Chapter I - Feed My Addiction
The eclipse bloodied the moon like a bitch in heat. As the earth concealed the moon, I too hid in darkness. The plan was freedom; however, I failed to calculate that prophetic, foreboding Blood Moon. Suffer and bleed—the Curse of Eve.
I reconnected with an old friend who encouraged me to flee. We were so careful, planning my escape. Only she knew I was leaving. My favorite belongings and new identity were waiting for me at the safe house she chose on my road to freedom.
I should have listened to the voice that whispered in my ear when it said, he knows. He accused me of setting him up, and that’s what I did.
I scheduled my escape in tandem with a business trip. When he announced he planned to join me on this venture, I stewed with selfish thoughts. If he was in jail, it removed any worry of being tracked and found. I could fade into the mist and disappear. It was a cocky assumption that I should be the one to deliver his judgment and punishment.
He was too cunning and changed the plans. We hiked new trails into this foreign place. I found myself hundreds of miles off course with no possessions. We walked, camped, and lived the life of drifters until I could not handle being cold and dirty anymore. My guard down, he attacked me with a barrage of questions. He retraced my story and combed through it, plucking each lie like a flea off a dog’s back.
Round and round we went. “Why were police cruisers there? How did they know we were coming?” I stuttered and fumbled. He twisted my words into other meanings. I questioned myself. Had I told him that? Was that how it happened? He tricked the truth from me. I think he needed a reason to justify my punishment.
He grabbed me by the throat and squeezed, his eyes ablaze. “We had to leave my truck dammit!” I did not fight against him, he was always worse when I struggled. “Damn you! Damn you to hell you two-faced bitch!” He loosened his grip, fury still radiating from his reddened face. The back of his fist struck my cheek. I lost balance and fell. “Do you realize how much you cost me?” He kicked at me as I pulled my face and legs inward, like a baby in the womb.
He would tire soon enough. I laced his flask with sleeping pills before we left. I learned from the best how to take my advantages. When he passed out, I sought refuge and hurried along the path and across a swinging bridge to hide in the forest.
The forest felt alive. It drowned out the mental chatter in my skull and replaced it with over-stimulating white noise that echoed in the hollows of my brain. The rushing river concealed every noise, even footsteps. The sound of rhythmic chirps, like locusts, buzzed and gnawed at the last meat of my sanity. I wished those messengers of hell would spring from the ground and take me so I would not have to go back to him. I wandered through the forest searching for … I knew not what; perhaps a violent experience to feed my addiction.
“V!” He yelled into the night. He must not have drunk as much as I calculated. Shit. He’s on this side of the bridge. I crouched low and crept toward the noisy river.
Curled up behind the rocks at the shoreline, I watched as white caps throbbed and undulated where adamant water mated with stubborn rock. I placed my hand to my aching cheek and pulled it away. It was tender to the slightest touch. My eyes itched as though they were dry, yet silent tears coursed my face. This is the last time I will cry because of him I solemnly vowed. If I had enough courage, I would cleanse myself in the baptism of the river. For only from water could I be born anew.
As I looked at the river, I imagined being enveloped in the water, the cold sensation washing over me. I had been numb for so long. What would it be like to feel again? The river would be a perverse end to my life. The force of the rapids could pull me in any direction of its choosing and bludgeon me. Just like him. If I jumped into the river, I could grab control in a way I have never known. I crossed myself for such sinful thinking, an old childhood superstition. Sister Mary Clara said, “Your body is a temple.” I may have tattooed it, but I would not attempt to end my life again.
I groped for the crumpled pack of smokes in the pocket of my skinny jeans. ‘Stretch Fit’ they were called. Appropriate. All I tried to do was stretch and fit. I shook the box and freed a single cigarette. Damn, last one. I slid the silver matchbook out of the cellophane sleeve and ignited the cigarette. Darkness broke with every inhale as the glow from the cigarette flashed like a radio tower. Let him find me and be done with it. I’ve nothing left. He’s taken everything else from me.
