SWITCH

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Out of Body

My mind wanders easily when I’m in uncomfortable situations. I soon found myself fixated on Carol. Her minimalistic makeup, light soapy smelling perfume, and meticulously applied dark lipstick. Maybe it was a stain or a good quality cream. Whatever it was the color looked out of place on her pale skin. Why is she here? She’s younger than I am for sure but she looked older somehow. Worry or lifestyle choices had aged her. Was she damaged and forced to work here, or was she exceptional and earned her position?

Carol stepped past Gerald brushing his arm; he steadied her with a light hand on her lower back; I contemplated if they had slept together. Not that it mattered to me, but he seems too close with his female co-workers, he’s too comfortable and too friendly with them. I’m not that touchy feely with people.

It’s hard for me to believe that this place could go unnoticed for so long. I’ve never heard stories about a base in the area. You hear stories about Area 51 and that other place in Colorado but nothing about a mountain top facility high above the Great Lakes. Maybe some locations are still secret. How many more places like this exist? How would it even be possible to hide in such a digital age?

“Okay, I think we are good to go.” Gerald clapped loudly. It seemed this clapping action was his way of separating his activities. He had an excited air about him and looked confident. I was deep in my own thoughts; the annoying noise brought me back from my guinea pig stupor.

“Seventy-five CC’s Carol, we will be upping the ante.” Carol moved as Gerald spoke, like a dance she knew well. Carol injected a clear solution into the IV, started the drip, and moved back to Gerald’s side awaiting his next request.

Upping the ante. It sounded like a good thing, upbeat and happy, like having a cold glass of lemonade outside under the shade of a big fluffy tree. The panic and anger that slowly percolated in my chest told me otherwise. The feeling of full-blown rage was washing over me in thick, pounding waves. It came faster and faster until the sensation took me completely. I dug deep for each exaggerated breath. I planned to stay calm, I told myself I wouldn’t lose control, but I couldn’t help it. My skin was on fire, and I could feel the cold air in the room slap against my exposed flesh, the temperature contrast was getting painful.

I don’t do well with drugs of any kind. They affect me, to put it politely. Unable to control my emotions any longer I started screaming at Gerald. “What are you doing to me? Get that shit away from me! Why did I listen to you!”

“Calm down Cal it takes a few minutes to stabilize. Remember yesterday’s test? It’s only a few more seconds now. Breathe through it.” Carol tightened the leather straps around my legs as Gerald tried to calm me by brushing my hair off my face. His hands felt like thin razors gliding across my overly alert skin. I couldn’t help but writhe at his touch.

“Get your hands off of me. Get that bitch away from me.” I kicked and growled at Carol as best as I could. I had become completely uncooperative.

The bile in my stomach was churning, and I felt as if I was falling off a cliff, falling further and further into the black nothingness. I could feel hot tears pop out of my eyes and run down my face as I clamped my eyelids shut. There was a low growl and a loud scream of agony that seemed to have taken on a life of its own. I followed the blood-curdling echo as it bounced off the window panes high on the thick, cinder block walls before watching it fade away into the open air.

There was nothing but the undulating, black void in my mind, swirling, and pulsing, the movement was barely discernible in the black on black space. Slowly the darkness melted into a shimmering red-breasted hummingbird that hovered right in front of me. The frantic sound of his wings beating drowning out all other noise. They are my favorite of the little creatures, and he was just beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

“Her vitals are becoming erratic; I don’t understand this. Carol, prepare the flushing solution and get the second bag ready. Something is not right; this shouldn’t be happening.”

The bird hovered millimeters from my heart. I feared he would get caught on my shirt. I watched him fly away toward a tall, brown horse trotting rhythmically in a wide circle. The hard packed dirt beneath the horse was well worn. As I walked closer the large horse began slowing down; he trotted towards me snorting and nodding his head. The rope on his reigns had frayed and separated from the training wheel, but he was still following the guide. The horse stopped an arm’s length away and pounded his front hoof on the ground. Once, twice, three times until finally he stopped and stared at me.

“Doctor her heartbeat is dropping too rapidly.” Carol’s voice was more high-pitched than Gerald was used to, he knew things were deteriorating faster than she could control.

“We have to stop, switch the bags; push the epinephrine now.” Gerald looked at the monitor in disbelief; his theory had failed. His creation was dying more quickly than he had anticipated.

There was a small speck of bright light on the horse’s head, it reflected off his glossy, caramel coat. The flicker of color was just out of reach. The horse bowed his head inviting me to touch him. I ran my hand down his soft neck then carefully moved my hand to his forehead. On the ground, beneath the horse’s hoof, a small scrap of leather poked out of the dirt. The tall horse pounded the ground with his hooves tossing dirt and pebbles up into the air unearthing a delicate ladies glove. I couldn’t breathe. I had seen this glove in my dreams many times.

