14 October 2004

Greetings, everyone!  I hope life is treating everyone reasonably well.  The last chapter sparked a little bit of interesting comment and I was glad to trade emails with those of you who wrote.  A good discourse is always stimulating and I'm curious to hear your reactions to this one, so don't be embarassed about dropping me a line if the spirit moves you.

Stay safe and enjoy the story.

Kindest regards. 

Michael Garrison

Grab your popcorn, dim the house lights, bring up the curtain warmers.........Hey, you in the balcony!  Quit throwing those damn Jujy Fruits!.......

This story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.  This story also deals with love and consensual sexual activities between men.  If you are not of legal age, reside in an area where viewing such material is illegal, or are offended by such themes, do not read further and leave this site now.

The author retains all rights to this story.  Reproductions or links to other sites are not allowed without the permission of the author.

Two Lives – Two Loves

Chapter 26

It doesn’t matter how good or how bad they are, every cheesy-ass horror movie you’ve ever seen has certain rules that apply.  Everyone knows that.
Rule number 3:  When you and the boyfriend are out doing the nasty in the back seat and a special report comes on the radio…of course, it’s not really clear to me why you’d be listening to the radio just then…and the announcer tells you that an escaped maniac with hooks for hands was last seen heading for wherever it is you happen to be, RUN!  Floor it and GO!  Double-clutch it if you have to and don’t look back!  You do not get out to investigate when you hear that scratching on the car door!
Rule number 2:  When your friends all seem to have disappeared while poking around in a deserted house that you didn’t have any business being in to begin with, call for SWAT!  Do not, under any circumstances, go in the fucking basement!
There are tons more rules to these things.  Break any one of them and mayhem is almost certain to follow.  Which brings us to…
Rule number 1:  When the vampire comes knocking on your window in the middle of the night.  You do not, not no how, not no way, invite it into your house.  Period.  The end.  Despite their dubious dental hygiene, they’re very observant of formalities and can’t enter your house unless invited.  Or so I’m told.  You can let him stay outside and detail your car all night if you want for all I care, but you had better not open that window.
It never seems to work out that way, though.  Some fool’s always going to get out of the car with his pants halfway down; some other fool’s definitely going down those basement steps to do his part to help deepen the gene pool, and here was my fool, my wonderful, blond-haired fool, opening the surrogate window for the proverbial vampire, if you will. 
That’s where we stood right then.  We just weren’t fully aware of it.  I had strong suspicions but I really didn’t know what was going to happen.  I just knew that whatever it was, I probably wasn’t going to like it.
I startled Hunter when I yelled to Jon not to ask the question.  He sat up quickly, ready for anything, but was unsure of what was wrong.
“Hey, don’t…,” Ron began.  The glass began to vibrate, interrupting his train of thought.
Ron and Jon turned their attention back to the glass.  It began to move in small fits and starts.
“Brad, maybe you should get something to write this down with, whatever it is,” Jon said.
I ran to get the small message pad next to the telephone in the kitchen and spilled an assortment of bric-a-brac as I fumbled for a pen in the catch-all basket next to it.  My hands were almost shaking as I grabbed everything and raced back.  I didn’t want to miss a second of this even though something deep down in me didn’t want to see a second of it.
“What’d I miss?” I asked as I took my seat again.  I saw the glass slowly going around in circles on the board with Ron and Jon’s fingers firmly planted on it, their eyes wide.
“It’s hit the ‘C’ and the ‘O’ so far,” Hunter said.  I balance the notepad on my thigh and jotted down the letters.  “You guys’re pushing it or something, right?”
“I’m not doing a damned thing except going along for the ride,” Ron said.
“Ditto,” Jon agreed, licking his dry lips as the glass slowed to stop over the ‘R’.
“R,” Ron said. 
You know, I don’t know what it is about people that sometimes makes them announce the incredibly obvious as though it were an epiphany.  My shoulders slumped and I looked at Ron as if to ask just how ignorant I looked.  I was going to say something but the glass started to move again and simply said, “Got it, thanks.”
