Startled Jump

Storm clouds thicken, encroach and surround the area with blinding rain, unleashed in sheets, flapping in wind gusts. Hail batters manmade and natural surfaces.
Through it all, untouched and dry, a woman walks in its eye. Her hair, not windswept, gently shifts with her movements–gliding strides–as she slips past the edge. The more she moves forward the farther away the storm tracks in the other direction.
The woman takes shelter under a cliff’s overhang. Seated, she recharges by taking in the strikes of lightning, each flash searing, the power riding invisible currents like EMP from a blast. The razor edges sharpening the dull static charge. Palms out and down at her sides, her hands are dishes scooping up the electrified air. After one loud BOOM, she makes fists and stands up. She descends down to saunter the perimeter of the wall of red stone. Halfway around the circle she stops. Only her head swivels in your direction. Her eyes spark and like a strong bolt hits metal, you go to her.
With her right hand she clasps your left and you are zapped by a sliver of fire that jolts you. You both walk left around the curve of the circle. At the break you both stare out over the barren land below and out into the distance.
“Step back.”
She moves her right leg, you your left, and as one step through the opening. You both act as a door.
“Take a deep breath.
Keep your eyes forward.
Hold on.”
Lightheaded, your peripheral vision fades to black, and about to faint, your sight pixelizing, you squeeze her hand and the ground’s rug is pulled out from underneath you and you drop.
Just as you blink your eyes the scene changes and slightly ahead and to the left of you you see how she holds your hand tightly. Your surroundings are blurry, speeding by you.
Her hair whips behind, her dress clinging, plastered by air pressure, some sections fluttering. She strengthens her grasp for a second and in the next loosens it.
You remember to look forward.
The high-speed panels to the sides seem to writhe with creatures. Before you see what’s ahead, your eyes wander off to the right, and you are pulled away from her, sucked into the belt, conveyed to a place of pitch black.
The sudden stop has you wavering on your feet, seasick. You fall to your knees, plant your hands on the ground, dry heaving. The air you breathe in is damp. You take in salty gulps. Not only is this space void of light, but it is soundless. You hear only yourself echoing off what you can only guess are rock walls. You are alone and this terrifies you. Not knowing where you are, and with nothing to guide you to an exit, you are not only lost but trapped.
Then, you hear something that stills you like a frightened animal in fear of a predator. A splatter like moist seaweed hits the floor directly behind you. A bone cracks. A continuous scraping approaches, like a being dragging something in its wake.
“Who are you?” A feminine whisper demands.
“A traveler.”
She comes closer and stops, nearly touching your back. All is quiet. You cannot hear her breathe. Your heart is caught in between beats. Your vocal chords contract, strained by the stress. Your whole body has tensed up in a stance ready to take a hit of any kind.
Guarded, you ask, “Which way is out?”
Slimy tendrils brush your shoulder. Her breath misty and cold, slithers into your left ear. Her drenched tongue foams against her teeth.
“Straight ahead.”
A pinhole of white appears. You get to your feet and rush–not blinking–toward the light. It grabs your attention, you are whisked through and in your fall forward, she’s there flying as fast as you.
You stretch out your left hand, with sheer force of will you push faster forward, and your fingers hook into the cups of hers. She closes her fingers over yours and yours over hers.
You look ahead and see the horizon: the sunburst of light is the profile of a phoenix, wings spread out. As soon as you make out the form, you are propelled, jettisoned not only through this walled tunnel, but also in between an upper and lower plane. You shoot through the thin layer of hot light and sense liftoff.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It takes some getting used to the act of falling up. In the split second that my realization hits that we’ve cleared the barrier I yell out to you
“Grab the sides.
Dig in your fingers.”
With my left hand my fingers grapple to unseen ridges, you dangle and swing from my right hand.
When I see your pupils shrink, I know you’re surfacing. I see by the expression on your face, determination back, when understanding dawns, your right arm raises out to the side and the surprise on your face is priceless.
I repeat “Grab onto the sides. Dig in.”
How do you tell someone how to touch and sense what should be empty space?
Once you are clinging, I signal with my eyes. Your left hand in mine, that I’m letting go. You nod. You swing back then reach for a spot behind me. You’ve already found climbing spots for your feet.
I look into your eyes and smile.
“You’re going to enjoy this.”
And when I know I have your attention, that you comprehend to do what I do, I lift my head and eyes straight up, close my eyes, and become a sunflower–the warmth of the sun above us guides me, pulls you and me through the portal.
In the next instant I’m seated on the tallest capstone of a stone circle. You’re at my left side. We both face the sunbeams pouring in from the transom slats between tree branches.
My eyelashes unmesh and I keep my eyes almost fully closed, just a slit of light enters. I look to the treeline and see the beings of the Otherworld, curious at our arrival.
“Don’t move.” I softly tell you. You don’t even open your eyes. With a peaceful smile I raise myself up as I slowly lift my lids. My calm doesn’t scare them away. I gradually lower my left leg, then my right, like trickling water and then cascade down to the ground. With a thump I land.
They snicker. All you hear is the quick shake of leaves in a breezy gust.
Their eyes move from me to you sitting on the rocky pedestal. They wonder why you are here.
I turn around and stand to your left. Without blocking your light, I lean over and kiss you on your left cheek. I take your hands in mine and whisper in your left ear.
“Slowly open your eyes.
Look only at me.”
Your sleepy eyes appear behind your scooping lashes and you peer into my irises checking for a sign. I tug on your hands and you stand up. I step back and you hop down.
You’ve jumped right against me. I release your hands and place my hands on your chest. Your eyes move into mine like keys into a lock. And it clicks. Your smile broadens. You close the distance and we connect. The shafts of light raining around me now cover you. I hear our spies fly and run off. We are alone together.

