Strangers Sharing a Snake Dream
Maddie Bolter stood calmly leaning against an ancient gnarled pine tree her pack at her feet. Though Random did not know her name; To him she was just a strangely dressed young woman who smiled as she watched him struggle up the steep slope. He puffed and raised a cloud of dust with his trudging feet. Random stopped half-way up the slope and scowled up the tall thin girl.
“I thought this was supposed to be the easy way,” he said in between huge intakes of breath.
“It is. Even I have to breathe hard on the other path. You just gotta get used to the mountain air.”
Random caught hold of his breath and wrestled it into control. He put his head down and continued up the slope. Maddie picked up her pack, turned and strolled off into a grove of redwoods of incredible size. She looked like a tiny doll, but she took little notice of them as if she strolled across an unremarkable suburban lawn.
The mid-day light came straight down through the needled boughs and hit the forest floor in narrow jagged patches. The air was warm but every now and then a breeze from the distant ocean would set the trees to whispering and swaying. It carried with it a hint of salt and decay. Random stopped to taste the breeze. It showed him dreams of his home and the great white birds silently following their shadows low over the grey sand.
“Hey Man! let’s go!” Maddie yelled from the top of a toppled giant of a tree laying sideways across the narrow track. She offered him a hand up
“it’ll be dark before we get there if you stop every time you hear a fly buzz.” She said as Random scrambled up next to Her.
“Come on! Just over that ridge we’ll be able to see the farm.” Maddie pointed up the gradual slope through the trees. There was a large rock glowing in sun framed in blue sky. Random looked hard at the rock it shimmered and wavered. It was shaped like a giant head with its mouth open. A low rumbling sound came from below them and they looked down the tree trunk had smooth bark and diamond patterns. They felt the log move under Their feet. Random grabbed Maddie, and they sat down carefully. The log moved and began to undulate as if there were muscles under the bark. Random looked away from Maddie and saw the dark sinuous serpent body the tree had become winding off into the gloom of the forest. He looked toward the ridge and saw that the rock was the snake’s head. The serpents eyes stared at him and opened its mouth. A hissy-purr the rumbled through its body under them.
60 miles apart Random and Maddie shot to a sitting position, their hearts hammering hard at their throats and chests.
An Early Morning Fish
Random woke just as the sky was beginning to show subtle dark grays on the eastern horizon through the trees outside the window. He got dressed and pulled on his dark green hoody and zipped it up. The house was not quite completely dark. He was able to pick his way through the shadows and outside without making much of a sound. He felt like he had to put the story together in his head. It was all happening so fast. But, the cool air and gray slowly waking feeling helped to slow his thoughts so he could look at them. What had Lucille said?
Watch your thoughts like bright fishes? She had, however said nothing about giant snakes and strangely dressed woman. But, his thoughts shone bright against the gloom of the just born day, and like fishes moving slow in cold water they flashed easy to see one at a time.
He climbed up a winding path slowly choosing his steps carefully, but confident that he would not fall. He reached the top of the ridge. There was bare snag leaning over a small cliff and steep slope down to the winding stream below. He saw all this in shades of grey. He sat with his back against the snag facing the east and the coming sun.
Suddenly he picked up one of his thought fishes and it said, “Go home, messages await you.”
The rim of the sun peeked over the edge of the horizon and added colors to the world like subtle washes of paint.
A New Plan Forms
When Random got back to the house, Lucille was bustling in the kitchen. He could here Steve and Lin moving around upstairs.
“Well, you were right about the fishes. I caught one and it told me to be home by tonight,” Random said standing by the table looking out the window at the cars and the little log house. “Can I use your phone? I need to call my work.”
“Sure it’s in the living room,” Lucille said without looking away from her cooking.
As he went through the doorway to the living room, he nearly ran into Karen who was tottering in from the stairs bundled in a blanket.
“Oh, sorry,” Random said steadying her with his hands, “How are you doing this morning, better I hope.”
“Better and worse, I feel better physically, but its all hitting me about my dad,” she said hoarsely. Random noticed the red rims of her eyes.
“Lucille’s making something in there,” he pointed to the kitchen.
“I don’t know if I can eat much yet,” she said wincing a little and holding her stomach. Then she touched his arm and said, “I still can’t believe you brought me here after the way I behaved.”
“You and I can thank Steve for that. He talked me into it.”
She leaned her head into his chest and put one arm around him.
“Thanks anyway. You saved my life.”
Random shrugged and moved into the living as she went in to the kitchen.
He found the phone and punched in his work number and had to do it again with a one and area code. He finally got the answering machine.
“You’ve reached the Research Associates Division of Applied Psychology at the University of California Medical Center. We are not available to take your call right now but if you leave your name and number we will call you back when we are able.” It was Bianca’s most professional and slightly sarcastic voice.
“Hey, Miss B this is your lovely assistant telling you that I am in Mendocino and won’t be back at work until Wednesday. Have fun with your data. If you have a message for me leave it at my house. I will be home tonight.”
“Always a plan. The man with the plan,” Steve said softly with a grin on his face as came down the stairs. Lin followed silently behind looking very calm, but wary.