Jade left the herbs from her hydroponic garden on the kitchen table for Joe. Lucy was on guard, sleeping, and Jade patted her on the head. “I know how you feel, girl. I feel like a bear who forgot to hibernate for the winter.” The sandy-colored Labrador wagged her tail but didn’t bother getting up.
Deep in thought, Jade opened the door to the basement where everyone – except our parents, or the dead, as Tim would say – were welcome to gravitate to. Halfway down the stairs, she tripped. She reached for the banister to catch herself from falling, but couldn’t quite get a grip and tumbled down the steps. Jade felt like she was falling in slow motion, and imagined the look on everyone’s faces. She banged her head on the last step. Her skin prickled and the hairs on her arms rose as she passed through the static energy of the barrier Sophia had created to keep the spirits of the dead from harassing Casey. It must be difficult for Casey, she thought. It was something she hoped she never had to experience.
Kevin and Casey jumped up from the settee to help her, and she felt a zap of energy at Kevin’s touch.
“I’m okay,” she told them.
“Oh, just bad lighting.” How embarrassing, she thought. Once she found her father, the nightmares should stop, and then she wouldn’t be stumbling around half asleep.
“It’s the same lighting as always,” said Shaun. “You need to get out of your own head, intel.”
“I just haven’t been sleeping well,” said Jade.
“Why?” asked Shaun.
She could feel Sophia’s eyes on her, waiting for an answer.
“You done with my gemstones?” asked Shaun, when Jade didn’t reply.
“Why don’t you create a portal?” Rachel said to Kevin. She was sitting on an old trunk, with her legs crossed, eating strawberries fresh from their hydroponic garden.
Kevin sat down, swung his legs over the side of the settee and lay his head on Jade’s leg. She combed her fingernails through his soft brown hair before placing a couple of cushions under his head. She picked up her notebook and Shaun’s soft leather pouch containing his nine semi-precious gemstones. She opened the notebook, flicking through pages of drawings and notes on the herbs she had started growing. She flicked past sketches of Sophia blasting cars off the road with colored energy blasts; past images and details of Casey with his arms in the air, lifting the fuselage of the Cherokee off the front lawn with his mind, and Kevin standing in front of a shimmering portal he created, until she reached the last sketch, a finished drawing of Shaun’s sacred geometric-shaped gemstones. Jade was meticulous about the gems and had drawn them using a ruler, a compass and a protractor she picked up during one of the supply runs into town.
Jade closed her eyes, twirling the icosahedral gemstone between her fingers. She opened up her psyche, and listened to the stone, waiting for a message like Sophia had taught her. A thought was forming. It felt like a stifled scream trapped inside her body, then it erupted into her mind: a reactor, emotion, stability, clarity, flow. She opened her eyes, and below the heading, Insights, wrote this information underneath the factual information that was already jotted down. She put the icosahedron back inside Shaun’s pouch and took out the Merkaba clear quartz and started sketching.
“Well,” said Rachel, repeating her question, “why don’t you open a portal?”
Jade had her theories as to why Kevin wouldn’t open a portal, but she didn’t want to voice them. She had learned that it was best to let the others find answers, rather than offer her knowledge or opinion all the time. She was also afraid she would hurt Kevin’s feelings. She had been watching his sadness come and go over the few months. He had been angry at God and said it should have been him and not Alex; he felt guilty for being alive. Everyone’s spirits had lifted when the twins were born two months ago, including Kevin. Now, he just lacked motivation.
“If you like, K, I can unblock you,” said Casey.
“Me too,” said Sophia, “but you have to do the work yourself.”
“Okay, Buddha,” Shaun said to Sophia. “Give him space. The guy lost his brother.”
Kevin brushed his fringe back over his face and folded his arms across his chest.
“I need to find my family,” said Rachel, “can’t you just try?”
“I’m afraid!” Kevin blurted out.
