The first rays of the morning sun sparkled through the canyon and tickled the eyes of the two sleepers. Almost simultaneously they opened their eyes to greet the morning.
"I would say I slept like a rock," Samantha said, "but I do believe the correct statement would be I slept on a rock!"
Alex smiled and kissed her lover good morning. "I, for one, slept very good for sleeping on a rock. How 'bout you?
"Can't say that I tossed and turned much," Samantha admitted, giggling. She stood and stretched, while Alex reclined on the sleeping bag and watched, a contented smile gracing her face.
"You can make the simplest maneuvers a work of art; do you realize that?"
Samantha looked down and grinned. "Don't be ridiculous."
Alex sat up, grabbed Samantha's hands, and pulled her down onto her lap. "Good morning, my Destiny. Last night was beautiful, and today's starting out with the best eye candy a girl could ask for. We could start out the morning the same way we ended the night."
"I don't think so, Alex. Seriously, aren't you just a little sore in places you didn't know you had until now?"
"Maybe, but I'll get over it." She pulled Samantha closer and kissed her passionately.
Arms encircled her neck as the blonde reciprocated and kissed her lover back. Then she pulled away slightly and looked Alex in the face.
"We have a full day of hiking and exploring to do, my love. I thoroughly enjoyed last night and wouldn't have changed a second of it, but I do want to sleep in a nice soft bed this evening, so what do you say to getting some breakfast and then seeing what's in the other tunnel inside the cave?"
"If you expect me to keep my hands off you, I suggest we dress and then make breakfast. It's either that or you are breakfast."
Samantha giggled, then stood up and paraded, naked, under the morning sky. Just as Alex was about to get up and come after her, she grabbed her clothes and pulled on her underwear. "Seriously . . ."
"You don't know how to be serious," the taller woman responded. "You're a tease, Samantha Riley."
"I know," Sam smiled. "Can't help myself. Blame it on the beautiful dawn, the clean air, the color of the sky that matches your eyes . . ." she took a deep breath and stared over at Alex. "Better yet, blame it on the person who needs to be blamed. Blame it on you."
"Me? What did I do?" Alex asked.
"You made me fall in love with you. You changed my world and added a zest for life that I never felt before."
"And for that I get teased?"
"You betcha!" Samantha grinned at the beautiful brunette, all the while continuing to get dressed and avoid body contact.
Mentally concurring that Samantha was right and that they needed to get started if they were to spend the day exploring before heading back toward the Jeep, she picked up her clothes and followed suit.
There was no warmth left in the fire from the evening before and they agreed it would be a waste of time to rekindle it. A cold breakfast would do just fine. Before long they were packed up and ready to start exploring.
"I'm not sure if the tunnel will lead us down and away from here or up higher, Samantha. Do you want to leave the backpacks here at the entrance to the cave and come back for them or take them with us?"
"You're more of the expert in this field, Alex."
"Not really, this is uncharted territory. Do you want to go ahead and just leave the gear here and come back for it?"
"Sure, the day's young."
They set the backpacks down and took just what they thought they might need in the cave. Samantha insisted on taking a mini-pack with enough food for lunch, just in case they got hungry before making it back out to the ledge. Alex smiled at her partner. "We wouldn't want to get overly hungry now, would we?"
"You know how it is when you're someplace where you can't get anything to eat, you always get hungrier than if you were surrounded by food. Tell ya what, I'll even carry it."
"No need for that," Alex countered as she took the small backpack from the blonde. "Come on let's get started."
Leading the way, Alex picked up and re-ignited the torch they had used the day before and the exploration began.
A short way into the cave they were glad they left the heavy gear behind. They found themselves on a slight incline that seemed to be leading them more toward the inner reaches of the cliff.
"Looks like we made the right decision," Alex commented. "I'm sure we're not going down."
"Hey, Alex, here's some more of that moss stuff for the torch; it must be some kind of air fern." Samantha peeled a wad of sticky substance off the wall of the cave and handed it to Alex. The spot where it had adhered to the wall was green and slightly spongy, but where it stuck out into the tunnel the plant was drier. Alex wrapped it around the diminishing torch and it immediately caught and illuminated.
"You found that just in time, Samantha. We would have been forced to use the flashlight in a few minutes."
Looking at the walls of the passage, Alex noticed a notched area that looked almost like an arrow pointing in the direction they were traveling.
"I didn't notice any of these before." She walked over to the wall and rubbed her hand over it. "Did you?"
"No, but the shadows could have kept us from seeing them."
