The next morning I find Divine’s note (somewhat crumpled but tucked neatly) atop the clothes Sandra’s pilfered for me. I face a grim dilemma. It’s most certainly a trap, like one of those no-win situations in an action movie. Either I find the “three” that Divine mentioned and thereby lead Sandra to them, or I refuse and Sandra decides that torture is the answer.
Either way, it won’t end well for me.
I draw lavender-scented air deep into my lungs and try to focus. Melissa’s even, methodic breathing surrounds me as my cabinmates and I sit crossed-legged on worn tatami mats in a room with bare walls the gaudy color of a Mexican cantina.
Meditation. An hour-long exercise required of all Camp Genki’s residents. I’m lucky to share mine with Melissa--at least one friendly face--but with Sandra and the rest of my bunkmates, how am I to relax? The biweekly meditation drills are chances for us to reach deep into our psychic recesses and unlock our sixth senses. I have no idea what mine is, and if I did, I most certainly don’t want it unveiled before Andhakar’s second-in-command.
Her scarlet hair is pulled back and braided today. Her skin appears refreshed and dewy beneath the fluorescent lights. I can’t help but think of her and Kamiron. Of her and Andhakar. As if sensing my thoughts, her eyes open. One blue and one green find me across the circle of meditating girls. Sandra winks at me, a friendly smile curving her freshly glossed lips.
I cringe and hide behind my eyelids.
My breathing slows until it is hard to distinguish Mel’s breathing from my own and gradually I sense a change. A sinking sensation. My limbs feel heavy and eventually I no longer sense them. Now weightless, a sudden punch to my gut sends me falling down, down, down. A dark abyss. Static buzzes in my ears. And then . . .
Light blossoms around me but it is dimmer than the room’s overhead fluorescents and wobbles like candlelight. Slowly, Divine appears dropping out of the shadows like a snowflake. I see first his wild sandy hair with its braids and feathers. Next, a bare back framed by broad shoulders and riddled with scars. No expanse of flesh is unbroken. Tattoos curl up his spine and nuzzle the symbol of Andhakar that pulsates on the back of his neck. Divine’s lips move but the buzzing, staticy background noise distracts me and the question is lost. My weightless body circles him, whirling and bobbing until Divine’s tangerine eyes force me to a stop.
“Looks. They looks.” His words are broken, fading in and out of the white noise. I struggle to understand the druid’s words. “Find three. Medium.”
The more I strain to hear, the more jumbled Divine’s message becomes. His eyes beg me to understand, to see the meaning behind the meaning.
“With you. There.” He continues.
“I understand they are here, but how do I find the medium?” My voice sounds too loud. A cacophony of out-of-placeness. I speak through a phone with poor reception.
“Channel . . . paper.”
I want to tell him this whole mess is insane, but as soon as I think that, the punching sensation is back and I am spiraling upward. My body seems to thrum with electricity and my senses flare out, touching nothing and yet I am aware of something much grander than I. An interconnectedness with all things--
Something hot and rigid slams into me. An unknown force latches onto me, talons sinking into my brain. I scream. It’s as if some invisible phantom is sitting on my chest and shredding my skull.
Fool of a girl! A masculine voice, soft and light as air, it resounds between my temples. Intimate and strangely familiar, I cannot recall why the voice doesn’t startle me. Before I can continue puzzle over the occurrence, the voice cracks, whip-like: Push it out! Do not let it in your mind!
I scream again, my brain feeling like it’s peeling apart as the force rips through the shields of my sanity. The masculine voice continues to berate me as it braces against the brutal probe.
Push it out! The voice snarls, panic edging it now. Reject it!
The voice sends me the mental image of a shove and an authoritative “No.” I latch onto the advice and heave, straining against the invasion. I envision all my power, all my essence forming into an impregnable shield that encases and protects me.
Screeching, I jerk awake--and find myself prone on the floor with Melissa’s nails digging into my arm. My head rings. My ears ring. Mel stares at me wide-eyed and fearful. My senses slowly return. Sweat and heat and the scratch of tatami. My body shivers uncontrollably. My heart labors. I hear the hum of frantic voices but none make sense. I smell iron. I lift my hand to my nose and find it’s bleeding. My bunkmates stare at me in bewilderment.
All but Sandra.
She staggers to her feet, shaking hands clutching her temples. She avoids looking at us. The door to the room opens and warm air laden with pine and earth scuttles inside. The door shuts and she is gone.
Mel drags me to the Edgar Cayce Infirmary where the nurse hands me aspirin and allows me to lie down. My meditation instructor explains that I went into a catatonic state. Both the doctor and my instructor, whose schooled, professional expressions are at odds with the gleaming excitement in their eyes, force me to explain what I saw. Their styluses glide hungrily across expensive iPads. I am tested, prodded and examined for three hours. With the promise of a brain scan later, I am at last left to myself.
I sleep. I wake long enough to lie inside a large magnet that I am told is a MRI scanner. Once the scientists and doctors get what they need, I sleep some more.
The next time I wake, it’s to hazel eyes.
While I sit up, Zakk pops the pull-tab on my can of Coke before handing it to me. I relish its fizzy bite and resist the urge to burp. Zakk passes me a paper sack and inside I find the remnants from today’s dinner. Turkey sub on wheat. Apple. Potato salad in a cheap plastic container. Not the most appetizing meal, but I devour it.