“Of what?” Shaun asked. “You were with me when we found the decomposing bodies, and not once did you shy away, or complain. You kept it together, man. You’re strong and capable.” Shaun looked around the basement. Rachel threw him a strawberry. “Alex would be proud of his big brother. We all are. What are you afraid of K?”
Shaun never ceased to amaze Jade. When they had first met he was such an arrogant, thoughtless asshole. But Alex changed him, and now Shaun cared for Kevin and Casey like a big brother. but not so much for Tim who, for some reason, got on Shaun’s nerves. Yet it was Tim who had saved Rachel’s life.
“What if I open a portal and we can’t get back? What if I open a portal and someone else dies? What if I open a portal and find the whole world is dead!”
“We’re all worried,” said Sophia. “One day we will die. I looked into the future and saw only the whiteout. My dreams are empty. I’ve never known my dreams to be empty. That’s why I focus on building the energy, creating stronger and stronger bursts of energy to blow shit up, like the cars and trucks that were used as roadblocks. I know people will come, but I haven’t foreseen anything else. And that scares me.”
“We’re all frightened,” Jade said, finishing her sketch of the Merkaba clear quartz. She put the stone back in the pouch and tossed it to Shaun. “I’m concerned for my dad. I would like to go find him, when you’re ready.” Jade put her protractor, book and pencil on the side table.
Kevin sat up, rubbed the stubble on his face and cursed. He was going to do it. Jade could see it. He was angry, but he was going to open a portal. He stood and held his hands out to fold the space in front of him, which moved like liquid mercury; sparks of energy lit up the space between his hands. They heard the crackling, and a low hum filled the room. He stretched his arms wide. The familiar sound of a portal opening was exciting. Everyone was on their feet. Kevin stepped in. He disappeared and the portal quickly closed behind him. Seconds later, he opened the door at the top of the basement stairs. His features were hidden by the bright light from the kitchen.
“Tomorrow, Rachel, I’ll open a portal for you to find your brother and mother. I’ll give you one week. If you’re not at the portal waiting for me when I return, I’ll come for you.”
“Jade, you’re next. Go tell your mom we leave tomorrow to find your dad.” He slammed the door closed, leaving them looking at each other, dumbfounded.
“I told you he could do it,” Tim said to Shaun. “He just needed you guys to push him.”
Shaun high-fived Casey.
Rachel threw Sophia a strawberry. “They’re really good.”
Rachel tried not to sound too excited. Her lips were pressed tight, highlighting her natural dimples, which revealed the hidden smile. She picked up her long brown boots and slipped her bare feet in. She zipped them up along the inside of her lower legs. She was curvy with a narrow waist and full breasts. And she was mad for Shaun. Tim and Rachel had a special bond which Shaun didn’t like, but accepted. Rachel treated Tim the same way she probably treated her younger brother.
Tomorrow, Jade was going to search for her dad and for some reason she felt it wasn’t going to be easy. She took her notebook and went to tell her mom the good news. She would be ecstatic.
Jade could see Sophia, cross-legged on the grass by the plane wreckage: she was checking the protective cloak around the estate. It was one of the first things Sophia did every morning. Tim called the shield a psychic condom. The sound of a car in the distance was notable, even before Jade could see it. A blue sedan approached, stopping by the front gate. A man, wearing a green parka, and a woman, stepped from the car. The woman reached into the back seat, grabbing a brown overcoat. They walked to the edge of the road, stopped and gazed in her direction – it was as if they sensed the presence of something beyond their field of vision. Jade counted how long it would take for them to give up searching for the unseen.
Four minutes, and they were climbing back into their car heading toward a ghost town. It was like the estate didn’t exist. Nobody stopped for long. The longest had been a young man driving a beat-up red car. He hung around for twenty-seven minutes. Before leaving, he climbed onto the car roof and cried out. Jade had wanted to race down to the gate and let him in, but she wouldn’t dare put the others in jeopardy. Sophia had said when someone can see through the protection, they will be able to join them.
