"So, what does that mean?" Celine asked exasperated at the cryptic Email message her lover received. The blonde she was sitting next to was busy typing, or more like pounding on the key board.
"Hm," Darcy continued typing, determined to finish her thought before translating the obscure Email for the impatient artist.
Celine sighed heavily, indicating that she agreed to let Darcy finish her internet chat.
"Okay!" Celine declared when the enter key sent the reply back.
"Okay," Darcy agreed and logged off the internet. "This is what I see…your friend Gail has been unknowingly supporting a group of crooks. When she stopped payments…they sent an agent to convince her they were worth her support."
"Darcy, I don't want the short-hand version."
Darcy grinned at her, reaching over for Celine's hand, their fingers intertwining.
"What's going on?" she asked again, leaning over to place a kiss on Darcy's cheek, adding in a softer tone, "and I want the details."
"Okay, a longer version…Gail's accountant and his boyfriend, her business manager, have been funneling company profits into miscellaneous accounts. Then about two years ago, for reasons she does not know, she took on a business partner…Ben number one. He and his accountant began to award themselves CEO perks. When a company check to an important customer bounced the big NSF, Ben, his accountant, and Gail's team were squaring off. Gail was out of town under the guise of a vacation while in reality, she was looking to start another business sans business partner, and was not aware of what was going on. Whatever the four settled on was never mentioned to Gail, but Ben number two's rendezvous was the result. Her lawyers have her lying low until they figure out who Ben number two was working with. Those bank robbers that ran you two off the road were just another happening in your lives."
"Gawds! I'm tired just hearing it. So, that concludes all past business. No more people looking for me because the FBI has enough evidence to not need me to testify, and Gail is busy elsewhere and will not be tempted to try to rescue me from a life she would consider boring."
Darcy laughed and rose from the table, pulling on her cap. She was glad they could finally leave the fear and violence from outside their little haven alone and concentrate on local issues.
"Not too boring, huh?"
"Oh, Darcy. I would not call living with you boring."
"I would. I like the quiet…just minding my own business…working with the kids …shoveling…"
"…horse shit!" Susan finished for her and laughing. "You do not lead a quiet life. Those stories of yours about Crazy Al teaching you about this and that…nawww. I don't think so." Celine picked up one of the boxes with their supplies and Darcy grabbed the dry food for the dogs. They headed out to the jeep where Mandy, Darcy's German Sheppard was socializing with one of Judhith's dogs; the one that could have doubled for a pony.
As Darcy pulled onto the dusty road towards their home, both women tightened their sunglasses on the bridges of their noses and pulled their caps down tighter on their heads. The ride was not on a well maintained road.
"So!" Celine started after the first bump, while grabbing onto the dashboard for better balance. "Who is supposed to be teaching me this stuff you guys practice?"
Darcy laughed heartily, distracting her from the next hole in the road that had both of them sitting off center in their seats. Mandy yelped to let Darcy know she was not happy with her momentary lack of attention to the road.
"Anyone and everyone! You never know…it could be Mandy or some lizard you spot in the desert and then in another moment or even the next day…someone or thing… It's not like we have textbooks and homework...and regular class hours."
Celine looked towards the bespeckled blonde and could feel her heart fill will love for the woman she knew for less than a year. She shook her head to herself, wondering how that could be since she had not been one to believe in such happenings. But then, she did not believe in her weird watercolor paintings either and yet they were sold as soon as they hit the WEB site of galleries that showed her works. She winced at that sore point in her life.
Celine did not want to be involved in the cult following that seemed to have formed around her works. Once she finished the paintings, she did want to see them. Darcy explained that she was channeling them, which was why Celine was not interested in them. To her, they were not painted by her and therefore, she felt as if she were stealing from someone else by taking the money she received for them.
However, the money did give her the opportunity to do what she did want to do… nothing. She had no deadlines and did not feel guilty about sitting and not doing anything more than admire the sun rise or sun set. Even Darcy made no demands on her time. Though, Darcy's moods took some getting used to. Darcy liked silence and time spent alone.
Celine pushed the sunglasses back onto the bridge of her nose. She realized they probably got along so well because she had the same needs…solitude. She looked down at her hand suddenly cognizant that Darcy's fingers were intertwined with hers. They did a lot of that…not realizing that they connected physically until a chance moment when one looked down at her hands.
"Wanna sit in the Jacuzzi tonight?" Celine asked suddenly wanting to stare up at the stars with someone while soaking in warm bubbling water.
"Hmm. Sounds nice," Darcy squeezed her hand and then released it.
The next morning.
"Darcy!" Celine called out from the back steps.
She spotted the tall trainer working with the mare and foal in the corral with Medicine Man, her stallion, watching with interest from his own area. Even the llamas were interested as if Darcy, the dam and her foal were the main attraction, which they were.
Darcy turned to wave at her. She understood Celine to say that breakfast was ready.
Twenty minutes later Mandy happily trotted before her into the mudroom and then into the kitchen where she circled her favorite space and then dropped with a heavy sigh into a tight ball to nap.
"Good morning, hon," she kissed Celine on the cheek and then on her lips when puckered lips turned towards her. The kiss was slow and sensual; however, Darcy's growling stomach brought the kiss to a reluctant halt.
"Hmm. Nice," Celine drew away slowly. "That should hold me until noon," Celine whispered.
"Nice," Darcy agreed with her, running her hands over Celine's back and resting them on her buttocks. "Plan on painting?"
"No. I'll be doing drawings or sketches today. I want to test out my new easel and chair." She paused a moment, thinking about elaborating on what she was really going out there for. "I want to see just what sitting in the middle of nowhere is like."
Darcy knew exactly what she meant, having gone through that particular phase herself. "Don't go anywhere that you don't feel is right and trust in Mandy's instincts, okay?"
Celine turned to look at her surprised. "Okay. So, what do you have planned today?"
"Al will stop at the center and pick up our to-do list." She sniffed at the muffins in the tin without touching them. "Oooh. Banana nut."
"Well, maybe we can reconnect at noon and have lunch together."
"Okay. Let me shower and change and I'll be right back."
When Celine heard the shower turn on she decided she wouldn't mind getting a little wet herself, and went to join Darcy. Water conservation was big in Last Chance.
Celine's wrist was draped over the pommel, with the reins dangling loosely over the creamy yellow neck of Jade, her Arabian mare. The trio, Mandy, Jade and she were enjoying the desert atmosphere while looking for a place that felt right for her to set up her chair and easel. Occasionally her mind would return to the shower she had earlier shared and when she became too distracted from her surroundings Jade's gait would change, bringing her back to the present.
"Now I wonder what that is about?" she muttered. Perched high on Jade's back she could see a shadow covering the ground with nothing nearby to cause it. She nudged Jade over to the phenomena, but Jade abruptly sidestepped away from the area.
"Hey, wait a minute!" she grabbed the saddle horn with both hands to keep from losing her seat, dropping the reins on the mare's neck. When she had her balance back she leaned forward to pick up the reins that somehow managed to work their way up behind Jade's ears that were laid back. Jade continued to move away, bouncing her uncomfortably in the saddle. Mandy's nervous trotting back and forth as if herding the mare to move faster away from the area was aggravating Celine. She was the one that should be making the decisions on where to go.
Jade tossed her head and stretched her neck, yanking the reins out of Celine's fingers.
"Stop it! What's the matter with you two?"
Finally the mare stopped her antics and stood still, a good distance from the spot that intrigued Celine. She pulled at the reins to direct Jade back towards the shadow but the mare remained still as if frozen, her head not even turning when Celine tugged on the reins in frustration.