We watched the glass move around the board in circles and lazy arcs, stopping next on the ‘B’, then the ‘I’, then the…
“N,” Hunter mumbled, leaning over to check the progress of the word in the dim candlelight.  “Corbin,” he intoned.  “Ring any bells?”
“Is it through?” I asked.
“No,” Jon said.  “It feels like it wants to do something again.
Jon was right.  They almost lost their touch on the glass as it swooped down to the bottom of the board, stopping on ‘Goodbye’.  Ron and Jon let go of the glass, each leaning back from the edge of their seats, drawing in a deep breath.  I felt a change in the atmosphere of the room.  I don’t know whether I’d describe it as good or bad.  It was just different.  The only word that comes to mind is ‘heavy’, but not oppressively so.
“Whoa,” Ron said.  “That was different.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Jon said.
“What?”  Hunter asked.
“I don’t know,” Jon began, “It was kind of a weird tingly feeling all over.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” Ron agreed.  “Like we were glued to the thing.”
“You guys were pushing it,” I said.  “Admit it.”
“Not even,” Jon said.
“We weren’t.  It was doing it itself,” Ron defended.
Hunter’s interest was definitely sparked.  “Oh, man!” he grinned.  “We have got to check this out!  C’mon, Brad; we’re up,” he said, slapping me on the back.
“No, I don’t think…” I began.  This was starting to feel a little too strange for words.
I was going to protest again when Ron started making chicken clucking sounds, throwing down his little sophomoric gauntlet.  Of course, I, like a fool, took the bait, but I wasn’t going to take his bullshit without exacting my own small price.
Jon got up and took the pad and pen from me.  “C’mon, chicken-boy; your turn.”
“Oh, spare me, big man!” I said.  “I’ll do your raggedy little game, but you owe us all massages afterwards, deal?”
“Massages?” Hunter asked.
“Absolutely.  Colonel Sanders here gives the most excellent backrub, wouldn’t you agree, there Mr. Shepard?” I said, punching up my southern accent harder.
“Not a doubt in the world, there, Mr. Williams!” he grinned, echoing my voice, rubbing Ron’s shoulder as we exchanged chairs.
“Hey, I…,” Ron began his protest before Jon cut him off with his own clucking.  Ron knew we were backing him into a corner and there was no way he’d get out of it without looking like a scared, selfish little prick.  Well, maybe not as bad as that, but he definitely knew he’d lose some face if he didn’t agree to it if I did the Ouija thing.  Not that I really wanted to do the Ouija thing but there was no way I was going to stand there and be called a chicken by a chicken.  “Yeah, okay,” he mumbled finally.
“Cool,” I continued, “And you start with Hunter.”  I could almost see him gulp.  This was going to be so much fun.  I could feel that he wanted to run his hands over Hunter so bad he could almost taste it, but, at the same time, was afraid of it leading to put-up-or-shut-up time.  Backrubs were safe with me and Jon.  We were safe because we had each other.  Hunter was a different matter and he knew it.
“Excellent!” Hunter beamed.  “I haven’t had a good backrub in a long time.”
“Feeling a little tight, are we?” I winked.
“Very,” he grinned back.  “C’mon.  Let’s get this show on the road!”
“So how’s this deal work again?” I asked as I made myself comfortable.
Ron told us again what to do, press firmly but lightly, ask the question and just go along for the ride.  Ron sat back and got quiet.  Jon perched the pad on his leg and got ready to transcribe anything that came through.  The sound of the steady rain was interrupted when Hunter cleared his throat.
“So what do we ask?”
“Your call, man.  I’m just here for the ride.”
Hunter thought for a moment.  “Okay, I’ve got something,” he said, clearing his throat again.  Why do people do that?  Isn’t once enough?  He must’ve had a knot in his throat.  I know I was starting to get one.
We set our curled fingertips together on the glass and got ready.