"This looks like a directional sign," Alex mumbled almost to inaudibly. She was busy looking for another arrow when Samantha's voice interrupted her search.
"Listen, Alex, I think I hear water dripping."
The torchbearer stopped and the two campers listened.
"Can you hear it, Alex?"
"Yes, but it's very faint; it must be quite a distance away."
"Either that or it's just a trickle."
As they moved further down the corridor, Alex found herself having to duck slightly in places as the ceiling began to dip and curve. Now they heard the dripping sound constantly, and the arrows on the walls were closer together as the tunnel ventured off in different directions.
"I hope there aren't arrows anywhere else or we may find ourselves walking in circles," Samantha stated a little less cheerfully than she intended to.
Alex looked around, picked up a loose stone, and struck it on the side of the wall making a mark. "I'm fairly sure of our directions up to here; why don't we make a mark occasionally just to be sure?"
"Sounds like an excellent idea to this camper," Samantha agreed and breathed a smile of relief. Unfortunately, she was beginning to believe the last statement she had made.
About six feet ahead of them the tunnel forked. The path to the left seemed to be somehow illuminated. The closer they got, the more they could see that it was beginning to expand into what looked like a rotunda.
"Wow!" Samantha whispered. Her mouth dropped open and they entered an enormous room with pinpricks of light seeping in through various holes in the ceiling.
"Would you . . ." Samantha stopped short as her words were repeated back to her in the still air.
The blonde smiled up at her mate and tried again. "This is absolutely . . ."
Again the walls echoed her voice as she spoke.
"Maybe if you whisper," Alex encouraged in a soft voice that did not seem to make the walls respond.
"Yeah, it seems that whispering works," Samantha whispered. "This is beautiful. Look over here, Alex," the smaller woman coaxed. She moved across the room toward what looked like a small altar. "I can't believe no one has ever been in here. I would have guessed that all these caves would have been explored."
"Maybe the cave we entered was concealed before, or maybe the ledge was inaccessible. Why do you think they call it Secret Canyon?"
"I guess that's as good a reason as any," Samantha muttered on her way to examine what appeared to be a naturally formed stage and altar. "Look at this, Alex; there are designs all over the base of this platform.
Joining her lover, the two women examined the drawings and geometric patterns.
"Just look at the intricacy of these designs, Alex," Samantha exclaimed, trying to keep her excitement quiet. "I think we should tell someone in authority about this cave when we get back, don't you?"
"Yes," Alex agreed. "This definitely needs to be protected as another treasure from the past. It gives me an eerie feeling to be the first one of our time to see these relics; how about you?"
"Oh, yeah! See the goose bumps?" Sam giggled quietly while exposing her arms to Alex.
"From the way the sunlight is streaming through the small holes in the ceiling, I would venture to say we were near the top of this structure." Tilting her head to the side and listening, Alex commented that the water sounds seemed to be getting closer.
When she accidentally leaned against the altar, a loud creaking sound was heard behind her and the room was suddenly flooded with light.
"Alex," Samantha pointed to the area of the brightness. "It looks like you opened up a hidden passageway or room."
"Well, we're here to explore, no time like the present."
The dark-haired beauty took her lover's hand and they walked into a brilliantly lit area. It became quite apparent to them where the water sounds had been coming from. Not believing their eyes, they beheld a small waterfall. It cascaded down to the level on which they were standing, where the water emptied into a tiny pond with rivulets branching out and downward. The entire area was speckled with pines. Glancing up, the two women could feel the warmth of the sun shining through several irregular openings, each about the size of a basketball and with foliage spreading across a few of them so as to have made them unnoticeable from an outward angle.
"By the gods, Alex. Isn't this the most beautiful sight you've ever seen?"
"It's definitely up there in the top ten." Alex pulled her lover close. "Of course, my favorite is right here in my arms."
"You're impossible," Samantha chided.
"It looks like there's a cave on the other side of the waterfall," Alex observed. "Shall we?"
After drinking from the virgin falls and filling their water bottles, they walked around the pond and started toward the darkened area. Alex again lit the torch in anticipation of darkness and they entered the cavern. There was a feeling of mysticism in the air when they entered the small, slightly damp area.
"I guess these rocks contain limestone," Samantha stated. She pointed to a formation of stalactites above their heads. "You had best be careful, some of these are hanging pretty far down."
Alex glanced up, smiled, and rubbed the top of her head. "Wouldn't want to be poked with one of those."