Through it all, untouched and dry, a woman walks in its eye. Her hair, not windswept, gently shifts with her movements–gliding strides–as she slips past the edge. The more she moves forward the farther away the storm tracks in the other direction.
The woman takes shelter under a cliff’s overhang. Seated, she recharges by taking in the strikes of lightning, each flash searing, the power riding invisible currents like EMP from a blast. The razor edges sharpening the dull static charge. Palms out and down at her sides, her hands are dishes scooping up the electrified air. After one loud BOOM, she makes fists and stands up. She descends down to saunter the perimeter of the wall of red stone. Halfway around the circle she stops. Only her head swivels in your direction. Her eyes spark and like a strong bolt hits metal, you go to her.
With her right hand she clasps your left and you are zapped by a sliver of fire that jolts you. You both walk left around the curve of the circle. At the break you both stare out over the barren land below and out into the distance.
“Step back.”
She moves her right leg, you your left, and as one step through the opening. You both act as a door.
“Take a deep breath.
Keep your eyes forward.
Hold on.”
Lightheaded, your peripheral vision fades to black, and about to faint, your sight pixelizing, you squeeze her hand and the ground’s rug is pulled out from underneath you and you drop.
Just as you blink your eyes the scene changes and slightly ahead and to the left of you you see how she holds your hand tightly. Your surroundings are blurry, speeding by you.
Her hair whips behind, her dress clinging, plastered by air pressure, some sections fluttering. She strengthens her grasp for a second and in the next loosens it.
You remember to look forward.
The high-speed panels to the sides seem to writhe with creatures. Before you see what’s ahead, your eyes wander off to the right, and you are pulled away from her, sucked into the belt, conveyed to a place of pitch black.
The sudden stop has you wavering on your feet, seasick. You fall to your knees, plant your hands on the ground, dry heaving. The air you breathe in is damp. You take in salty gulps. Not only is this space void of light, but it is soundless. You hear only yourself echoing off what you can only guess are rock walls. You are alone and this terrifies you. Not knowing where you are, and with nothing to guide you to an exit, you are not only lost but trapped.
Then, you hear something that stills you like a frightened animal in fear of a predator. A splatter like moist seaweed hits the floor directly behind you. A bone cracks. A continuous scraping approaches, like a being dragging something in its wake.
“Who are you?” A feminine whisper demands.
“A traveler.”
She comes closer and stops, nearly touching your back. All is quiet. You cannot hear her breathe. Your heart is caught in between beats. Your vocal chords contract, strained by the stress. Your whole body has tensed up in a stance ready to take a hit of any kind.
Guarded, you ask, “Which way is out?”
Slimy tendrils brush your shoulder. Her breath misty and cold, slithers into your left ear. Her drenched tongue foams against her teeth.
“Straight ahead.”
A pinhole of white appears. You get to your feet and rush–not blinking–toward the light. It grabs your attention, you are whisked through and in your fall forward, she’s there flying as fast as you.
You stretch out your left hand, with sheer force of will you push faster forward, and your fingers hook into the cups of hers. She closes her fingers over yours and yours over hers.
You look ahead and see the horizon: the sunburst of light is the profile of a phoenix, wings spread out. As soon as you make out the form, you are propelled, jettisoned not only through this walled tunnel, but also in between an upper and lower plane. You shoot through the thin layer of hot light and sense liftoff.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It takes some getting used to the act of falling up. In the split second that my realization hits that we’ve cleared the barrier I yell out to you
“Grab the sides.
Dig in your fingers.”
With my left hand my fingers grapple to unseen ridges, you dangle and swing from my right hand.
When I see your pupils shrink, I know you’re surfacing. I see by the expression on your face, determination back, when understanding dawns, your right arm raises out to the side and the surprise on your face is priceless.
I repeat “Grab onto the sides. Dig in.”
How do you tell someone how to touch and sense what should be empty space?
Once you are clinging, I signal with my eyes. Your left hand in mine, that I’m letting go. You nod. You swing back then reach for a spot behind me. You’ve already found climbing spots for your feet.
I look into your eyes and smile.
“You’re going to enjoy this.”
And when I know I have your attention, that you comprehend to do what I do, I lift my head and eyes straight up, close my eyes, and become a sunflower–the warmth of the sun above us guides me, pulls you and me through the portal.
In the next instant I’m seated on the tallest capstone of a stone circle. You’re at my left side. We both face the sunbeams pouring in from the transom slats between tree branches.
My eyelashes unmesh and I keep my eyes almost fully closed, just a slit of light enters. I look to the treeline and see the beings of the Otherworld, curious at our arrival.
“Don’t move.” I softly tell you. You don’t even open your eyes. With a peaceful smile I raise myself up as I slowly lift my lids. My calm doesn’t scare them away. I gradually lower my left leg, then my right, like trickling water and then cascade down to the ground. With a thump I land.
They snicker. All you hear is the quick shake of leaves in a breezy gust.
Their eyes move from me to you sitting on the rocky pedestal. They wonder why you are here.
I turn around and stand to your left. Without blocking your light, I lean over and kiss you on your left cheek. I take your hands in mine and whisper in your left ear.
“Slowly open your eyes.
Look only at me.”
Your sleepy eyes appear behind your scooping lashes and you peer into my irises checking for a sign. I tug on your hands and you stand up. I step back and you hop down.
You’ve jumped right against me. I release your hands and place my hands on your chest. Your eyes move into mine like keys into a lock. And it clicks. Your smile broadens. You close the distance and we connect. The shafts of light raining around me now cover you. I hear our spies fly and run off. We are alone together.

