by Carole Giorgio
Chapter 12 (Saturday)
As the two women tumbled through the crumbling floor, they experienced a time warp mixture of falling forever and landing immediately, before they hit with an audible thud on a new level of red dirt.
During the fall, Alex had maneuvered their bodies so that she would be the first to hit the ground, with Samantha landing on top of her. She managed to reach the clay floor first but as she did, she felt a popping sensation in her left ankle, which caused her knees to buckle and her attempt to land on both feet quickly became relegated to the position of only an aspiration. Even though her balance was askew, and landing on both feet was no longer a viable conclusion to the fall, Alex never let go of her precious cargo. Putting her left arm out to break the fall, she found her wrist hyper-extending, as she landed on it with her full weight and some of her partner's. She rolled onto her back preventing Samantha from hitting the hard floor.
Desperately trying to mask the pain she was feeling and still trying to keep the smaller woman out of harm's way, Alex hit her head on a protruding rock.
"Ooff, fuck! God damn son-of-a-bitch! Ouch!" With tears streaming down her face she finally loosened her hold on her lover to grab the offended area. "Shit . . . damn . . . ow . . . you okay Samantha?"
It took a second or two for the blonde to answer as she caught her breath. "I'm only a little shook and maybe bruised, thanks to you." Reaching in the direction of her hero she could tell from Alex's body posture and verbal language that the same did not apply to her. "Gods Alex, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I just . . . fuck!" Instinctively beginning to use her hands to help herself up she realized that her left hand was not going to cooperate with even that simple a maneuver. Pain radiated from the wrist area and she could feel it already beginning to swell. "I think I sprained my wrist, damn it! Did the torch fall with us?"
With her right hand she reached inside her pants pockets to retrieve the small flashlight and search their new location for signs of anything that made it down to this new level with them. "There it is Samantha, over there, can you get to it?"
"Sure thing, Alex." The blonde stood, a bit wobbly at first and with a slight limp as her knee had hit the ground upon landing, but other than that she had been well protected by her lover's body. Picking up the torch, she pulled out some of the moss she had in her pocket and wrapped it around the club. "Here, give me the matches; I'll get this lit."
Taking the matches from her injured mate, she fired up the torch and made a niche in the floor to hold it, so she could tend to Alex's wounds.
"Here, Honey, let me see your head." Tender, tear-filled eyes searched the ebony locks for any sign of blood and remarkably found only a large bump but no broken skin. Gently she turned the face of her lover to meet hers. "Again, you're my champion, Alex." The blonde bent down and kissed the damp face in front of her. "Gods Alex. Where do you hurt?"
With a confused look on her face, the brunette tried to formulate an answer. "Damn. To begin with I think I might have a concussion. I know more is better but I don't think seeing double of you is what I need right now."
"Shit, Alex. We have to get out of here! Can you stand?" She reached for her lover's hand, only to have it pulled back as Alex winced in pain.
"Not that hand, Samantha. Seems like I might have broken or sprained a thing or two in the process. Here." She reached out her right arm. "Help me up, will you?"
Slowly and methodically the tall woman got unsteadily to her feet, tried to take a step and found herself again ungracefully hitting the floor.
"Maybe I should sit here for a few minutes and try to compose myself." Tears were now streaming freely down the beautiful face, leaving red drip marks as they passed through the red dust that had settled on both of the women.
Samantha took the torch and walked about the small oblong-shaped room. There was one passage leading out, but she would have to get on her hands and knees to do so. The only other means of escape from the area was back up the wall to the level from which they had fallen.
"Alex is the phone working?"
The brunette started to reach into her pocket, but Samantha's hand got there first and retrieved the small phone.
"I can't even get the lights to come on. Do you think it got broken in the fall?"
"That's very likely, Samantha, but it could also be that we're in the middle of a mountain of solid red rock. If you can get to the outside, it might still be working. If not, I'm afraid you'll have to hike to the car alone and call from the phone Gary has in the Jeep all the time."
The blonde stared at her lover for a second before the consequences of the statement registered. "You want me to leave you here and go back to the car alone?"
"Honey, I don't think we have much choice." Alex's voice trembled slightly as she realized that she would be more hindrance than help to Samantha in getting back to the vehicle. "Listen, Samantha, you have a better chance of getting back to the car, while there is still some light in the sky, if I stay here and wait for you."
"But, Alex, I don't like the idea of leaving you here alone. What if I can't find my way to the car and what if I can't find my way back to you?"
The dark-haired beauty could hear the terror in her lover's voice and knew she had to convince the small woman that everything would be okay, even though she wasn't all that sure herself. What she was sure of was that with the room spinning and seeing double Samantha's, along with the inability to stand for any length of time, that their only choice was to have Samantha go alone. If it had been opposite sides of her body that had been affected, she might even have been able to scale the wall but not with her entire left side being put out of commission.
"Samantha," Alex's voice was calm and soothing. "We need a plan of action, and I'm afraid the best chance is for you to go alone and come back for me with help."
"Let me look around again." The small blonde was on the verge of panic but trying desperately not to show it. She was sure if she looked hard enough a miracle would occur and they would both be able to walk out of the cave together. But in searching the room with the torch, her heart fell when she realized that both of them getting out right now was not going to happen.
The room was elliptical and approximately eight by ten feet in length and width. As she had seen before, there was an entrance/exit that was about four feet in height. She walked over to the arch and poked the torch through; it was definitely a tunnel.
"I could explore this avenue of escape, Alex," Samantha suggested, as she squatted down, looking into the opening.
"Honey, I don't think taking a totally unknown path would be the best decision to make right now. I think going back the way we came, you at least know how to get to the outside and from there you can make it back to the parking lot. I'll give you my compass, and you can throw the torch up and then relight it when you get up there.
"No!" Samantha objected. "I'm not going to leave you alone and in the dark."
"Samantha when you get up there you can throw another torch down to me, there were quite a few of them lying around on the ground. I'll keep some of the matches and the flashlight; will that make you feel better?"
"No much, but a little," there were tears streaming down the blonde's face at the thought of having to leave Alex alone and hurt in the middle of a mountain.
"Come here Samantha."
When the smaller figure sat down on the ground next to her, Alex placed strong arms around drooping shoulders.
