by William King
It took the best part of the morning to find and climb the trail that led up into the mountains, to a place that contained the ruins of a quite large building, although there was not much left to see.
We set up camp here on the flat ground inside the remains of the old walls. By late afternoon we had everything in place, the tent was up, we'd even made a fire and had our first hot meal in what seemed like ages.
A little further up and set back into the mountain side was a water cascade which fell off a flat moss covered rock into a small pool. This was the first water I'd seen since the ocean and we both took advantage of it. The water was cool as it lapped around my feet, the shallow shelf at the edge belied the deepness a step further in. I fell down into the pool, swimming to keep my head above water, Jabez joined me, running and jumping into the middle. It felt almost dream like, after days spent on the dried out sun baked land, to be somewhere near flowing water was wonderful.
As day turned to night we were once more sitting cross legged on the ground in a sort of triangle, with me facing Jabez and El Cuervo de Plata in between us. He took the pieces of green cactus from the bag in his sack and passed them to us, just like the last time, which although it seemed ages ago, it was not, and I had not forgotten what might happen.
I supposed that no one experience with chewing his magic cactus would be like the last, and ignoring his warnings to be alert to the dangers that lay ahead, I allowed myself to be lulled into a force sense of security.
As the light disappeared and the stars came out I was captivated by the nature and movement I could see around me. It was very much like the first time, and I looked on amused at the life force in the rocks, because these inanimate objects were full of moving energy, wonderful patterns and hues played across the surface. I thought maybe even solid objects are not as solid as they seem.
Spending my time like this was great entertainment, but the huge mistake I made was to allow tiredness to creep up on me. Perhaps I should have refused to do this tonight, because there had been no time to recover from the fatigue of travelling, but he had said he could not stay with us very much longer and we would be on our own.
I fell asleep, at least I am almost certain that's what happened, I lay down, stretched out and looked up at the stars. Then quite suddenly things changed, I was stuck on a merry go round, just like in a children's playground. It spun around and around and as I looked out it was hard to fix my focus on anything. I realised with a growing dread and creeping fear that I was stuck, that what I saw flashing past my eyes, whenever something became just fleetingly clear, for a tiny instant, what I saw were different realities, past, present, future.
I was panicking, I knew that I had to jump off the merry go round or else I would be trapped for eternity, forever spinning around and around. But fear gripped me like a cold vice, if I made the wrong decision, if I jumped at the wrong time, I could end up anywhere, in the past, the future, anywhere!
If that happened I would never be able to get back. Once you jump off there is no way back on, no second chance. It started to speed up, spinning faster and faster, less and less time to make the jump, to choose the split second that would get me back to my reality, to where I'd come from.
I almost blacked out with the dizzying speed, round and round, then I saw it, the spot where I'd entered, the baked earth and ruined building. But it was gone in an instant as I spun and spun. Then back, there it was again. Gone. I prepared myself, my heart beating like it would explode, one chance, a split second. I jumped.
It was eerily quiet, Jabez was sitting across from me, I saw him as I sat up, pulling myself up off the ground. It felt damp, almost wet, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I was back, I was awake, I'd jumped at the right moment.
It was then I realised the dampness was me, not the earth, not the air, I'd wet myself. I could smell it, that unique odour of urine. I was both embarrassed and comforted, yes I'd pissed my pants, but I made it back.
I stood up gingerly, I felt unsteady on my feet, but slowly my balance came back. It was not so dark that you couldn't see, the stars were up there and the moon was out, the sky was clear. I made my way towards the water cascade, guided by the sound of the falling water.
When I woke up it was daylight, as I peered out from the tent I saw Jabez sitting drinking coffee next to a little fire.
"Here," he said, putting down his mug and pouring me a coffee, extending his arm. "Come on sleepy head, I've been waiting for you to get up."
I crawled out of the tent and joined him, sitting down next to him and cradling the mug of hot coffee between my hands.
"Where's he gone?" I asked, not seeing El Cuervo de Plata.
"Never mind that, what about you?" He looked concerned.
"What about me?" I replied.
" You look terrible, like you've been... I don't know, something happened to you, I can tell. Tell me what happened."
So I explained everything as I remembered it, without missing out any detail, at least not intentionally. He couldn't help a smile when I told him I wet myself, but it was a serious smile, he wasn't making light of it.
"And El Cuervo de Plata?" I asked again.
"He left... before you woke up. Gave me the sack of magic potion and instructions on what we should do. Left the supplies, said he'd be back in a day or two."
"What instructions?" I asked.
"About the next two nights, I'll tell you later. Drink your coffee."
So I finished my coffee and we decided a dip in the pool would be good, for my part I hoped it would revive me, I felt wasted.
It was refreshing in the water, with the sun now beating down, we simply laid down to dry off, and made our way back to the tent. Jabez fixed it up so that one side of the tent was held open giving a large area of shade without being confined inside. It kind of worked, at least as far as getting out of direct sunlight, but it was nevertheless terribly hot.
Time seemed to drift past slowly as we languished in the shade. It was hard to find the energy to do anything, even talking felt like it required too much concentration and effort.
Jabez did try his best to layout the plan of action, explaining what El Cuervo de Plata had said we have to do. I was honestly only half listening, but I understood the part about another magical journey tonight. I wasn't sure if I was up for that, but I just listened without commenting. He said something about defeating the darkness and getting through to somewhere. It was all starting to sound like a comic book, heroes versus the dark forces. I thought about just abandoning the whole thing, but I wondered just how I could do that. Seemed like there was no real way out, we were stuck here.
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