Excerpt for Noah's Freezer by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Noah’s Freezer

By

L. M. Reker


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

World Castle Publishing, LLC

Pensacola, Florida

Copyright © Arkwatch Holdings, LLC 2017

Smashwords Edition

Author: L. M. Reker

Hardback ISBN: 9781629896489

Paperback ISBN: 9781629896496

eBook ISBN: 9781629896502

First Edition World Castle Publishing, LLC, March 20, 2017

http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com

Smashwords Licensing Notes

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.

Cover: Arkwatch Holdings, LLC & Karen Fuller

Editor: Erik Johnston


Prologue


The Seeding

A Neolithic European community near the Alps


Uta sat on a ridge overlooking her village and plucked several plump raspberries from her satchel, savoring the rich sweetness of each, as her eyes surveyed the reality of her beautiful, spring-engulfed world. The grass she sat on, the cool breeze that stroked her skin, the warm, caressing sunlight that amplified the depth of her amber hair, and the anticipation—the unbearable expectation of tomorrow’s ceremony, enveloped her with indescribable joy. She and the people would honor the Great Mother, the goddess of all this exquisite life. The annual ceremony to the earth, the sustaining mother of them all, was imminent.

The Womb of the Earth was a sacred place where she and the others of their community visited annually to honor the Great Mother. Only the most foolhardy would dare enter its sacred space for a casual adventure. The trek into the foothills of their great mountain, the snow-capped home of the spirits, would take the better part of a day, an adventure she welcomed, because it would allow her to traverse the wildflower fields studded with an array of golds, blues, scarlets, and some colors that were simply indescribable. She and her women companions would garland themselves with flowers and don their best-prepared furs and hides. Their men would carry the wise and aged village dowager on her flower-draped chair in front of their tribal chief, with the entire procession to be led by the village shaman, the oldest and most insightful man of their tribe.

Uta stood and looked at her world one more time from her secret lookout. Then she carefully descended down her forested ridge to the village below. She passed through some of her favorite places, the soaring fir trees, the wild raspberry bushes, and then by the open grassy meadow and the village lake, where she saw a flock of swans take flight to the sun and then cross over her enclave.

In her mind’s eye she mused, There are so many living gifts from the Great Mother. Great numbers of them are unnamed. Words…words are so soft, so thin. They are like blades of grass in the wind.

She laughed and thought, What a silly thing to say.

Then reflectively she thought, Why do I feel such love for all this? The Mother’s ways are so hidden.

The collective spirit they called “tribe” was warm and immediate to her, as she passed by and waved to village fishermen who adroitly speared massive pike and freshwater catfish from the shoreline of their lake.

Uta caught a glance from a young man, Egon, who had just thrown his fishing spear.

“Uta, the Wanderer, welcome back,” he shouted.

She responded with a smile, hid her exhilaration at his recognition, and waved back.

She thought, Why do I feel so warm from his glance—another mystery of the Great Mother?

Women on a nearby lake inlet collected water chestnuts, hazelnuts, and yellow water lilies. Passing a stream feeding this blue crystalline wonder, village children played the games their parents and countless generations before them were taught; find the hidden child and capture the ball, this one made from tanned skins and a grass-stuffed auroch bladder. They cheered with delight, as one young boy reached a stone monolith before the others could grab him.

Three little girls, caught site of her, ran to her, and begged her to help them arrange flowers in their hair. “Uta, Uta, do the flowers on us the way you do.”

She complied, talking with the exuberant little girls, “In a few seasons you’ll be doing this yourselves,” as she weaved the multi-hued stems into their braids.

“Uta, why can’t we enter the great womb like the others?”

“You know all too well you’re not women yet. Your time will come. The goddess will bless you and you will share in the mysteries.” She finished garlanding each one, embraced them, and moved toward the village.

She picked up her pace. As the familiar lodgings came into view, a semi-circular enclave of lodge houses made of heavy wood poles, and carefully thatched roofs. They were elevated to protect the tribe from unexpected predators. In the center of the semicircle were several cooking pits, designed to allow the entire community their shared communal feasts.

Just before she arrived, Taga, her close friend, ran in her direction, accompanied by her beautiful silver Sheppard, Roamer, a dog who had been her constant companion since childhood.

She was excited and spoke in gasps, “Uta, the Traveler was right, the little life grains have been touched by the Great Mother. Come, come, you must see.”

She grabbed Uta’s hand and they dashed to a patch of land on the edge of the enclave. Oats, wheat, and chickpeas had sprouted with their little green heads just above the cover of the dark soil.

Taga, her words gushing said, “The Traveler was right. The little grains have the life force in them. Oh I wish I could hug him and give him thanks. Look, their green sprouts are exactly in the designs I dug in the soil.”

Uta, astonished, knelt with her to inspect the new growth, something she and Taga had seen in the wild, but never attempted to create by conscious design.

Uta grabbed her hand firmly and spoke, “Taga, we must tell the Dowa, she is closest to the truth of the Great Mother.”

“You’re right, she’ll understand. Oh how I wish the Traveler had stayed a little longer to explain this wonder.”

The three entered the enclave and approached the lodge of the Dowa, the aged priestess of the Great Mother. Taga respectfully spoke her name, “Dowa, may we speak. It’s important.”

The priestess responded, “Enter please. We always enjoy your company. What is this important matter? Does it concern tomorrow’s procession to the Womb of the Earth?”

Taga paused to think, at that moment making a connection of the seedlings to the power of the ceremony. “We don’t know Mother. I’ll explain. Six great moons ago when the Traveler visited us, he gave me”—she opened her pouch and displayed a handful of seeds—“these and said they would create life. I only half believed him, but I did as he suggested. I cleared out a nice patch of land and played with several line designs, the kind we put on our pottery. Except these were dug in the dirt. I stuck in a seed about a finger’s length from each other, watered them as he instructed, and now today they grow. This is beyond my mind.”