"Damn, Alex. I'm scared."
"I know you are, sweetheart, but everything's going to be okay. I have faith in you Samantha."
"I'm glad one of us does," the blonde tried to joke. "Seriously, Alex, how are you feeling?"
"Well . . . I'm not going to lie to you." She took a deep breath and exhaled. "I would love to be able to climb up that wall with you, but with both my left wrist and my left ankle either badly sprained or broken, I don't think that is an option. And I might have a concussion; my vision is blurred and I'm seeing double." She heard Samantha gasp.
"On the other hand, Samantha, it could just be that I'm a little dizzy from the fall and from hitting my head."
"Alex, you can't fall asleep if I leave you here . . . promise me you won't fall asleep."
The brunette held her lover closer and tried to reassure her, with a statement she had absolutely no faith in. "I won't fall asleep, Samantha. I'll stay awake and listen for your return."
Samantha got up and took inventory of the amount of water left in the bottles, the matches left and the food they had put into the small backpack Alex had been carrying.
"I'm going to fill your bottle with water from mine."
Alex started to protest and Samantha stopped her immediately.
"Listen, if I'm going to have to leave you here, we're going to do some of it my way." Her voice had taken on a completely different tenor, and Alex felt that she was putting forth a really strong front. "So, I'm leaving you all the food. I can restock when I reach the ledge, and I can get more water when I cross the creek. I will take the compass because I'm going to need that to find the car. Why don't you just keep the torch down here? I'll take the flashlight up with me, and when I find a new torch, I'll throw the flashlight back down. I have faith that you can catch it with your good hand." She smiled at her lover, trying to make some kind of levity in a situation where she saw none.
"I guess all the practicing on the wall at home is really going to come in handy now." Alex looked over at the wall Samantha would be climbing in the next few minutes. "It doesn't look that difficult, really. Luckily this red rock has a lot of niches and grooves."
"Yeah, I was checking it out a minute ago. I just wish you could get back up it. What if I go get the rope from the backpack and pull you up?"
"That might work, Samantha, but then it might not, and you would have wasted precious time and daylight trying something in vain." She didn't want Samantha coming back and finding that she had passed out and was unresponsive until the blonde had help with her. Alex didn't know how much longer she could stay awake, but she knew once Samantha was gone and the cave was quiet there would be no distractions to keep her attention.
"Honey, you really need to get started," Alex told the reluctant woman.
"I know, but I don't want to leave you here."
"You have no choice."
Samantha got on her knees and threw her arms around Alex. She couldn't stop the onslaught of warm liquid that was running down her already tear-streaked face. "I love you more than life, Alex. I wish I were the one who had to stay here, instead of you. I'll be back as soon as I possibly can."
"I know that, sweetheart. You be careful and I'll see you in a few hours. Give me the torch and I'll hold it out so you can see to get up the wall."
She did her best to smile and kept the tears at bay as she watched Samantha begin climbing the wall back up to the tunnel above them. It would take a different kind of courage to get them out of this mess.
This time Samantha would have to be the strong one. It would be up to her whether or not the two of them would get out of the Canyon alive. They knew they were two sides of the same coin and it was now time for the flip side to show its stamina.
Indeed the practice climbing was paying off this weekend, as Samantha didn't find the wall extremely difficult. There were a few areas where her foot slipped and some of the holds and notches were tiny, but she soon found herself looking down into the pit with her lover sitting there helpless, looking back up at her. It broke her heart to see Alex hurt, but now was not the time for pity. Looking around she found another club and wrapped the small amount of moss she had kept around the tip of it; she would get more as she passed through the tunnel. When the flame was burning brightly, she yelled down to Alex.
"I'm going to throw the flashlight down; will you be able to catch it?"
"If you're any good at aiming, I will be able to," came the reply.
Samantha gently tossed the light down in the direction of Alex's outstretched hand and smiled when she saw the object being caught. Good girl.
"Great catch, Honey. I'll be back with help as soon as possible."
"You be careful, Samantha," Alex yelled up to her lover.
"I will. I love you, Alex."
"I love you, too, Samantha."
Before she could think about it anymore and climb back down to be with Alex, the small blonde turned and started back down the tunnel toward the outside opening and the ledge. She thanked the Gods they had marked their way and it wasn't long before she caught a glimpse of sunlight shining through the tunnel.
Once out on the ledge, the first thing she did was try the cell phone. When it didn't work, she knew it had been damaged in the initial fall. She took her backpack and emptied it of everything that was not essential. Not wanting to be weighted down, she took only what was needed and started heading toward the parking lot.
Now instead of having to climb up she was going to have to put her practice into motion by climbing down the ledge. It was a lot steeper than the one she had climbed up not too long ago. But, the footholds were larger and she found that in a shorter amount of time than she would have anticipated it taking her, she felt her foot touch solid earth.
Alex watched as Samantha efficiently made her way up the wall. Even sitting on the cool damp ground in utter agony, she could feel the pangs of pride as her eyes followed the love of her life, climbing up the rough, red rock wall. I'm glad we decided climbing the wall at home would be good exercise for her. I only wish there had been some way for me to get out of here with her, but I think I would only be slowing her down; she'll have a better chance at getting help if she doesn't have to worry about me.
The question Samantha had posed about leaving the cave from the small exit on the other side of the room was a good idea, but if it turned out to be a dead end, they would have wasted precious time.
When Sam reached the top and stood looking back down into the room, Alex did her best to smile. Even though she saw two flashlights spinning quickly toward her, she knew only one of them was real. Luckily, the small object practically fell into her unharmed hand, and it was definitely Samantha's aim that made that accomplishment possible.
Alex continued to watch the flickering of the light in the tunnel above, until darkness overtook the area. Soon the only light came from the torch slowly burning in its groove on the floor next to her. It was going to be a long wait and she knew there was no way in Hell she was going to be able to keep herself awake until Samantha came back with help.
Looking up at the side of the mountain she had just climbed down from, Sam tried to remember everything Alex had told her on the way to arriving at this particular ledge. She stood silent for a few minutes and in her mind's eye replayed the scenes from the day before of their trek to this particular place.