"Doggone it! I'm the driver!" she declared exasperated. Angry, she slid off the mare's back and started to walk towards where she thought the shadow was. Shading her eyes, she noted it was different now that she was on the ground. It was…strange. She moved further away from her companions…and then she felt it strongly. A low growling came from behind her, momentarily distracting her. Turning slightly, expecting to see Mandy, her heart pounded faster when there was no Mandy. There was nothing. Frightened her eyes looked to the right and left for horse and dog. They were further away then what she had thought she had walked and not in the direction she had thought she came from. Mandy looked like she was barking but Celine did not hear her. In fact, sounds were different…and so were the colors.
"Celine!" a familiar voice called.
Celine turned to her right and could see Darcy standing with her hand held out to her.
Lethargy set in, making it difficult to think or move freely. Celine could feel her heart thudding against her chest wall slowly.
"Celine, take my hand. We need to leave. Now," Darcy commanded.
Celine moved a foot forward and then the other.
"That's it, Celine. Come this way," Darcy's voice encouraged.
Celine paused to catch her breath. Those two steps felt like she had run a great distance.
"You must move out of this place. Keep moving. Now!" Darcy's voice ordered.
Celine looked for her companions as an anchor and did not see either animal. Alarmed she turned around slowly, looking for anything that was familiar.
Okay, don't look for the familiar in the unfamiliar. Like, I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore, she told herself mockingly in an effort to fight the terror that was trying to translate into numbness.
"Go past your fear! Fear brings confusion…work your way through it. You can create your way," Darcy's voice whispered close to her ear.
A bark from somewhere in front of her reminded her of Mandy. Her affection for the German Sheppard changed her mood. The impetus to go past the sluggishness that weighted down on her like a blanket was the image of a hatchet blade smoothly falling; the sharp edge cutting the gray blanket away. After the fourth footstep the landscape changed as if she walked over an unseen threshold.
Before her the familiar desert spread out before her. On shaky legs she sprinted the rest of the distance to Jade and Mandy. She wrapped her arms around the warm neck of Jade, and then reached down to curl her fingers in the familiar neck hairs of Mandy, who rewarded her by licking her hand.
Celine's head lifted when it occurred to her that beneath her feet the ground was shaking. From a distance she could see someone riding towards them; a dust cloud behind the figure gave her the idea that the rider was moving fast.
It was Medicine Man with Darcy, leaning forward in the saddle. As he slid to a stop a yard from Celine, Darcy was off his back and beside her, looking concerned. Celine slid into her arms, shaking so much her legs nearly gave out. A dust cloud their arrival caused settled over them. Darcy gave Celine only a few seconds before she half carried and half dragged her further away.
"Are you alright? Didn't you notice the animals don't like it around here? You need to trust them!" Darcy reminded her, stepping over the uneven ground with Celine stumbling to keep up.
Darcy's tone of voice annoyed Celine. She was also irritated because Darcy was right. Celine attempted to pull away from Darcy's support but could not. The fear that had weakened her legs was leaving and Celine's stumbling was now more from Darcy's pulling her along. She dared not to stop with the horses trailing so close. They were nearly walking on their heels.
When Darcy finally halted she dropped the reins from Medicine Man and turned to face Celine, finally letting her elbow go. She took an exaggerated deep breath through her nose, and while excelling her breath through her nose, shook out her hands and flipped her wrists, and then repeated the breath; this time shaking out each leg, and flipping each foot at the ankle. She nodded for Celine to follow her example.
Feeling out of sorts and crabby, and it was not from PMS, Celine grumpily did as she was shown.
"Do it again. Think of moving clean energy into your body and the bad out," Darcy instructed.
Impatiently, Celine did it again, finding it difficult to imagine moving anything. However, after the fourth try she could picture drawing in white energy through her head. With a deep breath, she imaged the light moving down to her dien tien, and then expelling it out through her finger tips, and then shaking them out. She repeated it for each leg, feeling better with each shake.
"Good, now move your head to the left, taking in breath and releasing it as you move to the right. Again…again. How do you feel?" she asked in a soft voice.
Celine stepped into Darcy, who reflexively opened her arms and gave her a heartfelt hug.
"Gawds! I didn't realize how strange it all was until now," she groaned with her voice muffled in Darcy's shirt. Suddenly Celine pulled away, wrinkling her nose. "A mite ripe. What were you doing with Al? Running in the desert?"
"Setting up a wind tower…hanging from it actually."
Celine's face shaded red realizing she had not only not paid attention to her surroundings after Darcy had warned her to, but she probably had scared Darcy nearly to death and while she was high up on the tower. "I'm sorry, Darcy. I wasn't expecting… Hey! How did you know I was in trouble?"
"Tell me what happened."
"I…just wasn't paying attention. I mean…" She frowned as she tried to remember just what she was doing. "I was looking for a spot to sit and meditate." Celine cleared her throat feeling very embarrassed. "Anyway…from on top of Jade's back I could see this one spot. It was shadowed, yet there was no reason for it to be dark like it was. Oh, gawds!" she groaned. "I really can't believe I wanted to go and look at it. Me, milkweed, the coward herself."
"Stop insulting yourself," Darcy told her softly. "Mount up and let's get away from here."
"I hadn't realized some power spots can move around," Celine mentioned as she glanced back and could not see anything of what she had seen earlier.
"It's about noon…unless you want to explore some more…"
Celine shook her head. "I think I've had enough of experiencing the mysteries of the desert for one day. Darcy, was that a power place?"
"Not one that I'm familiar with…if it is. I think that was something else."
"Is Last Chance more than just a place for people dying?"
Darcy gave a short laugh.
"Okay. Let me reframe that. Is the hospice the only thing LC is about?"
"Nope. Each of us came here for different reasons, but we all are staying for similar reasons…we feel comfortable. Take Al… He was dirt bike riding and ran out of gas. He said when he walked to find someone to give him a lift to get gas…he felt as if he came home. He's a dowser; he finds energy spots that we haven't been able to measure but is noticeably there. He's taught some of us to also feel the difference of these places." Darcy held her hand out, palm down, "My palm can feel a slight change in the air…it can be a temperature change or something else that my brain just registers as…different."
"And you're sure it's not the power of suggestion."
Darcy smiled. "I'm not asking you to believe something you don't want to believe. You have enough on your plate to get used to and learn about. I'm merely introducing you to the idea that there is a lot we don't know about but is within our grasp to experience."
"So, just keep a bag packed and be ready, huh?"
"No baggage allowed. Just be ready," Darcy grinned.
Two days later Celine finished her paint project and went in search of Darcy. She felt lonely and wanted company for lunch.
Celine could see the kite in the distance and that was where she headed. Jade responded to her body queues to change direction and went into an easy rocking canter. Jade was Celine's gift to herself when she attended her first horse auction. Celine purchased her because she was being sold to the meat market and though she looked old and beaten on the outside, her eyes showed too much life to have it end there.
Five figures began to take shape as she neared Darcy's truck. They were measuring wind velocity and temperature at various heights to see how tall the permanent wind tower would be. Right now they had a micro turbine on the present tower, which cost the same as a recording anemometer. They were determining that if the small windmill produced enough kilowatts they would consider installing a larger windmill and move this smaller one to another potential tower spot.
The group looked up when Mandy, who always accompanied Celine, rushed up to Darcy to get a thumping pat on her side. They gave a brief wave to Celine and returned their attention to the laptop that was no doubt doing the most work on figuring out the air density, speed and best power the windmill was churning at. Occasionally they would look up at the kite and the flags that flapped at different heights on the kite string and then compare it with what the windmill was recording.
Celine dismounted from Jade and clipped the lead on her halter and than to the truck's tailgate where James and Jim's mounts were waiting patiently for their owners to finish their work.
"Hi," Celine laid a hand on Darcy's back as she bent over the laptop that James was typing in commands on.