They were too thin, not suitable for riding. They were beautiful and hand made by the saddle man’s wife, Emma. I brought her a fat piglet, and a basket filled with biscuits and plum preserves my mother and I had put up the week before. I traded her for the gloves and she claimed to have gotten the better deal. She sent me home with the gloves and a jar of honey from her sister’s bees.

Her eldest son Luke helped me out of the house and up on my horse. He asked me to bring the honey pot back for his mother to fill so he could take me on a tour of the farm. He traced the lilies stitched into the leather with his thumb. I can remember how warm his hands felt through the kid leather.

“My mother loves her work. I haven’t seen her put such time into a pair of gloves; they are quite beautiful, they suit you.” He was a serious looking young man and I remember he made the pit of my stomach flutter. He checked my saddle and patted my horse. He smiled and it felt as if his smile only shown that way for me.

“Yes, they are quite fine, the finest I have ever held.” I could remember sitting atop my horse looking down at the smiling young man. I intended to return with the empty honey pot, but I don’t recall if I ever did. I picked the glove up out of the earth and hit it against my knee to knock away the dirt.

I was in the lab again; I turned and looked all around not sure how I had arrived. The horse was gone, the glove in my hand had vanished, and the hummingbird was nowhere to be found. All I did was blink? I thought to myself.

Gerald stood next to me. I grabbed his shoulder and shook him, but he ignored me completely. I could feel the fear and havoc in every supercharged molecule of the air. Getting out of the way was my first impulse. I moved past Gerald and Carol and stood in the hallway looking back into the lab. Their energy was frantic as they both darted back and forth across the room. Gerald sliding from the tables to the monitors and Carol was so calm; she reacted instantly to Gerald’s commands. I can see why he chose her to assist him she has amazing focus. Carol never looked up at me once.

I felt light, almost fluffy and there was so much movement in the air. I sat on one the long benches that dotted the hallway outside the lab to catch my breath. Several of the medical staff came running past me into the room, but they didn’t seem to notice me. The poor woman on the table had their complete attention. The patient's limp body sprawled across the table, her pale skin under the bright lights looked milky and alien. Her dark blond hair spilled out all around her. I don’t recall there being anyone else in the room when we started our experiment, but who knows, I could have been out for hours. She was most likely a new emergency patient.

A ball of amber light formed in the darkness at the far end of the hallway. I could hear faint, deep tones of a wind chime far in the distance. The soft orb of light pulled me away from the bench and the chaotic scene playing out in front of me. I looked back at the bench, but it was so far behind me that I could barely make out its shape.

The golden glow began to surround me like a soft spun sugar haze. It was warm, soothing and full of joy. I could feel the sticky waves of energy overtake me, and I could hear a calm questioning voice calling to me.

“Era, Era?” The pleading voice called out.

This is not my name, but I felt compelled to answer anyway. What the hell did he put in my IV this time? The voice was getting closer and louder. I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead trying to compose myself.

Son of a bitch, I blinked again.

I found myself standing in a dark, wet cave. I knew I wasn’t actually standing anywhere. This had to be a hallucination, but regardless I reached out for the wall to steady myself. Cold, wet, rounded stones were packed tightly in the dirt walls. The smell was strangely familiar. I had to sniff the wall several times until the origin of the scent came to me. My grandfather’s gold mine in the California foothills smelled just like this dirt.

I had forgotten the pungent smell of the red earth. He loved to spend his afternoons, blowing it up with small sticks of dynamite and sifting through the rocks looking for specks of gold. The dirt, the dynamite, and the hot pulverized slate rock it was almost euphoric and too real to be a simple hallucination. I could see his old white Chevy parked in the shade of a tall tree and the little, blue Styrofoam ice chest my grandmother always packed full of sandwiches, cheese, and fruit for our lunch was there on the front seat.

He would slice cheese off a black, wax-covered block with a sharp, deer antler knife and hand me the thin piece right from the edge of the blade. I remember his quiet tone and careful movements; he was teaching me to be precise and cautious, mindful of my actions. He would let me pick which part of the newly exposed dirt to sift through first and usually, he found something noteworthy in the pile of quartz and slate. I would collect small rocks embedded with glittery fool’s gold and pretend they were magical. I felt so important, so grown up to eat outside in the open air, wipe the jelly from my sandwich on my jeans, and watch my Grandfather pan the dirt.

There was a fig tree near the mine. Before we would head home, he would take his pistol out from under the truck seat and collect a small bag of sticky, spider web covered figs to bring home to my grandmother. I had to wait in the truck while he collected them. Snakes liked to hide in the shade under the gnarled tree and hunt the little rodents that gathered to gnaw on the spoiled fruit. He never let me near that tree. It was my own personal spinning wheel; no one ever let me near it.

