Estimated reading time — 21 minutes
In my experience, when one is tired, one tends to “see” differently than when one is awake. For example, children “see” things in the dark which are not there. The first time I “saw” something I assumed it was simply a product of my over-tired brain, dismissed it, and thought nothing more of it.
Let me elaborate briefly. Set the stage, if you will.
I had been driving to work, taking my normal route. It is my practice to wait until I get to the office to have coffee because truthfully, I’m cheap and I don’t like to buy it if I don’t absolutely have to. Say what you will. It was still dark outside, but the sky was beginning to lighten.
I have driven the same way to work every single day for many years. I would probably be able to drive there blindfolded. What I’m saying is, I don’t have to be fully awake to safely operate my car; it virtually steers itself. Even with my sleep-addled, caffeine-deprived brain, I am able to look around me a bit as I drive. To take in my surroundings. Sometimes catch a particularly beautiful sunrise. This drive – both morning and afternoon – has become my “me” time. Once I am home, I have other responsibilities to attend to and definitely do not take the time to stop and smell the roses.
Alright, you get the picture.
About three months ago, I was driving to work as usual, simultaneously paying attention to the road and looking around me. I had already seen a rabbit, two deer, a bag of trash someone had tossed from their car, the pink, orange, and yellow glow of the sun beginning to crest over the green-treed hills. Aside from the trash, it was a glorious morning and, though I was looking forward to that jolt of caffeine when I arrived, I was happy.
At one point during my drive, I pass by several warehouses on the left-hand side. They’re old, somewhat rundown, but still (from what I can tell anyway) seem structurally sound. The biggest one is abandoned, painted a sun-bleached beige, the metal sheeting showing through is dark and rusted where the paint has flaked away. There is a normal man-sized door in the side of the building at ground-level, right next to a huge hydraulic-lift garage-style door and a concrete truck bay. The man door is also painted, faded, and flaking. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and have never paid it that much attention.
As it is with things one has seen a hundred times, that thing tends to fade into the background. To become unseen. Almost invisible. So I had not really paid any attention to that warehouse in a long while. Therefore, the day I first “saw” it I thought it was just a trick of my eyes. Movement by the man door. Just a quick glance, nothing I could catch or identify as my car passed by, but movement nevertheless. I processed it the same way I processed most things on my drive to work: “Hmmm…” And then I was past it; focused on other things.
Several days later, I saw it again. I’d forgotten about it altogether, actually, so when I caught the glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye, I thought, “That’s twice I’ve seen the same thing. I wonder if someone is occupying the place now?” But again, it wasn’t enough for me to stop and investigate.
This went on for several mornings and I began paying closer attention now as I drove toward the warehouse. Most mornings, as I neared, I definitely saw movement but I could never pinpoint it; not exactly. Until one morning, about two weeks later, I was absolutely certain of the movement. Not just out of the corner of my eye this time, but clearly and right in front of me, and I immediately became confused. One moment there was movement, the next, nothing. The door didn’t open. No one came around the front of the building, and no one went around the concrete truck bay. I would have seen that clearly, too.
I’m not sure what made me stop this time. To this day I can’t figure it out. I stopped my little silver car in the middle of the road, threw it into reverse, and backed up into the gravel parking area next to the warehouse. That early in the morning I wasn’t worried about running into anyone else on the road. I sat in the car for a few minutes, quietly watching the door in my rear- and side-view mirrors to see if anything would happen.
“Yes! There!” I said aloud to myself. I’d seen movement again by the man door. I exited my car, shoved my keys in my pocket, and turned around to watch the door directly, head on. It didn’t take long before I saw something I will never, ever be able to accurately convey.
The only way I can explain it is this. The rust lines – where the paint had cracked and peeled – seemed to coalesce, melt together, swirl around, then separate again and become still. It was the exact movement I’d seen, but now as I watched, I was more confused than ever. And, more curious than ever.
You know that saying: Curiosity Killed the Cat?
Yeah, I’m a sucker.