Darcy turned to give her a tender peck on her cheek and then slid an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. Everyone watched as the screen started to fill up with equations and then the translations on the bottom of the screen.
"The stats say here is the best for our buck," James translated for the others.
"Well, next meeting we'll present the information and see what the others think," Morgan, their resident electrician nodded to the others and started to pack up. The others followed suit, dragging the kite down, collecting the measurement devices, chairs and cooler, storing them in the back of Darcy's truck.
"Morgan, where are you headed? Need a lift?" Darcy offered, hoping he would grab a ride back with the twins by way of horse back.
"Gotta go out to Harrington's place. Said they may have had a visit by the vandal. Neither wants to climb up on the pole to have a look at why the blades aren't turning."
"You'll need the griphoist," Jack mentioned.
"Yep. No doubt," James nodded.
"Where is it now?" Darcy asked, knowing she would have to pick it up.
"Out at Cole's place. He said he was going to replace his damaged one today with his new one. 'Bout time."
"Who will be out there?"
"Ah, I think only Crazy Al. He wanted to check out the place to see if the vandal left any tracks."
Darcy nodded. Darcy looked over at Celine. "You out for a general ride or need something now?"
"I thought maybe we could have lunch together and then take my paintings over to the store."
"How many?" James asked curious. So far Celine had been painting in groups of seven and eleven and since Celine denied she knew of this consciously both twins were curious about the symbolic use of the numbers.
Celine laughed. "Thirteen. Do you think that means something?"
"Oh, don't ask those two now. We'll never get outta here," Morgan admonished seriously.
"Checking out the turbine will probably take the rest of the day," Darcy informed her. She was disappointed in the work that was taking her away from her own place. It did not happen often otherwise she would be putting her booted foot down.
"Judhith and Ellen were over earlier. Ellen to see if you can come over and fix the hole in their trailer and Judhith to check on your kids. She said one of your llama's is about to have a calf."
Darcy looked surprised. "Really? That will be a first. I've had that pair for three years and they never showed that kind of interest in each other."
"Well…she has some ideas on that." She undid Jade's tie and looped it over her arm as the guys did the same to let Darcy put up her tailgate.
"Okay. Morgan let's get going. We'll stop at Cole's and see if they're finished with the griphoist and then we'll haul it over to Harrington's." She paused to give Celine a kiss on her lips and turned back to the truck's tailgate, locking it in place.
"Can we stop over and see your work?" Jack asked.
"Sure, only you don't have to tell me what you think," she hinted.
The twins smiled and mounted their horses, joining Jade and her rider as they headed back towards Darcy's ranch. Mandy was leading the way in a lope, staying ahead of the dust the horses created.
It was February and the weather went from hot to cold rapidly as the sun went down. It was still officially winter so not all days were warm and cloudless. However, both the solar and wind provided plenty of energy, that was stored in batteries used for heating, pumping water, and lights. Neither Celine nor Darcy listened to the radio often and Darcy did not have a television…or so Celine thought, so battery energy was not spent on such leisure practices. Darcy did have a nice stereo system but it was not used often. It was through this silence Celine learned that there were other sounds and these she found peace in.
As Celine cleaned the last dish from lunch with the twins, Doc Ellen and George, she thought of her visitors. Doc looked tired and George was fussier than he usually was. His mental state was worse than a week ago. She wondered if Doc realized that. However, she reminded herself, James and Jack noted it and would bring it up to Dr. John at the hospice. The community was sensitive to all it's members, supporting them physically and in thought.
A pair of truck lights swung into the driveway and rolled into the garage where an old jeep and a dirt bike were also stored. Smiling, Celine wiped her hands on a damp dish towel and ran out to the garage with Mandy trotting happily beside her just as excited to see Darcy.
"Hi!" she greeted the tired looking woman as she slid out of the truck, pulling a box with her.
Darcy leaned down and kissed Celine. "Hi. How's everyone?" She swung the box out and dumped it on top of her uncluttered workbench.
"We're happy now that you're back," she told her wrapping her arms around Darcy's waist and hugging her when she turned back from the bench.
Darcy returned the hug holding on tight.
"We've got trouble, huh?" Celine asked in a muffled voice. Her nose curled from the ripe smell of Darcy's cloths. "You have got to change and take a bath before I give ya another big hug. That was just an incentive."
"Hm. Let me check up on the kids and then I would like nothing better than to shower and soak in a nice hot Jacuzzi with company."
"I would go and prepare all that…but it's already done." She tugged Darcy to walk with her to the barn. "What's in the box?"
"The remains of Cole's windmill. Morgan didn't have room on his work bench for both. I told Crazy Al I would keep Cole's parts here so when he's ready he can come over and take a look. One of them looks like the bullet didn't go out the other side. He and Slinker are out at Cole's with a metal detector looking for the remains of what went though his."
The two women and a happy dog walked into the barn. Horses nickered and one of the lamas came over to see Darcy. The light in the barn came on but it was red so as not to kill their night vision and not bright enough to disturb the occupants. Medicine Man did not like to come into the barn unless it was really cold so they visited him last in the corral. He was given a rub on his neck right where he liked it best before Darcy left.
"So, how was your day?" Darcy asked as they entered the mudroom.
"The twins spared me their psycho babble on the paintings, but I think they were kept busy with George."
"Not getting any better?"
"From my perspective, no. He spent most of his time standing in front of one of my paintings and just stared. Ellen looked really tired. James walked her and George back to their place. He said he would fix the draft Ellen was talking about. When he returned he said it looked like someone…taller then Ellen but about George's size, punched the hole in the wall with a hammer."
Darcy frowned. "A hammer."
"Uh huh. One of those that have both ends rounded…a small one. Which is what the twins are worried about. They're going to confer with some specialists on dementia or whatever they think George is suffering from, and see if Ellen's safety is something to worry about."
"He's suffering?" Darcy asked in surprise.
"No. I think Doc Ellen is suffering."
"We have a strong community here to support her."
Both sank gratefully in the warm bubbling waters of the Jacuzzi that was built into the deck that was outside of Darcy's bedroom. Their legs entangled and the sensuousness of the moment built up to a nice buzz in some parts of their bodies. Above them was the night display of stars dramatically spread out above them against a black backdrop. It was breathtaking and erotic in a fashion that Celine could not understand why.
"Would you like a massage?" Celine asked softly, not wanting to break the spell.
"I would love one." Darcy leaned over and cupped Celine's face and kissed her gently at first and then roughly as both responded to the need.
"Come-on," Celine broke the lip lock and tugged at Darcy to get out of the tub. "I want to massage you."
"How about later…"
"No. Do I have to tie you down to get you to let me give you one?" Celine laughed at Darcy's raised eyebrows.
"No, but why can't I first play with you?" she wheedled.
"We'll both fall asleep before it's my turn." She playfully bit Darcy's knuckle and then sucked the mark.
"Ouch, you teaser," she groaned and pulled them into her bedroom.
Celine pulled out the massage oil that was in the side drawer while Darcy went to get the towel. When Darcy flopped herself onto the bed Celine could tell she would probably be asleep before she finished the backs of her legs.
Celine straddled Darcy's back, sitting on her butt and relishing in the heat from her. She almost succumbed to giving her a sensuous massage. Celine watched as her hands moved over the muscular shoulders, smoothing the oil over the scared back. She was careful to not dig too deeply, intending on relaxing and not waking her up.
"Deeper, hon," a muffled voice encouraged.
Well, there goes my intention to put her to sleep.
Darcy groaned and made small noises, encouraging Celine to dig her fingers in the sore tight muscles. True to Celine's feel of Darcy's energy level, she fell asleep as she worked on her feet.