Blinking again, I continued timidly toward the voice that was still pleading with me to respond. The cave was short and ended with a simple tall, wooden gate. I snickered as reached out towards the wooden planks. A gate seriously? Why is there always a tunnel ending in a gate?

The planks were wet and swollen, waterlogged for no obvious reason. I played along expecting now to see the cliché, brilliant white light, but the boards were pressed tightly together, there was no peeking through to the other side. My subconscious, obviously lacking any imagination, brought forth only the traditional images I would recognize as the path to the everlasting. A few thin rays of purple light found their way through the boards. It was pitch black behind me. No place left to go but forward. I was apprehensive, but I wanted to move out of the wet, dirt packed walls that were saturating the air around me.

“Era let me help you dear one” The melodic voice called out to me again. It was smooth as silk as it reverberated against me like a giant concert speaker. As I opened the gate and walked out of the dirt cave, my condescension and fear turned to amazement.

“Who are you?” I whispered timidly. “What is this place?”

“Era, here come this way.” I took a few steps unable to resist the beautiful voice that was calling for me.

“Do you know me?” I turned around quickly but found no one there. “Why you are calling me by that name?” Light overcame my eyes and engulfed me in thick, brilliance.

“Here, let me show you. How are you, what has brought you to me?”

“I can’t see you,” I stammered.

“What do you mean? Why are you speaking out loud and why do you still cling to that shape Era?”

“I’m always in this shape. Do you need me to whisper?” Totally confused I tried to anticipate what the voice was asking for.

“You are not here to stay. Are you stuck in that form? Did your instance end abruptly dear one? What is the last thing you recall?”

“I don’t know. I was in the lab. We were doing a test. I want to see you, but it is too bright for my eyes and your voice, it’s like music.” There was a low, strong, chatter like crystal glasses vibrating in a china cabinet, during an earthquake. I put my hands over my ears and dropped to my knees as the sound overwhelmed me.

The soft roar faded into the distance, and I found myself standing in bright sunlight. I could taste fresh, tart, strawberry hot from the sun, picked and eaten over the plant. The little piece of red fruit was still on my tongue. The taste removed me completely from the blinding light I cowered in before. Looking down I could see my tiny pink feet in the mounded garden dirt, strawberry juice dripping on my skin. The plump, red fruit looked like it should be sweet but the sour taste surprised me. Small white and yellow flowers dotted the ground. I wanted to grab them and squish them; they were so pretty.

Stunned, I knew exactly what day I was reliving. There would be fireworks later and presents for me. My uncle would bring me a necklace. Everyone else would bring me toys, and I liked them too, but he was the only one who knew how much the shiny baubles thrilled me. The family would be there to celebrate my birthday and Independence Day of course. I was stuck there in the garden dirt eating a fresh strawberry not wanting to get muddy. I knew someone would pick me up, and carry me out of the freshly watered garden soon. It was a good day; everyone was there, everyone was alive and happy. It wouldn’t be that way much longer.

“How about this my love, this was the meadow from our last time together. I’ve kept it here waiting to show it to you.” The purple entity spoke. The vibration in the air retrieved me from the garden and cleared my vision.

A bright, white area rippled around from right to left. The emptiness filling with a meadow, green, lush, alive with rustling trees and swaying tall grass. The wind blew warm, and the sun was low in the sky. It looked crisp and clear. No rain today, I thought to myself. There were sounds beyond my vision. A gathering of people, lighthearted and joyful, speaking in a language I vaguely understood. Like the smell of freshly baked bread, the sounds of life invited me closer so I could breathe them in more deeply.

Walking toward the gathering of people I noticed my feet were covered with leather, my legs were tan, and they felt strong and capable. I could smell the skins wrapped around me, but it was nothing like the leather boutique at the mall. This was warm and furry smelling leather, the heavy scent of animal musk still lingering on the pelts. It was raw and powerful.

“This is our mountain range. We lived here. You and I were happy. We shared a long and glorious instance. Does this vision please you? Does my shape put you at ease?”

The most beautiful Indian boy I could have imagined walked toward me out of the purple light. He spoke very softly in words I didn’t understand. He aged as he shimmered before me. A young man now he looked to be in his early twenties, tall, muscular, strong, and as I met his extended hand with mine a wave of thick electricity pulsed in my arm and down the length of my body lashing me to the ground beneath me.

In that instant, I understood the life he was showing me, and I fully understood my place in it. A valued woman in my tribe, a mother of three hunters, an elder, a healer. My actions were teaching the young women around me. Those who follow me will know what I have learned from the women who came before me. The worries of my day rushed into my mind, and I was burdened, but it was all for the service of others. There were no monetary needs, no bills to pay. My concerns were for the happiness of my family and those around me. Looking up at him, I noticed he had aged further. The purple entity looked to be searching for just the right image to present to me.