She paused and they waited in respectful silence, as she finally withdrew from her pouch a flat wood tablet with a series of notches on it. “You said six great moons ago,” she said as she carefully scrutinized the placement of notches to each other. “Did the Traveler say they would be born at this time?”

Taga reflected and then spoke, “I’m not sure Dowa, I believe so.”

Dowa sat quietly, invoking experiences and connections in her mind to formulate a thoughtful response. “Let’s decide what to do with this after we visit the Womb of the Earth. I feel confident this wonderful gift has a use. Our quest for nourishment encircles all of the Great Mother’s creations, but these magic grains bring a special power with them.”

Then with a smile to each and joining their hands together she said, “The Great Mother will give us direction, of this I have no doubt.”

***

At first light, the entire village was stirring, each person knowing his or her role. Cantu, the shaman, regaled in his bear robes, animal fetishes, and crowned with deer antlers scurried about getting everyone ready. The men carried torches, firewood in backpacks, and offerings for the Great Mother. Several carried drums. The women packed food for the evening, red ochre, and their goddess figurines. The procession left the village with the first light, as children waved good-bye with their elder caretakers.

In the slow assent through the foothills to the home of the spirits, they paused in a stand of evergreens to watch an elk herd spook and head to the highlands; a wolf pack cautiously eyed the group, as they paused for everyone to collect wild almonds, berries, medicinal roots, and wild flowers. A massive formation of geese traversed their path, braying their distinctive call as several men facetiously imitated their sound, while the women giggled at them.

The orifice of the Womb of the Earth was barely visible and just sufficiently large to allow adults to enter. Its modest entry hid an extraordinary array of passages and magnificent chambers, that belied its modest portal. The gravity of the ceremony about to be performed and the collective power it held over the group transfixed everyone’s attention inwardly.

They all averted their gaze from the entrance by preparing themselves for the rapidly approaching evening. Their individual work, each in preparation for this rite was accomplished silently. They consumed a modest evening meal, as the last light of day gently faded.

The men then lit the torches, which were passed to every other man and woman, as the shaman lead the Dowa to the entrance to allow her to be the first to enter the lips of the Womb. He followed her, as the careful procession silently entered the cave. Uta had a position in the middle of the procession, carefully holding her torch through the narrow entryway. She had performed this ritual five times before, but her fascination with the place had not diminished.

The first room was modest and revealed some stalagmites with just a few fetishes hanging from them. Uta knew well about the labyrinthine depths of the cave, whose actual dimensions and full complexity of passageways were known only by the Great Mother. Several people placed offerings and a few inserted carefully swathed bird eggs in wall niches.

The next orifice was larger than the original entrance and allowed quick passage by the entire group into the inner sanctum chamber of the cave, the great hall. The collective torches revealed the convoluted ceiling of an immense world, one where the limits could only be dimly perceived at the other end of the chamber, where ceiling and floor finally converged to a rough point, as a vast cone. This was the place of the altar of the Great Mother.

The group methodically moved in that direction, as the light of the torchbearers moving among stalagmites and stalactites created macabre tricks of shadow and image.

The group paused near an adjacent passageway that was the stuff of legend in their community. In complete silence, they listened to the distant rush of water, the pulsing blood of the Great Mother. This was also called the Path of the Lost Shamans, dedicated to the brave souls who entered its way and never returned.

The group paused one more time by several large niches at the base of some dominating stalagmites. The Dowa and Cantu stopped and lowered their heads reverentially and placed their hands over their hearts, as they paid homage to the burial grounds of the many village priestesses and shamans who had preceded them.

They finally arrived at the stone altar divided by a centerpiece that was a life size ancient goddess figure seated in her chair. The assembled villagers formed a partial semi-circle facing their Great Mother altar and placed their torches into holders behind them. Cantu and the Dowa stepped forward and broke the silence.

The Dowa spoke first, “We honor the Great Mother by renewing her spirit.” Then she gestured to Taga and spoke, “Renew her essence.”

Taga stepped forward and, with a container of red ochre, she silently smeared it over the extraordinarily exaggerated contours of her gigantic egg-shaped breasts, massive thighs, and pregnant abdomen. Her facial features were only rudimentarily etched below her braided hair and upturned stare.

Cantu spoke as Taga finished her duties, “We know not the creators of our Great Mother’s image. They lived beyond the reckonings of the comings and goings of the moon. They were different than us, but they understood her power and mystery. We honor them and our kin who have passed into spirit, because we all share the earth together.”

As Cantu removed a handful of the ceremonial herbs from his shaman’s bag, the Dowa said, “Bring the cups and the broth of life.” These were brought to the altar, as several communal wooden bowls were placed on the stones adjacent to the goddess statue. Two large bladders were placed next to them as Cantu removed a handful of mushrooms from his pouch and carefully divided them into bite-sized segments with his sharp obsidian knife, a gift from the Traveler. Each participant moved forward, took a mushroom fragment, and returned to their original places to await the passage of a cup.

The Dowa, Taga, and several others carefully poured the broth into the bowls and passed them to all. They chewed and swallowed the mushroom washing them down with the herbal concoction.

Uta consumed them with great anticipation, a mixture of excitement and fear. She knew the sacred herbs and mushrooms produced feelings and insights that would influence her for weeks to come—perhaps all of her life. The thing they called “second sight” would allow her a communion with the tribe, while revealing parts of her nature that were both gratifying and frightening.

She thought, what is fear compared to the power of the Great Mother?

The drummers began a slow rhythmic beat, and then, as if one single entity, the group began to sway and dance with a spontaneously choreographed harmony. The tempo of the drums increased as the group began to move with complete abandonment, together and then with the individual expression of each person.

This continued until a strange imperative took hold of each one. For some it was a journey into their own selfhood and they elected to curl up quietly in their furs to allow this connection. For others it was the familial joy of bonding and talking in heightened fellowship.