“Corbin,” he began.  “Why are you here?”
“Oh, man, did you really have…,” I started to say, to ask why he had to ask it that question instead of something stupid and easy, like how old I was or something like that; but no, the temptation to talk with God-only-knew-who, or what, was too much, I guess.
The candles next to us flared to three times their normal height, making us jump.
“Whoa,” Jon muttered.
Hunter’s head snapped to the candles.  His eyes grew larger, almost completely dilated.  He hadn’t expected this.
“You wanted a show,” I said.
And then I felt it.  I’ve read that victims of lightning strikes describe an odd, itchy feeling, like static electricity building up, right before they got struck.  That’s what it felt like to me and it was definitely tying my guts into a knot.  I wanted to bolt but I couldn’t move my hands.  My legs weren’t working, either.  I tried turning my head to look at Jon, to ask for help, but couldn’t.  I could only stare at that glass as Hunter’s and my fingers followed it around.  I felt like I was being lifted out of the chair like when I’d been meditating that morning, but this was not the same euphoric feeling.  This was very different.
I heard Jon intone the letters as the glass picked out a ‘P’, then an ‘H’.  It was odd, but I couldn’t feel it move.  It was as though I was there but wasn’t there.  My vision began to narrow as if I was receding back into a tunnel.  The board, the glass, Hunter’s fingertips were all I saw, and then they too began to fade around the edges.
I began to feel dizzy and somewhat nauseous.  The board and everything on it began to waver like the horizon on a hot desert.
“Brad?  Brad?” I heard Jon call from what seemed like miles and ages away as the tunnel closed.

I must have passed out.  My lover’s voice faded almost to nothing before being taken over by another sound.  It was rhythmic, with a familiar cadence.  The first thing that came to my foggy mind was that the guys were watching an old movie on TV, something I’d probably seen but forgotten about. 
I opened my eyes.  It was dark and they hadn’t adjusted.  They were bleary as if I’d been asleep for a long time and I pawed at them with the butt of my hand, trying to make out my surroundings.  I felt wind and rain against my face and I pushed myself up and rested on one arm.  I heard the crackling of thunder and the vague flash of the lightning that preceded it from time to time. 
I saw that I was outside of the house, at least I thought I was, lying in a flat grassy area.  I figured I was in back of the house when I saw an outcropping of rocks a short distance away.  I thought I was looking at the sculpted environment of the pool, but I didn’t recall it being so large.  If this was a joke, I didn’t think it was too damned funny.  A guy could get killed being out in a thunderstorm.
I was about to yell for the guys and give them shit for dragging me outside when I pawed at my eyes again and saw the hem of a familiar sleeve.  The fog still drifting around my brain vanished instantly and I snapped upright, holding my arms out, examining the coarse brown fabric I recognized as my monk’s robe, my favored clothing when, as Alicia’d put it, I traveled astrally.
‘Awwwww, shit,’ I thought.  ‘Here we go.’
I jumped up and quickly tried to get my bearings but there was nothing.  No house, no garage, no pool.  Nothing.  Nothing but that quiet chanting and the sound of the steadily increasing rain.  It was odd, though.  I watched the rain hit my cloak but it was not absorbed.  I draped the hood back around my neck and let the rain pelt my head but I didn’t feel like I was getting wet.  It was very strange and I don’t know how else to explain it except that it was like the rain knew I was there, because it fell on me and moved around me, but it was like it couldn’t get me wet.  Like it was there and not there, all at the same time.
My eyes finally adjusted.  I could see better now and saw that I was standing in the middle of a grassy plain, broken occasionally by outcroppings of rock.  A range of huge mountains were arrayed along the horizon and I had the oddest sensation that all of it, every blade of grass, every speck of soil, every rock, even the mountains, were watching me.  I’ve never been so heavily clothed yet felt so naked.