After getting her bearings, she began to make her way around the mountain, knowing that she would follow the structure for a way and then turn south. She could hear the words of the conversation the two of them had the day before when Alex tried to instill in her where they were headed and where they had come from:
"Let me tell you now so I don't forget later." Alex had said as she pointed to this very tower.
"See that turret up there, Samantha?"
She had followed with her eyes as Alex pointed and answered in the affirmative.
"Okay the Jeep is parked directly south of that spire, so if anything . . ."
And then she had made a statement she never should have made; perhaps her arrogance was the cause of this situation she now found herself, and Alex in. She almost hadn't paid attention but was extremely glad that she had, even if she had answered, "It's enough to know that it's there, Alex. I'm sure I won't ever have to use that information."
The small blonde was making her way around the huge rock structure when the sky began to darken and she felt raindrops lightly touching the top of her head. These surely are the tears of the Gods today. They're crying for the predicaments we humans constantly find ourselves in.
Not wanting to waste precious time dodging the precipitation, she was just about to venture out into the downpour when she heard a small voice, almost a whisper, beckoning her.
"Over here." The voice was clear and crisp.
Samantha couldn't believe her ears. Her heart began to palpitate as she assumed there were other people in the area. That would make her chore so much easier. Someone could stay with Alex while she hiked to the car. She looked around trying to see where the voice had come from but saw no one.
"Hello," she yelled. "My name's Samantha; what's yours?"
The only sound that responded to her plea was the increase in the intensity of the rain. She tried to make contact once again and then assumed that she was simply hearing what she wanted to hear because she was so afraid of not being able to get back to Alex in a timely fashion.
Ignoring her feelings, she once again started to venture forth from the shelter of the outcropping red rock when the voice was distinctly heard for the second time.
"Over here, you can help her out."
Okay, I think maybe I'm going a little light in the head. Maybe I did hit something in that fall. I want help so badly-I'm imagining it.
The voice had come from over on her left and when she looked she saw nothing out of the ordinary. There was the rock, the trees, and the rain. Looking forward, she saw more trees and more rain. Then, for some reason she turned to the left again and caught, out of the corner of her eye, the glimpse of something moving in the underbrush near the base of the mountain.
Quickly, she ran in the direction of the movement. She found nothing.
"I know you're here. Please, I have a friend who in dire need of assistance. Please, show yourself."
The waiting was heart wrenching. Then she heard a movement. She was closer to whomever it was; she just knew she was. "Please," she pleaded. "Show yourself. I really could use your help."
It was after she had spoken the last word that she heard the voice again.
"Follow me; you can get her out."
This time when she looked in the direction of the voice, her heart felt like it had dropped to her feet. Standing before her was an Indian maiden who couldn't have been more than 18 years old. She was fair-skinned for an Indian and her blonde hair seemed odd when you matched it to the outfit she was wearing. But, the strangest thing about the young maiden was when she looked into Samantha's eyes. It was as if Sam was looking back into her own soul, not the same way as when she looked at Alex who she felt was the other half of herself, but as if she was staring into some kind of ancient duplication of herself.
"I am you," the maiden smiled. "You are me. Time has no beginning and no end and we have just slipped between the lines."
Samantha stood for a few seconds dumbfounded. "I don't know what to say. I feel like a fool, like I'm imagining you."
"You're not imagining me, but come, we need to work quickly while there is plenty of light. I know an entrance to the rock that will lead you to the one who is hurt. You can bring her out of the cave."
Without another second's hesitation, Samantha followed her heart as she followed a vision of someone she used to be.
When rounding the rock, the maiden stopped and pointed to the ground. "Down there, dig. There are roots that will help her pain."
Samantha knelt down and began digging. She came upon a misshapen root with a musky odor and a soft brown color. Pulling it out of the ground, she held it up in front of her and brushed it off.
"We are healers. It will ease her pain."
A little further around the side of the mountain and the Indian maiden stopped once more. "Here." She pointed to a small succulent. "These leaves put on the skin will have a numbing effect."
Again Samantha took the word of the Indian and plucked a couple handfuls of the leaves, stuffing them into her backpack along with the root.
"Are you sure I can get in and get her out?" Samantha wanted to know. She was slightly worried about losing daylight.
"I will not lead you astray. I will help you get your heart out of harm's way. I know the bond; I will not betray you."
As the Indian motioned to an area on the wall of the rock, Samantha could see where the wall gave way, yet was covered by thickly growing vines. She took out the camping knife she had stuck into her shorts and began cutting away at the overgrowth. When she was finished she had revealed a small opening back into the rock.
She looked at the maiden and shrugged her shoulders questioningly.
"She is in a ritual room; the tunnel leading into it is not very long. It is just long enough and winding enough not to be able to see the light through the far side. Go into the cave here and follow the tunnel. There is only one way in and one way out; you'll not get lost. Feed her the root and cover her with the elixir of the leaves; she will be fine."
"I want to trust you. I want to believe. I'm just afraid you're a figment of my imagination, that I bumped my head when we fell and I'm putting Alex in danger by taking the time to do this."
The Indian vehemently shook her head, pointing to herself and then back at Sam. "You were once a great Shamaness Samantha. I am the essence that you left behind to find, in case you ever came back to this place. Go now, heal her, she needs you."
There was a sharp crackle of lightening, followed by a clap of thunder. Rain came pouring down harder, as Samantha stood in front of the cave opening. She watched as the Indian maiden, with emerald eyes that matched her own, walked out into the midday showers and pointed to a rainbow that was already beginning to form in the sky to the south of them.
"It's the sign that all will be right and in its proper place. I'm glad I was here to help."
When the last of her words were spoken, the maiden looked at the modern version of herself and smiled. "A part of me will always be with you, Samantha." The maiden disappeared as quickly as she had materialized.
She still had a large piece of the dried moss in her pocket that she had retrieved from the tunnel walls on her way back to the ledge, and she also had the dried plant the maiden had pointed out that smelled of sage. Samantha turned back toward the opening in the mountain and looked for a fairly green branch to use as a torch. While searching the ground, her eyes fell upon a small red stone in the shape of a heart. When picking it up, she felt immediately energized and the palm of her hand tingled. This stone is full of energy. Placing it in her pocket, she lit the newly formed torch.
"The energy is inside you, Samantha; work with it- it will be there for you."