While Darcy slept peacefully Celine could not. A compellation to draw images that had been hazy a few weeks ago had not only increased, but now the images were clear. It was not the same feeling she had when she was in trance doing her water colors. While in trance she had no idea what she was painting and on completion did not bother to study them too closely. This compellation was an open eyed need to put images on paper.
All she had to do was draw the images and it would be done.
Resigned Celine slid out of bed. She looked back at Darcy's slumbering form to be sure she did not wake her and gave tender strokes to the two felines that were awake. In the frontroom the moon and stars were shinning through the window giving her enough light to find her pad and box of pencils. Without turning on a light, Celine sat cross-legged on the couch, opening the pad to a blank page. Just like in her trance she did not need to see what she was drawing; her hand moved over the paper knowingly, transposing images in her thoughts that were like they were from a science fiction movie. She kept reminding herself that Darcy had told her not to reference known experiences to moments like these or she would not be able to experience something new. Or more like what Judhith had told her; if you want to meet chaos, you don't bring order.
Celine stopped after the second page was completed. She closed her pad and went back to Darcy's bed to finally get some sleep.
"I have no idea!" Crazy Al told her frustrated. "You tell me! Have you ever seen anything like that?"
They both glared at the pictures he had spread out on the work bench of the different holes made to the windmills, but that was not what Al was referring to.
"No," Darcy told him, but she did not like what he was proposing.
"I tell ya, Slinker seen things like this too. That's three of us!"
Darcy rubbed her forehead confused. "Listen Al, we all walk the stranger side of strange, and do some real different things than most people…but I…"
"I'm saying it like I believe it to be. This is from another dimension or time or whatever you want to call it but it's not from here." Al slammed his open palm on the work bench where one of the pictures laid leaving a palm print on it's face. "And it sure as all hell is real!"
"I can't believe that!" Darcy told him frustrated.
"You couldn't believe your visions. You couldn't believe our…"
"Okay!" she told him angrily. "I see your point." I can't believe I'm losing it like I've never been through this stuff before.
Al paced around the work space wanting more space as he thought about his dream last night. He needed to speak with Celine…"When is Celine getting back?" he asked for the hundredth time.
"I'm back. Hi, Al. Hi, Hon. Did you sleep alright?"
Darcy gave her a hug and a kiss on her cheek. Celine leaned into her and Darcy automatically wrapped her arms around her waist as if to protect her.
"I missed you this morning," Celine told her in a soft voice.
"Hm. One of these days…you'll be getting up early too," Darcy teased.
"We won't go there. So, what's going on?" Celine looked at Crazy Al.
"I had this dream last night…about these strange looking people…and you were in it."
"Strange people…what is strange, Al?" Celine encouraged.
He cleared his throat. "Well, it's nothin' like planet of the apes but…these people don't look like anything I've ever seen."
"Oh," Celine commented in a low voice.
Darcy glared at her, feeling a slight panic, as if nothing she had accomplished for the last four years was remembered. "Oh? Just what is oh and what are you two doing in your dreams?"
"Hon," Celine laughed, "Do you realize how strange that sounds?"
"As strange as you two. What is going on?" she was also referring to herself. She reminded herself to take deep breaths. Step back. Away from the emotional cloud she was engulfed in.
Al patted Darcy on the shoulder. "So, Celine?"
"I didn't have a dream but I had this…urge to draw and it looked like something out of a science fiction scene."
"Ya drew 'em! Well let's have a see!" Al happily waved at them to head over to the house, too confident that whatever three of them had dreamed Celine had put them down on paper. He certainly could not draw nor describe how frightening they were to him.
"These are…people?" Darcy asked doubtfully.
"That's how Slinker said they were. Mine were more like lizard people…"
Celine turned the page to the second drawing.
"Yeah! Now that's mine!"
"So, what do you think this all means?" Celine dared to ask.
"Crazy Al…Al, has this idea that they are from another dimension and are sending us messages."
"Something must be happening on their side of the multiverse or dimension and are either warning us or askin' for help," he told the two women.
"You got that in one dream?"
"No. Well…I've been havin' 'em for 'bout a week," Al admitted.
Celine nodded. "Me too. Last night I finally just…did it."
"Uh huh. A week is about when the vandalizing started," Darcy noted, feeling like the picture was getting bigger.
Al nodded solemnly. "Sounds about right. I think we need to get a meetin' together and see if anyone else has been gettin' dreams like ours and when they started."
"Don't forget to bring them pictures!" he hollered before he let the door slam behind him.
"Don't slam… Damn! He does that on purpose," Darcy muttered.
Celine shifted her weight so that Jade would get closer to Ginger Ale that moved into a trot with Ginger's Pride gamely running beside her dam.
"So…how come you were all calm about my incident in the desert and with this you get freaked out?" Celine asked the silent Darcy.
Darcy watched Ginger's ears twitch, one in her direction and the other in the direction of Pride. Mandy was running ahead, stopping every now and then to look around her. Darcy knew Mandy felt the new energy too.
"Have you read any of Carlos Castaneda's books?"
"No. But I did read your Lynn Andrews and Taisha Abelar books. You would think I would have been better prepared."
"I thought after four years of living here that I was. I used to deny that this stuff exists," she admitted.
"Yeah?" Celine watched Darcy's face, pleased that Darcy was finally sharing something from her past. For some reason, Darcy did not speak of her life before LC.
"Uh huh. I joined the military to escape what I was feeling and seeing, only I was moved into special ops because my tests showed I had what they were looking for."
"And?" Celine encouraged.
"And I got out before I hurt anybody, including myself. Except, I still refused to acknowledge what I dreamed or saw until I ended up in a body cast and a new face…"
"And in Last Chance."
"Yeah. That certainly helped move me out of my stuck position." Darcy started to laugh. "I'm still working at it."
"Are you like a shaman apprentice or something like that?"
Darcy laughed harder this time, causing Ginger Ale to change her gait, almost into a high stepping prance. "Oh, no! Not even. I'm just a student of exploration into whatever this is that I have and to help keep the energy right in LC for the hospice." She sighed. "I don't have any words to describe what it is I do."
Celine watched her brow furrow and then the shrug of her shoulders, imaging what she looked like sitting on a horse naked. Realizing what she thought and the fact that they were talking about something serious almost had her blushing in embarrassment.
Darcy glanced at Celine and grinned as if she knew what Celine was thinking, causing her to blush harder.
"Well, what do you think? Do we need to get in the circle and visit the garden?"
Celine's eyebrows went up, wondering if they were referring to 'her' garden.
Al shook his head as did Doc Ellen.
"I can feel something is different…and thinking about it, since this vandalizing has been going on. I'm sure that's what's affecting George horribly. Until we find out the scope of these energy shifts, I don't think we should be doing any changes with our circles. We don't know if the energy has to do with people, the circles, or both."
Al nodded. "Ya got that right. Slinker's out checking to see just how far this different energy reaches. He's a good dowser."
"Okay, that covers what the next question was going to be," John marked something on his pad. "I would like to add; this energy you all feel is affecting the hospice residents. One of them told Eva the guy wearing the Halloween costume has got to go. Would you mind if I took these pictures over and see if this is what he is seeing?"
"Help yourself," Celine said.
"What time did he see this apparition?" Jack asked John.
"About ten last night."
Celine looked surprised because that was about the time she gave in to draw the pictures.
"Yep. That's about the same time I started my dream," James told the others.
Al nodded and so did the others. Everyone, kept personal diaries with their dreams detailed as much as possible. Dreams were shared at the monthly meetings.
"Okay, we have a time when this aperture between our realities opens," Darcy spoke, looking around the table for any dissenters.
"What about the messages? Nothing violent or any harm is being shown," James mentioned.
"Speak for yerself," Al growled. "I don't call my dreams of those lizard people friendly 'howdy dos'."