Transom

Djinn

A desert spirit rises, an airy geiser refracting off moonlight like a distant mirage in a day’s scorching heat. Materializing out of nothing, not making a sound, the sand withers as the djinn takes shape. Outlines of footprints where none were before sink and form depressions. As the full moon slips behind clouds, elements fuse: water is pulled up with the ascending entity, crystallized earth — surface sand — adheres to droplets, cold air sneaks in between and around the misshapen mold and erodes, sculpts the being into tonight’s identity, and lastly, heartfire that quickens the pulse, sparks the eyes and adds color to the now fully alive human body. The djinn’s toes and soles are the last parts to feel the heated tingle of reanimation.

The musical clink of anklets and bracelets made of tiny sea shells carries far out into the night, across rippled dunes, the shiny shells glint out from under the folds of an off-white gauzy robe, signaling the shapeshifter is on the move.

The creature’s red ochre, jade and hemp-colored tatoos stretch and contract with its movement, hieroglyphic shapes speak superimposed over the underlying onyx script.

The moon inside a clouded aperature beams down like a lighthouse from antiquity mirroring and projecting out its internal flame.

The djinn with thumb and forefinger lifts translucent strings to reveal a lapis lazuli pendant, its bright blue veined with clean, sparkling stone and speckled with the most perfect imperfections. In the moonlight the veins are illuminated like track lighting and the lighter grains of blue sand are areas of interest: a rounded nighttime map.

Eyes take in the brightest pathways and catch on one dot and one vein leading right past it.

The djinn prepares for flight with hauntingly slow moves: arms flow with air currents, feet slide in crescent moons to each side and the bracelets and anklets break the silence in the deathly still air. Hips sway, a waist twists, and the robe billows and snaps, disturbing surrounding sand. What starts out as slight shifts and a small whirlwind from the dancing figure’s motions generates a large sandstorm.

In an updraft, this elemental takes off and after skating the spiral ramped staircase, the fiery monster crouches and rides the ever-changing uppermost steppe of the meteorological wonder.

It takes hours to fly over the barren landscape, and the only interruptions to break the travel trance are occasional rocks that jut up, oases that infrequently bloom, and buried mounds of civilizations that have succumbed to nature’s onslaught.

Eventually, the river comes into sight, although it takes repeated focused looks to confirm. It is cloaked in predawn mist, dew coating the vegetation at its edges, all the dim light reflecting off and creating a smokey haze.

The quest for this vein complete, the djinn jumps from the sandstorm and uses the river’s steamy mist as a mode of transport. The sandstorm dies and settles but not until after it has wrecked havoc on nearby populations, its masked residents at a standstill, questioning how the large storm came out of seemingly nowhere.

Partially hidden in fog, blending in with robed sails, the djinn glides over slate blue waters, new facets of the amulet highlighted. The lines of reeded shores and adjacent, angular red brown rocks are natural jots and cursives to the cyphered body art.
The progress excites, accelerates the traveler’s heartbeat.

As the rising sun burns off the early morning moisture, the djinn goes offcourse to rest in a dark cave offshore.

The shaded relief is permeated with an ancient chill. A much older presence awakens. The shock widens black-rimmed eyes. Petrified, a more aware heart pounds, racing faster, pumping lifeblood into a once-sleeping goddess. Out of nervous habit, knuckles crack and torches light.

Painted walls flicker and she winks into existence.


Patrons wait in line in the rain. Some under cover, others getting soaked refusing to lose their place to enter a club where the unexpected inevitably happens on any given night.

The dull thumps of bass escaping from inside come alive in ear drums. Muted grooves excite impatient twitches into impromptu jam sessions, feet and fingers tap, shoulders and hips sway and heads nod.

One person looks up and sees droplets stream down creating a halo effect around the street lights.

A shiver tickles her upper back into her neck and evaporates out of the crown of her head as she notices the haloes wax and wane one after the other as a ghost approaches. Cautiously observant, she only moves her eyes as the surge passes and bursts into the entrance.

Inside, on the nearly empty dance floor, ambient smoke scented like coconut and amber, fades the spurts of layered greens, blues, yellows, reds and purples. Mirrors on the walls are drooping portraits of lethargic, apathetic zombies lulled into a stupor by the din of noise, spreading rumors, mixed spirits, incoherent ogling and numbing inhibitions.

In private areas tables are lit with floating white lotus candles, a crisp fragrance floats up from each centerpiece.

Behind one column offstage a woman wrapped in midnight blue carefully watches the scene.
She comes out of hiding peering at each of the five DJs — tilting her head up at the one hanging from the ceiling she arches her long neck to an underlying harmony. Then, to another in the balcony her torso wavering to the fluctuating higher and lower notes. She twists to focus on the one on center stage, and later slides to the side and stares at the headphoned mixer in the crowd. The DJ who’s in charge of cuing up the next piece she saves for last.

Everyone mingling in close proximity are oblivious to her presence but as she makes a beeline to the dancefloor people move aside. She parts the sea of ignorance, steps on the glassy surface, makes eye contact with the DJ below, and with a flick of her wrists all the DJs’ ears go deaf then ring. They adjust settings just as the next song interlaces with the previous. A switch has been flipped.

The crowd realizes something has changed but are unsure of exactly what. The next song’s rhythm is more pronounced and the percussion cuts deep. The DJs exchange glances at this never heard before track. Ribbons stream onstage as the music’s synesthetic resonance awakens the crowd like a siren’s call.