With little to no difficulty, I ignored the internal alarm blaring in my head, yelling at me to get back on the road or I would be late for work. I ignored the clearly posted NO TRESPASSING sign on the front of the building. I ignored the strong flight response which arose in me. I ignored all these things because to my mind, I could not be seeing what I thought I was seeing and there had to be a rational explanation for it. I would figure out what what going on.
I walked with purpose to the door, fully intent upon opening it and finding out what was going on inside that warehouse. I reached for the knob. My fingers touched the rusted and dented metal. Suddenly, and not gently, I was sucked through what I can only call a vortex!
I thought I must be inside the warehouse, but when I recovered from the head-spinning, nausea-inducing trip, I looked around me. To say I was surprised would be the understatement of the century!
I was in a forest! Everywhere around me were trees, dark and glistening with the dappled morning light. The scent of evergreen and moist, rotting vegetation heavy in the air. Looking up, I could barely see the tops of the trees. The girth of the trunks around me was beyond imagination. I’d never seen anything like them before. Not even when I went to Sequoia National Park as a kid.
Abruptly, I remembered what had just happened and spun around to find the warehouse door. I needed to leave; to get to work! But the door was simply not there!
I had absolutely no idea what had happened, how I’d gotten there, or even where ‘there’ was! I remembered the swirling door, the electric jolt on my fingers as I touched the knob, and then…nothing until I became aware of my surroundings in the forest. I assume it was instant, but…was it?
I suppose I should have been frightened. I suppose I should have started hollering, trying to figure out if anyone was nearby who could help me understand. But I was not afraid. And, the more I thought about what had happened, how I’d been sucked through a vortex to…wherever I was…the less I actually remembered. It was fading quickly.
I stood exactly where I was, still and silent, listening to the sounds around me. Quiet breezes rustling the boughs above me. Birds twittering and flitting through the trees. Insects buzzing. Small creatures scuttling on the forest floor. It was so beautiful! I was overwhelmed by it all. To myself I thought, “If ever I were to choose to live somewhere else, I would live here.”
“That is very good to hear,” said a low, gravelly voice.
Now I did startle. I looked frantically around me, trying to find the source of the voice. My eyes alighted upon a huge tree stump about fifteen feet in front of me and, as I watched, a creature simply materialized from the wood!
It was about four feet tall, skin which looked to be made of the same wood from which it came, brown hair (if you could call it that) made from sticks and twigs and other forest debris, large, black eyes which glittered like beetles, and mouth full of rows and rows of the sharpest teeth I’d ever seen. Not even the sharks I’d seen on television could rival these chompers!
The creature grinned unnaturally at me and my heart leapt into my throat. This thing, whatever it was, was a predator; I didn’t have to ask it questions to know that. It had pieces of skin and sinew, muscle, blood and fur, pieces of fabric and God knew what else stuck between all its evil teeth. A dark purple (nearly black) forked tongue, which appeared every so often, sealed the deal for me. I was absolutely terrified of this thing and I had nowhere to run.
“What…what are you?” I asked with a tremor in my voice.
“That is none of your concern,” it said.
“Oooh-kay,” I answered. “How about telling me where I am then?” I asked, as politely as possible. I really did not want to offend it.
“You are in my home,” it said.
Great. It was going to be cryptic with me. “And, where is your home?”
“My home is here,” it answered. “You are in my home.”
“Yes, we’ve established that,” I said. “How did I get here?”
“The goddess brought you here,” it answered.
Oh, great. Just wonderful. “Why?” I asked. I was not looking forward to the answer.
“You are here to make things right,” it explained.
“Right? How are things wrong?” I asked.
“That is none of your concern,” it said again.
Wonderful. I was to be told nothing.
I opened my mouth to ask another question, but I was seized from behind! My mouth was covered by spindly, stick-like fingers, my arms were swiftly restrained behind my back, and my legs were put in iron shackles; ankle linked to ankle, with barely six inches between! How was I to walk?
“You will not walk,” the creature answered my unspoken thought.
Sure enough, I was swept off my feet and flung over the hard shoulder of what I could only assume was another tree-like creature similar to the predator I’d been speaking with.