An impression of her father struggling with demons popped into her mind, snapping her out of her trance. The images had been plaguing her psyche for nearly a month, and they were getting stronger. At first, the visions were only in her dreams. Many nights over the past couple of weeks, Jade had lain awake, afraid to sleep. Jade dug her nail into the knuckle on her index finger, waiting for the image to go away.
She had become so tired; during the day she would fake cramps, just to be left alone to sleep. And when she couldn’t sleep, she watched Casey and Sophia through the bedroom window, practicing their particular skills; sometimes Jade felt so inadequate she had to will herself to force the debilitating thoughts aside. She didn’t think anyone knew she was watching, until one day Casey had raised Sophia and Tim off the ground. They had floated past her window and waved. Straightaway, she had heard the sound of someone charging up the stairs. She had expected Kevin to burst into the room, so when Rachel barged in muttering in Hebrew, she was surprised. Rachel had taken her hand and marched her downstairs, and Jade was glad she had. Jade joined in, and Casey lifted all of them off the ground together. Before they all fell down laughing, it had been a magical few seconds. He went on to raise only one or two of them at a time, in case he lost control. It was the most fantastic experience of freedom Jade had ever felt. Casey never levitated, never left the ground himself – Jade believed he was scared of heights. Jade looked up from her reverie to see Sophia watching her. Jade hadn’t told anyone about the dreams and visions, but it was as if Sophia could sense her discomfort.
Two hours ago, Shaun and Rachel had left for Israel to find her brother and mother. Shaun buried his favorite gemstone in Alex’s grave for a keepsake. It was now her turn to go home to South Carolina to bring her dad back to the estate. She was apprehensive, maybe a little frightened. With every tick of the clock, she felt more ill-at-ease.
It was no use, she was too nervous. Agitated, she pushed her hair back and tied it into a loose ponytail. Jade pulled her beanie off her head and cupped her hot face. She tilted her head back, welcoming the chilly wind. She tried to focus on the wind passing through the trees while imagining soft snowflakes falling on her face: even though it was the middle of spring it was still cold enough, but it hadn’t snowed in weeks. Her body temperature dropped. Her breathing relaxed. She twirled the silky ends of her hair and brushed them soothingly against her face. Her legs felt as if they had the onset of pins and needles. Jade shook her legs, trying to get the blood circulating. One minute she was on fire, the next her blood felt icy cold.
She pulled her puffer jacket tight and hugged herself, as it suddenly started to snow. She looked up at the sky, blinking away the flakes, wondering why she was so edgy. Jade felt along her thigh for her bowie knife and checked it was secured to her leg. She didn’t think she would need it, but she liked the feeling it gave her, and it wasn’t just because it was a gift from Kevin – she liked the weight of it against her thigh, the sense of security it gave her.
Jade sat with her face in her hands and imagined exploring the magical world of Athanasia. After talking one night in the barn about the Emerald Tablet, she had gladly made a deal with Kevin and Tim to return there. It would probably take eons to explore, even though time seemed to be slowed by a multiple of nine hours. When Tim and Kevin had entered Athanasia for the second time they were there for eight hours, which equaled seventy-two hours in standard Earth time: therefore one Athanasia hour must equal nine earth hours. If they explored Athanasia for one week, that would mean they would be gone for sixty-three days. Nine weeks. It would have to wait though, because her dad is the priority. Anyway, they could quite possibly be back within the hour with her dad.
To distract her thoughts, Jade took her notebook from her backpack and flicked through to a blank page, while musing on the idea of a multiverse, a fascinating and distracting concept. She breathed a sigh of relief, envisioning the infinite possibilities of a multiverse and each one had Kevin in it. He no longer needed to pass through the world of Athanasia to travel to the other side of the earth. While in a catacomb in the Middle East, after tapping into Shaun’s head and emotions, Kevin realized he could open portals to anywhere in the world as long as he had access to an emotionally-charged memory of the location.