Illumination of the wall with the torch revealed the presence of water trickling slowly, but steadily down the sides of the cave. Exactly in the middle of the small room was an ancient fire pit. There was only the one entrance, and when they turned around to face it, Alex noticed there was a protruding ledge above the door that had a deep layer of what looked like animal fur on it. At the entrance to the cave there was also a large amount of the substance that the two women had dispersed upon entering the room.
"I'll bet they closed this room off with an animal skin of some kind and used it as a sweat hut."
"Damn, this is creepy." Samantha closed the gap between her and Alex and grabbed onto her lover's free hand.
The innocent act of reaching and touching her lover set into motion another vision of the Indian brave she had seen on Thursday. Gasping, she let go of Alex's hand, pulling away.
"Samantha, what's the matter?" Alex turned quickly to face a befuddled Samantha.
"You know I'm all for a spiritual quest, Alex, but this is really freaking me out. I don't know what to make of the visions I'm getting. I don't remember my mom ever telling me I have Indian blood anywhere in my lineage.
"Maybe someone didn't keep an accurate record, or perhaps it was selective remembrance. What did you just see?"
"The same brave I saw the other day, sitting cross-legged across from me in this very room with a fire burning brightly in the pit."
"Samantha, that's great! You wanted to experience reincarnation; you seem to be getting a first hand trip. If you're afraid now, how do you think you're going to react when we have the sessions?"
"I don't know. I guess it was always, you know, one of those things you think about but never really believe you will ever go through with. Now it's right, like, in my face, and I don't know how to handle it."
"Take a deep breath and let's see if we can make it happen again. Hell, Samantha, you might not even need the specialist. People can do their own past life readings, you know."
"No, I didn't know. Or if I did, I'd forgotten all about it. Do you really think we should try again?"
"Sure, that's all part of this experience. Hey, wait a minute." The brunette looked around for a place to prop the torch and then she motioned for Samantha to join her. She sat down on a large rock near the fire pit. "It would probably work better if we sat on the floor, but it feels damp, and I don't want to walk around the rest of the day with wet pants."
Samantha giggled, mostly from nerves, and then sat down beside her lover.
"Okay, what next?" Samantha questioned.
"We put ourselves in a meditative mood and ask our higher selves to help us through this journey. We tell our guides that we would like to know about any former life we might have lived in this area. It seems to work better for both of us if we hold hands." She looked over at Samantha, who had an almost haunting look upon her face.
"You're the one who wanted to do a past live regression, Samantha. Are you changing your mind? Listen, we can stop now and continue exploring the tunnel if you want to, but honestly, honey, this is the chance of a lifetime. Not many people get to experience this kind of 'in your face' encounter. It's your call."
Alex sat for a few seconds, waiting for Samantha to make up her mind.
Slowly, two small hands reached across to grasp two larger ones. With a deep sigh, Samantha made physical contact.
Upon closing their eyes, each of the participants received an immediate depiction of an ancient scene, one that had obviously taken place in a different lifetime, in the precise spot they were now sitting. To Samantha, the Indian brave spoke words that, although the Samantha in the here-and-now did not understand, emotionally she knew they were words of love. At the exact same time, the present-time Alex was experiencing a similar vision as the beautiful Indian maiden with eyes as green as emeralds spoke softly to her in words that sounded like poetry to her ears.
The images disappeared and they broke contact. After opening their eyes, they sat for a few minutes, staring at each other in the dimly lit room. It seemed as though the images were getting clearer and the visions longer in length each time the women experienced them.
Finally Samantha broke the silence. "That was so intense! What did you see, Alex?"
After filling each other in on the experience, the women came to the conclusion that they were definitely looking forward to finding out more about their Indian selves during the forthcoming professional session. They sat for a few more minutes and discussed the visions. They finished with their examination of the room they were in, and then decided it might be fun to have lunch back by the waterfall.
It had been an extremely interesting and insightful morning. They had stumbled onto more primitive Indian symbols and pictures than either of them had anticipated. Alex had figured they would simply have an enjoyable walk inside the rock and then begin their hike back to the Jeep; it turned out to be much more of an adventure than either of the women had expected.
They had been wandering around the inside of the huge red rock mountain for hours, and the sun was directly overhead as they made their way back to the waterfall and found a comfortable spot on which to sit and eat.
"I think when we're finished here; we should go ahead back to the entrance and start back down toward the Jeep, that is if you want to sleep in that soft bed tonight, Samantha. The time really flew inside the tunnels this morning. I want to get back to the car before the sun goes down."
