Without the sun and moon to guide my inner clock, there was really no way for me to distinguish how many nights or days had passed. The darkness was different from any I had experienced before. My eyes could not quite adjust.
Although I had a real bed and a partial bath with a toilet and small wash sink, there was no sense of comfort. What seemed to be the only entrance was Â Â sealed so tight that no light seeped in from the perimeter. There were no windows; the walls were cold and barren. My hands explored my surroundings, yet I could not even find an outlet or light switch.
I tried to escape my fears by focusing on remembering less stressful times, most of which were with Gram. I replayed the past in my head, hoping that somewhere hidden in those memories might be a clue as to what happened and how I ended up in the dark.
When my fear and confusion subsided enough, I willed myself to sleep. It was my only escape from the heaviness the darkness imposed upon me. This didnât help my capacity to estimate the length of my imprisonment. I didnât know how long or how often I drifted off to sleep. There were moments I lay there struggling to determine if my eyes were open or closed.
One would think the quiet would be soothing, only it amplified every little thing. I realized there was no true stillness. I could envision the flecks of dust floating through the air, crashing into the floor like pellets of hail on a summer day. The anticipation of hearing footsteps approaching my room sent continuous chills up my spine with every little noise the silence allowed.
There was something about the smell in the air and the chill of the walls and floor that led me to believe I was still somewhere in the desert. The lack of moisture in the atmosphere left my mouth sticky and dry. Being dehydrated from lack of fluids wasnât helping. I wasnât sure if the faucet water was safe to drink.
The pains in my stomach reminded me how much I longed for a veggie-filled pita with hummus and feta cheese. My mouth watered at the thought of a guilt-filled bag of Doritos. I should have been grateful I wasnât completely being starved in there. I donât know how or when, but food did appear in my room from time to timeâand I use the termÂ foodÂ loosely. A couple of crackers or a piece of jerky doesnât really constitute food to me. I had to take what I could since I still didnât have a clue where I was, who was keeping me, or why.
Since Gram died, while I was away at college, there really wasnât a home to go back to. I decided to take the small amount of money she left me and put most of it in the bank. Iâd just moved to Santa Fe and prepaid a yearâs rent for a studio-sized house on a small side street. Santa Fe was appealing because it was close to the last place Gram lived, La Cienega, just outside the city limits. The sad thing is, without employment and friends or family in the new city, no one would miss me.
At this realization, my heart grew heavier. Although I could feel the burn in my throat, threatening the shower of tears, I choked it back. Tears wouldnât fight off the shadows. Appearing resilient would help me keep up my strength.
I contemplated screaming out, demanding an answer as to why I was there. Trepidation brought that action to a silent halt. I didnât want to face the potential terrors that stalked the future. I watched enough crime television shows to know how much worse this could get. I counted on my silence as my best defense.
I continued to make desperate attempts at feeling around the walls that encased me. Pressing my face against the cold surfaces, I struggled to hear a trace of someone, anyone, only my ears were denied. Could it be I was truly alone in this unwarranted exile? Perhaps this was it; in the end the darkness would consume me.
I dropped to my knees at the center of my prison. I could feel the surge of sadness and anger coursing through my body. My core heated and it felt as though my blood was on fire. I acknowledged each pore of my skin as the fine hairs stood at attention from the vibration that shook my extremities. With my teeth clenched and my eyes pressed shut, I tried to regain my breath and focus on Gram.
In a whisper, I called out to her. âGramâ¦ Gram, I know you are out there watching over me. I just wish I could hear your voice.â
I continued to speak to her in my head. As much as I always wished something exciting would happen to me, being incarcerated in this godforsaken dark box wasnât at all what I had in mind.
As I looked down toward the amulet resting on my chest, my fingers encased the charm. I closed my eyes, and memories of the time my grandmother draped it around my neck flocked to the forefront.
It was the summer I turned sixteen. Gram and I took a road trip to the Painted Desert, one of our favorite places to visit. I loved being surrounded by mountains made of rainbows of rock. Some people referred to this location as the âbadlands.â When I was there, though, I felt filled with a unique sense of lightness that almost lifted me off my feet. Being there was effortless.
I could walk for hours, soaking in the beauty and freshness of the landscape. I felt connected, not necessarily to anything in particular; I just felt at one with nature. It was like the spirit of the earth moved through me. Even when I was alone on a trail, I never felt lonesome.
The day Gram gave me this necklace, it was as if the heavens had opened up and dumped colors all around us. The sun sank past the painted-rock walls that bordered our location. The sky swelled with layers of purple, pink, orange, and even a touch of gold at the tips of the earth. Gram always knew how to pick just the rightÂ moment and location to make a special occasion feel magical.
âKasha, you are becoming a strong and beautiful young woman. The women in our family have always had a special bond with one another. You must always remember, even when weâre not together, weâre a part of each other, linked always.â
I knew part of what she was being at had to do with my mother. It had been many years since I saw her last, but now was neither the time nor place to start thinking about that. Squeezing the pendant in my hand, a giant, slow breath helped push her out of my head, for now.
Gazing back down at my necklace, I pretended to make out more than the silhouette in the darkness. In my mind, I could see the pentagonal piece of petrified wood encased in silver. The pie-shaped stones enhanced each point of the rounded pentacle. Beautifully etched floral designs in the metal surrounded the stones. A remnant of something engraved on the rear side was almost visible, but it had worn down long before I took possession. If only I could make out what had been there; I often fantasized about what it might have said.
I wasnât sure if there was any significance to the markings, but they looked ancient. Maybe it once belonged to an Egyptian pharaoh or a Celtic princess. Too bad I never took the time to ask Gram if she knew the history of this piece. It would have been interesting to know to whom it had belonged.
âYou have an intensity about you that is unrivaled. Keep this with you at all times. You will find it will keep you grounded and connected to what is important.â
Gram always said weird stuff like that. Iâd gotten used to it and stopped trying to figure out if her comments had hidden meanings. As a kid I would get embarrassed when she talked like that in front of other people. I saw the way they looked at her, probably thinking,Â What a shame that beautiful woman is so crazy. It was that quirkiness I grew to love most about her when I became a young adult.
I guess Gram was at least a little bit right about this amulet. Holding it brought thoughts of her to me. It seemed to cool me down and calm my nerves. At the same time, it warmed me and gave me comfort. A brief moment of peace helped subdue the constant fear and avoid the panic that could set in at any moment.