I twirled the matchbook between my thumb and index finger. The logo on the front was for the motel we had stayed at days ago. The sweet before his return to bitterness. He had been so different for those few days, gentlemanly, like when we first met. Why did I fall for that twice? He will never change.
How did I get here? Where did all the time go and what happened in between? I closed my eyes and played that record over again. We met at a dance club. He seemed like a nice enough guy, wearing a button-down collared shirt and slacks in a place that played booty bass. He screamed of money. Flattered, he singled me out. I allowed him to buy me a drink — vodka cran. Sometimes I pretended he found a different girl to buy a drink. Would life be different for me if he had? Or would I be with the same man with a different face? Other times, when he got that boyish look in his eyes, I glimpsed the guy I once knew, standing there offering me a blood red drink.
That first drink was more than liquor. The room became an amusement park ride, spinning until everything was streaks of bright color and only the thump of drums from the ground reminded me I was not floating. I closed my eyes and smelled his sweet cologne. The music vibrated from my feet to my teeth. The way his body fit with mine. That was my last memory from that night.
The next morning, he told me how drunk I had been. I only remembered one drink. I asked how many drinks I had. He drew a long breath. That pause should have given it away. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Three?” he said it as more of a question than a statement. I raised my eyebrows. Three and I could drive home. “Maybe they were doubles.” He shrugged.
I believed him. I needed to believe him. Drink or something else, substances only lower inhibitions. On some level I must have wanted him in that way. I put on a short dress and returned for another vodka cran the next night, and every night that week.
He showed up at my apartment door with two strange men, grunt workers, and announced I was coming to live with him. I moved into his house by the end of the week, without notice, without many of my belongings, without asking. He said I would not have to worry about a thing. Not able to make rent, no friends or family to speak of, I figured his place was safer than the street. I didn’t argue. I learned not to argue with him. He always got what he wanted.
He examined the clothes in my closet and threw them away. “I’ll get you new ones,” he promised. Like a newly purchased doll, similar to one I played with as a child, I wore the clothes he chose and styled my hair the way he liked. Now, here I am, used up and tossed aside like a tattered rag doll forgotten by the river. He has fresh playthings.
Taking one last drag, I heard the hoot of an owl. Some Natives believed the owl was the last thing seen before someone dies. The owl’s heckle stalked me through the woods all day and night. Is it my time? We were very much alike, the owl and I, both insomniacs who moved in the shadows, never sleeping, never seen. “You who can see in the dark … guide me,” I said to the night air as I extinguished my cigarette on the smooth side of a rock.
I listened and waited for a moment. Only the growl of my stomach answered. Dejected, I lowered my gaze to the peephole of my sandals. The sole was separating. These shoes supported me on such a long journey. I needed them to last longer. I needed them to bring me home. If I still had a home.
As dawn began, I flicked the butt of the cigarette into the river and tossed the empty pack and the matchbook into a pool of stagnant shoreline water. I stumbled across the uneven surface of the riverbank and climbed a steep pathway. Reaching the wooden footbridge, I prepared to cross over.
I’m going back. What other choice do I have? I don’t know where the hell I am. I won’t make it on my own. Mother always said, “Wives must submit to their husbands.” He was not my husband by the law of the land, but he might as well have been. He knew me better than I knew myself. It was stupid to think we could be one without the other, or at least that I could be without him. I inhaled. I will walk over the bridge back to the tent, wait with my head down, and not provoke him.
Cables from towers on each side of the river suspended the bridge, which swayed with every step. Nauseous from the motion, I kept my gaze on the long wooden planks of the bridge floor. Through spaces between the boards, I observed whitewater. I stopped near the middle and viewed the rapids once more.
The sun began its birth, bloodying eastern clouds in red and pink hues. I turned my face toward the light, endeavoring to pale my bruises and confess my sins to the rising sun. The daylight cleansed the beastly crimes of man after an evil night under that scarlet moon. Darkness was required to return to Hell once more. Shadows moved toward their last baneful deed. I did not notice the bridge swayed. I lingered there too long and was no longer alone.