I looked around again, looking for the source of that quiet chanting I was hearing.  I found it but couldn’t see it.  It was on the other side of that rocky outcropping I’d mistaken for the pool area.  I trotted the short distance to it, the braided belt I wore whipping at the back of my legs as I ran.  I noticed a glow from over the top as I got closer, too, like the flickering of a fire.  The gnawing in my stomach returned.  A part of me wanted to climb the rocks and satisfy my curiosity, but a deeper part wanted to cut and run.  The problem was, run to where?  Then I felt that odd tingling and every hair on my head, and the few on the rest of me, stood on end.
I didn’t just hit the ground, I became the ground!  Immediately!  And a shrieking bolt of lightning hit the ground, scant feet from where I was trying to do my absolutely best impersonation of Kentucky Bluegrass.  The energy of the strike was explosive but, and don’t ask me why, all I felt was the heat from the strike, not the intense concussion or the killer jolt of electricity I was expecting.  Believe me, the heat was enough.  After a moment, I rolled over and up on my elbows, scanning the dark, billowing sky for any hint of where the next bolt might come from.  I looked back to where I’d been, to where the lightning had struck, expecting to see a smoldering hole.  There was nothing.  Not one blade of grass had been scorched.
I felt that increasingly familiar tugging at my brain and I had the strong feeling that my way was with who or whatever was on the other side of the rocks.  I pushed myself up and started climbing. 
It was steep and made for slow going.  I was barefoot and had to tread gingerly.  With all the rain, I was cautious about slipping, trying to get a firm foothold before moving the next limb, but the rocks were dry as a bone.  It was like the rocks were just not even acknowledging the fact that the steady rain even existed.  This proved one thing to me, though.  I was going to have to start working out again.  I tried to keep up with my swimming every day but this climb was getting me winded.  I couldn’t stop, either.  There was no place to rest and I didn’t have any of the nifty hooks and ropes that climbers carried as a matter of course.
Slowly, I neared the crest, grunting every inch along the way.  The chanting was becoming more distinct and had a familiar ring to it even though I didn’t understand a word of what was being said.  Then, the faint but familiar smell of wood smoke hit my nose.  I don’t know why, but it said ‘home’ to me.
I don’t know why; I can’t explain it.  I’m a child of a tempered environment, a product of a tightly sealed, air-conditioned house.  We didn’t even have a fireplace at home.  Mom and Dad didn’t want one because they didn’t want to pay for heat going up the chimney or worry about cleaning out the squirrel’s nests.  I remember when I was a kid; asking Mom how Santa was supposed to get the presents in if there was no chimney for him to climb down.  She hemmed and hawed for a second before finally telling me that they leave the back door unlocked so he could get in.  Well, thank God he didn’t have to squeeze in through the heat pump.  I mean, we laugh about it now, but all that’s just to say that there’s no particular reason I could think of for wood smoke to signal ‘home’ to me. 
But there was another smell mixed in, as well, like someone was cooking a turkey.  That smell was more than familiar, but I had no idea what a roasting turkey would be doing out here.  No, not turkey exactly.  I sniffed at the air a couple of times.  It was more like turkey dressing.  That’s what I was recognizing, it was that sage smell but without the onions or oysters that I remembered going with it.  This climbing was making me very hungry and I was glad that there might be something to eat nearby.
I got to the top, fully expecting to see it drop off to the plain of grass below, but it didn’t.  The rocks flattened out to a plateau, the highest thing around except for the mountains in the distance.  I was about to pull myself over the top and stand up when I saw the fire, a small one surrounded by small rocks, and I ducked back down when I saw the two people on either side of it, tending to it and setting small bundles of grass in it.  That must’ve been what I was smelling.