The potency of the drink and mushroom changed Uta’s senses, as the cave became crystalline even in the dim torch light of this inner sanctum. It’s as if her compatriots were haloed in their own spectrum of light. Quartz deposits on the wall of the chamber glistened and twinkled magically. She swayed, absorbed in the exquisite strangeness. She closed her eyes and saw her blood coursing through her veins in her eyelids.

She thought, Do small streams of blood travel my body like the rivers of the Great Mother above and below?

Her body’s heat heightened even more, as she felt a presence near her.

She turned and facing her with longing eyes, was the young man, Egon, with whom she has had some brief but memorable encounters in previous days, the same fisherman who greeted her the day before—the one who called her the “Wanderer.” They shared a look that was unmistakable for both, and they retreated to a more private part of the cave.

Finally, after many hours they all gave themselves up to blissful sleep, the sleep of joyful children who had been granted the wonderful boon of returning to the peace and tranquility of their Mother’s Womb, this one, their created surrogate, the Great Womb of the Earth.

***

Slowly the congregation of the Earth began to stir. Several ignited their torches as they prepared their exit from the cave. The gathering finally initiated their trek downward from the mountain to their home, as they greeted the rising sun.

They were silent, each in his or her reverie of residual experience from the previous night. Uta and her “Womb” companion, Egon, walked near the front of the procession.

Later in the day as the sun became more luminous, as they were coming into proximity of the village, Uta caught a faint flicker of light on the horizon. It seemed to be approaching the right side of the peak that shadowed their village.

She rubbed her eyes and focused intensely at this unexpected phenomenon. Its brightness increased as it came closer to the peak. A few in back of them began to notice this aberration. Their pace accelerated, now with each individual in the group starting to take notice.

“Is it snow geese?” Egon said.

“It’s becoming brighter. I don’t see birds,” Uta responded.

A woman exclaimed in back of them, “What could it be?”

They picked up the pace, as if drawn to something attractive yet singularly frightening.

They stopped suddenly, as the anomaly became clearer. The collective confusion was palpable and a wave of concern passed through the group. There was nothing in their realm of experience to define or compare this to anything anyone had ever seen.

Slowly, inexorably, a brilliant metallic-like disc of enormous size, flawless in shape and perfectly smooth with its surface reflecting flickering sheens of unimaginable brightness, approached the backside of their village mountain.

Exclamations arose from the group. This was beyond excitement; it was a breathtaking contradiction to the collective reality of their world. Everyone was riveted to its incomprehensible dimensions, as it passed out of view behind the peak. In frenzied excitement, they finally reached the lake and entrance to their village.

“Only birds and clouds fly,” they exclaimed.

“What was that shining thing?”

“Where do the colors come from?”

“What could possibly be so perfect? Is there a word for it?”

Arriving at the comfort of their enclave and their communal eating area, trying their best to frame in language something that eclipsed language, they gestured and frantically reached for the sky.

Uta thought, no words can capture this.

They suddenly paused. A deep humming sound trumped all of their noise, as everything seemed to vibrate.

Uta looked up toward the peak and fell to her knees and shouted, “Goddess.”

Everybody, with faces turned upward, saw the disc they witnessed earlier, as it emerged from the mountain, as a bird would pass through a cloud, completely unaltered in its magnificence. It now hovered over them, as the villagers were bathed in blue light, their skin tingling with a strange vibration and a humming sound that overwhelmed all others.

***

Within the great disc, a cadre of beings, diminutive and gray, silently affixed the villagers to examination tables. They were now naked and bound to the tables by an unseen force. Their terror was indescribable.

Uta cried out, “Mother, help me.”

A voice intruded into their minds, one of sublime calm and certitude, “Calm yourself. We’ll do you no harm.” In unison, their exclamations became silent, as their gasping was now relaxed breathing.

Uta felt a presence other than the Grays flanking her table. As she was about to speak, a bright light from the table and above her saturated her entire frame. She was astonished as her body became transparent. Even in her reclining position she could see arteries, veins, her skeleton, and view her heart and lungs laboring inside her rib cage.

She thought, I’ve done this before…in the cave, but this…this is so much clearer.

Uta, who had resigned herself to her fate, addressed a figure she believed was near her. “Who are you? Where do you come from? Do you serve the goddess?”

The figure came from in back of her to face her. She was robed with only her face revealed, clearly humanoid, with large ingratiating eyes, slender lips and a gracefully small nose.

Uta bravely exclaimed, “You are like us. How could you make such a thing as this?”

A faint smile appeared on the woman’s face. She spoke, “We share a common line, an ancestry, if you will. It is ancient and far-removed from this world. We come from those brilliant lights of the night sky—we call them stars.”

“Are you gods?” Uta asked.

“No, we are humans, just like you.”

“Who are they?” Uta, staring at the Grays, said.

“They come from a different world, a different ancestry. The only differences between us and them are our times, places, and methods of evolution, an idea your progeny will come to know in the distant future.”

“You use strange words. I don’t know what you mean,” Uta declared.

“You will.”

“What are you doing to us? Why have you bathed us in this strange light?” Uta asked.

The robed woman smiled, “We’ve given you a gift that is not apparent to you now, but will benefit you in ages to come. We are humans like yourself and we visit humans such as you on other worlds. We are making changes in your bodies that will alter things in your future that you cannot even imagine in your current state. You will learn the full truth of this in a distant time. For now, live your lives with honesty and courage in all the places you travel.

“We will not be much longer and all of you will only remember this experience as symbols in the deepest parts of your dreams. For you however, something grows inside that you will soon cherish and adore. Peace and love to you and all your kin.”

***

That night a restless slumber enveloped the entire village as their dreams of light and falling were interrupted by unexplained touches by things unknown. With the morning light Uta ran to Taga’s lodge and roused her from her slumber.

She shook Taga, “Wake up. I have an idea about your magic grains. Come, we must visit the Dowa.”

Taga finally got up and the two staggered off to see their priestess. She was awake and acted as if they were expected.

The Dowa looked at Uta and said, “Let’s make a plan about the grains. I know you come here for that reason.”