“Smells good, Dek” said the one who carried me.
“You are to transport only, Bai,” said the gravelly voice of my original host.
I am over six feet tall. These creatures could not be more than four feet tall. Therefore, my head was quite close to the ground as I was unceremoniously carried away. While I flopped painfully to and fro over this creature’s shoulder, I had some time to think; to plan. I was a big guy compared to these things which held me hostage. They were clearly carnivores. They could speak my language, which, for whatever reason, I didn’t question. But, did the fact that they could speak English make them clever? Could I outsmart them in some way? Whatever situation I found myself in when they released me, could I think fast enough to escape? I could find no scenario from which I could plan, not knowing anything about what I was being brought into.
Time felt different here. It felt as if I were carried for hours, but that could have been due to the discomfort I felt. So, when I was tossed in a heap to the ground, I lay there groaning, trying to decide if I was injured in some way other than my pride. I was sore, definitely, but I was not otherwise harmed.
A voice, sweet, low, soft; melodic. “Dek, Bai, you have done well. Thank you. You are dismissed.”
“Mistress,” began one of them. “Begging your pardon, but would you not feel safer with guarding?”
“Thank you for your concern, Dek, but you and Bai are excused. I will deal with the stranger in my own way.”
“Yes Mistress,” Dek said.
From my position on the ground, I could see both Dek and Bai (oh, how awful they both seemed!) retreating from “Mistress” in a subservient manner. Bowing deeply, looking down at the ground, walking backwards. I could see saliva drooling from their teeth, dripping to the ground in long strings.
I kept my head turned away from “Mistress” – I didn’t want to see the creature that lovely voice belonged to. I knew I would not be able to reconcile the voice with its owner. To my mind, only something supremely beautiful could – should! – speak with that voice. I expected – knew! – the voice, therefore, could only belong to another one of those horrible tree-creatures.
“You are quite mistaken, sir,” said the beautiful voice, reading my mind.
Reluctantly, I lifted my face from the ground and turned to look in the direction from which the voice was coming. I was more surprised at what I saw than when I had been sucked through the vortex into this forest realm to begin with!
There, standing before me, was a radiant, beautiful woman! She was dressed in clothing which seemed to be stitched together from the fabric of the forest itself. Furs, leaves, grasses, sticks – all woven together to create a dress which seemed to rise up from the forest floor to cover her from toes to shoulder. Her hair was as red as any sunset I’ve ever seen and her eyes glittered the deep green of the trees around her.
Her skin was the whitest of porcelain. She was absolutely breathtaking.
I tried to stand and failed due to my restraints. My head was telling me I was in the presence of god-like power and so I felt it was only right and respectful to stand, or kneel; pay homage to this woman. The urge to bow down to her was irresistible.
“Please, do not struggle. You are in no danger here,” she said. “I am Gaia, mother of all creation. Every leaf, tree, creature, and rock you see belong to me; are of my body. My Dryad hunters were right to bring you to me. I need your help, Stranger.”
She snapped her fingers and my restraints instantly fell off.
I rose to my knees, bowed my head, and – without thinking it through in any way responded – “I’ll help you. Whatever it is.”
At the time, I meant it. I truly wanted to do whatever I could to help this woman. My own life forgotten. Work, morning drives, coffee, daily life – all forgotten. I was completely and totally her servant, and she knew it.
“Yes, I need your help and I am grateful to receive it from you willingly,” she said. “Please, rise and come with me.”
I stood, and with eager, almost reverent and worshipful movements, fell into step beside her. I was virtually panting with the want to assist this woman. Being in her presence was more forceful than anything I’d ever felt before. I would quite literally lay down my life for her. In a matter of moments, I’d gone from being concerned about my daily drudgery, to willingly following this Goddess (for that is what she was) into the unknown of her forest. I had not one care for anything I’d left behind.