"I had one that scared the hell out of me and it was of the lizard people and bird people, but I don't remember the details. The ones I do remember are pretty much just interesting slices out of these people's lives," Jack reported.
"Think they are just letting us know about them," Celine asked, looking worried with the oddness of the conversations.
Darcy and Judhith were the only two in the group that did not report dreams of lizard or bird people, but both could feel the change in energy around Last Chance.
"What about the vandalism? It's not cheap to replace what is damaged," Judhith mentioned. "How is that connected?"
"Now that is an interesting point. Has anyone found any strange holes punched into their belongings besides the four windmills?" Darcy asked. "The windmills are all fifty meters high."
"The trailer keeps getting this hole about two inches in circumference punched right above the northeast corner no matter how many times we plug the darn thing," Doc Ellen reported exasperated. "I'll measure the height when we get back."
"Have you worked out a graph yet of just where all these incidents are occurring?" Darcy asked James.
"The program is chomping on the numbers as we speak," James nodded.
Everyone got up and walked over to the computer near the entrance to the store. Global positioning equations were running across the screen with scatters of some appearing in red, green and yellow.
"The yellow is potential, green is the dreamers, and the red is where the holes are appearing. It's almost done."
As he was saying it the program changed to a topographical map of what Celine thought was Last Chance, placing the colored lines that matched the coordinates and then linking them together. It then chugged some more and did a global mapping of probabilities. Finally the computer stopped.
James sat down and typed in a command. The program went back to the topographical map of LC.
"All of them are part of three hexagons. Almost overlapping but not quite. The vandalism we've had reported are along the red hexagon line. Hold on let me find out who is along here." James typed another command and waited as another picture was pulled up. He then had the hexagon line run again. "Hm. Looks like two lines on the hexagon for the holes. Doc when you get your height of the damage let me know. By the equations it's going to be about…one point eighty-eight meters."
"For you folks still in feet and inches…six feet and a couple of inches," Jack translated.
"Judhith your place runs right there. Did you see any holes in your barn about the height?"
"Nope. But then, I wasn't looking for something that high." She shook her head with a look of vexation. "We did plan out the town so it ran on energy lines we felt were 'right' and for twelve years we haven't had any problems. Maybe it's time to change our alignments." She shook her head. "Gossmer was right. We should be getting mobile homes."
The others shook their head. "Not made of the right material and besides, mobile homes are not really mobile," Megan spoke up. "Maybe it's because we have more people with buildings near these lines than what we originally had. Or, maybe it's always been there but we are only now noticing it."
"Okay, then. Let's figure out what we did that may have changed what we're seeing. Let's start back three weeks ago," John suggested.
"Okay everyone, I want a diary starting from three weeks ago. You have two days to prepare it," James told everyone. "And may I remind you, if you were keeping daily journals, you would not have to be doing all this catching up."
"Gawds, I hate doing those," Judhith complained, as she rose from her chair. "Anyone need a pad?" She left to go to the stationary section of the store.
"Anything else to discuss?" John asked as he made a notation in his notebook.
"Yeah. What are we gonna do about the dreams if they get violent?" Al asked.
"Maybe you're having different dreams because you're a soldier at heart, Al," suggested Darcy.
"How come you're not and Celine is?" Al countered.
"I'm not having dreams…I can't sleep. Also, we're not in any of the hexagon lines. Not even in the yellow. Darcy, how come you settled away from the energy lines?" Celine asked curious.
Everyone started to laugh and chuckle. "It makes her more wired than a pot of java. You don't want her on any energy line. If she needs to she can sit up on the numerous rocks we have set up at the various bisecting lines of energy."
"Is that what those stone circles are about?" Celine asked excitedly.
"Well, anything else anyone thinks we need to focus on?"
"I think we need to figure out why some people have pleasant experiences and some not. It's not arbitrary, I'm sure," Darcy reminded the group. "So, think about what mood you're in before you go to sleep…do you do protection spells or not…are the women menstruating are the men feeling more aggressive that day. You all got the picture? We've got a mystery here and it's group effort that will find answers. No going off by yourselves," she warned.
"Here, here," other voices echoed as if from experience.
"Al?" Darcy asked.
"What?" he asked crankily.
"You and Slinker are not to be going on recon missions without letting us know first and I don't have to remind you of what happened to the last member that did not heed the rules of caution, eh?" James reminded him firmly.
"Well I can't be speaking for Slinker, now can I?"
"He's trying to make contact," Darcy spoke up and the rest echoed the sentiment of what they thought about a loner messing up their town's mission.
"Well…I'm not really sure. He just said he's going out to check the place out and maybe…take advantage of what he finds."
"Slinker hasn't been reviewed by this group!" Judhith objected upset. "We don't know anything about him except he's someone you know and seems to know too much about Last Chance."
"Well…ya got that right…he knows about this place. Said he did an air view of LC and thought we had our circles off," Al admitted. "But he's been into this stuff since he was a kid…I can't exactly lie to him. What good would that do?"
"He was in the seals with you?" Darcy asked.
"Well, no. He was in another special ops group. He hooked up with my group for two different operations but he had another assignment and each time disappeared once we landed. He would always be waiting for us at the rendezvous point. That's how he got his name, Slinker."
Darcy did not like Slinker but it was not from getting bad feelings off him or anything like that. She just did not like him.
"We need to do some cleaning up and strengthen our energy," Judhith told the others firmly.
"Hm. Al, get a hold of Malcom and ask him to take a pass over LC. I want to know if any of the circles have been moved or any added. Have him send them via Email. Guys if anything's changed, give two chimes. I'm gonna go and meditate away from any energy sources. I suggest we all stay away from that until we find out if anything has been changed. Ellen, why don't you and George stay at my place until we get more information?" Darcy's military and police training kicked in. She was concerned about the possibility of a loose canon…Slinker.
Celine was always confused by this group because there never seemed to be a leader and she never knew where the conversations would go, but then, she was still new.
"Yes. I agree with you on that. Let me go pack and George and I will be over in time for dinner." Doc looked over at her husband who was sitting in his chair not doing much of anything else. John had given him a checkup but could not add anything to what Doc Ellen already knew.
Everyone rose to go, picking up their mugs of tea, coffee and water to leave in the dishwasher.
"They can sleep in my room," Celine offered, hoping Darcy would not insist on opening up the second floor. It meant more cleaning and hearing foot steps above her head. It would be too much like living in the city.
"Let's see how much privacy they want," Darcy prodded Ginger Ale into a fast trot not intending on keeping it up for long since the filly had a lot of exercise already.
"I hate the trot. Can't we do a fast walk?" Celine objected.
Obediently, Darcy signaled Ginger into a fast walk. "Sorry. I'm worried about Doc and George. I would rather be helping them move their stuff." She pulled out a cell phone she seldom used. "Jack…No, I was just thinking, do you think one of you can go help Ellen pack? I'm not feeling right about her being alone in her trailer….okay. Thanks." She snapped the lid down and buttoned it back in her coat pocket.
"Al will go over and help them. He's going to measure the height of the hole and get the GP," she informed Celine.
For the rest of the ride they were silent. Celine admired the stars that were beginning to show and snuggled deeper into the folds of her coat.
Darcy was sensing the atmosphere around them. Something had altered the energy flows. She turned to look towards Celine but instead she was distracted by seeing wispy images of things she normally had to meditate to see.
By the time they returned from settling the horses down, Doc Ellen had dinner for them. George had retired to the second floor.
"It's just about one point eighty-eight meters. Not much bigger than what hit the windmills," Al reported to the others, taking quick bites of food between pauses.
"We need to check the circles out tonight," Darcy decided.