The voice had again flowed gently on the wind and whispered into her ear. She somehow knew everything was going to be okay, as she ducked her head and entered the cave.
Alex could hear the rain beginning to fall, as she tried desperately to keep her eyes open and stay alert to what was happening around her. The sound of her own voice was no longer having the effect it had immediately after Samantha left, and she was finding herself rambling and making stupid sounds to keep awake. The soft drip of the water falling and trickling down the walls of the cave was beginning to become mesmerizing, and the throbbing in her wrist and ankle was constant, even though she propped her foot up on a large rock to keep the swelling down.
Finally, she could fight the need for sleep no longer and allowed herself to drift into a semi-conscious state. Her body quickly relaxed into the void of sleep, bringing with it the blessed lack of pain.
"Over here Nairod."
The sound of a lyrical voice prompted Alex to open her eyes, and she found the room now bathed in an eerie red light with a rock fire glowing brightly. The young maiden she had seen earlier was pouring water on the rocks, causing steam to rise and warm the room. Alex could smell a scent reminiscent of a mixture of pine, sage, and eucalyptus. The odor seemed to be permeating her aching body and bringing welcomed relief.
She watched in disbelief as the Indian brave she and Samantha had seen earlier joined the young maiden.
"Father's wrath will come down on us, if they find us here alone," the young brave was almost whispering as he entered the cave via the exit Samantha had found earlier.
"Everyone else is at the celebration; we won't be missed until the moon is high above the horizon."
The young brave crossed to the center of the room, totally ignoring Alex as she lay there watching. He almost walked through her on his way to take the maiden into his arms.
When he did so Alex had the distinct feeling of holding Samantha. The empathy was unsettling and comforting at the same time. As the lover's embraced, their entire story played through the mind of the wounded woman like a vision quest.
Alex immediately felt a cosmic connection to the individuals who were as real to her as if they were standing there in the flesh, even though she knew in the recesses of her mind that that was an impossibility.
The heritage of the brave was made distinctly clear and she felt a stronger connection to him than to the maiden. She somehow got his history in the form of a story showing how a white man had raped his mother and left her for dead not far from the Indian village. When the braves of the village found her, they took her home and the shaman nurtured her back to health. A beautiful girl child with eyes the color of the summer sky was born to the maiden, and as she grew into a lovely young woman, she caught the eye of the chief's son who was only a few years her senior. They eventually married and the handsome brave with shocking blue eyes, hair as black as night, and skin the color of polished bronze-the young brave known as Nairod, was born to them.
Alex also received the background of the young maiden, with eyes the color of spring grass, hair the color of summer wheat, and skin the color of a newborn fawn. Again, in story form, she received the information that a baby girl had been born to a white woman who had survived a skirmish between the Indians and explorers. The woman had been wounded and nursed back to health by the Indians, but being with child, she was still fragile and ended up losing her life in childbirth. Knowing that the child was an innocent, the village Shaman, who had lost both his wife and child in childbirth, offered to take the baby in and raise her as his own. She eventually became a very powerful influence in the Village as the Shamaness when her father passed on. Her daughter, the young woman now standing before Alex, had followed in her mother's footsteps.
Alex continued to watch the interactions of the two people, as she fought the urge to fall asleep. It was extremely important that she stay awake, but she seemed to be losing the battle, again. Just as she was about to give in to the desire for rest and close her eyes, the room darkened slightly, the figures faded, and she saw a flickering light in the direction of the exit.
The next sound she heard was the most beautiful sound in the world.
"Alex! Alex, are you awake?" Samantha's question was more of a plea. She knew it was dangerous for the wounded woman to sleep, but also knew that more than likely she had probably done so. The maiden had been right in saying that the tunnel was short; she could see the flickering of light not too far ahead of her. "I'm coming, Alex!"
Suddenly finding herself quite awake, Alex knew that Samantha couldn't have had time to get all the way to the Jeep and back with help. She couldn't understand why Samantha would be coming back for her or how she found the outer entrance to the cave.
In actuality it didn't matter; she was sure Samantha had her reasons, and she had faith that they were all the right ones.
Alex felt her voice crack as she tried to answer Samantha's question. "I'm awake, Samantha," she answered, but it came out as almost a whisper.
Keeping her eyes on the light that continued to get brighter, she felt her heart leap when Samantha came into view.
The blonde hurried over and threw her arms around Alex's neck. "I wish we had taken the exit out of here earlier," Samantha confided in her lover. "I could have had you half way to the Jeep by now."
"Samantha how did you know . . ."
"It's a long story, Alex, and one that is not totally believable," the blonde smiled.
Just try me, my love, wait until I tell you mine!
"I didn't know a single torch could heat an area as large as this," Samantha stated, noticing that the room was warmer than when she had left."
"You wouldn't believe me if I tried to explain to you how the room got heated," Alex replied, wanting to tell Samantha all about the vision. "But, why did you come back through the cave? You couldn't have gotten to the parking lot and back already. Did the phone work? Did you call for help?"
Samantha put a finger up to her lover's mouth and quietly hushed her. "No, my love, the phone didn't work, and you're right, I didn't get down to the car. I'm going to tell you how I found the entrance after I take care of some of your pain."
The blonde reached into her backpack and pulled out the brown root. Peeling away the outer layer with her knife she cut off a piece of the white fleshy inside and placed it into Alex's mouth. "This might taste a little bitter to begin with but it will alleviate the pain and make it tolerable."
"How do you . . ." Alex started to question.
"Trust me, my love, I just do."
Cloudy blue eyes stared into clear green and she knew that Samantha did, indeed, know what she was talking about, at least she believed in her heart that the smaller woman did.
While Alex was busy chewing on the plant that had the consistency of a raw potato, Samantha pulled out some of the leaves she had in her pack and began snapping them to allow the sticky liquid to form on the edges. Gently, she smeared the greenish goo around the swollen ankle and wrist.
"What?" Alex managed to ask and Samantha felt compelled to try to explain.
"This will help numb the skin so you won't hurt so much when we start out of here." She put her head down, afraid to look Alex in the eyes for fear she would think her insane. "Alex, I was starting toward the car when I saw the Indian maiden again." She stopped and waited for a response. Receiving none, she continued. "She actually talked to me this time and helped me to find, not only the cave entrance, but the medicinal herbs to help ease your pain so we can get out of here together. I know it sounds absolutely crazy but . . ."
