The crack in the ceiling comes back into focus when my phone buzzes. I grab it up thankful for the distraction.
“Hey Rach, Do you feel like getting out?” Patrick asks.
“Do I ever!” I sit up and brush my eyes over the clothes littering my floor. “What do you have in mind?”
“I was thinking ice cream but first I have to stop by the WaterWorks at Arizona Falls.”
“I’m doing a report on alternative energy and I chose the hydro-power plant on Indian School and fifty-sixth,” he explains.
“What? Wait, there’s a hydro-power plant on Indian School and fifty-sixth?” I ask skeptically because I’ve driven by that spot a thousand times and never noticed anything.
“Yep, it’s part of the SRP project. I need to take some pictures. Want to come?”
“Sure, why not,” I tell him.
I’m down on my knees hunting for my other sneaker when my phone buzzes. I grab it up to see a text from Patrick.
Patrick: I’m here
I’m about to beg for time when I spot my errant shoe. I grab it up and pull it on before I grab my keys and phone and run out to meet him.
We only drive a couple of miles before we pull off the road into the G.R. Herberger Park. I am surprised when we park at the conspicuous entrance gate made of a huge cylinder with large metal sculptures on either side. How I have never noticed this before, I have no idea except that it’s set off the road beside the tennis park.
“I don’t understand how I managed to miss this huge stargate,” I say to myself as much as to Patrick as we get out of the car. “I mean I drive by this corner all the time.”
Patrick laughs. “Now that you mention it, the entrance does kind of look like a stargate.” He snaps a couple of pictures of the metal structure before we walk up a footbridge through a maze of waterways and aqueducts to find a magical place where water rushes by us creating a music all its own.
There are several groups of people exploring the place and we take the tour. The architect has done a marvelous job to create an artistic, yet educational, attraction and we learn about the beautiful transformative power of water while it rushes musically by us on its way to plunge twenty feet into a pool alive with fish and waterfowl.
When we come to a viewing platform set beneath a waterfall. I walk out onto the observation deck where three walls are made of sheets of flowing water. They wrap us in cool moisture as radiant prisms of sunlight, a moving curtain of golden drops, cascade from the roof above to the pool below and surprise bubbles up through me again. I turn to Patrick and say, “Wow! This place is really magical. I can’t believe I didn’t know it was here.”
He leans out to look at the pool below where fish large and small lurk in the shadows as ducks skim the surface. “I guess this would be a nice place for a picnic.”
“Or a meditation,” I reply as I lean out to touch the bright stream. A desert wind sweeps through the dancing water and is instantly cooled. It breezes by us moist and heady as we traipse to the farthest part of the platform. We find a stairwell and we climb down. It takes us across the canal to a dirt path, a less-traveled route, which runs along the other side of the cement channel. The way is quiet. The route has a desolate feel even though a big city runs at full-tilt on the other side.
We walk the full course and at the end, we find a pedestrian bridge spanning the canal giving entrance to the park. “I bet this will take us back to the parking lot,” Patrick says before he starts across.
I’m sure it will, but as I look across the bridge, my warning senses go ballistic. Now it’s the middle of the day and we are in one of Phoenix’s nicer neighborhoods. I don’t understand my gut reaction but I pause and scan the spot where the bridge ends in a concealing tangle of trees and brush growing out of the bank on the other side. I still can’t discern any danger but as I study the shadows my Spidey sense go berserk again and I grab Patrick’s arm and haul him back before he can go any further. “Let’s go back the way we came,” I whisper.
He starts to complain but a movement on the far bank catches his eye and we both watch as a large, dark form of something shifts as it waits in the shadows. Patrick voice is just above a whisper, “What is that?”
A tide of feelings floods me and in that moment I want to cry. I am so relieved that Patrick sees it too. I loosen my grip on his arm and answer, “Just a bum I think.” But the image I see in my mind makes me not so sure. “Let’s just go back the way we came.”
Patrick doesn’t argue. We retrace our steps and rejoin the others on the main deck back at the WaterWorks.