As the sun crested the etched basalt cliffs and caressed the river below, I turned my view toward the shore. There he stood, only feet from me, his shape carved wraithlike from the light. Sweat secreted from my armpits, despite the cold. I shoved my hands into them as I hugged my body. My breath steamed as I panted. I looked around for somebody, anybody, but it was just he and I. I should have known better. Nobody helped me before and nobody would help me now.
He lowered his head, like a predator inspecting its prey. Pleasure flashed in those demonic eyes. I turned to run back to the cloak of the forest. He closed in on me. He swooped low and lifted me by the legs, propelling me stomach first on the bridge ledge. I landed and wheezed, unable to find enough breath to scream. Splinters drove into my forearms as I scraped across the rough knots of the wooden surface. I stared down at the torrential river. Without a word, he thrust my legs over my head and launched me from the sanctuary of the bridge. My head struck a metal support with a clang, like a church bell heralding in the saints and warding off the damned.
I plunged into the icy river just between two boulders. Cold pierced my skin, rendering me immobile under the pressure of the eddy, as though entombed in an iron maiden. The wrath of the undertow pulled me deeper into the water’s catacombs. An undercurrent pushed me violently, hurling my body against crags that lay along the riverbed. A sudden ache in my lungs begged for air. I fought the urge to inhale. The force of the rapids pushed my head above the surface long enough to take in a short breath as I headed toward a maelstrom.
A cluster of boulders, fallen from above, supported each other against the flux of the river. At the river floor, a meager amount of water jetted from a small crack between the stone walls. This created a dangerous whirlpool in the rocks, which engulfed and stripped fallen trees. Jostled in the agitation, twisting and swirling around, the rapids launched me against the tallest of the rocks.
Gripping the jagged boulder with one hand, I lifted the other and attempted to brace against the slippery wall. Diluted blood trickled down my extended arm as I groped for any fissure to hold. The constant roaring of the river deafened me. I mustered all my energy in one last reach, my body tight against the rock as the water beckoned for my return. A whisper escaped my lips, sent forth for divine intervention, imploring my tired body to fight; one final plea of my soul that was not ready to die … “Please.”
Chapter II - The Queen of Cups
The super moon traveled in line with the earth, eclipsing the light of the sun and shrouding itself in a blood red shadow. Planets danced in darkness for a moment. The veil between the world of the living and the realm of the dead thinned to a transparent vapor and psychic energy peaked. Evil emerged, hungry for this nexus of power.
Three women united by their gift of fortunetelling. Kim, the astromancer with her charts; Bryn, the tassomancer with her tea leaves; and Mimi, the cartomancer with her tarot cards, sat with their hands joined at a circular table. Candles flickered and danced, casting yellow fingers into the back corners of the room.
The Wyrd Sisters divination circle sought a killer. For the past two years, in March, police discovered a murdered woman. Both women had a ritualistic tattoo of an eye image. It was March again.
“With this magical boost from the planets, we can use our abilities to aid the investigation,” said Mimi.
All their ominous predictions led up to this single night. A paradigm shift would reshape their group and force their secrets from the dark places they kept them.
Psychic, paranormal, and transcendental philosophies were not welcome in the city of Spokane. The police captain fueled discrimination against those who practiced divination or witchcraft through his comments to the media. They could not compromise their future while trying to divine it. Secrecy was essential to their group.
On a piece of paper, Mimi drew a circle with an upside down triangle inside and an eye in the center. Next, she drew two brackets on the sides of the circle. “We need to discover the significance of this symbol.”
They each picked up their chosen mantic tool. The teapot on the stove whistled its boil. Bryn left her cane on the chair and limped the two steps from the dining table to the kitchen. “I think chamomile for tonight.” Bryn had placed several muslin bags of dried plants on the counter earlier. “Let’s see if romance is in the future for either of you.” She added dabs and pinches of rose petals to the brewing chamomile tea.