Uta, surprised, said, “Taga and I can take her grains. She still has many in her pouch and, if we plant more places, we can help feed the village. We wish to work together. It will be a wonderful gift from the goddess.”

Dowa smiled in assent, “I will propose this at our next village meeting. We’ll need help to prepare the land. I know the goddess will bless this.” The two left thrilled with the prospect of fulfilling the Traveler’s gift.

The next day, Uta found Egon by the lake and excitedly told him of her plan. He embraced her, as she made another request.

“Egon, I must return to the cave.”

He looked at her skeptically and replied, “Would that be the right thing to do? Would the Dowa and Cantu approve of such an action? More importantly, would we trespass into the Great Mother’s world?”

“We both know others have done it. I want to show you something that I’ve thought about doing.”

He smiled and agreed.

The next morning they left the village before everyone had begun to stir.

They arrived at the cave later in the day. Uta had a large pack with her that held several stone knives and colored powders. Egon lit two torches and they both entered the first chamber. They moved carefully until they found a section of cave wall that was relatively flat. She extracted the tools from her pouch and placed them carefully on the ground with the bags of colored powder.

She planted her torch near the flat section of the wall, while Egon held his to give her closer light. She felt the texture of the cave wall running her hands over the section she intended to work. She decided what instrument to use and she grabbed a hard flint knife she used to etch a circular object. She worked it carefully until she was satisfied. Then she scraped the interior part of the circle with another tool. Removing a sulfur-like yellow powder, she colored her orb with it. On the top 180 degrees of the orb she etched grooves that created an outward radiance. She then employed all of the colors at her disposal to enliven these notches.

She took a break and asked for Egon’s comments.

He thoughtfully replied, “It is a rainbow coming from the sun. Is there more?”

“Yes, can I sit on your shoulders?”

“Of course.”

She grabbed her tools and worked from that elevated vantage point above the orb. Egon could not see the product of her labors until he brought her down to the cave floor. She etched a bird in flight with a rudimentary human head on its neck and braided hair like Uta’s, streaming backwards from the ascent.

“That is my spirit. That is who I really am,” she said.

Egon smiled, “As long as you don’t take flight from me…”

Their union that evening started their life together and also the ascent of their people to new levels in their evolutionary journey.

Their children and their children’s children would wander to many lands and spread many seeds and, they all would dream compelling dreams of adventure, disco, and evanescent truths that they grasped at and occasionally captured to their hungry hearts and minds.


An Ancient African Night


On the edge of an ancient African village near a stretch of a vast escarpment called the “Cliffs of Bandiagara,” under a brilliant, starry night, aged Dogon tribesmen instructed their children on the mysteries of their life. They circled a campfire, as lions roared in the distant and silhouettes of other animals crossed to and fro in the night. A tribal shaman, who was accompanied by his teenage daughter and a second elder with his young adult son and a much younger son, formed the circle around the fire.

The shaman spoke first, addressing the younger members of the circle, “The truth of our world is that we know we are not alone in the great sky ocean of the night.”

He paused, reflectively, and spoke again, “Oh, how I love the starry night. It is home. It is the embrace of our father and mother, the place of our mentors and guides.”

His daughter, Samari, asked, “How could that be, Father?”

Nodding to the other elder, who had accompanied him, “We are here to teach you, as we were taught by our parents, in the manner of our village and the many other villages of our people.”

“We are in the birthplace of the soul of all humanity. It’s here in this land the human adventure begins,” the elder said.

The shaman continued, “Many years ago, out of the great kingdom of Egypt, we migrated to this place of austerity to keep our connection to the truth of our spiritual nature—our deep connections to the heart of humanity. Now, our people are scattered among many villages, but we are one.”

“To my first question father, how does the starry night become our home?” Samari replied.

He smiled and pointed to Sirius, the great “Dog Star” and exclaimed, “The Nommo, The Masters of the Water, The Listeners, The Teachers, and our Spiritual Guardians came from that world, and we are connected to them, as they have taught us.”

The elder’s oldest son asked, “How did they come from the great star of the Nommos. Isn’t it an impossible distance, as you’ve said before?”

“In the most distant times the Nommo, the water beings from the great star, taught us our true inner nature, what some call the truth of inner eye. They did this after our journey from Egypt,” the elder explained.

The youngest was startled and exclaimed, “Where is our inner eye?”

As he touched the boy’s forehead with his finger, “It is right there, except this eye looks inward.”

The shaman continued, “Our people used to dwell in the lower part of the Great Kingdom. We all paid homage to Isis, the Great Star Goddess, whose light comes from the Dog Star. Isis’ world was also ours, but we left that place of opulence and leisure to reconnect to our true nature. The Nommo, who have come to other tribes of the world in many places, visited us in ships from the great sky, adorned with wondrous light.”

The elder picked up the strain of the instruction, “The Nommo revealed to us their connection to our people. Our star, our sun, joins with theirs—the great blue father orb of Sirius and his white orb wife. The three are a celestial family.”

“What did the Nommos look like?” the young child asked.

“They were different than us. They were infinitely kind but strange—some say fearsome in appearance. Their home was in the water of their world, and they would in appearance, be in concert with the web-like creatures of our Great River.

“Their celestial craft landed countless ages ago, somewhere near our great river. The story passed to us tells of a strange whining noise and wind. The ship then landed on its three legs in the shallows of the great River. The Nommos exited from their craft into the water, and thus began the instruction of our people.

“Their two stars circle each other in a great dancing rhythm, like two of our dancers at a festival, except it takes fifty of our years for one of their rotations. The Nommos tell us that another motion—they called it a spiral—imitates the life core of all living things. All living things are created in this spiral, whose motion is the true dance of life.”

“How could that be?” Samari asked.

“They say it’s a pattern within all living things, plants animals, even the smallest insects. As we become more enlightened in the workings of the world, we will understand it more fully,” her father answered.

The young man asked, “Are there still others from the stars?”