On the far side of the fire, facing out towards the plain, was Grandfather.  He was not as innocuously dressed as when I’d seen him at the quarry.  He was dressed in what I can only describe as full dress but without the heavily feathered war bonnet that one might imagine.  He looked regal.  His hair was pulled back and tied.  Two feathers, I had the strong sense that they were from an eagle, dangled from the braid.  In his right hand, he held a long but sturdy wooden staff with a polished knob on the end, as one might use when walking.  My eyes followed the staff for a moment or two.  It wasn’t just any tree limb that he’d picked up.  Frankly, I hadn’t noticed any trees around to get a limb from, so this one must have been of some importance if only for that reason.  It was difficult to see in the dim light, but as Grandfather would gesture or turn, the glint from the fire would catch the staff just right, allowing me to see that it was, in fact, heavily, almost completely carved.  I knew somehow that they were not decorations.  It represented, and they were, the labor of a lifetime, perhaps several, for all I knew.  They told stories, like the obelisks of Egypt or even ancient cave paintings.  But these were his.
Grandfather stood with arms outstretched, chanting as I’d heard since I’d awoken here, wherever here was.  Every so often, he turned clockwise, 90 degrees.  With each turning there was a streaking of lightning across the sky from cloud to cloud, a clapping of thunder.  With each turning, Grandfather’s two companions added more of the bundled grass to the fire, sending the smoke skyward between the raindrops.
Both companions knew I was there.  In unison they rose from their kneeling positions on opposite sides of the fire and came to where I thought I was hidden.
I’m sorry, I know this is going to sound judgmental, but I’d seen enough movies to generally get the feeling that a white bread and mayonnaise type like me was probably not going to be welcomed to what looked like some sort of sacred, Native American ritual.  I was more than a little worried as they approached and the hunger I was feeling was joined by a sizable lump in my throat. 
My preconceptions couldn’t have been more wrong.
I looked up into their faces expecting to see anger and saw serenity.  Where I expected to see scowls, I saw smiles.  They looked to be about my age. 
The young lady had pleasant, clear features, finely but softly formed.  My eyes were drawn to a simple strand of small, mixed stones around her neck. There looked to be three different kinds.  I immediately recognized the turquoise and what looked to be black obsidian.  The third was a sort of polished, translucent cream color.  Opals came to mind but I wasn’t sure.  The young man was similarly drawn but a bit more sharply and heavily featured.  He wore similar stones but in the form of wristbands on leather, with strands of leather hanging from them.  Both had jet black hair, tied back.  Both wore simply designed native tunics.  Both extended their hands down to help me from a hiding place that I found I didn’t need.
I had the odd feeling that I knew them both and looked at them quizzically.
“What puzzles you, brother,” the young man said.
“Do,” I began, pausing, “I know you?”
“Always,” answered the young woman.
“I am your brother,” the young man said.  I was more than a little stunned.  “This is your sister.”
“You remember its sound but you do not remember the old tongue, so my name will not be familiar,” my ‘sister’ said, “But I am by your chosen tongue now, ‘Dawn over Water’.  This is your brother, ‘Fishing Bear’.”
My brain was on overload.  I had no idea what to make of this, no idea what to say.  I could only think to fall back on my basic manners and extended my hand in friendship.  “I’m Brad Williams.”
They each took my hand in turn.  Fishing Bear smiled and told me that they knew who I was.  Introductions were a pleasantry but not totally necessary.
“You are Brad Williams to you now,” Fishing Bear said.
“To us,” Dawn over Water began, “You are Three Eagles.”
“Three Eagles,” I repeated.  “Not Soaring?” I asked, smiling.
“No,” said Fishing Bear, “Soon.”
“When your mind and body and spirit talk as one,” Dawn over Water said.  “They talk as separate voices now.”
I was still confused by all I was hearing.  “This is a past life thing, right?  You were my brother and sister?” I asked.
“No,” said Dawn over Water.  “We are.”
“There is no past,” Fishing Bear added.  “There is only what is.”
“But,” I began.  They saw the darkening clouds of confusion on my face.
“Come,” Dawn over Water smiled as she took my hand.  “Grandfather may answer your questions.  He may also raise many that you need.”
“It was he who called to you,” said Fishing Bear.