That night I have another peculiar dream, bright and loud, my dream life becoming more real than my waking one. It starts in the alley behind our house…
It is night. Yellow light pools under streetlamps defining the alley in stark shadows that give everything a weird, creepy cast as imagined dangers lurk just out of sight and I hunch, shoulders forward, treading as noiselessly as I can.
A rustling sounds behind me. My heart leaps and I spin around to fix my eyes on the shadows. There is nothing to see. I tell myself that it was probably the stirrings of a cat or a rat still I watch for a long moment while my heart thunders. It takes a full breath, eye searching hard, before I am able to turn back around. My heart beats loud as I pick up my pace. The night around me is oh so quiet. Too quiet. Nature offers no sounds. There are no chirping crickets, no locus hum, only the soft buzzing of the alley lights and my footsteps loud on the dirt.
Something is wrong.
I throw a glance back over my shoulder, feeling exposed. There is an opening in the fence, and I quickly duck through it. Then fear gives way to wonder for there is destruction all around and I’m standing in a wreckage zone that once was my neighbor’s backyard. Behind me the fence is torn and twisted like a microburst ripped through it. Debris and broken boards litter the yard. Even the house itself looks damaged.
I pick my way across the yard and climb the sagging back porch. The door hangs open, crookedly, held up by one hinge and I go through to find that inside the walls hang in shreds, the screening slashed and torn. I move into the house. The carpet oozes water with each step and my socks become soaked inside my shoes. All around me furniture is toppled. Vases lie broken. Books, pictures and paper are strewn across the floor.
I round the corner and find Dodie in the kitchen. She is standing at the sink, blankly looking out the broken window. I startle her when I step into the room. Her voice is small and frightened when she calls out, “Who’s there?”
“Dodie, it’s just me, Rachel, your neighbor.”
She turns to me. Her eyes are dark and huge in her face. “I only wanted to make some peanut butter cookies.” I watch as she takes a match and strikes it. “But there seems to be something wrong with my oven. It just won’t light.”
My eyes go to the wall behind us where the numbers 412 are written big in black spray paint. I’m puzzling over the message when she reaches out and takes my hand. “Let’s go out for some ice cream,” she says as our fingers braid together. She tugs me through the door and we sort of fly off over the houses. She points down and we bob low and land on our feet at the ice cream shop next to the bookstore.
She gives me a grin, and I marvel at her face. She looks so much younger as if the flight took away the last forty years. She is still grinning when she goes to the counter and orders a scoop.
I follow, eyes going everywhere. Inside, there are three spirits and they all greet Dodie by name. “Well, hello Martin,” she says to a balding man sitting at the next table over. “Are you still hanging around this place?” She hands me an ice cream cone. “You never told me why you stopped by my dream, dear.”
Her question puzzles me. “I’m pretty sure this is my dream Dodie.”
“You stop by here a lot do you?” I look at the people in the shop who pause to smile and wave when they see Dodie and I realize this is definitely her place, not mine. She gives a small laugh. “You don’t think you’re the only one who travels? I used to be pretty good at it once. Good at traveling, telling people when things were going to happen and talking to those who’d passed. But that was a long time ago, before I got all muddled up.”
Her admission surprises me. “I didn’t know you were a medium.”
“Medium?” She laughs and waves her hand. “I just talk to the dead.” She slides her eyes to me as the tone of her voice drops. “Best to keep it to yourself when you see them. Try to fit in ’cause they’ll lock you away if you tell the wrong one.”
The dream stays with me as I wake. The boldly painted numbers flash clear in my thoughts. 412. I know it’s important. The numbers on the wall and the cookies, peanut butter I think... I cling to the details even as the others turn to mist. I take out my book and mark out the header and that’s when I realize that it’s April twelfth. Now, I’ve never had a precognitive dream, still when I realize that it is 4-12, I know I have to make a double batch of cookies and take some to my neighbor.
I knock on Dodie’s door. More than a minute passes and I’m thinking about filching one of the cookies from the plate when the door creaks open. Dodie peers at me. She doesn’t seem to recognize me at first. Then she brightens when she sees the cookies. “Oh, Rachel, peanut butter cookies! How kind of you. I was just thinking about making a batch but there seems to be something wrong with my oven.”
She invites me in and that’s when I smell the gas. We wait outside, while I make an emergency call to the gas company.