"I'm right there with you. As much fun as it was, it was tiring. I'd like to try and remember where this place is, though, so we can come back to it again, or tell someone in Park Services about it."
"Do you want to tell them before you get a chance to thoroughly check it out, or keep it to yourself for a while?"
"Could we do that? Not tell anyone and just come back again?"
"Honey, this place has been here forever what's a few more months? You don't sound like you're really ready to leave. Do you want to stay a couple more days and explore?"
"I don't know." The blonde shrugged her shoulders and thought for a moment before speaking again. "Maybe we could look around a little more after lunch and spend one more night on the ledge; after all, you told Gary not to worry until Sunday, right?"
"Exactly. I told him Sunday evening." Alex smiled at the tenderfoot hiker sitting next to her. "Lucky for us we brought enough food to see us through tonight and tomorrow morning."
"See, I told you a few extra packages wouldn't hurt." She gave the taller woman a hug and a kiss before reaching down and running her hand through the cool, clean water. "It's beautiful here, so untouched by civilization."
"This place really is, Samantha. I would venture to say we're the first humans to see this waterfall since the ancient Indians."
"It would surely be a story if the rocks could talk."
"I have a feeling they've been talking to us today." Alex refilled her water bottle while sitting on the edge of the pond.
"I don't think it's the rock as much as the spirits that lived here that are talking to us." Samantha looked into her lover's cerulean eyes and smiled. "Those eyes of yours, Alex, they transcended the centuries. Just proof that beauty never really dies but is born again somewhere else."
Alex gently splashed Samantha. The coolness of the water and impulsiveness of the action caused the small blonde to lose her balance and almost topple into the water. Because Alex's reflexes were as quick as her initiation of the splashing, no one took a swim.
"I gotcha. Don't worry; I gotcha."
"Yeah, but you were the cause of my almost falling in."
Of course Samantha couldn't remain mad at Alex, especially when she looked into those apologetic baby blues, and they both started laughing.
"Okay, let's get going," Alex suggested.
"Should we take the opposite direction at the fork this time?" Samantha wanted to know.
"That would seem the logical route, seeing how the last one led to a dead end. You ready?"
Samantha filled the backpack while Alex re-lit the torch. Minutes later they were back in the middle of the mountain, standing at the fork in the tunnel.
"Why do I feel like the passage we took the first time was the better way to go?" Samantha asked as they started to enter the right side of the tunnel.
"Probably because you already know what's there," Alex chuckled, grabbing the smaller woman's hand.
They figured that they were fairly deep into the mountain by now and perhaps this had been used as some sort of ancient spiritual retreat. Again, petroglyphs began appearing on the walls of the tunnel. Now they were more detailed, including people, animals, and geometric designs. The women stopped and examined each one they came across.
"You know, I read that the Sinagua didn't leave any petroglyphs in the area, so either these are from a different tribe or we really have come upon a find, Samantha."
"Don't you feel like an archeologist?"
Alex laughed. "Well, not really. I'm not on my hands and knees in the dirt scraping stuff off old skeletons . . ."
"Gods, Alex! What if we find human bones in here?"
The taller woman laughed again. "I guess we'll just have to cross that bridge, if we come to it."
"Any small rooms and you go first," Samantha declared.
"Don't I always?"
"Yeah, I guess you do." Walking closer to her mate than she had been, Samantha decided that touching would take some of her nervousness away.
Again the path curved, and any semblance of light that had been seeping through from locations unknown was totally gone now, as the two saw utter darkness before and behind them; the only light was that being cast from their torch. Samantha made sure they had an abundance of the moss for fuel. She had no intention of being caught in the cave without light.
"It looks like it's widening again, Samantha, and turning. Which direction do you want to take?"
"We're still marking at each new direction, right?"
"I hope we won't get in trouble for marking up a sacred relic.
"Samantha, who are we going to get in trouble with? No one knows this place exists. Now, which way do you want to go?"
"I don't know; this way looks interesting." She pointed to the right and started walking in that direction. She wasn't more than a step or two in front of Alex when there was a thunderous crackling sound, and the ground beneath her feet began to collapse.
"A-l-e-x!" Samantha screamed. The look on her face was one of total terror.
Without a moment's delay, Alex reached out to Samantha to prevent her from falling. She grabbed at her shirt and pulled her close. A deafening rumble shook the rock's foundation, and the ground beneath their feet gave way. The two women were sent plunging through the floor of the tunnel.