The fog lifts and like a speaker wire plugged in more securely, clarity of sound comes into sharp focus. Hearts strum, partners lean into the beat, heads spin, and as joints and limbs gyroscope, soles press into the raised platform. Empathic slides trigger prismatic holograms. Crystal clear forms project up from honeycombed tiles. Each touching worldview is a cause electrified, leaving a lasting cue.

Empathic Slide

Glacier

The water trickles around us. I realize it had frozen and moved us apart just as it had capped the rocks that now littered the frigid capsule. We all had been part of the glacial flow and were carried away together.
How long had we drifted in cryostasis?
I look over to you, asleep, your features pale but softened by the smooth glow of my lantern. I reach inside my coat with my gloved right hand, running my fingers along the sherpa lining to my solar plexus to find the inside pocket just to the left of the zipper. I pull out the charger, take off my left glove and move the disc to my left hand, cradling it in my palm. The instant it touches my skin the metal heats. A gentle current runs up my arm across my shoulders, through my other arm, hand and fingers, and back to the other side tickling along my collarbone.
I focus on a section of ice in front and above me. I retract my left hand fingers around the aparatus to hold it more securely, lift both my hands as if shoving against the ice sheet, still a dozen feet away. I imagine the warmth of my hands intensifying, melting away the surface, and my fingernails scraping away and carving out more and more from that area.
I worked a long time on the tunnel out. A fresh cool breeze stirs the air from the underground stream of melted ice, and I hear your deep intake of breath as you awaken. Your eyes at first are fixed, confused by the frozen fire, the whites of your eyes blaze in the icy lava lamp’s electric blue. You are trying to remember the dream you just came from. You are inexplicably affected. Like when rocks split after water slips into seams and freezes, your heart breaks, knowing it has left something behind but doesn’t want to let go in hopes of reclaiming it.
As the distance greatens between you and the dream, you recall you did not travel here alone. Your eyes grin as they settle onto mine.
I lower my hands, carefully place the charger on the smooth pebbles to my left, twist and place my left palm on your right cheek. Your cheeks are soon rosy. You attempt to rise, and I gently support your back to help. Your bleary eyes check out our surroundings and the sunlit bore hole ahead.
I hand you a canteen. You take it, shakily tilt it into your mouth, and one gulp is enough. You pass it back to me.
“Take your time. I still need to create grooved steps for our climb out.”
You adjust your posture into a more alert but comfortable one, and I can see how you are contemplating what I had been earlier:
How long had we been suspended in this cool bubble?
You rub your hands together to get the feeling back. You pat your left outside pocket and know by the bump and shape that your timepiece is still safely stowed there.
We both came out of dreamspace knowing how much it can warp our timesense, and our immediate surroundings gave us no clue as to the duration of our dormancy. You slip your hand in your pocket and pull out the temporal compass.
Your expression doesn’t reveal anything.
Had it stilled?
Rewound?
Fast forwarded?
“No real way to tell. We’ll need to verify this reading with the outside markers.”
I knew the importance of cross referencing, but my post-hibernatory restlessness made me more frustrated than usual with the delay in getting necessary information.
Your understanding smile makes my anxiousness evaporate. We’d need all the energy we could summon for the amble up out of the chamber. I’m not sure if you meant to appease me or you truly were ready to start the trek out.