"The very thing we told the others not to do," Doc sighed. "I want to go out and check some of the circles myself," Doc lamented, "But I don't want to leave George and I can't take him with me either."
Al and Darcy nodded.
"I can take the three between here and Gus and Peggy's place," Darcy offered.
"I'll look at the four towards my place," he looked at the women and leaned forward. "We need to get it done before ten tonight."
"Yeah. If that's the peak time when everyone gets these messages…I don't want to find myself getting in the way of something I don't understand."
"It's dark out there," Celine pointed out the obvious. "How are you going to find your stone circles?"
"By feel," Doc said simply and the other two nodded.
"Did you feel anything different on the ride back?" Darcy asked patiently.
"No. Well, yeah, the hairs on my arms stood up a few times and sometimes I was getting goose bumps."
"Ah! There ya go! Go with it!" Al encouraged his student.
"That's something? I thought it was because it was cold."
"Well, while you're thinking about it, I'm going to get ready. Al, you be careful and don't be stepping in any circles that don't feel right," Darcy told him as she scraped her leftovers into the composter. She dropped her plate in the dishwasher.
"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself," he reassured her.
"That, dear friend is what I'm afraid is going to get you into something way over your head," Ellen told him sternly. "You've got a lot of students not ready to be on their own."
"Alright, alright. Listen, I've been in some real sticky places…"
"This is not Stargate or some other Sci-Fi show where in the next episode you're back looking none the worse for wear," Darcy disagreed. "You are good…but that is what can be your blind side."
"Alright I said. Women and their damn caution," he muttered as rose to leave.
"We women don't have testosterone that makes us see ourselves larger than we are," Darcy remarked with a grin.
Celine and Doc laughed.
"No, we got something better. Hormones that muddle our cognitive functioning when it's at its peak performance level, so we have ta rely on our static intuition."
Al harrumphed and waved good night.
"Darcy, I'm going too," Celine said as she followed Darcy into her room.
Darcy picked up her gloves, warm coat and hat. "Well then, get dressed into something warm."
Celine met her out in the barn where she was saddling the stallion, Medicine Man. Celine quickly moved into Jade's stall hoping she was not too tired. Without thinking she tied her saddle bags onto the saddle, thinking the snacks she usually had in them may come in handy, if it took a while.
Mandy insisted on coming, which Celine thought must be tired, because she was and she was not doing as much work as her and Jade, trotting or running from one place to another.
"Darcy," she asked softly, "where is the first one?"
"Just relax. Don't concentrate and don't think. Just relax. You'll feel it," she told her confidently.
Actually, Jade's behavior was what gave her an idea they must be near something. Her gait became choppy.
"Yeah. I can feel it. Hold up."
Celine could see Darcy's dark form dismounted Medicine Man who was behaving really well. She felt Darcy hand her the reins.
Darcy was gone for about ten minutes and was back, nearly scaring the bejebees out of Celine because she was staring in one direction and her dark figure appeared somewhere else.
"Come-on. Let's go to the next," she told her softly.
"Darcy? Why are we whispering?"
"I don't want to let anyone know we're here. Someone had changed the pattern and placed some stones I didn't recognize in place of what we normally have there."
"So…what took so long?"
"I was looking for our stones to put them back."
"You found them…in the dark?" she whispered incredulously.
"I told you…it's all energy. Now, be still. I need to relax." Darcy was having second thoughts about letting Celine come along; however, the need to relax pushed any further doubts from her thoughts.
The third circle took longer for Darcy to do whatever she was doing and Celine was about ready to dismount and go look for her when she could hear uneven foot steps heading off to the left of her. She was about to call out when Mandy's growl had Celine swallowing her hail.
The night wind was blowing against her ears, sometimes hiding the sounds of approaching steps. They started again, now to the right of her. Mandy whirled around now growling loudly. Medicine Man was siding against Jade and Jade gave him a nip, which seemed to stop his pushing against them but Celine was frightened. She leaned over her saddle and whispered to Mandy.
"Go find Darcy."
Celine nearly screamed and Jade would have bolted from the sudden squeeze around her midriff had not a gloved hand gentled her, and at the same time, taking Medicine Man's reins.
"Let's go. Follow me and don't get lost," Darcy's voice ordered. "Mandy, home."
"Darcy," Celine whispered. "I heard footsteps on both sides of us."
Darcy did not reply but headed her stallion homeward. The chills running up Celine's arms stopped. Frightened, Celine clung to her saddle, happy that Jade was content to follow Darcy and the stallion.
By the time they reached the barn, Celine's hands were shaking and when she dismounted her knees buckled. Darcy quickly helped her to a hay stack and returned to the horses. It was too late to brush them down, but tomorrow was another day.
"Can you walk?" Darcy asked.
Celine looked at her and nodded.
"Come-on, then." Darcy offered her a hand, pleased the trembling in Celine's hands had stopped.
Ellen was waiting for them in the frontroom. George was sitting in a chair staring into the fire that was merrily burning.
"Good, you're back. It's almost ten. Celine, hon, you look pale. Darcy, girl, so do you. What happened?"
"Restless. If I didn't know better I would say he's near death's door with all the blasted pacing he's been doing. He finally quieted down about five minutes ago, and just stares in the fireplace so I lit a fire."
"I'll be right back," Darcy told them and in about ten minutes returned with a pottery dish that was shallow and contained sand. She placed it in front of the fireplace and then started to pull misshapen objects out of her pocket.
"Is that what you found in the circles?" Celine asked.
"Yeah. They were changing the feel of the circles as well as the patterns. Someone had changed our circles and lines into wavy lines and squares. These were placed between the wavy lines. They also were pointed north and south instead of east and west."
"What did you do to the circles?"
"I put one of those protection lines around each stone circle within the circle. Someone was out there watching us. I should have brought my NV goggles."
"No. This is not the place for their use," Ellen told her firmly. "So, what happened?"
"Nothing until the third. When I attempted to step into the circle it was like running into a stone wall. I bounced back and onto my butt. So, I crawled around it until I found a way in." Darcy closed her eyes for a moment thinking that had she been having this conversation a few years ago, she would have thought she lost it…well, actually she would have not. She would just have worried that someone may hear her talking about it.
"So…what about the footsteps I heard? They were to the right and left of me," Celine asked, worried at what she could not see.
"I don't know…I think something was trying to cross over…maybe using our circles for gates."
Celine's eyes grew big when she thought about the creatures she drew.
"I didn't feel anything malevolent, Celine," Darcy hastened to say.
"What we're doing is slowing whatever is happening down until we know what is going on," Ellen explained.
Celine rubbed her face with her hands, feeling very tired.
George perked up and looked straight at the strange stones in the sand dish. He mumbled something none of them understood or could hear distinctly. He gestured as if speaking to someone and then two minutes later he leaned back into the chair to sleep…snoring loudly.
Celine shook her head at the two women who looked toward her. "I…don't feel any need to draw like I have been. Maybe because I already did what I was asked." Celine placed a hand over her mouth.
"Asked?" three voices spoke in unison.
"Wow," Celine continued. "I never thought about what it was…but, yeah. I can actually say it was like I was being asked to draw the pictures."
"Well…we're back to this idea of the twins that it isn't anything threatening us. Even the holes are above all our heads."
"You know…in Feng Shui they use mirrors to redirect energy," Darcy mentioned. "We have to be careful where we are redirecting it but…it would be interesting to see if it's possible."
"Hm. There's that rock that George has been wanting removed. If we can, why not direct it to the rock."
Celine giggled. "I'm not up on all this strange energy stuff, but besides nothing happening, what if it's not like a laser and the mirror shatters…then you risk seven years of bad luck." Celine broke into giggles again and had to work on not sounding crazy because she really thought she was amongst crazies and she one of them.