“We seek answers deeper than the heart,” Mimi said as she shuffled her tarot cards.
A rush of cool air whisked by the group, creating goose bumps on flesh. Kim tossed her charts on the table. “Did you sense that? Did you feel the energy shift? It’s happening. The Super Moon eclipse and the planetary alignment of Uranus in Aries square to Pluto in Capricorn.”
Bryn placed a teacup and saucer in front of Kim, her long auburn hair falling over her shoulders as she leaned. “English for those of us who don’t speak nerd.”
“Uranus square Pluto will be in effect for four years, but the number of days for each square in a tight orb lasts for thirty days. This is the first and most powerful orb.”
“That cleared it up,” said Bryn sarcastically, as she offered Mimi a teacup.
Kim raked her hands through her short flaxen hair. “Uranus square Pluto happens every eighty years, but not always those astrological signs. As far as I can tell, it’s the first time this has happened. Add the Super Moon and a lunar eclipse and you have a ménage à trois of chaotic change, on a global level.”
Bryn smiled as she sat in her seat. “Ménage à trois, huh? I don’t like you that way.”
Kim sucked in an impatient breath. “Imagine the actual Wyrd Sisters, The Three Fates spinning their yarn, the wool tightening. Once the scissors cut the strand, all hell will break loose. A collaboration of twisted powers united at once, spreading chaos over the world.”
“That’s still cryptic.” Bryn rubbed her leg, trying to ease the tightness starting at her knee and radiating along her thigh. Her multiple sclerosis worsened with each passing day. She eased her leg onto a spare chair.
Kim moaned and shook her head. “Why do I even try? Uranus is people and Pluto is the establishment. Every individual, starting tonight, is on the apex of change. People will act on their urges, demand justice, break free.”
“Still seems generic.” Bryn leaned toward Mimi. “Are your boys here? Will we wake them?”
“No. They’re at a sleepover.” Mimi picked up her cards and held them between her palms. “Are you able to stay late, I know how Nathan is about these things.”
“I’m all set to be here for the entire eclipse,” Bryn answered.
Mimi, no longer engrossed with her tarot cards, raised her hands to signal an end to the topic and chanted, “By North, East, South, and West, our circle is set.” She cut the cards. Three piles rearranged into a single stack. A ten-card spread of her own design. She drew the top card and sucked in her breath. An image of an owl over a river represented death. “The Spirits sent their messenger of death and rebirth.”
She turned another card. The Queen of Cups Reversed moved into the present position. “She arrives. The connection to solving the murders.” On the card, the Queen held a golden chalice as she walked across a river stepping on protruding boulders.
The shadow of the earth began its march across the moon. Mimi gazed out the window and set her cards aside. “Blood on the Moon begins. A full moon and dark moon in a single evening.”
From beneath the table, Mimi gripped a fabric wrapped rectangle. “I found a treasure at a yard sale that may help us tap into the moon’s energy and answer our questions.” She unwound the cloth to reveal a wooden spirit board.
Kim pushed back on the chair’s hind legs, as if to escape the box. “A wee gee board? No way am I doing that!”
Mimi raised an eyebrow. “The term is Ouija, and that’s not what this is. I don’t see the big deal. Growing up, we always had one in the parlor room.” Mimi laid the spirit board on the table. “I feel certain chaos is at our doorstep. You know what happens in three days.”
Kim snorted. “The Ides of March? Come on. I’m not part of the Roman Religious Order. I don’t believe in the Ides.”
Kim preferred the scientific method of astrology, with centuries of studies. How can Mimi be so nonchalant about the Wee Gee Board and so sure Caesar’s soothsayer had a divine connection? Kim was uncertain if Mimi’s superstitions came from Creole upbringing or her own vivid imagination.