We both are stiff and stretch to loosen our joints. The last thing we want is to have a lock-up or stumble and come crashing down on the rocky floor.
We stomp our spiked boots to rid the ice chips. I scrape my right boot on the boulder to my left and see my points are sharp as ever. You do the same. We’re all set.
I raise my eyebrows and nod my head toward the shaft. You gesture for me to take the lead. I prop one foot on one of the stepped recesses and grip others higher up with my fingers. As soon as I lift myself up to the tube, I press into the ice floor so as not to slip, and stand. The passageway is just tall enough for both of us to stand and walk through to the opening. Although I didn’t sweat from physical labor, the intense concentration and strain of carving out this underglacier tunnel must have made my body heat up. Luckily the fresh petaled scent of violets wafted behind me instead of other odors. The velvety softness of it brings on a slight smile and creases the sides of your mouth.
A flash of verdant garden interposes like a draping veil. You halt midstep, the clarity of intervisibility stunning you momentarily. You stick your boots securely in the floor to steady you. Ahead I’m at the exit surveying the exterior landscape, getting a sense, and mindmapping possible routes for our hike to the markers.
You ice pick the last steps to stand behind me and peer out over my right shoulder. I sidestep to the left to make room for you.
“Looks a lot different than when we arrived.”
“Change of season?”
The wintry scene plays tricks on us, and we question if we are in the same place. There are signs that match the summer shapes we had last seen. The snow blankets nearly everything. To the left the cluster of jagged stones under the deep cover seems unremarkable, just another series of mountain blades.
“Remember the safest route?”
“Yes. I’ve spotted the key formations and debris below for the areas to avoid.”
We move back inside and unpack the ropes, hooks, ice axe and anchors. We tie each other together. You start the descent down and call up to me once you reach the first stable ledge. I poke and skewer the ice face on the other side of you, and continue down past you to the next firm outcropping. I’m on the verge of a headache from my extreme focus as we balance ourselves at the foot, facing a deep crevasse. Just to our right is a hardpacked snowbridge. After breathing and resting for a long while, I start the crossing, using my snow stake to test each step ahead. Listening for any changes of snow depth or texture. Once I reach the other side, you carefully traverse it and are at my side again.
We follow the natural trail down to the stela. We enter the smaller circle and from its center I rotate 360 degrees, glancing at each stone like a clock tick. You take out the temporal compass and walk with me to the tallest rock spear. I grab the charger with my bare palm and caress the face, layered ice melting away to reveal the engraved symbols.
You check your reading and look for its match within the hieroglyphs. You point to the location. I memorize its relationship to other shapes, then look up and over to that spot within the circle. We trudge through the thick calf-high snow to the pair of darker stones. At their base I clear away the snow from the interlocked stone brick platforms. On each there are two flat stones, slightly concave.
“If this works, we’ll only feel the cold briefly.”
“I hope.”
“If it doesn’t work within a few mintues we’ll put our boots back on.”
“Agreed.”
I untie my boots and slip off my socks, positioning my feet on the touchstones. You do the same.
We look at each other while feeling the soles of our feet stick to the chill and our toes getting numb. Our body heat triggers a reaction and the stones like heated bricks grow warmer than our feet.
We take a breath in relief and that is the last we remember as we’re dislodged from the mountain.


