Mariah lifted her candle to the celestial blue sky. It was almost Christmas but the ocean breeze was no cooler than usual as Hillvale’s gifted Lucys—Lucent Ladies—gathered on the platform near the spiritual vortex.
“It’s a beautiful day to commune with nature and the spirits. Breathe in, let yourself be happy,” Amber, the tarot reader, admonished as she lit a candle. “You’ll become emotionally stunted if you don’t experience life.”
Mariah had experienced rather too much life lately. A few years of tranquility might be just what she needed. But she found peace in computers, not connecting with her inner goddess. Or maybe she was just a little afraid of an inner goddess who created as much havoc as hers could.
“If I wasn’t afraid you’ll bring down fire and brimstone with this ritual, I’d leave the lot of you to commune while I have a nice espresso. Coffee—the tree of life.” Mariah added her candle to the collection on the stones.
Evergreen branches, suet balls of birdseed, and crystal ornaments created an eccentric bower over the vortex amphitheater stage. Their fearless leader, Cass Tolliver, drew chalk art beneath the bower. Slender, silver-haired, in her seventies, Cass never explained herself, but she commanded enough respect that they followed her instructions.
“Lightning and rain would be preferable,” Sam, Cass’s great-niece, said with a shrug. “But we’re merely experimenting with the druidic rituals mentioned in your boyfriend’s old journals. And feeding the birds,” she added pragmatically.
Mariah stood back to study their work. As a computer engineer, she considered all ritual pagan and a waste of valuable time. As the descendant of Ohlone shamans, with the ability to transfer her essence energy, she’d learned to keep an open mind. The old Malcolm journals Sam referred to had quite a few interesting observations about paranormal gifts, so she was willing to experiment.
“We’re ready,” Cass announced, adding the last candle to the circle she’d created.
Raising the walking stick she carried to channel the earth’s energy, Mariah touched it to the tips of the sticks the others carried, relishing the supercharge she received. They’d learned the vortex became more focused and powerful when they worked together like this.
Cass chanted. Mariah didn’t listen. Always sensitive to the essence of the spirits that haunted Hillvale’s hollows, she could feel them gathering now. On the whole, the spirits were simply different forms of life energy that hadn’t transformed to the next stage, for reasons no one understood. The ancient journals had mentioned spiritual pools such as this one as a source of paranormal gifts. Mariah assumed journal writers from prior centuries hadn’t known about DNA, and they superstitiously used spirits as an explanation for their family weirdnesses.
She’d occasionally wondered where her own gifts had come from. Her parents had always seemed boringly normal. They’d certainly never tried to understand her abilities.
Mariah let the spirits swirl around her. She almost felt their curiosity as the spiritual energy drifted through the bower and circled the group.
As several of the older Lucys took up Cass’s chant, Mariah closed her eyes and opened her mind to the ether. Sometimes, she felt her old friend Daisy brushing past—or perhaps it was just the memory of Daisy. On the whole, the connection to life beyond this earth was reassuring.
After the past years of tension and turmoil, Mariah appreciated any reassurance. She still had decisions to make, obstacles to overcome, but they didn’t seem as insurmountable as they had before Keegan, her Scots geologist boyfriend, entered her life. She smiled at just the thought of him.
As the chant rose to a crescendo, a warm presence briefly blocked the breeze. The wind still whispered in the tall pines overhead, but Mariah felt embraced in comfort—a comfort that suddenly sank into her womb and settled there.
She staggered, feeling light-headed.
Sam caught her elbow and steadied her. Sam’s nurturing energy soothed—and made Mariah even more aware of the presence between her hip bones, solid and heavy.
She didn’t believe in possession.
She did believe in quickening—the moment a child made its presence known.
Remembering the episode a few weeks ago when her pills had been lost in the mail and the condom had split. . .
Grateful for Sam’s steadying hand, Mariah quelled any other reaction. She was the essence of reason, after all. Without intelligent reason and logic, she would dissolve into a shrieking panic of hormones about now.