At some point, while floating through her stream of consciousness, the sun came out. “Earth to Jade,” Kevin said, casting a shadow over her.
She blushed. Her tummy did somersaults but for all the wrong reasons. Something’s not right, I feel frightened, she thought. His mom, holding one of the twins, hugged him. Molly was playing hide and seek around the carcass of the plane with Kath. Molly saw Kevin and raced over. He bent down to give her a big hug.
Kevin stood upright and tucked his fringe behind his ear, and said, “Ready?”
“Ready,” Jade said. Feeling unsure, she dusted off her pants.
Sophia hugged Jade and whispered, “If you need our help, reach out to me with your mind.”
Jade thought she had hidden her feelings and kept her troubles from the others, but obviously not from everyone.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t said anything. Remember the peace in the wind. Look for the light of the morning star,” Sophia said, giving her another hug.
Jade smiled and gave her a friendly push. “That’s what my great-grandmother used to say.”
Nausea, bile, tremors and fear filled Jade’s being. She began to sweat profusely as if she had a fever. Her heart raced and she began to panic as if danger was stalking her. She was scared for her life. She stumbled forward to the portal, resisting the urge to flee. Blood pulsed at her temples. Her legs buckled. She grabbed her mother’s hand, and they walked up to the front door where Kevin had placed the opening.
Her left foot touched the soothing, scintillating energy. It was beautiful, priceless. Warmth raced up her leg into her abdomen as her hands, arms, and chest were immersed in the embryonic energy. She became one with the endless. Her mind cleared. She was free of anxiety, and pain. She didn’t want to leave the portal. A pleasant, intoxicating smell filled her senses, and her heart expanded with compassion.
Kevin’s hand pierced the membrane, reaching for her arm. The knowledge that she was no longer holding her mom’s hand seeped into her being. Her mom was already on the other side. Kevin drew her toward him. She emerged out of the portal into her house in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA.
Jade half expected the kitchen to smell of burned toast. But it was deathly quiet, dark and odorless. It seemed like it was the middle of the night. The air was humid, and the atmosphere was thick.
Her mother flicked on the light switch. Plates, cups, knives, and forks lay in the sink. It was so unlike her father. Ants trailed from the window and over the dirty dishes. The air in the house had a stale, lifeless taste. She looked down the hallway to her bedroom at the end of the corridor. The door was closed. She remembered leaving it open. It seemed like an eternity since she was last there. Her mother was looking around in wonderment.
“It’s still the same,” her mom said, touching the wall.
Kevin was standing in the doorway, respecting their space. Jade reached out for his hand, and together they walked to the front door. They fixed their eyes on each other. She was apprehensive about opening the door and stepping outside.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Kevin said.
“What if there’s nothing beyond the door?”
Kevin put his hand in the middle of the wooden door and waited.
“It’s quiet,” he said. “It feels like an empty sealed jar.”
“What do you mean,” Jade said.
“It’s waiting for something to fill it.”
“People, animals, life,” Kevin said.
Jade reached for the door handle.
“Slow down. Stop and think for a minute. What was it like the last time you were on the porch?” Kevin said.
“What did you see?”
“The old American Indian man was under the tree burning herbs in his seashell.”
“Okay. Open the door. Hold that image in your mind.”
Jade pulled the door toward her and raised her hand to turn on the porch light.
“No, leave it off.”
Kevin pulled the door all the way open and pushed the screen door outward for Jade to step outside. “Think of the tree.”
“I can’t see anything. There is nothing here,” she whispered. Her body filled with panic.
“Wait for your eyes to adjust.”
With her hands outstretched, feeling for the handrail, Jade shuffled forward. The streetlights should be on, stars should be bright in the sky. It must be cloudy. The dark silhouette of the tree emerged from the night. “I see it,” she said, then the rain started. It poured down. Lightning cut across the sky showing abandoned cars parked along the street. The neighborhood looked staged. The house shook. Thunder rolled overhead and out to the ocean.