What began as a numbing tingle at extremities sinuously coiled into a confluence of conflicting superheated emotions in the center of our chests. Eyes closed, a silky smooth sheet slices just under our skin. We are left hanging in a cool blue calm before terminal velocity w0uld rend us apart. We sense a multitonal powering up, a high frequency vibration rises, rumbles, and a microburst shreds us from within.
The sawteeth of time fast-forward and intervisible spurts of glaring white gold are held back by a charred meshing. We are gliding toward our destination at immeasurable speed while a blackburned netting sears through us. An emotive shower vaporizes via the open circuit light while protective dark energy holds us together. Traveling so far deep inside ourselves and at the same time out across space, we black out.


A liquid sparking roman candle fuses up the center of me and unpetals like fresh dew evaporating. Thought droplets gurgle during the layover between conscious sleeping and waking.
“Are you okay?”
Your wake-up call mingles with the landscape’s choreography, moving me even before I open my eyes.
Faint string harmonics purr high above.
My hand holds a smooth oval rock.
A steambath of earthy groundcover scents coats my nostrils.
I lick my lips and swipe off light citrusy juice.
A drowsy syncopation of trilling frogs, bird screeches, a far-off singular chuffing, and echoing monkey howls are alerting knocks to my arrival in the tropics.
Wherever you are I feel you close as ever wrapped around my heart. What had you sensed that made you think I was in distress?
“Mm, mm. I’m okay. Once I shake off the lethargy I’ll find you.”
I lift the heavy weights of my eyelids and see I am draped over a granite bowl on a terrace overlooking a jungle. A network of flagstone pathways splits from the core into the forest like an ancient cross-sectioned tree trunk.
Who had dressed me? I am in a white tunic dress and the strap of a simple woven bag is loosely slung across my chest. A wide-brimmed hat shades my face. Is it early morning or late evening?
I remove my hand from the grinding stone, bring it up to my other, cross fingers, and look at the stretched and creasing lines of my palms.
Why am I checking for burn marks?
My left hand knuckles touch my nose and I breathe in the scent of lavender. My index finger and thumb brush my mouth in a daydreaming pose. My eyes wander to the left to the fingerprinted tiers of walled levels and ridges. I glance down to the top of my hand, pores connected by endless lines. White grains on the concave stone glint in the sun outside the shadow of my hat.
In a panoramic sweep to the right, a set of paths outline edges of structures. At each entrance into the treeline, rather than be engulfed in darkness, the imprint of where they lead snaps and holds skintight in my mind’s eye. I pause on one path as a webbed vision slashes out and towards me.
And there it is.
Like the lianas that wind around trunks and branches then sprout in the canopy, the paved walkways curve around hills, their width narrowing as they enter the trees.
When I cross the threshold between clearing and dense vegetation, the surrounding textures of flora buffer sound and keep it close. Lithophonic stories are collected just under my feet, each step, now as before, a trembling blip on the paver stones’ cardiogram.
