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The Pandion Prophecy
Welcome to “The Pandion Prophecy,” a story that centers on the mystical, the ways in which all things exist in relationship; and questions that which we do not yet understand in an uncertain universe. (Although both stories stand alone, some of the characters in this installment short-story series are from “Neptune’s Cradle.”) The story takes place in Farhaven, Massachusetts, a sprawling coastal community situated 60 miles south of Boston.
The music videos at the end of each chapter are an integral part of the story.
Sweat trickled down Ray’s back as he rammed the shovel into the sand that grew thicker with each thrust of the blade. The blisters on his right hand had ruptured, oozing fluid into the cracked wooden handle of the old shovel. The holes were getting harder to dig and refill. He had burrowed out two that morning, a few feet above the tide line. Each of them measured four feet square and three feet deep…exactly as instructed.
It was unseasonably hot that day on his secluded beach. And unusually quiet. He could feel his heart beat rhythmically with the waves that tasted the sand before slipping back into the ocean. Hearing a lone seagull shriek overhead, Ray looked up to see it watching him as it bobbed about in the wind like a drunken kite. Everything moved in the surreal, as if living and breathing a parallel reality.
The strong sun didn’t burn into his face or bare forearms. Despite sweating for hours, he experienced no thirst. The constant friction from the shovel tore the skin from his hand, painlessly, and without complaint.
The watchful figure behind him didn’t move. It cast no shadow, but Ray could feel the entity’s presence. He didn’t dare turn to look at the hovering imprisoner of the nightmare from which he longed to awaken. From the corners of his eyes, he could see refractions of light, bending with moving particles that seemed to form a sentient barrier of energy. The pungent smell of sour metal emanating from the entity’s core was overpowering. It hung, thick in the air, and seemed to fill his lungs with every breath.
Ray paused from his digging to wipe the perspiration from his eyes.
“Do not stop,” it said. “Do not…yet.” The thing’s probing, unnatural voice filled his mind, pricking the hair on the nape of his neck. A chill rippled through his body in the 90-degree heat.
He bit his lip and plunged the shovel deeper. The blade clanged against something hard, shooting a jarring shock into his arms and spine. Using the shovel blade as a trowel, he began to remove the sand that surrounded the object. The lid of a small chest soon appeared through the remaining layers of grit. Ray could feel the energy behind him surge as the entity directed him to lift the casket from the hole and place it on the sand. He stared at the small casket as he filled in the hole.
The chest was a foot and a half wide, nine inches in depth, and much heavier than it looked. Its dark wood that was thick, roughly hewn and oddly porous. There was no lock, but the hinges had been completely fused. Gnarled fingers of twisted metal clasped the corners at the base. A coiled labyrinth of copper embedded in the lid reflected a glint of sunlight that caught Ray’s eyes.
“No! Do not see!” The entity’s voice tore into his thoughts with a warning he couldn't understand.
Anger rose up in Ray; he could no longer allow himself to be dominated by fear. “What are you?” he yelled.
Turning to confront the entity, he dropped to his knees in sheer awe. The specter was nearly blinding. A pulsating wall of black, ochre and azure hues melded with shards of light, bursting forth and folding inward through a myriad of vibrant prisms. In the center of the presence, the distorted shape of a man’s head began to form, then recede, within a shifting gateway of molten colors. The smell intensified. Ray felt every fiber of his being -- his very existence – begin to split and diffuse into infinite fragments of a timeless abyss. The entity whispered to him, easing his fear and causing his mind to ascend toward human consciousness.
When he shocked awake, Ray was lying on the daybed in his small beach house. He sighed in relief with the deliverance from his nightmare. His eyes eagerly sought out the familiar. As he glanced at his body, he cried out when he saw remnants of grit and sand. The raw blisters on his hands burned when he pushed his weight up from the bed that was dank from sweat and reeked of bitter metal. Staggering to his feet, he felt his back and arms ache with exhaustion.
With a pounding heart, he quickly checked the doors to the one-room cottage. Both were locked from the inside. He opened the back door and walked onto the small porch that faced the ocean. His muscles froze in the late-morning sun as he gazed down at his deserted beach in disbelief. The chest was there, tilted on its side; the lid was charred and appeared to have been seared off at the hinges. The only part of the shovel visible was the rump of the blade partially buried in the sand.
Ray forced his reporter instincts to take hold, ebbing his panic and confusion. Whether he had been drugged, or worse, he knew that timing was crucial. Retrieving his cell phone, he took photos of the beach area, his appearance, clothes and hands. He e-mailed a set to his address at The Chronicle and a copy to Kate before calling her at her home. When his call went to voice mail, he swallowed the knot of fear in his throat before recording his message. “Kate, it’s Ray. I need your help. Something’s happened. I’m all right, but it’s urgent that you call me as soon as you get this.”
Overwhelmed by the acrid stench that clung to his body, he pulled a plastic garbage bag from a utility drawer, spread it on the floor of the bathroom stall and placed his cell phone on a shelf within easy reach. After slipping off his white T-shirt, jeans and briefs, he dropped them on the plastic bag and stepped into the shower.
The soothing hot water flowed over Ray's body as he tried to dispel the nightmare images from his mind. Minutes later, he turned off the faucet and reached for a towel. Gasping at what he saw, his legs buckled beneath him. He collapsed to the floor near the discarded clothes that smelled of beach sand and sweat. The ring tone from his cell pierced the steam-filled air while he stared at his hands, reminding himself to breathe.
The blister wounds had completely healed.
© Copyright by Genna Eastman (Genna East), 2014. All rights reserved. Said copyright does not extend to the video. “Time” was composed by Hans Zimmer; the video images were created by Beatriz of YouTube.