"No! No, Samantha it doesn't sound crazy . . . I mean it does . . . but it doesn't. I had a similar experience but they didn't talk to me."
"Both the Indians brave and the maiden were in here with me, while I was trying to fight drifting off to sleep. I saw them as surely as I'm looking at you right this minute, unless you're an apparition as well."
"I'm not apparition, Alex. I'm here in the flesh." She gently touched the warm face of the woman she loved and smiled. "We're going to get out of here, Alex. Everything will be alright, I promise."
"Now who's the hero?" Alex asked with a weak smile.
"I'm no hero, but I'll do my damnedest to act like one to get you home safely."
The smoke from the torch filled the room with the scent of fresh sage and Samantha told Alex to inhale deeply. Looking around the room she found a few small branches that could be used to help stabilize the injured woman's ankle and wrist. Tearing strips of material from her blouse, she placed one branch on either side of Alex's ankle and wrapped it to keep it safely in one position, hoping to enable the brunette to stand and walk with partial weight bearing. She had learned some technique from transcribing, some from watching Alex work at the clinic, and some seemed to be coming naturally to her without even thinking about it.
"How are you feeling, Alex? Any better?"
"As a matter of fact, the pain has diminished greatly, both coming from the inside and out. I actually think I might be able to walk."
"Let's not get carried away. I was hoping the medicine would be strong, but I don't know that I want you thinking everything is perfect. For all we know you may be in shock and . . ."
"Samantha, believe in your ability to help heal her."
Samantha snapped her head around to see if the maiden was visible. She was nowhere in sight.
"What is it Samantha?"
"Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Alex cocked her head to listen.
"Nothing, it's gone now-must have been the wind." Samantha turned back to the situation at hand. "How does your head feel, Alex?"
"Still a little pounding, but nothing like it was before you came back in. I don't feel as sleepy, either."
"Give her some energy."
"I didn't say anything. Samantha are you okay?"
"Alex, I'm going to do something that might seem totally nuts to you, but I think it might help."
"Hey, I'm a captive audience," the brunette smiled up at the small blonde and held out her good hand. "Whatever you think might help, I'm a willing participant."
Samantha reached into her pocket and brought out the heart-shaped stone and then rubbed it vigorously between her hands. When she could feel the heat emanating from the stone and her skin, she placed the stone in Alex's lap and one hand on either side of Alex's head in the temple area.
"I can feel the heat radiating from your hands Samantha." Alex told her lover in a surprised tone.
"I was hoping you could. I'm going to concentrate on clearing your head so you don't see double when we get out of here. We have quite a way to go and I don't want to put more stress on your body than absolutely necessary."
While she was quietly standing above her heart's desire, with her hands placed on Alex's temples the small blonde suddenly felt the unmistakable feeling of added pressure to her hands. "A little extra energy never hurt anyone." Came the whispered voice inside her head. "This is my final gift to you and Alex. Everything will be fine, Samantha. Once you clear the cave, Nairod will show you a short-cut back to where you need to go. May the Gods watch over you. I'm glad I got to meet who I was to become; the circle of time is endless."
As suddenly as it had appeared, the extra pressure on her hands was gone. She bent down and kissed Alex on the crown of her head. "Any better, my love?"
"Much." Alex replied surprised. "You really have a healing touch, Samantha. I think you've been in the wrong field."
"Alex you do realize that the Indians are our former selves, don't you?"
"Well, she told me I . . . um . . . she . . . or . . . you know what I mean! I was a Shamaness when I was her."
"That makes sense; so you've brought into this life some of the attributes of that one. Mom says that's what we're supposed to do. And when you have a professional regression you get to see or feel who you were before. She's going to love what went on here."
"I don't think she's going to be so happy about the accident."
"No, not that, but the fact that we got to have a regression without having to go through a middle person."
"I don't mean to change the subject, but do you think maybe you can make it through the cave, Alex?"
"I'm ready to try."
"We'll find you a crutch once we get outside; for now, the walls are close enough inside the tunnel to be of support, and I'll walk in front of you for extra assistance."
Surprisingly, when Alex stood in an upright position, she found that her lightheadedness was gone, as well as her pain. She knew better than to push her luck and continued to keep as much weight as possible off the injured ankle.
Progression through the tunnel was slow at first, but it didn't take long before they found themselves out in the open air. The rain had ceased, and the air smelled fresh and clean. They had extinguished one of the torches in the cave, and Samantha now put out the remaining one, then she looked around for a sturdy branch that would be capable of being used as a staff for Alex to lean upon. There was a felled tree not far from the entrance and Samantha left her charge as she went to retrieve a walking stick.
"Here, Honey. If you put most of your weight on this and the rest on my shoulder, we should be able to make it to the car in a couple hours. We'll stop anytime you feel the strain becoming too much or the pain returning. Okay?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," Alex answered in an almost convincing voice.
Sympathetic green eyes searched the depths of baby blue pools for any sign that the pain was already returning and found none.
They had zigged and zagged all the way from the parking lot to the bottom of the ledge on their hike the day before, and Samantha was hoping that they could find a path that would lead them directly to the car instead of traveling the way they had before. This was no longer a pleasant excursion, and the sooner they got to the car, the quicker she could call for help or drive Alex to a hospital.
Stepping away from the entrance to the cave, Samantha looked around for the path she had followed earlier in the day. Simultaneously, both the women felt the hair on their arms stand up with a tingling sensation. Looking directly ahead of them, they could see the semi-transparent image of the Indian brave they had come to know as Nairod. He was beckoning to them to follow where he was pointing.
Samantha turned and looked back toward the cave; an almost melancholy feeling washed over her for a second, as she realized that this mystical experience was about to come to an end. She only wished it had occurred under less stressful and detrimental circumstances. Mentally, she said her farewell to her former self, before turning back around to follow Nairod's lead.
"Looks like he's pointing in the direction of the creek," Alex informed her lover.
"Well, you know we never did actually follow the creek; we stopped and played but crossed it," Samantha answered as she hurried to Alex's side. "Here use this as a crutch and lean on me."