The forest path opens up into another clearing and a large, oblong object is propped up against the retaining wall. My immediate reaction is this etched boulder is a partial footprint. The grooves mark every crossroad in the area. What captures my attention is a small section of glittering minerals, the glamor of humble jungle sequins amidst lichen agespots and moss-filled weathered wrinkles.
There you are.
Now, to memorize my lines and take Nature’s cues to get to you.
Paces pass like abacas beads, and at each intersection I slide them off to the side to keep track of coordinates on the mental quadrant I keep in my head.
In loose-fitting white pants and shirt, you are reclining in a carved-out portion of a wall in one of the upper-level terraces. You are stargazing. With the hat on I hadn’t realized it was dawn.
The jeweled studs of stars are still breaking through the twilight sky before the sun’s reign succeeds their sparkled throne.
I take off my hat, sit at your feet, lean back in between your legs, and peer up into the brightening colormelting sky. Your hands massage my shoulders. My hands circle and rub your ankles.
The stunning effects of our hyperspace travel ebbs away thanks to the soothing contact.
“Ready to find a way out of here?”
“You lead the way.”
I scoot forward and get up, and going on my tiptoes stretch my arms straight up. For a few seconds I wiggle my fingers playing with the disappearing dots as if I had never seen them before.
You’re staring.
“What?”
You shake your head and walk over to the border of the terrace. I join you on the periphery stones. I run my left hand finger down from the inside of your wrist and with the softest touch, my fingertips ride the furrowed threads of your palm to in between your fingers. You squeeze my hand in reassurance. We stand barefoot overlooking the complex reading the sacred text dedicated to that which inspired its writing. We tread the ledge, climb down staircases, follow the serpentine pathway, its snakeskin scales shedding light on bending time: the past scars the present and the foundation of the present holds future growth. Future endpoints uncertain, we virtually terraform using patterns of the past.
After our scans and logging, we release our hold on each other and you start to descend a trail. The farther down and into the forest the slicker the stones become. Our feet have superthin rubberized slippers that give us extra traction like sticky frogs’ feet.
Sweat drips from my nape, soaking my hair and my spine becomes an aqueduct. You seem to be getting just as uncomfortable as I am. You look back and smile.
“Up ahead a little more.”
Every so often we need to pause to hack away overgrowth with our handheld machetes to clear the path. The skin balm we wear repels the swarms of biting insects. As much as we are sweating, however, we are quickly losing our cover.
A surge of glee comes with the sound of rushing water, and brings a hop and a skip to our downward hike.
You stop on the cascading avalanche of steps, listening carefully to variations of water sounds, and point left. Like the quiet click of safe tumblers releasing, you turn onto a muddy path off the main walkway. We squeeze our way through the thick trees and brush. The worn dirt underneath us is our only guide. We notice a drop-off ahead where the trees give way to the river. We arrive at an inlet the river has gouged out, a pool we can bathe in. Our loose-fitting clothing is plastered to our skin from the humidity. We do not hesitate to set our few possessions aside, slip off our outfits and plunge into the refreshing water.
On the exit ramp to the river and home we swim around and under each other, our childlike playfulness bubbling forth.

Footprint