Under the tree, the old man sat. A fire, despite the downpour, raged with life. She turned to Kevin. “Did you see that?”
He looked as confused as she. “Yes. It wasn’t there a minute ago.”
The ill-at-ease feelings returned and Jade warily walked down the two steps, into the rain, and across the road. The old man stood. “I am Chief Thundercloud. Come to the river of Great Turtle’s forefathers where their spirits live among us. And you will find your father in the realm of lost souls.”
Jade reached the fire, and there was no heat. Her head was light. Dizzy, she swayed as if to the sound of a distant drum.
“I don’t understand?” She was feeling nauseous. “Where is he?” Her skin was clammy and pale. It was such a short time since she had emerged from the portal, buzzing with energy, and now she felt like shit again.
Kevin had followed her into the rain and stood beside her. He touched her hand. “Jade, no one’s there.”
“What?” She blinked. The fire was gone, along with the old man. “But how? What do you think he meant?”
“Who? Nobody is there, Jade. I didn’t hear anything. I saw the tree, but that’s it.”
Ignoring the feeling of her hair sticking to her face and the rain pelting down, Jade stared at Kevin. “He was right here,” she said, walking around the tree. Her eyes had acclimatized to the dark and she could see behind her house, the mountains in the distance as if they had just descended from the sky. “What the hell is happening, K? How could you not see him? Tell me you can see the mountains behind us?” She didn’t turn but glanced over her shoulder, indicating where he should look.
“Come on,” Kevin said, putting a protective arm around her as they crossed the street.
“Jade!” her mother called from the porch. “What are you doing?”
“The old man. He was here,” Jade said, running across the street with Kevin.
“What? No one is there,” her mom said.
“So I’ve heard!”
“He said Dad is lost in the realm of lost souls.”
“Maybe she had a vision,” Kevin said.
The rain stopped and the clouds parted. The stars shone in the velvety night sky.
“I don’t have visions!” Jade said, entering the house.
Jade grabbed two towels from the linen cupboard. She tossed one to Kevin. “He said his name was Chief Thundercloud. He started showing up when you went missing. He said to go to the river of Great Turtle’s ancestors.”
The dizziness and nausea had dissipated. Her body felt as if it was on fire when she spoke of the old man, but she was now thinking it was from the winter clothes she wore.
“Great Turtle forbade us to talk of the world of shadows. It is a world where you can lose your soul,” her mom said.
“Where are all the people?” Kevin said. “There was no one on the streets. I couldn’t feel a single emotion.”
Jade went to her bedroom and picked out some of her favorite clothes to wear. Glowing on her bedroom wall were the pictures of the green door with the Seal of Solomon. The two-dimensional image looked three-dimensional. What’s going on? And why would her dad be in trouble if he went with the old man? Why would the old man appear to her? There were too many questions she couldn’t answer. This is so frustrating. The world is just as crazy if not worse than before the return of the Emerald Tablet, the second Big Bang.
Still standing in the hallway, Kevin dried himself off. “Do you know where the river is?” he asked before vigorously drying his hair.
“No, do you, Mom?” Jade said, putting the blue towel over her head and walking toward the bathroom with her pile of dry clothes. She put her clothes down on top of the vanity and held the door open.
“I’m not sure, but our ancestors, before they joined the Catawba Nation, were the Wateree peoples, which means ‘to float on water’. The river is over two hours away.”
Jade looked at Kevin. “Do you think you can get us there?”
“Not unless you guys have been there before?”
“Mom, have we?” Jade was doing her best to keep it together. She closed the bathroom door, and quickly stripped off her winter gear. The wet clothes seemed to weigh a ton. She felt so fatigued. Pulling on a pair of dry, olive green cargo’s she toppled over, and managed to catch herself on the edge of the bath before hitting her head on the side of the vanity.