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. Her knees buckled under her and any attempt to land on both feet quickly became relegated to the position of 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. She put her left arm out to break the fall, but in the process hyperextended her wrist and then landed on it with her full weight and some of her partner's. She rolled onto her back to prevent Samantha from hitting the hard floor.
Desperately trying to mask the pain 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!" Tears streamed down her face and she finally loosened her hold on her lover to grab the offended area. "Shit . . . damn . . . ow . . . hey . . . you okay, Samantha?"
It took a second or two for the blonde to catch her breath and answer. "I'm only a little shook up and probably only slightly bruised, thanks to you." Reaching in the direction of her hero, she could tell from Alex's body posture and verbal statements that the same did not apply to her. "Gods, Alex, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I just . . . fuck!" When she instinctively began to use her hands to help herself up, she realized that her left hand was not going to cooperate with even the simplest of maneuvers. 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 so they could search their new location for 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. Her knee had hit the ground upon landing, but other than that, she had been well protected by her lover's body. Samantha picked up the torch; she pulled out some of the moss she had in her pocket. She carefully 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. "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! 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 dust that had settled on her face.
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 their only means of communication with the outside world.
"Damn, 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 keeps in the Jeep for emergencies. I would definitely say this qualifies."
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 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 her that everything would be okay, even though she wasn't all that sure herself. What she was sure of was that the room was spinning, and she was seeing double Samantha's. Because of that and her inability to stand for any length of time, 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 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 already noticed, 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. She squatted down, and looked into the opening.
"Honey, I don't think taking a totally unknown path would be the best decision to make right now. If you go back the way we came, you'll at least know how to get to the outside. From there you can make it back to the parking lot. I'll give you my compass. 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?"
"Not much, but a little." There were tears streaming down the blonde's face at the thought of leaving 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's an option. To compound everything, I might have a concussion; my vision's blurred and doubled." 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 practice 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?"
"Honey, I have a feeling that would be a waste of precious time. You really need to get going," she told the reluctant woman. Alex was worried about how much longer she could stay awake. She was already fighting sleep, and she needed Samantha to be on her way.
"I know, but I don't want to leave you here," Samantha retorted.
"You have no choice."
Samantha got on her knees and threw her arms around Alex. She couldn't stop the new onslaught of tears from 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. Be careful, and I'll see you in a few hours. Here, give me the torch. I'll hold it out so you can see to get up the wall."
She did her best to smile and managed to keep her tears at bay, as she watched Samantha begin her climb up the wall to the tunnel above them. It would take more than 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; Samantha didn't find getting up the wall all that difficult. Occasionally, she slipped on a tiny notch, or her fingers would lose traction on an irregular hold, but she soon found herself looking down into the pit with her lover sitting looking 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 recovered from her pocket, 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'll be able to." Alex tried to sound jovial with the quick reply.
Samantha gently tossed the light down in the direction of Alex's outstretched hand and smiled when she saw the object make contact. Good girl. "Great catch, honey," she called into the pit. "I'll be back with help as soon as possible."
"You be careful, Samantha," Alex yelled.
"I will. I love you, Alex."
"Love you, too, Samantha."
Before she could rethink the situation and talk herself into climbing back down, the blonde turned and started toward the outside opening and the ledge. She was grateful they had marked their way, and it wasn't long before she caught a glimpse of sunlight shining through the dark tunnel.
Once out on the ledge, Samantha tried to use the cell phone. Her worst fear came to fruition, and she relegated herself to the fact that it had definitely been damaged in the fall. She cursed the technology that was forsaking her in a time of dire need. In a fit of anger, she threw the phone to the ground and stepped on it. "If you're gonna be broken, damn it, the least you can do is look broken." Well, that was an adult reaction to the situation, Samantha. Yeah, I know, but it made me feel better. After she kicked the smashed receiver out of her way, she picked up her backpack and emptied it of everything nonessential. Now was not a good time to be weighted down with frivolous items. She looked around to get her bearings and headed toward the parking lot.
The edge of the precipice she was standing on was a lot steeper than the climbing wall at home. But when she began her descent, she easily found footholds, and in a shorter amount of time than she would have anticipated, she reached the bottom of the cliff.
Alex had watched as Samantha efficiently made her way up the wall. The brunette had sat in silence and utter agony on the cool, damp ground. But the pride of watching the small blonde ascend the rough, red rock wall had seemed to diminish the pain slightly. I'm glad we decided climbing the wall at home would be good exercise for you, she had whispered to herself.
The question Samantha had posed about leaving the cave via the small exit on the other side of the room had been a good one, but Alex was glad she had talked her out of trying it. There wasn't any time to squander on false exits; it was definitely better for Samantha to retrace her steps than to venture forth into the unknown.