“Oh yes, the women from beyond the Pleiades. They’ve not visited here, but our Egyptian ancestors honored them in their temples and thought of them as helpers of mankind. In the early days of our world, they are said to have assisted us to advance in many ways, especially in the guidance of our women,” the elder answered.

“What of the blue men. I’ve heard others speak of them?” the shaman’s daughter asked.

“They have been among us,” he replied.

“Are they like the Nommos?” she asked.

“No, they are different. They are guardians. They have helped us preserve our way of life.”

“How do they do such a thing?” the elder’s son asked.

“Our teachers and the teachers before them say they advise us in ways invisible, and guide us with soft hints and gentle revelations. They especially counsel us to find the truth of things inside ourselves,” he said.

“Do you mean they lead us to see with our inner eyes?” Samari asked.

“Exactly.”

“Does our Holy Man speak with them?” the young man asked.

“Their form of address is subtle, as an idea intruding into a dream. Occasionally, they are visible and physical. We do not know with whom the Holy Man communes. His cave is his world. As you know, he dedicates his life to our people. He lives in our Sacred Cave of Records, preserving the ancient wall drawings of our history. This is his lifetime work, one he takes on, because he, more completely than any other, feels the power of our way. It is his choice to live in isolation. When he passes into spirit, another holy man will take his place,” the Shaman replied.

The Shaman turned to his daughter, lovingly, “My daughter, Samari, my Priestess of Isis, you will carry the truth we give you tonight to the women of our tribe. We’ll continue to meet here until you have mastered what you need and you begin to see with the inner clarity I know you possess. Light will shine on your countenance. You will be an example to everyone. This, I know.”

Samari, somewhat intimidated, said, “Father that is so much to bear. I’m barely more than a child.”

“Age has no bearing on it,” he answered, “The spirit of the Nommos is with you. You have their virtues. You are insightful, centered, and calm beyond your age. In the realm of Isis, age is irrelevant.”

Samari did not realize her consciousness and understanding at that moment would extend itself into a future that, at her current place in this time, would be beyond anything she could currently conceive of, or hope to understand.

The group silently huddled around the fire, each absorbed in their own thoughts, and surrounded by the vastness of the night, while overhead Sirius radiated its blue brilliance.


Chapter One

Daniel McKnight, a Child’s Awakening

2009


Walking in the Woods of the White Mountains of Arizona with a Mysterious Friend


Daniel, an inquisitive, brown-haired, precocious eight-year-old and his German Sheppard, Hermes (a name his mother and father gave the dog), explored a forest together, searching for two golden eagles they saw dance in the sky near their house.

“Come on, Hermi,” a variation on his dog’s name he preferred, “let’s find those eagles.” They climbed a hill in the direction of their nest. When they reached the top, Daniel was winded and Hermes noticed a quick burst of light, a short flicker, which caught his attention. Then he observed a movement in the small aspen stand from which it came. Alertly fixing his eyes and ears in that direction, he saw a girl emerge from the stand, and he relaxed, since his instincts and training for potential danger were focused on encounters with large mammals, such as coyotes and bears.

Daniel, who saw her also, observed the young girl heading their way. She made eye contact with him and he smiled in acknowledgement. She was a pretty red haired girl a few years older than he was.

“Hi, how ya doing?” she asked.

“Wow, I’m surprised to see anyone here. Where did you come from?” Daniel responded.

“My name is Kelly. My parents visit here a lot.”

“My name is Daniel—you mean they let you roam around without a dog?”

“Sure, I’m pretty good at finding my way and I can really move fast if I need to.”

“That’s cool. My parents always make me take Hermi. He can find his way back from any place.”

She again gazed directly into his eyes and then the dog, “Can I walk with you?”

“Sure,” Daniel said, “I’d like that and so would Hermi. We’re looking for some eagles we know are up here.”

“Let’s find them together.” They walked for a while. Then Kelly abruptly asked them to stop. She looked intently at a cluster of trees about a hundred yards away, directly in front of them.

“I think I see them,” she said. “Let’s move forward carefully.”

Daniel said, his eyes wide, “Come on, Hermi, we’ve got to be quiet.”

They covered half the distance and all paused as one of the eagles flew from the nest directly at them. Daniel and Hermi grew nervous as the eagle glided closer. Daniel ducked as the bird passed over them just a few feet above.

“Wow. That was close!”

“That was the mother protecting her fledglings. We’re in her territory and she was checking us out,” Kelly said.

“You sure know a lot.”

“I love nature and I study it whenever I have a chance.”

Daniel thoughtfully asked, “Do you know all of the animals of the White Mountains?”

“Many of them,” she said. “Let’s go this way, I’ll show you something cool.”

They went back the way they came and Kelly led them to another thicket that gave them a view of the interior of a small ravine, where a flock of wild turkeys grazed. “Let’s be quiet and enjoy the show.”

Daniel’s eyes widened as he and Kelly studied twenty-plus turkeys, gobbling, clucking, yelping, and cackling, as they foraged for food in this hidden area.

As she pointed to a male bird displaying his long, dark, fan-shaped tail and glossy bronze wings, she whispered, “He’s courting the females.”

They observed a fast flying bird that rejoined the flock. “They can fly up to forty miles-per-hour for a quarter mile, if they have to,” Kelly commented.

“I’ve seen them fly before but never that fast,” Daniel quietly exclaimed.

“What do they eat? They seem to be feeding on everything.”

“You’re right. Grass mostly, but also acorns and nuts, such as hazelnuts, pinyon nuts, juniper berries, roots, and insects. They’ll occasionally consume snakes and other small invertebrates,” Kelly responded.

“Wow. You know everything. What’s an invertebrate?” Daniel asked, amazed at her knowledge.

“An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone.”

“That’s got to be tough,” he said, innocently.

“Actually, they do all right,” Kelly smiled.

They continued watching for a little while longer. Then Kelly signaled, “It’s time to go.”

“Can you walk with us a little more back to the ranch?” Daniel said.