Mimi cleared her throat and looked at Kim. “I thought you would like it. It has more than a standard Ouija board. This is handmade and lists planets, astrology symbols, and other complete words written on it. We don’t have to wait while the spirits to spell it out letter by letter.” Kim bit her lip as Mimi added, “Two women are dead, murdered. If what you say astrologically is true, there could be another victim. We can’t do this without your energy.” Kim did not say a word, but as her shoulders fell, Mimi knew she had won.
Arranged upon the table, the navy cloth that held the board showed small stars and crescent moons. In the center, surrounded by their entwined hands, lay the spirit board. On top was the planchette made of clear glass.
“Are we ready?” Mimi asked, tightening her grip on Kim and Bryn’s hands. “We are one with the sisters three, Is, Was, and Shall Be.” The women chanted, their focus on the center of their circle. The mantra accelerated. Psychic energy pulsed in the women’s hands as the cone of power raised from their sphere. They released their grip as they thrust their hands in the air and released the pent up energy in a single burst.
Their gaze fell on the glass planchette as they reached forward and each rested her index and middle finger on the cold surface.
“Tell us what this Blood Moon means.” Mimi ordered. The planchette moved across the board. Moon-Give-2-Gemini. Just as quick as it had moved, the planchette returned to rest in the center.
The three women exchanged glances. Kim reached for their journal, a purple covered leather book that held a long record of their sessions. The Tree of Wyrd on the cover, a sacred rune of the sisters three. She removed the pen clipped to the binding and recorded the planchette’s ambiguous message.
“What does it mean?” Bryn asked Kim.
Kim shrugged. “The full moon in Gemini is in November, but that’s eight months from now—not two. If the two represents months, then it must mean the new moon, which is in Gemini in May. Gemini is also the sign of duality that might explain the two.” She shrugged again. “It’s hard to interpret.”
The planchette moved under its own power while the group watched in silence. Moon-Give-2-Gemini, it repeated.
Kim scowled at the board. She jabbed at the words she just wrote. “Use the letters to spell it out! I don’t know what this means.”
The planchette moved again. NO.
Kim threw up her hands in disgust, sending the journal and pen flying behind her. “You’re making me crazy!”
Bryn smiled and turned to Mimi. “The skeptic is yelling at the spirit board.”
Mimi grabbed at her stomach with one hand and lurched forward, her other hand against her temple. She closed her eyes as her breathing slowed, then slumped in her chair, as though she fainted. Kim reached out a hand to her as Mimi’s head tilted back. A low moan escaped her mouth.
Bryn and Kim looked at each other then back at Mimi. Kim pulled back as though Mimi was contagious. Bryn scrambled to gather the pen and journal from the floor while Kim gaped at Mimi.
Mimi inhaled deep, then spoke in a raspy, vodka and cigarette voice that delivered an icy thickness to the air within the protective circle. “Now is the coming of the dark-haired women. One is fallen from the sky. All that was will be broken. One of the group shall die. In the dark, light is revealed. The truth will encumber. All beloveds shall be healed when Gemini is asunder.”
Mimi slumped in her chair. Her eyes no longer appeared as though she was in pain. She looked peaceful, almost sleeping.
Bryn, on her knees, wrote each word. When she finished, she crawled toward her cane and pulled herself upright. She reached a tentative hand toward Mimi.
Mimi came back to herself, her body filling with life again. She sat up and opened her eyes. Dazed, she spied Kim and Bryn through a fog. Bryn sat at the table and pushed a teacup toward her. “Welcome back.”
Mimi smiled weakly. “That was weird. I heard this voice, and it was coming from me, but it was not me, and … oh man. You write that down?” She sipped at her tea. “I think we should put this board away for now and I’ll just use my cards.”
Kim stood and returned to her seat. She read and reread the prophecy. Like a fallen angel? How does one fall from the sky? Someone will die? Who? When? Why? She chewed on the pen cap. How can Gemini be ‘asunder’? The twins broken apart?
Bryn broke the silence. She turned to Kim. “How does that align with Moon-Give-2-Gemini?”