She floated along the forest floor. Instead of walking, her dress seemed to change as the terrain changed, moving her forward fluidly, propelling her without her having to put one foot on the ground. Meanwhile, I was having to jog to keep up. My ungainly, graceless, hulking body tripping over roots and rocks just to keep up with her. Of course, I probably would have fared better had I been watching the ground rather than watching her. But it was impossible. I could not look away. She had me so completely captivated! Was it love at first sight? Love, yet…not love. Worship? They were the same. They were different. I didn’t care.
After what felt like an eternity, we finally came to a clearing in the dense forest. A nearly perfect circle surrounded by trees even larger than the ones I’d seen when I’d first arrived here through the vortex. They were incomprehensible. And everywhere I looked creatures moved here and there. Up and down the trees. Busy. Working.
High up – higher than I could truthfully see clearly – structures! Homes, bridges, swings, lights and creatures! I had a vague impression of Ewoks living on the Forest Moon of Endor, but on a much greater scale.
When Gaia entered the clearing, all activity ceased and each creature – every single one – knelt and worshiped her. She smiled in her beautiful and easy way and said, “Thank you. You may resume your work,” and then, with a wave of her hand, bade me to follow her. I eagerly complied.
On the far side of the clearing, a large and organic structure rose from the forest floor. It, too, was made from sticks, leaves, rocks, and other natural materials. It was to this building we went, and entered.
Inside it was dark – very dark. And the structure seemed to be soundproof, too, because I could no longer hear the sounds of the forest or the noise from the workers above. I could barely hear Gaia moving around within the same room. It was an odd juxtaposition between what I thought I should hear, and what I actually could.
Without action by her, a fire burst forth within the hearth. Candles lighted around the room, illuminating the expected continuation of organic decor. Wooden tables and chairs, feathers, soft grasses, and pine needles woven together to form a cover for her bed. Small creatures – mice, birds – scurried here and there as if they, too, were working for her and on urgent errands.
“They are,” she said. “Everyone here serves me in some form or another. And so shall you, too, serve me. What is your name, Stranger?”
I could barely remember. It was some moment’s hesitation before I was able to say, “Blake. My name is Blake.”
“Blake. Thank you. Please, have a seat,” she indicated a log stool on one side of a carved wooden table. “Would you like some nettle tea?”
“Uh…sure,” I stuttered. “I mean, yes, please.” I was loathe to refuse her anything, even the offer of tea I didn’t really want. I couldn’t stop watching her. Every move was grace itself.
She busied herself over the fire, heating water in a huge black iron kettle. She removed a glass jar from the mantle and shook out what I assumed were nettles into two rudely carved, but oddly striking, wooden cups. She added a pinch of this, a pinch of that and, when she was finished, she poured the steaming water over the whole with a practiced flourish.
“There,” she said, seating herself prettily on a stool across from me and sliding a cup in my direction. “Please, drink. It will settle your nerves.”
The tea was hot and scalded my tongue, but I sat quietly sipping and taking in my surroundings. I felt as if I had fallen into a Hollywood movie. The colors were so fantastic and the items around me were so absorbing, I was actually startled when Gaia spoke again.
“I have told you I need your help, Blake, and you have said you are willing to give it. Are you still willing?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, almost dribbling tea down the front of my shirt in my haste to answer her.
“Good. Tonight you will stay here. And tomorrow, I will tell you how you can help me.”
“Okay,” I said stupidly.
I don’t know if it was the tea, or her presence, but at that exact moment, I would have done anything for her.
She didn’t say anything else for the remainder of the day. We sat, in what felt like companionable silence, for several hours until finally, far after the sun had set behind the far hills, she arose, and again, beckoned me to follow.
She stooped down and lifted the latch of a door hidden among the floorboards. I would never have noticed it if she had not opened it. No words were exchanged, but with a glance I knew I was meant to descend behind her as she disappeared into the darkness below. I was absolutely and totally unafraid now. I had nearly forgotten about my fear of her Dryad hunters by this time. My trust in her was so complete, my faith was so immediately installed, that everything else – my true life and everyone, everything in it – seemed a hazy, distant dream.