“Sure, maybe we’ll see some other things,” Kelly said. The three ambled for a bit and scared away several deer, feeding nearby. They finally reached the hill, leading down to the ranch. Daniel went down first followed by Hermi and Kelly. When they reached an overlook that gave a clear view of the ranch area, Daniel spotted his father by the side of a wetlands area on the north side of the reservoir. He turned to talk to Kelly but she was not there.

He spoke to Hermi, “Where is she?” He scanned the entire area but no one was in sight. Disturbed, he continued with Hermi thinking, How could she have gone so quickly? I wanted Dad to meet her. She said she could move quick, but, jeez, I never thought…Oh well, I hope I see her again some time…How did she do that? Gosh maybe she just had to leave and didn’t want to say anything. He finally reached his dad both happy and a little disappointed. His father, Fred McKnight, was a wildlife biologist and ecologist, and his wife, Claire, the same.

“Hi Dad, what are you up to?”

He smiled and replied, “Daniel and Hermes, back from a fresh adventure, no doubt. To answer your question, I’m up to my eyeballs in frogs,” as he gestured to a couple of sample boxes, where the sound of muted croaking was heard. “Where have you been?”

“Hermi and I went to find those golden eagles, you know, the ones we saw dancing together above the lake…but something cool happened. We met a girl.”

Fred, somewhat surprised, said, “Met a girl?”

“Yeah, she was walking in the woods.”

Fred asked, now concerned, “By herself?”

“Yeah, the three of us found the golden eagles and we saw a bunch of wild turkeys. It was awesome. She’s so smart.”

“Whoa, slow down and tell me about this girl.”

“Her name is Kelly and she knows a lot about animals. I was going to have you meet her but she just kinda disappeared.”

Fred, a bit more relieved, while mulling it over, repeated, “Kinda disappeared. Kind of magical?”

“You know, Dad, she did seem magical. That’s a good word for her. I hope I meet up with her again. She’s really fun and Hermi likes her too.”

Fred, no longer concerned she was real, said, “Ya never know.”

Daniel, while peering at the croaking boxes, commented, “Why are you doing that, Dad?”

“Your mom and I are studying them. We, and quite a few other scientists, have some concerns about amphibians.”

“Are amphibians invertebrates, Dad?”

Fred was genuinely surprised by the question, and asked, “Do you know what an invertebrate is?”

“Sure, it’s an animal without a backbone.”

Fred continued, “Where did you learn such a thing?”

“Kelly taught me,” Daniel said proudly.

“Are you sure you didn’t read about them from one of my books?”

“No, it was definitely Kelly.”

Fred no longer pursued the Kelly question and answered his first inquiry, “Frogs are vertebrates. Therefore, they have backbones.”

“But why are you collecting them?”

Wondering how Daniel would deal with new concepts, Fred replied, “They’re sentinels. Let me explain. A sentinel is a kind of guard, but these frogs don’t know they’re guards. By measuring key factors in their life and their physiology, they tell us about the rest of the environment, things like habitat diversity, biological variety, and local stressors. Things that cause an ecosystem to change. Am I making sense to you?”

“Kinda, I’m not completely sure about some of the words,” Daniel replied, thoughtfully.

“Which ones, Daniel?”

“What’s a stressor?”

“A stressor is a condition or specific thing that influences an organism, as a frog. Often it’s something bad coming into a habitat, like pollution or chemicals.”

“I remember what you said about physiology being how the parts of animals work together, lungs and hearts and all that stuff. Is that what you’re going to look at with the frogs?” Daniel said.

“Exactly, but we’ll also see if they picked up anything from what humans have created, like air pollution. Frogs are sensitive to such things. That’s why we call them “sentinels.” They are unwitting guards. They live in both water and air. Because of their land and water connection, their skin, larvae, and unshelled eggs are constantly exposed and in contact with the substances in their surroundings. They are usually some of the first animals to be impacted by environmental change, so we’ve got to study them.”

“Will the frogs you’re collecting tell you things about the ranch? Oh, is the ranch a habitat? I remember you talking about it with Mom.”

Fred continued, somewhat surprised by Daniel’s precocious insight, “The ranch is part of the habitat of the high White Mountains area, which has specific qualities that make it different from other places.”

“Dad, are the frogs in trouble?”

Fred’s brow furrowed gravely, “We believe so. Too many are born deformed and their numbers are decreasing in many places of the world. So far, here, we’ve noticed only a little change. Some of our fellow scientists have reported some disturbing data. Mom and I talked to a colleague recently who just finished a major survey. There are over 4,000 species of amphibians and he studied only seven in another mountain range. Four of them had unnaturally high death and deformation rates. Many suffered from convulsions and lesions.”

Daniel disturbed by that information, asked, “How are you going to help them?”

“We don’t know yet. It’s frustrating because things such as this have never happened before.”

“What do you think is causing this? Daniel asked.

“We are examining several possibilities—increases in ultraviolet radiation, air and water pollution, and contamination from other animals. We just don’t know at this point.”

“I didn’t know how important your work was. I think I want to do what you do, when I grow up.”

“Speaking of growing up, it looks like you’re making some pretty big strides yourself, young man.”

***

Later that evening, Daniel burst into the ranch house just ahead of his father. “Hi Mom, Dad, Kelly and I studied animals today.”

Claire said, “Kelly?”

“Yeah Mom, she’s a girl I met today.”

“Oh, that’s nice.”

“I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” as he dashed in that direction.

“Who is Kelly?” Claire asked Fred.

Fred responded, “I think Daniel has invented an imaginary friend. He described a nice little adventure with her today and said she disappeared when they got close to the ranch. It was actually quite a charming account.”

“I’ve heard that’s normal. I guess talking to Hermes isn’t enough,” she said.

“He caught up to me collecting frogs. He was genuinely interested in what I was doing. I got into a nice little rap with him about amphibians. I’m curious to see how much of it he retains,” Fred replied.

“What else did he say about Kelly?” Claire asked.

“He described spotting golden eagles and an encounter with wild turkeys. In both instances, Kelly supposedly schooled him in some of their characteristics.”