My confusion wasn’t going away.  Together, my newfound brother and sister guided me to the fire and motioned for me to take a seat opposite from where Grandfather stood.  They seated themselves to my right and left.  Dawn over Water handed me a small bundle of what looked like dried weeds.  I smelled them.  It was sage, the scent I’d caught earlier.  I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to do with it and she motioned for me to place it in the fire.    At this point, I didn’t want to do anything that would appear stupid or offensive.  I looked at their bundles lying at the rim of the fire.  They weren’t burning fully in the fire itself.  They lay smoldering on the edge, burning just enough to send clouds of the fragrant smoke up to disappear in the night sky, like incense, unaffected by the wind.  Fishing Bear saw my hesitation and gently took my hand to hold the sage bundle in the fire enough to get it started.  He blew out the growing fire, leaving the glowing ends to smoke and he smiled as I set my bundle down, the smoke rising to join with theirs.  They bathed themselves in the rising smoke, pulling it towards them with slow draws of both hands.  I did as they had done, coughing a little from the cloud of smoke around me.  They laughed quietly. 
“It is for cleansing,” Fishing Bear whispered, knowing that I was mimicking their ritual without any real appreciation of what I was doing.
“And protection,” said Dawn over Water.
“From what?” I asked.  She responded with a finger to her lips.  We were to be quiet and respectful as Grandfather finished.
His chanting was becoming quieter, as were the rain and the thunder.  On his last circling, the rain was gone.  I looked up and saw only the dark clouds, streaked silver from behind by moonlight that broke through at occasional spots.  The wind was dying down, becoming a gentle breeze.  As much rain as had fallen, I should’ve been soaked to the bone and shivering like a leaf, but I wasn’t.  I was completely dry, but I was shivering a little.  From awe, I think, more than anything else.
Grandfather’s ritual was finished and he stood quietly before us, staring at me.  My brother and sister watched him closely, as if waiting for their next cue.  He was shorter than I was but was definitely not short of stature.  There was an electricity to the man, stronger than what I’d felt from my new siblings, and they paid him silent respect.
“Greetings, my son,” Grandfather said as he seated himself opposite me at the fire.  It was a strong, clear voice, weathered by age but not eroded by it.  “I see you still favor the hooded blanket for your travels,” he said, pointing to my robe.  “Your black half-skin was finer than that.”
“I, uh; well, it’s,” I stammered.  I was completely flummoxed by the man, by the whole ordeal, really.  ‘Smooth, Williams.  Truly smooth,’ I thought.  ‘Here you’re finally sitting with your guides and you start out by sounding like a gibbering idiot.
“The crow has taken his voice again, Grandfather,” Dawn over Water noted, smiling.
“And it is for you to help him find it when he needs it,” he said.
I almost shrank when Grandfather laughed before I realized he was laughing from joy, not derision.
“Since when you were a child you had difficulty speaking to me,” he continued.  “But you are beyond those days and now we are here to help you.”
“To do what?”
“To find the way that you drew for yourself.  To protect you during your journey, if we can,” he said.
My head shook involuntarily.  There were too many questions starting to form and my head was aching.  They saw my confusion and stayed silent, waiting until I was ready.
“Protect me if you can,” I asked, I couldn’t think of a better place to begin.  “Isn’t that your whole purpose?”
“It is part of it,” Grandfather said.  “Part of it is to teach, as well.  But it all requires that you listen.  After that it is your way to make.  It is you who is riding the horse, not us; we just try to see that it is you who does the riding, not the horse.”
This was going to take more than a little time to sink in.  I nodded and sat quietly for a moment trying to grasp what he’d said.  Again, they waited for me patiently.
“So,” I drawled, “What am I doing here?”
“On this rock or on this world?” Grandfather asked.
“Well, both, now that you mention it.”
“I can not tell you why you are on this world,” he said.
“You don’t know?” I asked.