Below the floor, the stone stairs were well-worn. A slight curve on each step showed how many times these steps had been traversed. I understood without being told how ancient this passage was, and felt privileged at being allowed in. This place seemed sacred somehow.
As we descended further, it became cooler, darker, and harder to navigate but never once did I reach out to her for help or complain about not being able to see. I simply trusted her and followed. I could hear her footsteps – swift and sure upon the steps – and simply followed the sound. I understood now how the blind could lead the blind; sound was an underrated sense.
Finally, after many minutes, we reached the bottom. Gaia suddenly held a lighted torch in her hand and I never even bothered to wonder where it came from or how she lighted it. We traversed a long corridor carved entirely out of stone. Except for the torchlight, it was utterly dark. The walls and floor were wet – water dripped out of cracks in the walls from somewhere deep within; I could hear it trickling. I could smell the coolness, the dampness. By torchlight, I could see small patches of dark mosses and pale lichen growing on the walls. I was truly in a fairy-tale world.
Suddenly, Gaia stopped. We’d reached the end of the long corridor. A wall of rock stood solidly in front of us and, to our right was a heavy wooden door. The door was as ornately carved as the table in her house far above, and within the door, a small window had been fashioned; three large iron bars spanned the window top to bottom.
“You will stay here tonight,” she said.
I was devastated. I had thought I would be staying with her. The idea of her leaving me alone down here in the dark practically broke my heart.
With a wave of her hand, the iron latch snapped open and the door swung wide to reveal a small room, of the same stone walls and floor as the corridor in which we stood. There was a mattress in the corner and a pot another. Other than those items, the room was totally bare. No windows. No light. And suddenly, I was afraid again.
“Don’t leave me down here,” I begged her. “Please. Let me stay upstairs with you.” If I had been in my right mind, I would have been appalled at the desperation I heard in my own voice. The childish whine.
“You will be perfectly safe here. Above, you may not be so. It is far more important that you come to no harm whilst you are with me. Trust, Blake.”
Her words provided little relief of my fear, but I acquiesced and entered the dark, dank room. I went over to the mat in the corner and sat down dutifully, finding it surprisingly comfortable and fresh. It did not smell or feel as I expected.
“I will return for you at dawn,” she said. And with those words, the door shut tightly and I watched through the barred window as the torch light faded.
That night was both terrible, and wondrous. As I settled myself onto the mat, and covered myself with the blanket I didn’t initially realize was there, I lay in the deep silence and tried to make sense of things. My mind was so muddled! In Gaia’s presence, I was perfectly at ease, perfectly ready to do whatever she asked no matter the consequences. But, outside her influence, I began to remember things. I began to remember how I arrived here and what I’d left behind. I thought of the creatures who brought me to Gaia and reaffirmed my fear of them. Their glittering, soulless, black eyes and their razor-sharp teeth were the stuff of nightmares!
I couldn’t get comfortable, though I was on a soft mat with a warm blanket. The chill in the air was also damp, and, though I felt neither physically, I was aware of both. I was aware of the scent of wet stone. I could still hear water trickling somewhere. I heard creatures stirring in corners both inside and outside the room I occupied. Each time I thought I might be slipping off into dreams, I would be startled awake by a sound.
I was, however, neither scared, nor settled.
As I looked around, the walls faintly glowed. I suspected some kind of bioluminescence. I even got up once to run my finger through it but, when my finger came away both dry, and clean, I wondered if I might be hallucinating!
It was a very long night with little sleep.
The dawn brought noises in the corridor outside my room. Heavy, grinding footsteps which I knew could not be Gaia’s. She would not retrieve me at dawn after all. She had seemingly left that task to another.
The door to my room opened swiftly and, with a grunt, one of her Dryad Hunters entered my room. The creature’s teeth gleamed in the dim light.
“You are to come with me,” it said.
I didn’t hesitate, but rose from the mat and followed it, even though my nerves had already begun to jump. These creatures were…unsettling at least and downright frightening at best.
In a hesitant attempt to make conversation, I asked, “I’m sorry, are you Dek or Bai?”
“I am neither,” the creature said. “I am Rel.”