“I’ve noticed he’s been reading more. Do you think he’s projecting that knowledge on to an imaginary, fabricated personality?”

“I don’t know. He said this Kelly taught him what invertebrates are.”

“Was it detailed? Did he add any other nuances to this encounter?”

“No, it was just a definition.”

Daniel returned from the bathroom with a serious look on his face, “Can I ask you guys a question? I have to use a four letter word.”

They both looked at him quizzically. “Sure, go ahead,” Claire said.

“Do bears shit in the woods?”

Claire and Fred burst into laughter. Claire bit her lip, “Yes they do. Why would you ask such a thing? Did Kelly ask you that?”

“She wouldn’t say something like that. Uncle Jack asked Dad last week,” Daniel answered, resentfully.

Fred, barely suppressing a smile, said, “Let me try to explain. Uncle Jack could have just as easily said, ‘Do frogs hop by the pond?’ All that means is that whatever Uncle Jack was talking about—and, I honestly can’t remember what he was talking about—that fact was completely obvious and didn’t require any discussion. It’s just an expression. Wait—hold on—I do remember. He was commenting on whether Aunt Sara would ask him to do some weekend work.”

“Can you tell us a little bit more about Kelly? She sounds like an interesting person,” Claire asked Daniel.

“Sure, she’s a little taller than me. She has pretty red hair with some freckles across her nose. You’d call her a ‘cutie-petutie.’ She kinda talks like an adult and she’s really nice. She listens, like you guys do.”

They both smiled with gratification.

“Can you say more about her,” asked Fred.

“Oh yeah, sometimes it seemed she was talking to my mind…. It wasn’t really coming from her lips. You said she was magical and that made me think of that.”

Fred and Claire smiled knowingly at each other.

***

Daniel stood in front of a cobweb, illuminated by the morning light, which was artfully connected between two closely adjacent trees. He and Kelly admired its symmetry, while Kelly explained its significance.

“Look, Daniel, the spider’s world is filled with mathematics. Barely able to see, he is creating nearly perfect quadrilaterals, four-sided figures.”

“You mean like squares and rectangles?”

“Yes, except there are other names for them,” she said as she outlined a portion of the web with her finger. “This is called a parallelogram, four lines that will never touch. Look at this one, a trapezoid, only one set of parallel lines.”

“You mean that two will meet and the other two go on forever. What’s forever? I’ve thought about that. Does time end? Do the lines meet somewhere eventually?”

“No one knows for sure. Infinity is a mystery.”

“What’s infinity?”

“Infinity means no boundaries, endless, just like the lines, going on forever.”

“Wow. Thinking about that could give you a headache.”

She smiled. “Many people have tried to understand these concepts. Scientists, mathematicians, and other thinkers do what’s called ‘modeling,’ which is an attempt to put a framework on the unknown. Some of them apply this to the size of the universe, and in fact, some have concluded that it is infinite. Your mother and father do a smaller version when they study an area’s living things.”

“Cool, that’s something I’ll study someday.” She pointed at the spider. “Look how she is working her way outward laying the webs.”

“Why do you think the spider is female?”

“I like to think she is one of Charlotte’s children.”

Kelly, interested, said, “Who is Charlotte?”

“She is a spider in a story my mom read me. She helped other animals and then she died. It was kinda sad, but the cool part was the eggs she laid became her children and they lived on for her. My mom got a little teary when she read it. I think it was one of her favorite stories when she was growing up.”

“What do you think was the most important idea of the story?”

“I kinda agree with Mom that it’s about sticking with friends, no matter what. I really liked the animals too. They were like people, funny—but also afraid.”

Both returned their attention to the web. “What is the web made of?” Daniel asked.

Kelly replied, “It’s called silk and it’s strong. Scientists study it to imitate its features for other things they try to create.”

“You mean they make a model of it,” Daniel connected the proverbial dots.

“Good, that’s it. They look at it under a microscope, map its structure, and then experiment with that structure on other things.”

“Gosh, you talk just like an adult sometimes. Where did you learn all of this stuff?”

“My father is a kind of biologist too. We study living things together and we travel everywhere.”

“That must be a lot of fun. My mom, dad, and I have been to the Grand Canyon. What a hole that is. We’ve gone to other National Parks too. My favorite was the one at Yellowstone. Those geysers are really cool…actually they’re kinda hot.”

They moved on together, coming across a large creek with a substantial sandbar on the other side. Kelly had an idea and she said excitedly to Daniel, “Do you like surprises?”

“Sure, who doesn’t?”

“Why don’t you and Hermi go home for a while and then come back here after lunch. You won’t be disappointed. Okay?”

***

Later, Daniel and Hermi returned and were greeted by Kelly, who led them back to the creek to a small rise just above the sandbar. The sandbar, reinforced by some recent Monsoon flooding, had been transformed by dark multi-colored sediment on top of the lighter silicone. This palette, now suitable for etching, had become transformed into a massive diagram of the solar system, meticulously scrawled on its surface. Off to one side, was a smaller diagram of an atom.

Kelly stood proudly looking over this masterpiece, as refined as a Navajo sand painting. She pointed to the third planet. “This is where you live, your beautiful blue marble. Do you like it?”

“It’s incredible. Did you do this?”

“I got a little help from my family. I knew they were in this area and my mother is a wonderful artist. We worked together to map this out for you.”

She took him on a tour of the solar system and the inner workings of an atom complete with the sub-atomic particles etched into their orbits. Without a sound, she communicated by hand as she touched his mind to hers. After her tour, Daniel was in genuine awe of her. She suggested aloud, “Let’s keep this drawing our secret for now. It’s our special surprise for you. Maybe in a couple of days, if the rains haven’t washed it away, somebody will stumble across it. Who knows?”

“Okay, I like the idea. It’s my special present. Thanks a lot.”

***

Two weeks later, Claire McKnight traveled a road near Alpine, Arizona, a small community near the New Mexico state line. She and her husband, Fred, with the consent of the owners, lived at Sierra Blanca ranch for part of the year, where they also actively worked on their wildlife research.