Grandfather looked at me with wizened patience but a touch of sternness around the corner of the mouth.  “I can not tell you because you said we were not to before your return.  The path you created for yourself is, oh, what is your word,” he paused, thinking, “ambitious.  I can only say that you are here to learn some things you wanted to try, but that you are here mostly to help others.  You were needed, you were asked and you came, although you did not have to.”
“By whom?” I asked.
Grandfather smiled.  “By he who can ask.” 
Wonderful.  I thought that Alicia and Grandfather had to have gone to the same school of cryptic responses.  I mean, would it be too much to ask for just one straight answer?  I wasn’t going to get it, though.  Grandfather, Fishing Bear and Dawn over Water watched my blank reaction, seeing if what he said was sinking in before continuing.  I think I was a little disappointing.
“You set many things in your way,” he continued.  “It confuses us, but you always liked to test yourself against yourself.”
I drew my legs under me a bit more tightly.  “So why did you call me here to this place,” I asked.
“I did not call you here,” he said.  “I called to you, Dawn over Water called to you.  We did not call for you.  You came of yourself.  Your friend has told you that you are strong; the you of you knows this even if Three Eagles as Brad does not remember.  You knew you could and you came.
“But what is this all about then,” I asked.
Grandfather sighed.  “The you of you came here because you were not listening; it was that important.”  Grandfather spread his hand out, waving it toward where he had stood.  “We called to you about the board with many figures.  You felt us but did nothing and when you did nothing, I spoke to the skies for your protection and then you came.  You knew what you needed even though you did not.”
Totally confused?  No, that’s putting it too mildly; I was on overload, but somehow, on a deeper level, it was making some sense.  I can’t explain it, but it was.
“You mean the Ouija Board?”
They all nodded.  “To you it is a game.  It is a focusing tool for talking to us on this plane.  But it is also a back door that children should not open.”
“Back door to what?”
“To that which is between.  It is a place we don’t go but to which you have given way.  You have to walk very lightly now, grandson,” Grandfather said as he picked up a small, lightly carved bowl.  He took a swallow from it and handed it to Dawn over Water. 
“There is one from between worlds who has taken this open way on its search,” he continued.
“Search for what?”
“Your past can be a clear road or a muddy one to be stuck on,” Grandfather said.
Dawn over Water handed me the bowl after she’d finished.  “What’s this?” I asked.
“It is what you need it to be,” she said.
“Its search for what, Grandfather,” I pressed, taking a sip of the clear liquid as I waited.
“For you,” he said.
I stopped and stared at Grandfather.  He never blinked.  I should’ve been expecting that answer but it still shocked me to hear him say it.  Giving something voice like that gives it a punch it wouldn’t otherwise have and it hit me hard in the gut.  I had the strongest feeling that I had to leave.
“I think I’d better get back,” I said, handing the bowl to Fishing Bear, “but I don’t know how.”  I don’t know what was in the bowl.  It hadn’t tasted like anything other than plain water, but I was starting to feel very lightheaded.
Grandfather laughed again.  “You never left, grandson.”
His words garbled together and echoed in my brain.  It was getting difficult for me to sit upright.  I felt very weak, very fatigued and lay down on my side.  I could not keep my eyes open and they fell shut.
After a few moments, I smelled it.  Strong.  Pungent.  Like ammonia.  No, not like ammonia; it was ammonia.  I had no idea what would be causing such a smell high up on the rock where I was lying but it was getting stronger by the second.  Repugnant is what it was.  I felt like I was being enveloped by a thick cloud of it and recoiled, gasping for breath as I shot upright. 
I stopped when I saw Jon, Ron and Hunter crouching on the floor next to me, staring at me with the most worried, concerned looks I think I’d ever seen.  Hunter held the remnants of a crushed ammonia capsule between his fingers.
“Brad,” Jon asked timidly, “you okay?”
I took a deep breath again and ran my hands through my hair.  I looked quickly around making sure I was home.  From their expressions, I must’ve looked like shit.  I felt my heart begin to slow and pushed myself up to sit on the floor, folding my legs under me.  My face sank into my hands when I felt the throbbing headache again.