“I do not remember this place,” I conceded in a hushed tone. I scanned his chiseled face for some clue as to where I was at that moment. “I would have remembered you.” I ran my hand across his chest and felt his heartbeat. I was safe, content, and happy, but I had no idea why.

“Era, you are not here to stay. I am sure of it now. This place you see here, we use it to greet those who have come home. It doesn’t always look the same but this was my last place with you. We have entered various worlds together, but in this time, we left separately. My form failed before yours and you followed soon after.”

“I understand what was expected of me in this life. Is it always this way? Do we always remember our burdens after we die?” I asked.

“Yes, every action is carved on our souls; much like a tree trunk records each year that passes. Each experience becomes part of who we are and what we understand. We take only the understanding with us into our next incarnation and we build upon it further. We are not saddled with the details.”

“I don’t believe in all that but it’s a nice thought. We are all born alone and we all die alone. I am not aware of any proof to the contrary.”

“Ha, you are bound tightly to that body you cling to. We shall have some work ahead of us when you finally discard it. Faith escapes you still.”

“I don’t know what you mean. Haven’t I already discarded it?”

“No, I am quite sure you have not. Your current form is very strong and you are tethered firmly to the spinning ball of gas and mud it’s made from. Yet here you are with me?”

“This is supposed to help me figure out how to use my abilities. Someone at the lab will figure out I’ve gone a bit too far. You haven’t given me your name?”

“I am Heiron. I’m not sure why you are here. I have waited for your return but you are not here to stay. I am confused as well. You search your mind for something you knew, in your current incarnation.”

“Yes, I suppose I knew the answers before at some point,” I replied.

“Then you have the answers still. Come closer to me. Waste none of your thoughts on fear. I am not capable of harming you. You are mine and I am yours above all others. I will determine what you require if I am able.”

“Wait you are mine, above all others? That sounds matrimonial. I am perfectly happy to be near you but all this doesn’t make any sense.”

“We are separate in your current incarnation, but together in many ways still. I am not a spouse to you as you know it in your present state but I am yours. We are bound, my existence, and your existence eternally. I’m here but to help you. When you dwell here, you are here to help me, and the many others bound to you. I thought this scene would calm you, be pleasing to you, but you are still anxious. The form you hold, the life that goes with it, does it not enrich you?”

“Enrich me? No, my life definitely does not enrich me.” I laughed. “I have made a huge mess and there is no way to fix it. I am capable of terrible things; I can feel myself slipping away in tiny slices. I’m not sure what will become of me.”

“Let me clear your mind. I cannot bear to see you this way. There is no reason for this anguish.” The shimmering man stepped toward me, took my hand, and wrapped his arms around me. The words he used to soothe me were foreign, hard and precise, each syllable blending to the next in a melodic rhythm. The peace I felt at that moment was exquisite, unlike anything I had known before. My life melted away, all that I knew sloughing off me as he spoke like a snake shedding its skin. I wasn’t hearing him with my ears or speaking to him with my mouth. I knew I wasn’t actually standing anywhere. I didn’t have a body.

Intertwined with this being, I began to understand that everything I had seen and everywhere I had gone since I left the lab was within him. As I became more aware of the true nature of my situation, I could see him plainly. He was a large brilliant light, all the colors of the spectrum pulsing and morphing into one another. The facade of the earthly meadow fell away and I could see that I looked just like him. I was aware of my true surroundings for only a split second, but for that instant, I felt the limitless expanse of brilliant, pulsating orbs all around me. I could feel the completeness of their infinite community.

The burdens of my earthly life floated away. Not one item truly mattered. The incident at the steakhouse that had started this nightmare, my ability to heal and kill, my rage, and self-loathing none of it mattered. My son and my husband their happiness was all I thought of. I would find a way to fix what I had ruined. It was clear that nothing could touch me, not the real essence of me. When I was ready to discard my earthly life, this light being would be waiting for me. The death that I had feared would be a welcome transition.

I had no faith, the handsome man was right. The deeply coveted secrets of my soul were effortlessly shared with him as he embraced me. There was no way to conceal from him all that I hide from everyone else and I was truly ashamed. He began to speak aloud, slowly and softly until finally, I understood him.

“Mourn the loss of their body if you must, but turn your eyes toward heaven, your thoughts to their souls and pray for them, meditate on them. This is all the comfort you can give them. Lighten your heart and carry on with your moment on earth for your end will come all too quickly. Only then will their light smile upon you again.” I could feel pain and loss in each word he spoke.

I had dwelled on the deaths of my mother and grandmother, my grandfather and everyone else I have lost over the years. Their deaths had left me orphaned. I had never let go of my grief. I cloaked myself with it instead, choking out any hope of lasting happiness. With every drop of pain in his voice, I knew he had relived the sorrow I clung to so tightly. I would let it all go before I saw him again. I wouldn’t need it any longer.

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