"Everything sounds crazy when it's first thought of." Darcy glanced towards George. "You sleep with that racket?"
"It's not always that loud. If it's bothersome I just get up and sleep in another room…as far away as possible. It's easier than waking him and he just gets cranky if I keep waking him…and so do I for being kept awake."
"Ah. Well, I'm beat." Darcy rose and Celine followed.
"Darcy?" Celine murmured early in the predawn hours, knowing both of them could not sleep.
Darcy had finally settled on her side looking out the window that the catpole in the shape of a carpet covered tree stood near. The moon's light showed a restless bushy tail draped over one of the scooped perches, flickering with predictable twitches. Even one of the felines could not sleep.
"The other day I was reading the Hopi story of how the people came from cities under the ground…"
She waited as Darcy shifted so she was turned towards her.
"And it reminded you of what?" she prompted.
"Barbara Hand Clow's book on Catastophobia."
"The supernova that was responsible for knocking earth off its vertical axis...9500 BCE…the people on earth knew of it's coming and had dug underground cities for those who wanted to survive the changes that would take place above ground…I think those were the people the Hopi's were talking about."
"I also remembered that there are portals that shamans can step through that will take them to other planets or dimensions…"
"Where did you hear that?"
"When I was in Sedona, about ten years ago. I met a guy who was looking for one. It was out in the desert…but anyway…what if these people knew of those portals also and some people left through them?"
"Are you getting around to saying you think all this stuff we're experiencing here has to do with these people that left earth before the effects of the supernova hit this planet?"
"Uh huh. Is that too great a leap of the imagination?"
"You're not going to get me to say that. This place is a leap beyond the imagination. What difference does it matter who they are or if they were once from here?"
"Probably none. But my brain won't stop putting together this and that and it makes me want to draw things!"
"Well…you are a painter and art is what connects us to things outside of what we know."
Celine buried her head in Darcy's shoulder. "I don't want to get up and draw. I want to sleep."
"Turn around then. Let me rub your back. From my own experience…it's great for turning off the mind."
Celine and Darcy laughed.
Right, they both thought.
Celine was sitting out in the middle of somewhere but it could be called nowhere, when she noticed that she could actually feel the approach of a horse or maybe horses. Of course, Mandy was looking more alert and Jade had been watching the road as if expecting someone, so it was not a surprise. But it was a surprise. What came thundering up to them was…
Celine sat up abruptly, panting with fear. It was still dark and her sudden waking sent one of the cats off the bed and onto the catpole, where there was less chance of him or her getting knocked around. Celine turned to her bed mate, patting around but not finding Darcy. Her side of the bed was cool.
Celine used the bathroom, brushed her teeth, put a robe on and then stumbled towards the kitchen. As she passed the stairs down to the exercise room, she could hear the rope slap the floor boards as Darcy did her rope drills.
Grumbling to herself, she stumbled around Mandy who was happy to see someone else awake. Above her she could hear someone moving around. Coffee was prepared and then she began to make toast. Lately, breakfast was not of interest. She was finding a large lunch and light dinner was all she was interested in. Even her consumption of coffee had dropped.
Celine could hear Ellen's voice as she coaxed George to do something. Her laugh was tender and Celine felt embarrassed at over hearing something so personal. She moved back into her own room and took a quick shower and dressed.
"So, what are we going to be doing today," Ellen asked.
"We are going to take a ride out to that circle near your place," Darcy told her.
"I want to come along," Ellen told her firmly.
"Alright," Darcy replied slowly. "What about George?"
"He's not an invalid. We'll drive over. I talked to him about it this morning…I think it would help him."
"Okay. But he hates the jeep," she reminded Ellen.
"We'll take my car. No big deal. I'll make some sandwiches in case we stay there a while. Give me forty five minutes to get things ready."
Darcy nodded. What they were going to do was sit in a circle and wait. Four directions and four of them. She just was not sure what George would do if… If what, she thought impatiently. She was beginning to let what the others were talking about get to her. She already knew she was not going over whatever the threshold was. She was strictly an observer. Al and people like him were the daring ones. She was grateful that Celine also was not interested in stepping into places like twilight zones.
"Why don't we meet you there? The horses need exercise and I want to have a look around."
"Okay. Don't do anything rash," Doc cautioned.
Darcy laughed. "I'm a watcher not an adventurer."
"Uh huh. But you keep looking at spaces that are different," Doc Ellen reminded her.
"That's not the same," Darcy disagreed.
"Really? Well, we're going to have to talk about that. I have to get going right now…but don't think this subject is finished young lady," Doc warned with a tight lipped smile.
"Yes, mother," Darcy muttered humorously.
"Darcy," Celine called to her frowning companion.
"You're not thinking of…walking into one of those places, are you?"
"Oooh, no. You said you were a chicken about situations that promised to be violent ….well I'm not ready to meet one of those aliens you drew."
Celine laughed unbelievingly. "What about all this shamanistic stuff you do?"
"You keep using that as a measuring device," Darcy complained.
"Well, I don't have anything else! I can't exactly say you're a mystic or religious right!"
"Celine, what will hold you back is attaching a name on whatever you are experiencing, thus limiting your experience of it."
"What's wrong with that? Maybe I want to slow things down?"
Darcy turned her head to look at Celine, and then she returned her eyes to the road.
"I didn't quite mean it that way," Celine told her regretting the tone she used. "I hate being labeled a witch or psychic painter and finding that my sketches of a tree suddenly 'have' to be prophetic because of my label." She smiled over at Darcy whose brow was creased into a frown. "I'll get over it. So, what are you looking for? Maybe I can help."
"Anything," Darcy shrugged, not wanting to influence Celine's search.
"Ellen told me Al's friend disappeared," Celine offered, not feeling she was any help since she was no more willing to end up somewhere she did not recognize than Darcy.
"Yeah. He hasn't shown up at their usual place for keeping in touch. Those two have me itching, but I would rather they take the chances then me. If they want to jump into those energy rings, I say let them…if it has to be done."
"Stargate here they come," Celine muttered. "The twins want a try at it too. They flipped for who would go over. They think since they have this twin connection…" she trailed off.
"Yeah, yeah," Darcy waved a hand. "They've been arguing about that connection for I don't know how long."
"Do you and Della have it?"
Darcy glanced at Celine and nodded. "Yeah. No big deal," she drawled.
"We have it too, don't we?"
Darcy nodded, and added grinning, "You're lucky we do."
Celine nodded. "I am. I don't know where I was the other day…but…good thing my cavalry came on time."
"Don't depend on it working every time," Darcy muttered. "See that slight rise over there? That's where the circle is. We're going to make a circle around it. You, Jade and Mandy go that way and Medicine Man and I will move this way." She looked at Celine hard not wanting to harp on her message to listen to her companions' warnings.
Celine gave her a nod, not having to hear what Darcy left unsaid. "I hear ya. Anything looking like…hey, what do I do if I find something…off key?"
Celine knew she meant the whistle she carried with her because she could not whistle any other way. "Okay. Two long means all is clear and I'm moving along and two short means I'm in trouble."
Darcy smiled. "Okay, one short I'm in trouble and one long I'm fine."
"It should only be five minutes to circle the circle. We'll meet back here. Don't rush it, Celine."
She nodded and both turned their mounts to begin the search pattern.
There was no warning, not even Mandy picked up on it. One moment she was looking around her suspecting a lurking alien behind any small desert plant and the next moment she was surrounded by creatures from her drawing, bigger in real life. Before she could raise her arms to indicate she was no threat she was hit in the chest with some unseen force that lifted her up and off Jade's back, landing her on her back on the hard ground. Unable to move but conscious of what was going on around her, while her thoughts whirled around her lungs heaved for air.
