern, his gaze darkened. “Hey, I don’t think this is such a good…”
She silenced him with another kiss, shoving him down flat against the stone. “I think it’s a very good idea.”
“But you just…”
She bit his neck near the collarbone and gave it a long, slow lick. He sucked in a breath through his teeth.
He pushed on her gently, “Darcy—”
She narrowed her eyes. “Come on, Adam.”
After all, she could feel his interest through their clothes—and there were too many of those in the way. She persisted with the kisses—his neck, his earlobe—all the while wriggling to divest herself of her own clothing.
It didn’t take much to convince him to help. She savored the feeling of his large, warm hands gliding over her back, flicking at the fastening of her bra.
He knew her pattern of desire well. When her gasping cries reached a point that only he recognized, he gave her what she begged for.
She held her breath, clutching at him. When her bubble of pleasure burst, she cried out. As the sound of her voice echoed through the canyon, she came back to her senses to find Adam hovering over her, a stricken look on his face.
“Oh, shit. Darcy, what’s happening?”
“What?” she mumbled.
Her eyes focused and she caught a glimpse of what he had seen, just as it faded away.
Lines under her skin had been glowing blue.