"I don't want to go putting all my weight . . ."
"Don't be ridiculous, Alex! If you don't lean on me then neither one of us is going to get anywhere." Samantha gave Alex a most determined look, as she put her arm around the taller woman's waist. "Come on, the sooner we start following the Indian's lead, the faster we'll arrive at the car."
Surprisingly enough, Alex found that the pain in both her ankle and wrist were quite diminished. The root she had ingested and the gel Samantha had put on her skin had obviously been given enough time to begin secreting their medicinal properties. She leaned hard on the makeshift crutch and as softly as possible on Samantha, as they carefully made their way toward the creek.
Samantha could tell that Alex was feeling much better as they inched their way forward. The taller woman seemed to be picking up the pace, and as long as the blonde could not feel Alex's muscles tightening or see any grimacing on the injured woman's face, she would continue to allow Alex control the speed at which they traveled.
Minutes later they were standing beside the creek; the water level here was quite diminished and in some areas nonexistent. The bed was layered with a sandy loam, which turned out to be much softer to walk on than the rocks they had just left.
Once again, the Brave appeared and Samantha watched Alex tilt her head, as if she were listening to a voice meant for her ears only.
Alex placed her arm around Samantha's shoulders so as not to put pressure on her injured wrist. "He said to follow the creek and that it would take us where we need to be." With an almost sorrowful look she continued, "I think that will be the last time we see him, Samantha."
"Yes, I think they know we can make it the rest of the way on our own."
Continuing on a slow but steady pace, they stopped only for an occasional drink or to add more of the pain relieving gel to Alex's wrist and ankle. Within less time than either of them had imagined, the welcomed sight of the parking lot appeared before their eyes.
"Sit down, Alex. I'll go get the car."
"I can make it the rest of the way; I've made it this far," came the reply.
"No, you sit; I'll go!"
"We're not even off the path yet, Samantha." Alex countered.
"That's the beauty of having a Jeep. Isn't that what you told me the other day?"
Alex nodded in the affirmative and shook her head laughing.
"So, you stay right here! I'm going to run ahead and bring it to you." The determined look in the verdant eyes left no doubt as to the blonde's intentions. Gently she helped Alex to a sitting position on a large rock, before running toward the parking lot and salvation.
"Not so fast, Samantha. We've already arrived, no rush now," Alex called after her to absolutely no avail. The blonde was racing toward the vehicle at as much of a full clip as she could muster. She was limping slightly but was determined to get to the Jeep as quickly as possible.
Tears of happiness were flowing down the small woman's face, as she opened the door and jumped into the driver's seat. Thank the Gods we're back and safe. It was hard to believe that civilization was finally within their grasp. Alex would be fine now and all the worrying was for naught. She could finally stop pretending that all was right with the world. Get a grip, girl! You can't be crying like a baby when you get back to her.
Wiping her face she choked back the tears and replaced them with a smile. Earlier, when she first left Alex sitting alone in the cave, her body had been racked with the fear that she wouldn't be able to get help in time, or that if she got help she wouldn't be able to find Alex again. She knew it was silly, and in the light of all that had transpired, it was down right ridiculous, but the relief of sitting behind the wheel of the Jeep with Alex just yards away was monumental. One final sigh and she started the vehicle; within minutes they would be at a hospital, getting Alex the medical attention she needed.
The transition from blacktop to dirt was an easy one for the 4-wheel drive vehicle, and Samantha had no difficulty driving to the spot where she had left her lover.
Alex heard the Jeep before she actually saw it approaching, and before it came to a complete stop the dark-haired beauty attempted to get up from the rock.
"Wait!" Samantha shouted at her from inside the car. "I'll come help you. No sense compounding the injuries at this point." In a puff of dust the vehicle was halted and Samantha hopped out. "For a physical therapist, you surely are one lousy patient," she scolded as she approached the injured woman.
"That's the way it's supposed to be," Alex retorted. "I'm the one that should be doing the treating, not the one being treated."
"Well, this time it's the other way around, so you had best take advantage of the pampering while you can." The small blonde grabbed the larger woman around the waist and offered Alex her shoulder to lean on, as they began to walk toward the car.
"Do you want me to call the hospital and tell them we're coming?" Samantha asked as she helped the tall woman slide onto the front seat.
Alex laughed, which received an acrid look from the woman helping her.
"What's so funny? We're on our way to the hospital, right?"
"Wrong," came the unexpected reply.
"What do you mean, wrong? Alex you have to have those injuries looked at . . ."
"I know, Samantha. But, we don't have to go to the hospital. We'll go back to Gary's. He has all the equipment we need to see what the damages are."
Samantha had gotten behind the wheel and Alex reached over and touched her hand. "Whatever it was you did at the cave, Samantha, my head still doesn't hurt. If I believed in miracles, I would say we witnessed more than one today."
"If you would say that, Alex, don't you think you ought to drop the 'if I believed' part?"
"I suppose I should." Taking the small hand in her own she brought it to her lips.
Alex began giving directions, and they headed back toward The Center for Healing on the Rocks.
After driving for a few minutes in silence, Samantha verbalized a question that had been running around in her mind during their trek back to the car.
"How are we going to retrieve the stuff we left on the ledge, Alex? I pushed it all inside the cave entrance before I climbed down so it wouldn't get ruined."
"I guess we have three options, Samantha. We can leave it out there for any lucky campers who happen to come across it; we can try to explain to someone where it's located and let them have it when they find it, or we can let it stay until the next time we come back. Now that we know the short cut to the cave, it won't take us long to get there. Do you really want to let someone else know about our little secret?"
"When you put it like that, no. I would rather no one else found the place unless it was by accident. It's kind of special, even if it does have a slightly bad memory attached to it." Samantha looked over at Alex's wrist and then down at her ankle.
"Think of it this way, Samantha. If we hadn't fallen through the floor, the extended experience with our former selves might never have happened."
"You're right, but I hate that you had to go through so much pain to realize that what your mom has been telling you your entire life is the truth." Samantha chuckled, and Alex could not help but smile at the reasoning.
Since they were nearly back at Gary's, Samantha started to relax a little and felt her tension easing off the steering wheel. Alex seemed to be quite lucid, even after the long trek and kept assuring the blonde sitting beside her that she didn't feel all that bad.