The large scaled creatures quickly bound her and unceremoniously tossed into the back of a vehicle she did not recognize. Her heart went out to Jade and Mandy and in despair reached out for Darcy.
She blew it. Then her world went black.
Darcy was leading Medicine Man, intent on studying tracks she did not recognize around the south side of their vortex energy wheel when suddenly she was walking through knee high grasses with Medicine tugging on the reins to grab a mouthful. Disorientated, Medicine Man's head nearly pulled the reins out of her hands, redirecting her attention to him, feeling his fear of a strange dusky odor.
"It's alright, big guy, calm down. I know we aren't exactly home…come-on, down. That's it…steady there," she soothed as she stroked his twitching neck. Her own nostrils flared as she sensed they were not alone. "Oh, shit," she muttered as a gust of wind was followed by figures dropping all around her.
She faced a group of bird people, just like Celine had drawn them.
Great! And I did not want to go traveling.
Yet you did.
Darcy took a deep breath and it seemed Medicine Man did too because his excel of air hit the back of her neck, causing her to jump.
One of the bird people moved forward.
Why are you here?
I…ah, don't know. I was visiting our circle and…why are we not talking?
The laugh was like a squawk, a strangled bird sound at that.
Oh. How do I get back…I know I just arrived but…I don't belong here.
Don't you know how?
Walk back? Alright….
Darcy stopped in her step back that was pushing against Medicine Man's chest to get him to back up.
You cannot go that way. It is only for entrances.
Why were you waiting here? Darcy asked suspiciously.
Like you, we are watchers. We have seen you watching from your landhouse.
The leader's head swiveled towards one of its companions, its feathers ruffling in the breeze. The other feathered person, taller than he carried on a short twittering and cawing conversation. The feathered head turned back towards Darcy, dark eyes shinning in the sunlight.
My second will take you to our leaders. They will determine how to get you both to the other point.
Okay. How do we get there? Since they had flown in she was curious if they would allow her and Medicine to travel on the ground.
Do either of you have wings?
There was no mistaking the humor in the question.
Medicine Man stretched his neck as the taller bird person stepped over to them and used her head to indicate what direction they were to walk. What could have been a smile on the beaked face, stretched the corners of her mouth and a feathered arm reached out to touch Medicine's ears and then brushed down to his nose. A noise that could be delight came from her throat, causing the feathers on her throat to vibrate. Darcy was startled when she felt Medicine's delight in the tickling sensation.
I am Silvermoon, what are your names?
Greetings Silvermoon, I'm Darcy and this is Medicine Man.
They began to walk up a slope that was not in the flat desert she had left.
His thoughts are different than yours.
He's a horse, a different species with different needs and interests. That struck Darcy as odd since it was so obvious, but she did not pursue it as her thoughts were on handling the strangeness of where she was. To recenter herself, she thought about Celine and how she was going to be worried, and Mandy was going to be fretting…boy did she leave behind a lot of worried people. Then, there were chores piling up…it was laundry day too.
Darcy pulled her hat off and scratched the top of her head and was about to put it on when her bird companion squawked and jumped away from her. This caused nervous Medicine Man to jump also.
Darn, Medicine, stop this nonsense! And to her astonishment he did.
You lifted your head, Silvermoon gestured with her wing.
Darcy chuckled and lifted her hat off her head to show it was not actually her head.
It's a hat, like these are clothes…it's to keep the sun out of my face and the clothes …weather protectors and because it's traditional to wear clothes.
Silvermoon nodded her head and then pointed at the horse. Wears clothes too but not everywhere.
Oh. That's a saddle so I can ride him without falling off. She mounted Medicine Man to demonstrate.
Why do you ride him?
To travel faster. He's a lot faster than I.
Good. I do not like moving on the ground this slow when the Pirts are near. She gestured to the sky. I will fly over head to make sure we do not have any of their scouting parties near.
While Darcy rode she tried not to think too much, remaining in the moment. She was sure if she did think about it she would be scared half to death and not able to function. It took them what she would have thought was half a day to get Silvermoon's city. As she got closer she could see details of building structures carved into the cliff face rather than erected on a cliff shelf.
Medicine, we're not in Kansas anymore. Hell, we're not in LC either. There isn't any cliffs like this back home.
She felt like she was looking at an old cliff dwelling village except bird-people were flying in and out of the city.
"I sure hope they don't intend on us going up there," Darcy mentioned to Medicine Man, not realizing she was speaking. For some reason she felt Medicine understood her and was also worried about being transported up the cliff face.
We have baskets that can carry you to the top, Silvermoon reassured her, as she settled on the ground next to them.
Darcy dismounted to walk beside Silvermoon, shaking her head not at all pleased at the idea of being lifted up to that height, especially with an edgy stallion. Darcy glanced at the gray head that was bobbing near her. He agreed.
Well then, you will have to stay in the guard shack which will make whoever is on duty very happy because no one likes to be dirtbound alone. However, one of you will have to meet with our leaders. We have not had one of your kind actually visit and they will have a lot of questions.
Darcy glanced at her, guessing there was a lot she left unsaid. Darcy grinned, and then remembered birds may not like to see teeth. Take Medicine Man then. I'm sure he can tell you all about us. Darcy leaned down to pet his neck when he snorted and sidestepped giving Darcy an unsteady seat. If she were less skilled of a rider, she would have been on the ground.
He does not agree with your assessment, Silvermoon twittered.
Medicine Man's grunt seemed to agree with birdwoman.
Can he understand me? Darcy asked, already knowing the answer.
Silvermoon twittered again. You do not hear him? He talks more than you.
Great. What secrets are you telling her, big guy? she asked nervously.
Darcy received a gust of warm air from Medicine as the saddle creaked from his movement. It was as if he just laughed.
Silvermoon flew up to the city while Darcy, remounting, continued on a small animal trail that did not directly take them to the base of the cliff but wandered towards it. What the animal trail wound around were trees heavy with fruit of all kinds, growing in total disarray as if they grew where ever a seed dropped. There were also vegetable plants scattered about as if they also grew wild. There were spots that looked like someone was pulling and picking what they needed as they needed it.
"I don't know Medicine, but it looks like they don't have to worry about food. Some of this stuff looks like it's been growing here for a long time. And look at those pumpkins! They must be using some fancy fertilizer." She laughed thinking of where Last Chance got their fertilizer.
Medicine Man was enjoying himself, by pulling mouthfuls of grass and grains growing along the side of the path. Normally Darcy would not allow him to eat while he worked, but just as she made that observation and concession, his thoughts on that subject were plain to her. Darcy quickly guessed that this was a place she and Medicine were going to get to know each other rather well.
As they drew closer to the cliff face she had to crane her neck to see what was going on above her. She was hoping they were more courteous than park pigeons and did not do anything above her that was going to be embarrassing.
When she reached the small building with perches on the roof, loud flaps and the rush of wind had Medicine Man dancing in place as Darcy reined him in to prevent him from bolting off. Five bird people dropped, two on the roof, one on either side of her and before her. Silvermoon, or who she thought was Silvermoon was waiting in the front of the building.
Greetings, Darcy and Medicine Man. Do not be afraid. These are guards that must first be sure neither of you are carrying something that will hurt any of us.
Darcy snorted. The only thing I would be carrying is some kind of virus you don't have here and for that matter, the same goes for Medicine Man. All I want is to get back. It's not like I came here purposely.
You stepped through the gate, one of the other bird people pointed out.
I was investigating strange happenings around our sacred circles. Many of them have been altered. Would you know of this?
We are aware of changes that are also affecting this side of the portal. Salde shall began the inspection.
It was rather scary to be frozen in place while they examined her, only it was not one of the 'police frisks' she expected. It was all mental.
To be continued in Part 2