“I must analyze this against the ephemeris. This astrological square is four years long, with seven tight nodes scheduled.”
“Yes. Let’s read the leaves and tarot to see if we can connect the messages,” said Bryn.
Mimi turned the cards and stopped when she came upon the Queen of Swords. “There is another.” They looked at Mimi.
“Another what?” Bryn and Kim asked in unison.
“Dark-haired woman. There are two coming.” Mimi responded turning several more cards. “Now a shift will happen for us, The Wyrd Sisters.”
Kim gulped. “All three of us?” she asked.
“Yes. See the Three of Cups here?” Mimi nudged a card with her umber toned finger. “The image of three ladies with their glasses raised, the full moon in the background. This is us. Our paths will cross with these two women.” Mimi pointed to the Queen of Swords Reversed and Queen of Cups Reversed. “And when that happens …”
“One of the group shall die,” said Kim.
Mimi shook her head. “We’ll better understand the prophecy once we meet these women.”
The Queen of Cups companion cards were the Ten of Swords, the Six of Swords, and The Fool. The Ten of Swords depicted a person lying dead on a riverbank, stabbed in the back by ten swords. The Six of Swords was a cloaked figure crossing a river on a boat pierced by six swords. The Fool, about to walk off a cliff, with a path just underneath him that led to mist in the distance. “The Queen of Cups has endured pain and cried much. Crossing over water, which is an emotional journey, she comes to a new beginning.”
“And we will meet her?” Bryn asked.
“That is not all. There are two women coming, remember. Here is the other one.” She pointed to the Queen of Swords who sat on a throne of storm clouds, sword held high, and her pointed crown. “The Queen of Swords reversed is a malicious and deceitful woman.”
The Queen of Swords companion cards were The Moon, the Ace of Pentacles Reversed, and the King of Swords reversed. “This woman is mysterious and secretive.” Mimi pointed to The Moon with its mist over a river and guardians on both sides. A full moon sat low in the background.
“She is greedy or gets her money in an evil way.” Mimi pointed to the Ace of Pentacles Reversed. Wooden sticks tied to make a pentagram, which hung over a bountiful harvest.
“There is an abusive man here.” Mimi pointed to The King of Swords Reversed. “Whether he is the cause or a symptom, I cannot tell.” The King of Swords wielded a sword with both hands, bracing for battle, with birds of prey circling.
Bryn knit her brows. “So,” she said curtly, “we have a lying woman who is secretive and greedy coming to tea with us?”
Mimi sighed placing her hand on her tarot deck. “No. The three cards under her are her story, but the Queen of Cups is who she is.”
Kim, observing the reading, unsure of the reality of what transpired, whispered, “Until we understand this, we must not associate with any dark-haired women.”
“The Queen of Cups is coming, and she brings with her The Queen of Swords. You cannot change fate,” insisted Mimi.
“Why not?” asked Kim.
Bryn smiled and answered, “If we believed we could, we wouldn’t be Wyrd.”
Chapter III - There Was Nothing
“Central, we have a 10-52. Send medics to transport patient to the hospital.”
There was nothing. Light shone around her as she floated in the emptiness. She experienced a calm she had not known since early childhood. A shadow appeared, rupturing the light. Small, then larger, a winged bird of prey with talons lowered. An owl, the companion of Death. The bird screeched as he merged with her. She saw in all directions, but did not have wings. Falling, falling, falling … she descended toward water.
“She’s not responding.”
The bow of the black kayak cut through the reflective water, leaving a fingerprint of ripples in its wake. The paddle was an extension of her arms, the rhythm meditative. She was one with the harmony of nature.
In front was her companion for this journey. His camouflaged kayak with two fishing poles leaned against the back of the seat. His life jacket a smoldering charcoal contrasted over his olive green flannel shirt and fishing hat, which he pulled low, shielding his face. They were the only crafts on the water. They paddled in unison. One, two, three, four, five, rest.