Samantha reached the top and had called back down to her. Alex's heart had ached with the thought of the smaller woman having to find her way back to the Jeep alone.
Then it had taken all of her concentration to focus on the flashlight Samantha threw down to her. Even though she had seen two lights spinning quickly downward, she knew only one of them to be real. Luckily, the small object practically fell into her unharmed hand. Kudos to you Samanthaššshe had silently acclaimedššgood aim.
Alex had continued to watch the flickering of the light in the tunnel above, until darkness overtook the area. Soon the only light was that from the torch slowly burning in its groove on the floor next to her. She knew it would be a long wait. She also 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, Samantha 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.
After she got her bearings, she began to make her way around the mountain. She remembered that she had to follow the structure for a while and then turn south. Words from their conversation the day before, when Alex tried to instill in her where they were headed and where they had come from, rang through her memory:
"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?"
The blonde had followed with her eyes as Alex pointed, then she had nodded her head and answered yes.
"Okay," Alex had continued. "The Jeep is parked directly south of that spire, so if anything . . ."
And then Samantha 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 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 race. Thank you, Goddess, I'm not alone; there are other people here! Now someone can stay with Alex while I hike back to the car, and maybe they have a cell phone with them that actually works. She was beside herself with excitement, but as she looked around in the direction from which the voice had come, she saw no one.
"Hello," she yelled. "My name's Samantha; what's yours?"
The only sound that responded to her plea was the increased intensity of the rain. She tried to make contact once again, and when no one answered, her shoulders slumped and she assumed her imagination had jumped into overdrive, causing her to hear a phantom voice.
She chastised herself for acting so vulnerable and shook off the feeling of dread. After taking a deep breath, she once again started to venture forth from the sheltered outcropping of red rock. Loud and clear the voice reverberated in her ears.
"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 badlyššI keep imagining it. I've got to stop being afraid that I won't get back to Alex in time and something horrible will happen to her. I've got to think positive thoughts!
"Samantha!" The voice insisted.
It sounded like it came from somewhere to the left of her, but when she looked in that direction, she saw nothing out of the ordinary. All she could see through the rain was rocks and trees. Looking ahead of her, she saw more trees and more rain. Then, for some reason she turned to the left again and, out of the corner of her eye, caught a glimpse of something moving in the underbrush near the base of the mountain.
Quickly, she ran in the direction of the movement but found nothing.
"I know you're here. Please, I have a friend who's in dire need of assistance. Please, show yourself."
The wait was heart wrenching. Then she heard movement. She was closer to whoever 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 did a flip-flop. Standing before her was an Indian maiden who couldn't have been more than 18 years old. She was fair-skinned, for an Indian. That and her light-colored hair seemed an odd contrast to the buckskin clothing she wore. Samantha got the strangest feeling when she looked into the maiden's eyes. It was as if she was looking into her own soul. The feeling was not the same as when she looked into the eyes of her soulmateššnoššlooking into the eyes of this young woman was more like looking at an 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. Okay, Samantha you're really slipping into LaLa Land. Imagination is definitely working overtime.
"You're not imagining me," the Indian assured Samantha. "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. It was a soft brown in color and had a musky odor. She pulled it out of the ground, brushed it off, and held it up to get a look at it before putting it into her backpack.
"We are healers. It will ease her pain."
A little further around the side of the mountain the 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 of 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."
The Indian motioned to an area on the wall of the rock; Samantha could see where the wall darkened in a shadow. It was mostly covered by thickly growing vines. She took out the camping knife she had stuck into her shorts and began cutting away at the overgrowth, and when she had finished, she stared at a small opening that lead back into the rock.
She looked at the young woman standing beside her 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 Samantha. "You were once a great Shamaness, Samantha. I am the essence that you left behind, 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. Samantha stood in front of the cave opening and 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 Indian disappeared as quickly as she had materialized.
Samantha still had a large piece of the dried moss she had retrieved from the tunnel walls in her pocket. Her backpack was almost full with the root, the succulent, and the piece of dried plant that smelled like sage, all the items the maiden had pointed out for her to dig up or pick. She turned toward the opening in the mountain and looked for a 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. The palm of her hand began to tingle when she picked it up and it made her feel immediately energized. She placed it in her pocket and proceeded to pick up a branch and assemble a new torch.
"The energy is inside you, Samantha; work with itšš 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. An involuntary smile lit up her face, as she ducked her head and entered the cave.