Now, however, she was absorbed with thoughts of her son, Daniel, and his recent involvement with an imaginary friend. After delivering a lecture on Southwest eco-systems to a class in Phoenix, she attended a discussion group on childhood imaginary friends. She had done this more out of curiosity than any sense of dire necessity to learn the truth of it.

As she reached the road down to the ranch, she spotted Daniel across the reservoir that was adjacent to the ranch.

She rolled down her window, beeped her horn, and shouted, “Hey Daniel, I’m back and I’ve got a little surprise for you.”

Daniel waved and began running toward the path across the dam that separated the reservoir from the nearby cienega, a high elevation grassland basin, and one that stretched beyond into the valley. Sierra Blanca was a multi-house complex on the edge of two hills that were separated by the reservoir and the cienega.

Fred walked out of the nearby ranch house to greet her. She got out of the car and embraced him.

“It’s good to be back. Phoenix is hotter than hell in August.”

“We missed you,” he said. “Daniel, Kelly, and I.”

“How is his girlfriend doing?”

“Just as active as ever. There’s a new adventure every day. Did you learn anything in Phoenix about this quirk of imagination?”

“A few things. I’m not terribly concerned. We’ll talk when we have a chance. He’s almost here.”

Daniel ran to her and embraced her, giggling. “Where’s my surprise?”

“Hold your horses, big boy. Give your momma a hug first.”

He threw his arms around her neck and said, “I missed you, Mom.”

“Ready for your surprise?”

“Yeah, where is it?”

“In the back seat, come on, I’ll show you.” She opened the door and Daniel exclaimed in joy, “You got me a hamster. He’s beautiful.”

Fred advanced to the car, “What are you going to name him?”

“I don’t know, Dad,” he said as he retrieved the hamster from the cage. “I’ve got to show this to Kelly. We’ll name it together.”

He gathered the little creature up carefully and started to take it in the direction of the barn complex north of the house. He asked, “Is it okay if I show it to Kelly? She really loves animals.”

Claire and Fred shared a quick glance and he said, “Sure, but be careful. Don’t let that little guy get away.” Daniel dashed off.

Fred turned to her and asked, “What did you learn?”

“He’s a little old for this, just turning eight. That’s atypical but not a cause for concern. Some kids take their friends to their pre-teen years. And who knows, perhaps, some never really give them up. The psychologist who led the workshop explained that imaginary friends often fulfill a specific need for the child.”

Fred, concerned, said, “Do you think Daniel is lonely? He seems to be happy. He loves this place, and I’ve noticed he’s more sensitized to nature since this thing with Kelly began. Does he need to be around more children up here?”

Claire responded, “I know that many feel they can talk without fear or reproach with these friends. We try to be as open and caring as possible with him, but we are still parent figures and maybe he’s reluctant to talk about some things simply because of that.

“When we had Tanya and her son up here last week, he got along fine with him and it was like Kelly disappeared. I’m more assured now that I’ve listened to other people. The psychologist actually believes that a majority of kids go through this phase. Some of the stories are really funny. One little boy called his friends ‘Germ’ since Momma said all germs are invisible.”

“That’s cute. Any others?” Fred laughed.

“One woman’s little boy had a friend who was the mail box. He kept on opening and closing it and claimed he was helping it to talk because its jaw was stuck.”

Her tone became more serious. “One woman was praying for the devil to leave her child. She made him carry a bible around with him. Another woman believed her daughter’s friend was a guardian angel.

“These friends come in all shapes and sizes: popular fictional animals, real animals, hero figures, pop culture icons, you name it. They all serve a need by the child—to fend off a bully, get through school, moderate loneliness, deal with fear or exercise power in powerless situations. It’s funny, all of that seems plausible, but I just don’t see Daniel in any of those situations.”

“I agree with you. He doesn’t have any hang ups. He’s just a fun loving boy enjoying all of the possibilities of nature. It’s strange, but I just flashed on an idea that a psychologist proposed years ago, that we all at one time heard voices in our minds that help guide us through our evolution. Maybe the phenomenon is grounded in some primal instinct, a component of human-hive consciousness, or a kind of collective unconscious, that has become dormant. We actually know so little about our behavior no explanation can be ruled out. Maybe it’s one of the motivations for writing a diary. Write it out, rather than say it out to the imaginary friend,” Fred said.

After a moment’s thought, Claire said, “Listen, I think I’m going to perform a little experiment tonight. I’m going to ask Daniel to invite Kelly to dinner. I’m even going to set a place for her. We’ll see what happens.”

***

Daniel ran into the kitchen as Claire prepared an evening meal. “Mom, who’s the extra place setting for?”

Casually, she replied, “That one’s for Kelly. I was going to ask you to invite her. Is that okay?”

“Cool, I’ll go find her,” he said and dashed out of the house.

***

All seated at the table, Daniel explained, “Kelly says thanks for inviting her and she is going to talk through me when she gets here. It’s that magic stuff I talked about.”

“Good, she’s our guest and if she chooses to speak through you, that’s lovely,” Claire replied.

Daniel abruptly jumped up, “Kelly’s here.” He ran to the front door to let her in and pulled out the dining room chair for her to sit.

“Kelly, these are my mom and dad, the ones who invited you to dinner.”

With his eyes wide and excited with his new role, he said, “Kelly says thanks and she says she admires your work much.”

Claire, a little surprised, responded, “What a nice thing to say. Can you ask her how long she’s staying in the mountains?”

“Oh, she can hear you, Mom, just ask her. She said she and her family will be visiting a little while longer.”

Fred posed a question, “What does your father do?”

“He’s a scientist, just like you,” Daniel said.

“Really,” he responded. “What discipline?”

“He’s a biologist. He goes to a lot of different places.”

Claire, interjecting quickly, asked, “Where are you staying now?”

Daniel responded for Kelly, saying, “We camp at new places all the time.”


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