“Oh, fuck,” I drawled.  “What happened?”
“Man, you went out like a light and keeled over,” Hunter said.
Jon nodded.  “Yeah, it was like you were going along on the board and then you just went catatonic, dude,” he said.  “You just froze up.  Your hands were dangling in mid air and you just stared into space.”
“Yeah, it was like you…,” Ron added, pausing, “just weren’t there, man.”
“I was about to call 911,” Hunter began, “when I remembered I had these things in the first aid kit in my…”
“Where is it?” I said.
“Where’s what?” Jon asked.
“Where is it?!” I repeated, jumping to my feet. 
Ron fell back on his butt as I jumped.  Hunter and Jon quickly moved to get out of my way and stood up with me.  Their mouths hung open; they were surprised by my sudden movement after having been so out of it, at least from their perspective.  Then I saw what I was looking for.  The Ouija board was still taped down to the dining room table. 
The glass flew off the table as I snatched up the board, cracking as it hit where the rug meets the wooden floor.  The tape gave way easily; its slight resistance, the sound of its tacky protest, did not stop me in the slightest from ripping it into as many shreds as I could.  From the corner of my eye, I saw Jon start to move towards me.  Hunter’s arm shot across Jon’s chest, barring his way, as he shook his head for Jon to stay still.
I doubled each scrap, doubling and shredding them again until it was too thick to continue.  I could feel the sweat cooling my scalp as I strained with the last bit of it.  It was too much.
I stopped for a second, catching my breath, and saw the little notepad that Jon still had in his hand.  I snatched it from him.  He yelped as the paper sliced into him and stuck the side of his hand in his mouth.  He was about to come after me but Hunter stopped him again.
“Let him get it out, whatever it is,” I heard him mutter to Jon.
“Excuse me,” I said, brushing past their stunned stares.  Ignoring the rain, I trotted out to the trash cans and threw in the notepad and the shards of the Ouija board.  I grabbed a bag of trash from the adjacent can and threw that on top, stomping it down for good measure, almost falling on the wet ground in the process.  I slammed the lid down on the can and leaned on it for a moment.  I didn’t care that I was getting drenched; it felt good, a subtle reminder that I was back.
My mind was blank; there were no thoughts in it at all except to rest now that I’d accomplished my mission.  I just hoped it was enough.  I was tired.  I stood there, listening to the hollow sound of the rain pounding against the tops of the plastic cans when I felt Jon’s hands gently grip my waist and encircle me as he pulled himself close.  The rain and the cool night air, to say nothing of the whole experience, sent shivers through me.  So did Jon, but he was wonderfully warm.
“Hey,” he whispered in my ear, and then kissed the back of my neck.
“Hey,” I whispered back.  My head drooped and I laid my hands over his; I was half ashamed to turn and look at him.
“You okay?”
“I dunno,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.
“Look,” he said quietly as he rubbed the wet shirt covering my abs, “Why don’t we go get dried off, have some drinks and watch a flick or something?”
It was like I couldn’t move.  I didn’t know what to say.  I felt like a complete ass.
“Ron says he’s got a backrub waiting for you,” Jon continued.  “I think you scared the shit out of him, though, so be gentle,” he chuckled, letting me know we were good.  He was contagious and I chuckled with him at the thought of Ron cowering from my outburst.
“Yeah, okay,” I said, smiling as I turned to meet Jon’s concerned look.  “But there’s something I need first,” I said as I embraced him, and lowered my mouth to meet his.  His moist warmth was the tonic I needed right then. 
>From the corner of my eye, I saw Ron and Hunter watching from the dry warmth of the kitchen as Jon and I kissed.  Hunter crossed one leg over the other and leaned on Ron’s shoulder as I closed my eyes to concentrate on my lover.  Let them look.  I didn’t care.  We let our hands roam freely as our drenched hair fell over our eyes, as our breathing blended with the sound of the wind and the rain.


To Be Continued