“Rel,” I repeated. Either these creatures had limited language, or they all had unusual three letter names.
“Three letter names is our custom,” it answered, reading my mind.
I tried very hard not to think of anything else after that. I simply followed Rel through the corridor, kept my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open.
We passed what I thought was the long stairwell to Gaia’s home and, when I began to question, Rel said, “We do not go to Gaia now. You will see her at sunrise.”
I continued to maintain what I hoped was radio silence in my head until we reached another long flight of stairs going virtually straight up the side of a sheer stone wall. I could not see the top from our vantage point at the bottom, but, with torch in hand, Rel began to climb and I had no choice but to follow.
The stairs were built into the rock face, so once side was nothing but more rock, and the other side – should one slip – was a fall to one’s death. I’d never had a particular fear of heights, but this was dizzying, made all the worse by the fact that I could only see a step or two in front of me by torch-light and Rel’s tree-like feet continually moving upward. I tried to stay as close to the wall side of the narrow steps as I could. My heart remained in my throat until, after what seemed like an eternity, we emerged through a door and stepped out into the large clearing I’d seen the day before.
It was pre-dawn. The light, what I could see of it through the tops of the dense trees, was still barely gray overhead. The air smelled sweet and refreshing after the dank underground room and long corridors.
Ahead of me, in the center of the clearing, a large structure had been erected overnight though from where I stood, it was hard to tell what it was, exactly. It looked like a large ‘X’. Dozens of feet tall and half as wide. It dwarfed the clearing, even as large as it was, and seemed to fit well with the enormous trees surrounding everything. I couldn’t imagine what it was for.
Just as the light in the sky began to turn pink above me, I was suddenly and unexpectedly shackled and cuffed again. A hood was shoved roughly over my head so I could no longer see and, with a sharp jab of some kind of instrument (a weapon, maybe?) I was urged forward, toward the large ‘X’ in the center of the clearing.
Once there, I began to hear a crowd gathering. There were languages I didn’t understand, voices I couldn’t fathom, sounds which I’d never heard before, plus the clear squawks, squeaks and skitters of the forest fauna. The hood over my head also hindered my ability to smell, so, since I could not see any of it, I relied on my ears to tell me what I wanted to know.
After a few minutes, a overwhelming silence moved through the crowd and I knew Gaia had come into our presence. I was again, rapt.
“Sons and daughters. Creatures of earth. Earth is of my body and therefore you are of my body. Spring has come again, and with it Beltane. This is our time. We are both weakest and strongest. A sacrifice must be made and, as happens each year, a sacrifice is given. Our lamb is willing.” I was prodded forward again, and, as I came into view, a murmur ran through those gathered. Fear gripped me tightly as I suddenly understood what role I was to play, and began to fight against my captors.
These Dryad Hunters, however short of stature they may be, were virtually strength itself and I was held immobile. The hood, though hiding my face, did nothing to cover my mouth and so, restrained as I was, my only recourse was to begin yelling.
I have no idea what I said. I know I was very clear about not having agreed to be sacrificed. But otherwise, the words flowed without actual thought; fear drove them from my mouth in an unintelligible jumble. As I fought, as I yelled, I remembered I had work to do! I had family! I had a life!
From out of nowhere, however, a gentle hand was placed on my shoulder and the Dryad Hunters released me. The hood was removed from my head and, as my eyes adjusted to the brightening morning light, I found Gaia stood directly in front of me. Her face inches from mine.
I could smell her sweet breath. Her beautiful forest-green eyes glimmered with amusement and, as she smiled her gentle smile I was undone again. This goddess, this “Mistress” of the Dryad Hunters and all the forest denizens, this woman of the woods and of nature and Earth incarnate, was my purpose!
“I would have you renew your promise to me, Blake,” she said aloud.”
“Yes,” I answered. I didn’t know what I was promising, and didn’t understand what I had promised her to begin with. I told her this.
She laughed gently. “Yesterday, when I said I needed your help, you told me you were willing to give it. This is the help I need from you, Blake. I need YOU, Blake. You are the only one who can sustain us for another year.” Her eyes bored holes into mine as she silently pleaded with me to acquiesce.