Her head had started aching soon after they started talking about her ancestors. She was ashamed she had never sought out her heritage. She was always proud of Great Turtle, who was loved by the many believers who had traveled far to see her. But now wasn’t the time for regrets. They had to find her father and fast. She quickly changed her bra and put on her blue v-neck t-shirt that had a picture of an atom with Never trust an atom, they make up everything written underneath. Jade kicked her wet clothes into a corner and left the bathroom.
“We haven’t been to Wateree River, but when you were about two years old your dad and I took you and your great-grandmother to the Black Mountains. Your great-grandmother would strap you to her chest and take you on long walks. You two would be gone for hours.”
Her legs were becoming heavy again, and she started to sweat. Swirls of energy were rising up from her solar plexus and around her, creating a feeling of expansiveness. This must be what Sophia sometimes experiences, Jade thought.
“Are you okay?” Kevin reached for Jade as she started to fall.
Her mother caught her other arm. Together they helped her to the dining room table.
“Maybe a glass of water will help,” Kevin said, going into the kitchen. He turned back, looking over the breakfast bar. “Where do you keep your glasses?”
“Top left-hand cupboard.”
Kevin didn’t move.
Cupboard, K, left-hand side, she thought.
He cocked his head to the side, focusing on the air around her.
“What are you seeing?” asked Ellen. “Your mother told me about your second sight. Why are you looking at Jade like that? What do you see?”
“I don’t normally see things; it’s just a knowing or an overwhelming emotion.”
“You’re a clairsentient, Kevin,” Ellen said.
“Hmm. She is surrounded by green light, and her bracelet is glowing, but ...”
“But what, K?” Jade said, feeling nervous.
“It’s weird. I see your veins filled with white light.”
Ellen stepped back trying to see what Kevin saw. “Jade, maybe you should rest awhile?”
“There’s no time to rest. Anyway, I think I would go stir-crazy doing nothing.”
“An energy drink is what you need.” Her mom opened the pantry doors and disappeared inside, reappearing with three bottles. “Kevin, can you pop these in your backpack?”
Jade accepted a bottle from her mom and took a big drink, then stowed it in her backpack. “I feel so uncomfortable, like something’s wrong. Nothing feels alive, it’s like we are on a movie set. Can you guys smell anything? Can you hear anything? Nothing seems real. We have to leave.” The wind rattled the windows.
“Relax, Jade. Worrying won’t help,” Ellen said. “Kevin, check the garage for the car. Jade, you stay here while I get my camel pack.” Her mom darted into the laundry and searched the cupboards for her hiking gear.
Kevin zipped up his bag. He flicked on the tap and filled a glass of water. Cautiously, he sipped the water. He spat it back out into the sink. “Sorry,” he said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “It tastes stale. I think I’ll pass.” He pulled off his windbreaker and removed his jumper. He put the windbreaker back on. Smiling, Jade watched his movements. He was five eight and cute. “Why did you put your jacket back on? It’s not raining any more.” She watched Kevin put down the glass.
He backed into the kitchen and headed for the side door. “It’s going to rain again. The wind’s blowing a gale.”
“How do you know it’s going to rain? And how do you know that’s the garage door?”
“It just is. And that’s the most likely one,” he said.
He opened the door. No car. “There are three bicycles?”
Jade was up out of her chair, heading after her mom. “Mom, have you got a picture of the time when were at the Wateree River?”
“You read my mind,” she said. “It’s not of Wateree River, but I have a photo of us at Black Mountain. We stayed in one of the lodges. The Catawba River is maybe a day’s hike. The Catawba flows into the Wateree.” Mom handed the picture to Kevin.
He had a cheeky grin on his face. Jade stood closer to see the photo. “Mom, really, is that the only picture you’ve got?” The happy snap was of her parents sitting at a picnic table with Jade lying on a blanket butt naked and smiling straight at the camera.