Mark and Addie celebrate their marriage on a river trip along the Rio Grande. Until, stupidity throws Addie into the desert. She fights death and taunting spirits. The delirium is familiar. Reality has questions for her. She should choose well.
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A novelist, artist, and business owner, Kristina Freeman is also an outdoor enthusiast. She holds a degree in Criminal Justice and was a teacher for twelve years. She currently resides in El Paso, Texas where she lives and works in construction, with her husband and three boys.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
She walked in anything but a straight line. Carried on the wind, the heat stung her eyes. Gravel in her sandals seared the soles of her feet and pierced her skin. Her eyes stayed fixed on the horizon as she stumbled over cactus and yucca. Falling brought new wounds, but like those on her feet, they went unnoticed. Her pace was in rhythm with the throbbing in her head. Her feet were bleeding; her legs and hands as well. She was numb.
The walking quickened until she was nearly running. The sun had come down through the bottom of a billowy line of clouds, and it was closer to the horizon than she thought. Her only awareness was the effort she made to catch the sun. She had to keep the sun from setting and hold it. It was leverage; to take back what had been lost.
She could already feel the spirits. They were coming in, wafting around her, lounging on the evening wind. They came with every sunset. She believed this now. The light, hot and blinding, kept them hidden during the day. It was at dusk when they found invitation to enter and to touch life. There was nothing of fear, but rather an anguish that drove her through the last hours of the day, through the pain and heat, to catch the sun.
She was in the waiting room of the afterworld, in territory that boasted thousands of miles of scorched earth and nothingness. It was godforsaken desert with little to offer the living but it afforded ample room for lost souls. This desert was the birthplace for spirits and legends, and she was wandering in its intoxicating sadness.
Some people believed the intoxication was from the heat. Locals believed it was from ancient medicine, while others believed it was from the spirits themselves, trying to entice the living into their world.
She came to a slow, dragging pace as the last red tip of the sun's crest lay behind the desert floor, leaving a few smudges of crimson on the now filmy clouds. The sun had left, uncaught. She moved as slowly as dusk itself now, lounging like the spirits around her. The darkness came. At first, with two stars, and then twenty, and then the sky was full, bursting at the seams like it had her first night in the desert.
In the stillness she took a breath, a long, deep breath filled with ghosts. The anguish dimmed as the spirits slipped past her mouth. Now she felt the fear, swirling about her like falling stars and oddly, comfort. There were whispers that she couldn't hear and a helicopter that she could.
In the first moments of an instant her senses went from numb to statically alive. Primal, from the ages of survival, she looked for cover. Within the pounding in her head she screamed no. The lights were coming and they were closer than the sound of the machine itself. Nowhere; there was no place to hide, nothing large or even small that would get her out of sight. They'll see me, she thought, they'll see me no matter what. She feared the desert, but she feared being found even more. She raced back and forth from panic to instincts. Back and forth like the searching helicopter.
Then, in desperation, she stripped naked. Using what was left of her feet, she pushed her way into a large mesquite bush and cleared away the earth underneath it. It wasn't fast enough. The lights were still coming. She crawled deeper under the bush and dug her hands into firm, hot ground. She scooped out a small wallow. Her skin tore against its thorny branches as she crawled into the shallow hole.
She kneeled with the trunk of the bush on her right side. She curled her upper torso around her legs and folded them tight underneath her. Her clothing and sandals were shoved into the little gap under her belly. She scooped and packed the loose dirt around her limbs and backside. Then, she bent her head.
The helicopter was there. Not yet above her, but circling and dipping closer. My hair, she thought, they'll see my hair moving in the wind. With the first rock she touched, she dug at the trunk of the mesquite. The soil was barely damp, but sufficient. Working blind, through immense sprays of dirt and dust, she scooped and packed the moist soil around the back of her head and neck. There wasn't enough time to cover all of her hair. It was brown, long, and matted from the wind. She twisted and pulled the length of it, drew it across her dry lips, and held it fast with her teeth.
The helicopter hovered above her. She pulled her arms in tight and expelled the air from her body. "Damn the sun." she muttered. She needed the sun to barter with the spirits. Then she damned the helicopter for interrupting her efforts.
A rhythmic chopping reverberated in her pounding skull. It lulled and entranced her. The sound came slower and deeper as she slipped out of the brief state of consciousness. Her mind surrendered again to the emptiness that had brought her to this point. She melted back into the womb of Mother Earth, back into innocence, wholeness, and simplicity. Enfolded in warmth and strength, she could no longer feel the sting of flying gravel or the tearing thorns across her bare back. Her eyes were closed tight, and again she was wandering, this time in her mind.
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