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๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐˜๐—ถ๐—น๐—น ๐—ฃ๐—ผ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜

by Mary Sheridan



The alpine road ended in a T-junction. Ice-capped peaks rose above pastures of late summer green flecked, bittersweet with tarnished gold. I jolted back to the present from a memory of another time, another place, where I had wandered as I climbed up the mountainside.


I was alone, and didnโ€™t know where I was, or rather, didnโ€™t know how to get where I needed to go from where I stood, in a Swiss mountain valley. The sun touched the highest peaks of the mountain skyline, and readied for its slip into dusk. The chill that descended from the back-lit ice above me forecast the raw cold that would arrive with nightfall.


A wild animal gnawed at my gut. The familiar back-beat in my chest shifted to an off-beat pounding in my ears that I hoped was a temporary effect of climbing the mountain in the afternoon sun, carrying two fishnet bags filled with baguettes, wine, slices of ham, and chunks of cheese meant to supplement the lettuce and carrots, the tomatoes, peas and apples awaiting harvest in the small garden outside the cabin I was trying to get back to, the cabin owned by friends who took me with them for the weekend and who I had convinced to let me stay while they returned to Geneva for the work week. Theyโ€™d driven me down the mountain earlier that afternoon and dropped me in the village for provisions. I assured them Iโ€™d have no trouble climbing back up the mountain. And I hadnโ€™t, until that moment, when memories of other times Iโ€™d been lost pestered me into admitting that I have no sense of direction.


Stopping and setting down my bags didnโ€™t calm my heart into a slower, deeper rhythm. The animal inside chewed and clawed toward my core. A bitter taste filled my mouth. I stood still and felt the vibration of my call to the universe echo as a plaintive chord, like a banjo playing off-key, through the mountains into space and time.


โ€ขโ€ขโ€ข


Ten years later, Iโ€™m driving a narrow, twisty road through a tunnel of towering evergreens in Olympic National Park. Sun, filtered through thinning fog, lights the scene with other-worldly glimmer, and striated darkness in a series of concrete tunnels gives the illusion that Iโ€™m passing through a portal into another realm. Glacier-topped peaks rise above the winding road that ends at Hurricane Ridge, a mile above the Pacific coastal route I impulsively abandon for the turnoff that ascends to this place. Chill wind signals a different season than the one I left below.


Wildflowers in a grassy late summer meadow arenโ€™t just waving in the wind, theyโ€™re waving at me, inviting me into their sea of rippling color. I step into the slipstream.


Imperceptibly at first, and then undeniably, the meadow, the flowers, the mountains and any sense of myself as a separate entity dissolve, all surrendering our boundaries in one seamless motion to an ocean of vibration. The air I breathe also breathes me. A desolate note, as from a distant banjo playing off-key, pulses in the field.


In the rarified air of the mountains, where space and time have become uncertain, a tone of distress echoes from ridge to ridge. The syncopated heart rhythm of my young self standing in a Swiss mountain meadow amplifies the desolate note through the space time continuum, projecting it beyond the bends and curves of the natural world, to a still point in the undulating motion of life, a place where past and future are gathered, where particles of a dissolving older self catch a wave and surf the oscillation between my perceptions of what was then and what is now, riding into oneness that holds both the instrument sending the signal and the one receiving it, making the continuum known as me at once creator and subject of a story that needs help from the future to be told.


Unseen particles of my life force ride waves into a gust of wind galloping through a late Swiss afternoon. A cow wearing a bell around her neck grazes unseen in a pasture just beyond a bend in the road where the wind is headed. The bell responds to the windโ€™s arrival and my young self turns to look toward the breach of silence. โ€œA sign?โ€ I consider as I walk toward the fenced meadow, now in full shadow, where the cow grazes. A memory concurrently forms and reveals a road that winds up from the pasture.


I recognize this scene, either from my ride down the mountain earlier that day or from a message sent by the future. I climb in descending darkness until moonrise reveals the shape of the cabin on the other side of a rocky embankment. I abandon the road to clamber my way toward the cabin door. When I walk inside, the delicious, warm, liquid sensation of melting tension that spreads through me each time I am lost and found again is waiting for me, teaching me that losing my way has its own rewards. โœฆ




Mary Sheridan grew up in Binghamton, New York, the town that Rod Serling once called home. Her first published writing was a regular column in an award-winning subsidiary of The New York Times. Her most recent work was published in KaleidoscopedMagazine (UC San Diego). Mary lives on Californiaโ€™s Central Coast.



A Speculative fiction ZINE
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