“Blood pressure 48 over 35.”
Mirror-like water reflected the tawny, tall grasses and shrubs along the shore and the barren trees not yet showing the promise of spring. They remained close to the riverbank, coasting under the tunnels formed by naked branches of sideways growing trees.
The banks were clay and showed signs of erosion. Beyond the trees were desolate, rolling dusty hills dotted with sagebrush, like itchy, dry chilblains on soft skin. Behind lay jagged mountains with remnants of snow clinging to their tops.
“Heart rate’s 30.”
The sun, barely risen, hid behind a paint stroke of gray clouds and provided just enough warmth to erase traces of breath. Her fingers numb, her body shivered with cold. Her eyes watered and tears rolled down her stinging cheeks. Pulling her knitted cap lower with one hand, she lowered her chin into her neck. Her ebony life jacket, worn over a wool sweater, blended with the shadows cast by the trees.
“Hypothermia’s setting in.”
A long, vibrating squawk from a bird at a distance beckoned spring to rise from its slumber.
“Breaths per minute—six.”
She looked to the left but her companion was gone.
The wind intensified. There was a roar of rushing rapids. The water became choppy and jostled the kayak. This can’t be right. This is a lake. It doesn’t have heavy water. A river does. Yet, there she was, amidst rocks and waves. The spray bubbled and churned. The roar filled her ears. Did I miss the access point? What will he do if I keep him waiting?
She heard a voice in the wind. “Can you hear me? Hello?”
She looked but could not find him.
“She’s in shock.”
Unable to locate her companion, she understood she had to brave the water alone. She braced herself. The bow dipped, soaking her lower body in the icy water, and popped back up, splashing her chest and face. Her eyes widened as she sucked in air.
Follow the deepest channel. Stay in the V. Always keep an active paddle in the water. Use the paddle like a rudder. Wave after wave thrashed the kayak, making the bow bob like a cork.
She leaned and forced the kayak to dodge rocks sticking out of the river. She strained to keep her balance. Her heart dropped into her churning stomach as she looked ahead toward a whirlpool. No. No. No. She could not continue much longer. She needed an eddy behind a boulder, anywhere with a spot of calm water to regroup and plan.
Her upriver side tilted as though being pushed down. No! Lean downriver and lift the upriver side. If her weight did not shift to the correct side, she would capsize. She needed to paddle hard against the waves turning her to the side. As she tightened her grip on the paddle, she found her fingernails digging into her palms. She looked at her hands. No paddle. No gloves.
“She stopped breathing. We need to intubate.”
Her kayak tilted and glided aground. She hit a rock with her sternum. She groaned at the burning sensation. Falling backward, the kayak heaved her from its embrace. Now she was at the water’s mercy. The current tossed her about. Where is my lifejacket? I never kayak without one. Her head throbbed. Did I hit it on a rock?
An undercurrent caught her foot and pulled her under. Sharp pain entered her throat and lungs. There was pressure on her chest. She needed to breathe. The water forced its way into her lungs with the rhythm of the current’s roar.
She tried to gasp or cough. She wanted to move her arms, kick her legs, but the pressure of the water tied her body rigid and straight.
“Keep her cold and give her a sedative.”
She stared at diaphanous beams of light. As they drew lucent lines from surface to riverbed, they reached for her. Once enclosed in the brilliance, her body aglow, she knew peace and released her spirit. It’s finally over.
The bright light shining from the surface faded. The bird’s call turned into a shrill harpy scream.
There was nothing, no light, no warmth, only a void. A constant and tedious ringing was the only sound she heard. Frozen, she was unable to move.
A gloved hand pried her eyes open after which a bright light flashed back and forth. A man with a mask over his nose and mouth peered at her and his voice was garbled as though he were underwater. “Do you know your name?”
Her throat was scratchy when she swallowed, as though nettles dammed up her airway. She licked her chapped lips and managed a faint whisper, “Valena.”
Darkness crept in from the edges and surrounded her again.