"I never lost consciousness, Samantha. The only symptoms of a concussion I have are blurry vision, which only lasted a short period of time and a headache, which is very minimal at this point. I promise to have Gary give me some neuropsychological and reaction time tests, but I'm sure they will all pan out as just fine. Please . . ." she reached her uninjured hand over and touched the blonde's thigh. " . . . stop worrying. We're almost there."
As they turned down the road that led to the clinic, involuntary tears of relief again streamed down Samantha's face. "Thank you," she whispered to no one in particular as the now familiar buildings came into view.
"Everything's going to be alright now, Samantha," Alex reassured her. "Thank you for rescuing us."
Moisture filled sapphire eyes focused on the tear-streaked face of her lover, as Samantha opened Alex's door.
"Look who the champion is today," Alex chided, stroking the freckled face before her with her good hand. "We're both okay now, Samantha. Why don't you go get some help? I'll wait here."
Almost before Alex finished her sentence, Sam turned and hobbled away, in the direction of the main building. Within minutes Gary was seen running toward the Jeep with two clinic employees close behind, one with a wheelchair in tow.
"I thought you knew better than to end up like this, Wonder Woman," Gary muttered as he neared the Jeep.
"Where's Sama . . ."
"She's fine. I made her stay back in the building. She looks exhausted, Alex, and she needs that limp of hers checked out."
Gary slid his arm around her back, and the brunette put her arms around his neck, allowing him to lift her up and then down into the chair that now resided at the side of the vehicle.
"That was a lot easier than anticipated," the man stated. "I half expected you to fight and refuse the ride."
"Nope, I was ready for the help this time, my friend. I'm a little too humbled to balk at assistance."
"Then let's get you inside and see what kind of damage you did to that beautiful body of yours."
It took less than an hour to thoroughly check out both the women. Samantha demanded they work on Alex first, even though Alex expected them to do quite the opposite.
Before doing anything else Gary insisted on x-raying Alex's wrist and ankle. They had a radiologist on-call for just such situations and he arrived about the time the films were finished. The wrist was definitely just a bad sprain, but the ankle showed a small hairline fracture. What the radiologist couldn't understand was the fact that it looked like it was already well on it's way to being healed. He told Gary that, in his opinion, it didn't need to be cast; it merely needed stabilization and that could be accomplished with wrapping and a cold gel splint.
Because of the pain in her knee, they also x-rayed Samantha's leg and were relieved to find that it was just bruised and strained.
Since Alex experienced some visual instability that had lasted more than 15 minutes but no loss of consciousness, Gary concluded that she probably had a Grade 2 concussion. Before having her soak her wrist and ankle in ice water to get the swelling in check, he wanted to give her a neuropsychological exam to test her strength, coordination, and sensation. He also did a Standardized Assessment of Concussion and some reaction time tests. By the time he was finished, he was fairly satisfied that it was an uncomplicated concussion and had one of the aides bring over two buckets of ice water, one for each injured appendage. Normally, they would have had a medical doctor confirm the findings, but Gary knew Alex well enough to know that her simply allowing him to run the tests he did was far more compliant than she normally would have been before Samantha.
With Alex sitting looking pitiful, ankle- and wrist-deep in ice water, Samantha came over and sat by her side. "I imagine we could have both ended up a lot worse off," she whispered into her lover's ear. "I could hardly believe what the radiologist said, Alex-a partially healed fracture. Do you suppose . . ."
"Definitely, Samantha." Alex nodded her head in affirmative and touched her lover's face with her good hand. She slowly tilted the blonde's face until she was able to stare into incredibly green eyes. "You truly possess the gift of healing, my love."
"It's so strange, Alex. Never in all my dreams would I have ever imagined me being able to do something like that."
"Well, now you can focus your life in another direction, if you're ready to take on that kind of responsibility."
"I am, but I know I have so much to learn."
"We both do, Samantha, but let's get over this adventure first, okay?"
"Definitely!" The small blonde smiled and gave Alex a kiss on the cheek.
The brunette lifted her hand out of the cold water and immediately got reprimanded by their friend. "You know," Gary practically shouted from across the room, "that has to stay in there longer than that Alex. Ice is your friend, remember?"
"Fuck the ice! You get your sorry ass over here and put your hand in this bucket of . . ."
"Whoa there, girl-backup," Gary ordered. "Sounds like you're feeling better, but you're extremely lucky that neither of those sprains are swollen beyond recognition, especially after walking around on that ankle. Now be a good little patient and put that hand back into the ice. It's only for a little while longer; I have a gel splint cooling in the freezer. "
Samantha smiled at the thought of someone bullying Alex and then chuckled to herself when she saw the usually stubborn and self-confident woman obey the order to reinsert her hand into the cold liquid.
"Don't you think Samantha needs some ice on her knee?" Alex asked sarcastically.
"As a matter of fact I've got a wrap around cooling for just that purpose. She'll be joining you in a little bit," Gary smiled over at the blonde who was now grimacing in his direction.
Attempting to take Alex's attention from the present situation, Samantha asked what they were going to do about flying out of Sedona.
Before the brunette had time to answer Gary, who had been bringing the two of them something to relax their muscles, answered for her. "There is no way Alex is flying out of here tomorrow, not with those injuries. I think you should either change your plans and extend your stay for a week or call your mother and Kelley and have them come fly you home."
"Oh, that sounds real grown up now doesn't it," Alex's eyes practically threw daggers at her friend. "Call my Moms and have them come rescue us."
"You know both of them love Sedona. They could fly down tomorrow, stay a day or two and then Kelley could fly you all back. Alex, be reasonable, there's no way you can fly with either that wrist or ankle in the shape they're in. You know better than to think any different."
"I don't know that I couldn't . . ."
"I don't think so, Alex," Samantha joined in.
"Think rationally, Alex," Gary reiterated. "Even if you don't want to think about yourself, do you want to put Samantha in jeopardy by trying to fly when you're injured?"
The ice that was gathering in her sapphire eyes melted when he mentioned putting Samantha in harm's way. The injured woman looked over at her lover and thought more about what the consequences of her being stubborn might bring.
Samantha looked from one to the other, not sure what to make of the situation, and hoping that Alex would soon cease being so obstinate.