It doesn’t lessen my headache.
“About a quarter ’til nine.”
I try to rub the tension out of my head and eyes, but the pain only continues its slow, persistent throb.
“Let me.” Zakk glides to me--how is it he is so graceful? Like a water nymph?--and his palms rest against my skin. Cool hands. Smooth and soft and long. Liquid pours over me like a country brook and sweeps the pain away.
Zakk perches on the edge of my bed. “Heard you had an eventful afternoon.”
I snort and lean against my deflated pillows. The blue cotton sheets are rough against my paper-thin hospital gown and scarred legs. I’m startled to find specks of blood dotting my collar. Zakk follows my gaze and his mouth form a tight line.
I hastily wipe at my nostrils, but feel no dried, crusty blood.
“Mel told us what happened.”
“The guys. They’ll probably drop in on you soon, but since I had to do some work here--my Readings--I thought I’d check up on you.” Zakk hesitates and then he speaks very quietly, as if afraid of being overheard even though we are the only ones in the room and the door is closed. “Can you tell me what you experienced?”
“Hard to explain. I don’t know what happened. I was trying to meditate, then there was this falling sensation.” I hesitate. “Did Hamilton--?”
“Yeah, I’m up to speed.”
Zakk listens as I recount in as much detail as I can my encounter with the druid and his message about the Three and the Medium. “And then there was this force that plowed into me. There was another voice, a different one, screaming at me to fight it, and then I . . . pushed it out, if that makes any sense.”
Zakk is on his feet in seconds. His loafers tread softly on the linoleum floor as he paces beside my bed. “So Dace was right. Sounds like a psychic attack.”
“It’s when something tries to attack you mentally. Everyone has psychic barriers in their mind--to varying degrees. Breach those shields and a person is opened.”
I gulp. “Opened for what?”
“To what. Possession. Manipulation. A number of things. Psychic attack is forbidden at Genki.”
“Does it matter how far away a person is?”
“It can be anyone, anywhere. Even sitting in the same room, although they’d show signs of the repelling--when you tossed them out.”
I think of her stumbling out of the room like a seasick cruise passenger. “Sandra was there with me.”
Zakk halts and a long finger tugs at his bottom lip. “And she is a psychic vampire.”
The overhead lights suddenly seem too bright. “But why risk it? She was so careful before.”
A halting knock stops our conversation. Zakk swings open the door and to my surprise, Kamiron, Hamilton, and Dace file into my room. The other two I expect, but Kamiron’s presence is a mystery to me. We haven’t spoken since yesterday and he all but wrote me out of the will.
“So what’s the verdict, kiddo?” Dace plops down on my bed, making the mattress bounce and me along with it. I pull up my feet and prop my chin on my knees.
“I’ll be fine.”
Hamilton shuts the door and leans against it. Kamiron takes up the armchair in the corner. The gray walls are one shade lighter than his eyes. He looks . . . well its hard to judge his expression. He looks at me, and yet not at me. As if I am the blue lamp on the table at his elbow.
“Do they know what happened?” Hamilton broaches.
Zakk and I exchange glances and I let him answer. “I heard nothing from the nurse or Doctor Millan, but after listening to Shari’s story, it’s pretty obvious it was a psychic attack.”
I shiver despite myself. I clench and unclench my hands, noticing the way my dark skin flows over and across my knuckles. The sheets rustle with Dace’s shifting weight. For the first time I notice the paper-clipped manila folders by his thigh. Had he already found something about The Darkness-That-Hunts’ insignia? I want to ask him, but I don’t feel comfortable inquiring with Kamiron in the room.
Dace coughs into his fist. “Wonder who would do such a thing--and why.” Zakk keeps his expression neutral. I try for the same effect but fail.
Surprisingly, it’s Kamiron who speaks. “Cut the crap, guys.”
Startled, I glance at him. He is glaring at me and I can nearly feel the anger seeping from him.
“What do you mean?”
“Quit the calming shit, Z,” Kamiron snarls, and Zakk immediately backs off. “I know you guys are up to something and if Shari’s involved then I know it’s gotta be about that Hunter or whatever it is.” Kamiron swears again, dragging his fingers through his ink-black hair. “I can’t believe she got to you guys.”
They move to defend me, but I hold up my hand. “Why did you come here?”
His eyes are steel. His lips glisten as his tongue darts over them. “To find out what you’re up to.”
“Are you a spy?”
He gapes at me and then his lips draw back into a sneer. “For who? ‘Andhakar?’”
I motion for Dace to hand me his folders. Undoing the paper clips, I rifle through the information. Before Kamiron can say anything, I hold up the picture Dace’s printed out.
“Does Sandra have this mark on her body?”
Kamiron glances at the photo of The Darkness-That-Hunts’ insignia. “Surely, you---”
“Yes, or no,” I demand, my eyes never abandoning his face.
Kamiron stands. Hamilton slides away from the door and without a word, Kamiron leaves.
I bite my lip and try to control my trembling hand. The paper shakes, making the brand of The Darkness-That-Hunts dance.Dace turns from the open door and lets out a hissing breath. “I think you’d better explain what’s going on, Shari.”