On some level I understood she was asking me to agree to allow myself to be sacrificed. On some level, I knew I didn’t want to be sacrificed. I found her absolutely impossible to resist. “Yes,” I said again. “I will help you.”
Applause broke out throughout the clearing. Pleased, Gaia grinned at me now, showing rows and rows of teeth, unseen before by me, exactly like those of her Dryad Hunters! Her grip on my shoulder tightened. She was strong! Stronger than any I’d encountered here. Even her hunters! She said aloud, “Citizens of the forest! Creatures of Earth. Children of my body. This is your sacrifice!”
Suddenly, from all across the clearing, torches were lighted, and creatures of all shapes and sizes moved forward toward the large ‘X’ structure. A rope was hanging from the crosspoint at the middle of the ‘X’ and I was led forward by Gaia herself, her hand still gripping my shoulder tightly.
Two of Gaia’s Dryad Hunters came forward and took me from her, upended me, so my feet were in the air and my head was just barely hovering above the ground. The rope was lowered and attached to my feet, securing my ankles together tightly. Then, I was hauled up off the ground to hang, fifteen feet in the air.
Gaia yelled, “Please place your offerings!”
One by one, every creature came forward with some kind of offering. I saw shiny things, bits of rock, stacks of leaves tied neatly with twine made from pine needles, baskets of nuts and berries. I saw branches and sticks, feathers, live birds in wicker cages, pieces of meat, and much more. All were placed just beneath me on the ground under the legs of the ‘X”. Hanging upside down as I was, I only had to tip my head to see all.
The blood rushed to my head and I began to have trouble seeing. My legs went numb. My arms, hanging uselessly toward the ground, were also numb. I suspected I’d been drugged but couldn’t figure out how. I looked at Gaia and she seemed simply radiant! As each sacrifice was placed below me, she grew! Her stomach grew! It was fascinating and horrifying to watch. As I faded, she was growing. Rounder and rounder, like the Earth itself! The mother of Earth! The Mother of Nature!
Her face changed. Over and over again. From the appealing, beautiful, irresistible woman I followed and worshiped for a short and intense twenty four hours, to the horrible toothy faces of the Dryads, to the fur-covered faces of creatures I had not seen before. And as she changed, she continued to grow larger and larger! So large! Impossibly large. I was horrified!
Suddenly, she cried out! She fell to her knees and yelled in a voice not her own, “LIGHT THE FIRE! SEND UP THE SACRIFICE!”
The last thing I remember before the flames overtook me was watching Gaia morph back into her beautiful woman form and give birth to a giant ball of moving light. There, in the clearing, in front of witnesses, she bared all to birth another creature into the world. She screamed as it emerged, and I screamed as I was consumed by the flames.
I woke up screaming and covered in sweat. The sheets were tangled around my ankles and I was hanging, half off the bed, head near the floor. My heart was beating so hard I suspected it could be heard throughout the entire house. My breathing, haggard.
“Blake! Blake! Honey, wake up!”
I started flailing, trying to fight off the hands that gripped my shoulders, accidentally striking my wife.
She struck back saying, “Wake up Blake, you’re having another nightmare!”
It was then I realized I was still in my room. I’d never been in a forest. I’d never met Gaia. I never had been sacrificed. It took a while for me to calm down, but when I was finally able to settle, I told my wife about the dream. She laughed and said, “You mean to tell me you had an affair with Mother Earth?”
“Uh…not exactly,” I said. Though she was right. When I said it aloud it did sound absolutely ridiculous.
Later that morning, as I was on my way to work, I was thinking about the dream. Though it was fading quickly, the feelings of both supreme love, and absolute terror stayed with me. I was edgy. I knew I had a lot of work to do that day and tried to convince myself to focus. I was unusually distracted as I drove by the warehouse, but nevertheless, I still saw movement by the man door of that faded beige warehouse!
I immediately threw the car into reverse and, from that day on, I went another way to work!
Credit: Jennifer Shell
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