Finally, Alex grudgingly spoke again, "I guess it wouldn't hurt to ask Mom and Kelley if they'd like to take a mini-vacation. I really didn't plan on being away from the center for another week, but I'll call in the morning and see how things are going." She turned to Samantha and smiled weakly. "Is that okay with you, Samantha?"
"Whatever you decide is okay with me Alex. Like Gary said, you can't be flying the plane yourself right now, and you know you probably shouldn't be up walking around on that ankle a whole lot, either. If everything is going smoothly at the center without us, it would probably be better to stay here, until you're better. Since Mom and Kelley are expecting us back in La Jolla on Monday, you have to call them anyway. What you decide about them coming or us simply staying here longer is entirely up to you."
Shaking her head, as though she had just lost a major battle, Alex confirmed she would think on it tonight and call her parents in the morning, one way or the other.
Gary walked over to the small refrigerator and then back to Samantha carrying a knee wrap that contained a cold gel insert. He motioned for Samantha to sit down while he put it on her leg. Then, deciding it was time to change the subject, he made a suggestion. "Listen, why don't we go down to the dining room and get the two of you something to eat? You must be starving by now."
He received a huge smile from Samantha before she verbally responded. "Actually, for the first time since I can't remember when, I forgot I was hungry. But, now that you mention it, food sounds marvelous." She turned to her lover who was still in the process of pouting. "How about you, Alex; think some dinner might improve our state of mind?"
"I don't know about state of mind, but it surely will improve my state of physical stamina," Alex answered. "All of a sudden, with the mere mention of food, I find myself hungry enough to eat a horse."
Her attitude changed quickly and she laughed when she spied the look on Gary's face. "Well, that statement sure got a rise out of you, now didn't it?" she asked.
"Never thought I would hear that particular phrase coming from your lips, Alex," her friend teased back at her. "I don't know about horse, but I know we have a large choice of food items to wet the palate of any non-meat loving vegetarian."
Samantha clung to the back of the wheelchair that Alex was coerced into getting back into, and Gary didn't try to offer to do the pushing. He realized that she probably needed the chair as much for support, as for the comfort of knowing that she and Alex were both back and as safe as could be expected, after the ordeal they had just been through.
Neither of the women had mentioned the past life experience they had encountered to any of the people present in the clinic. Although they hadn't really talked about how they were going to handle confiding in anyone else, it seemed to be an unspoken pact between them that tonight was not the time to even try. Before talking freely about the experience, even with people as open-minded as Gary and his crew, they needed to talk about it privately.
After dinner Gary went up to the rooms with them to say goodnight. He handed Samantha a cane for Alex to use if she insisted on hobbling around and made Alex promise to use it. He placed the muscle relaxants, analgesics, and an extra gel insert for the splint in the kitchen area. "Try to get her to keep the ice on for a while tonight, Samantha," he whispered to the blonde. "The longer she can keep it on the less she'll swell and the quicker the healing process can begin. That goes for your knee wrap, also."
Samantha nodded that she would do her best.
"I know she's stubborn," he affirmed loud enough for both women to hear. Then his voice softened, "I'm glad you two got out with as little damage as you did. Things could have been a lot worse, if Alex hadn't been able to hobble along on that ankle." He gave both of them a hug and kiss and was on his way back down the hall before it registered to them that the glistening in his eyes had been tears.
"He really is just a big, old teddy bear, Samantha." Alex half-mumbled to herself.
"I know, and he thinks the world of you, Alex."
"I think he's grown rather fond of you, too, Samantha." Alex countered, as the blonde took hold of the wheelchair and pushed her lover into their rooms.
The evening was still young, but after the ordeal of the afternoon, all the two women wanted to do was relax. Gary had warned Alex to follow protocol, but as usual, Alex had other plans in mind. She wanted nothing more than to sit in a warm Jacuzzi with Samantha and wash off the layer of red dust that was still clinging to them and their clothes. When she looked into the mirror, the coloring on her face brought back vivid memories of the visions they had experienced just hours ago. She started to make the suggestion about bathing, and then thought better of it. She shook her head and let her physical therapy training kick in; she knew that that hot water could totally reverse all the good the cold had done so far. Instead she requested that Samantha start the water for a shower.
There was a seat in the stall and after the blonde helped her lover undress with as little discomfort as possible, she helped her over to the seat.
Minutes later they were both enjoying the warm liquid as it covered their tired bruised bodies.
"Well, my Destiny, you will never be able to say that your initial visit to Sedona was dull or ordinary."
"That's an understatement if I ever heard one." Samantha agreed as she picked up the sponge and began washing the stubborn red dust from Alex's back. "You look more like your ancient self right now than your present," the blonde chortled as she brought the sponge around to draw a streak down her lover's face.
Trying to avoid pressure on sensitive areas made the bathing and drying a bit more tedious than usual, but they finally finished and were lying side by side on the bed. Alex had allowed Samantha to put the wrist splint on but told her lover there was no need for the sling while she was sleeping and that she wouldn't need the ankle splint again until morning.
Alex was glad that it wasn't her right wrist she had hurt, because it would have caused some major problems getting into their usual sleeping positions. With everything else that had happened today, she didn't want to not be able to hold Samantha in bed. With her arm around the smaller woman's shoulder and the blonde's arm around Alex's waist, it was the first time since their plunge through the floor of the cave that the two truly felt safe.
"I don't know about you, Alex, but between the pills Gary gave us to help relax our muscles and the physical exhaustion my body is finally giving in to, I'm going to sleep like a log tonight." She cuddled closer to her mate and squeezed her gently. "I love you, Alex. I'm so glad we got out of there okay today. I hope you feel better in the morning."
"I'm sure I will, Samantha. I hope you do, too."
"Sweet dreams, Alex."
Sam smiled when she felt the mesmerizing touch of her lover's hand upon her head. It had become like second nature now-Alex running her fingers through Samantha's soft golden locks, while the two of them drifted off to sleep.
The blonde sighed deeply when her lover placed a final goodnight kiss on her crown and then whispered, "I love you, too, Samantha. Any adventure that ends up with me holding you in my arms is successful, in my book. Sweet dreams, to you, my Destiny. See you in the morning."