A few other nice qualities about Jack’s place and this particular area was the number of springs around, bubbling water into the creeks. Water was abundant and the land was called bottomland because of the influence of several nearby rivers. This rich land was flatter than hill land and the organic matter gave rise to healthy plants and animals. John could find a spring and just lean down and grab a handful of water as it was bubbling up, wash his face with it, then kneel on down and drink his fill of the fresh, sweet water. Close by was the foundation of the old springhouse the Thomas family used back in the early 1900s to keep perishables cool in the flowing spring water. In John’s opinion this was a sacred spot. If he could have parked the Airstream down here in the woods he might have thought longer about sticking around. Next thing he knew he was lying flat on his back between the oak and hickory trees with one hand dangling in the spring. He went out. Time passed. The moon emerged.
When John awoke a beam of moonlight was hitting him right between the eyes. He felt the energy of the sun coming through the moon right into his brain and body, passing though him down into the spring. He was plugged in, turned on and being recharged. He heard a soft humming sound, a whizzing, buzzing sound coming towards him, and suddenly the hummingbird landed on his forehead right where the moonlight was beaming. The hummer settled in. John didn’t resist. He was too tired. He just let the hummer have his perch. He noticed other animals stirring close by, and he smiled. Just like old times. He went out again.
The next time he came to a snake slithered over his face. He almost jumped, but took a breath instead. It wasn’t a snake, no! It was a long tongue. It was that black goddess. She was standing over him again. “There you are,” she said.
John tried not to flinch or be repulsed. “Hello.”
“Yes, it’s me again.”
John still had to try not to flinch as he asked, “What do you want with me? I feel like I’m missing something. I don’t know who you are. I do know that pain occurs when you show up. I apologize for being cautious.”
“No need for apologies. One day you will remember who you are. You’re just as fierce as I, maybe more. As the Mother told you, I am here to repay a debt to you. I will be protecting you through this time of amnesia. I, too, can apologize for trying to expedite your memory and your vision. This is why you are tired. I am afraid I forced open a few doorways before you were ready to remember.”
“Remember what? All of this mystery sucks. All of you seem to remember everything and I can’t remember anything. It’s not fair.”
“You’re right. It’s not fair. Life’s not fair, death’s not fair. It’s complicated,” she said as she whipped out her tongue, cracking it like a whip. John realized he was not dealing with a rational creature. He seemed to push her buttons in the strangest ways when he wasn’t even trying.
“Do you have any suggestions for helping me remember whatever it is I’m supposed to be remembering? If you’re supposed to be repaying a debt, then that would be a good repayment. Help me remember!”
She stared at him with cat-like eyes glowing red. John tried to slither into the spring. Did she have her foot on him? He couldn’t move. “No need to worry about your safety with me. I will not directly cause you any more pain, though many things I do may cause you to feel like death over and again.”
“What does that mean!” John started to raise his voice, then quickly remembered it may not be wise to get too rattled here. He rubbed his eyes. He could swear her tongue was about to whip him. “I mean, what does feeling like death feel like? That doesn’t seem like protection. Why do you have your foot on me? Am I going to float away?” John asked, trying to lighten things up. Her foot lifted off of his body; he felt free. “Thanks,” he said.
John suddenly wanted to get away. He felt sick to his stomach. “Why is this happening?” he asked. He started to get up, then sunk back down to the ground. It was like an LP record coming to a stop with the needle still trying to read the music. Everything blurred. He felt drugged. He was falling through darkness, and he could see himself falling, trying to grab on to something. He continued to fall. He felt himself weeping, letting go. It seemed like he soiled himself. Unpleasant smells filled the air. Death—rotting flesh, burning smells, rotten eggs, sulfur. Everything was black, quiet, cold. Darkness prevailed. He felt himself choking. Vomit. Was he drowning? He was definitely falling again. Letting go. It may have appeared like he was having a seizure. He was shaking, coughing and convulsing. A thought came in from somewhere, “You’re dead.” He couldn’t resist it. He had to give in and die. He was floating in a bubbling, warm swamp with weird sensations permeating his skin. Maybe he was this bubbling swamp? Was this creation? He was floating. Then he started hearing sounds like plastic being pulled away from his ears, like cellophane wrapping coming off a package. The sounds got louder and more distinct. This was the sound of birth. Was this the sound of the placenta coming away from the head? He had heard these sounds before!
He saw a fetus floating in the womb. This was a warm, swampy pit of creation. The fetus exploded into a ball of fire and left the belly like a falling star moving backwards through space. Was this him? His spirit? Was he being shown how his spirit journeyed into his mother’s body and into his own vessel? Was it dream, or a hallucination?
How to get back to the moment? Where was the black goddess? Maybe he wasn’t hallucinating! He tried to open his eyes. He couldn’t see. No, the blazing star was all he could see. It was still burning backwards through darkness. A burning flame of hot molten starlight—a soul? A spirit? His spirit! This was what he was being shown. Questions—no, maybe, just maybe—the answers.
The fireball stopped burning and suddenly life appeared. A life appeared, or rather, a lifetime appeared. John watched a lifetime unfold in very abbreviated terms. He was shown the setting and roughly the time period based on the look of the people and the places. His perspective was always looking forward, like he was looking through a diving mask. He couldn’t see himself. It was like a tunnel of time for him to witness, not unlike a movie based on a latent memory, or even someone else’s memory. Maybe the black goddess was helping him remember after all. He relaxed a little more. She owes me. I’m safe.
The lifetimes continued to be screened like short films. It was probable that he may not remember any of this, but what was new about that? A scene flashed across his mind, bigger, brighter and louder than the rest. What was this land? Maybe it was India? The people were dark. There were these fields of flowers—jasmine. The flowers were glowing. As he inhaled, the mask fell to the earth. He found himself in a pond where there were more flowers. Big, purple flowers floating in a pool of creation. He drunkenly heard the words, “Blue lotus.” In the next image he was eating the flowers, bloated with ecstasy. A bright light appeared, a silhouette of a person too bright to look at, like a sun. A glowing fire. A falling star. Falling through darkness. The journey continued.
When John awoke he was flat on his back and it was morning. He was staring into the sun. He felt drunk, but he remembered many of the images that had crossed his consciousness through the night. What was the point? There had to be a point. He was fine. Not harmed. So far, so good. He was being shown something. He remembered that last time period. Was it India? As he wondered about this the hummingbird reappeared over his head, buzzing and clicking away. That’s a confirmation, John thought.
He rolled over and washed his face in the spring. His hand had spent the better part of the night in the cool running water. He really loved this place. He still knew he couldn’t stay here, though. This place wasn’t his. Suddenly his emotions rose up and he was back on his knees. Trying to resist, John pleaded, “Please release me. I can’t stay here, and I can’t stand the mystery anymore.” He was weeping into the pool of water. Unbeknownst to John his tears were causing turbulence in the running spring. The water was starting to spin in a stronger and stronger spiral, like a large sink draining downward instead of the water coming up and out. John continued, “I’m tired. I don’t know which way to go. I feel like the life is being sucked out of me,” and he slumped head first into the pool of creation.
John was falling into the bosom of the Mother Earth. She opened to receive him. He let go, not caring—drowning or floating back to the surface were the same. Surrendering. The birth canal opened and John moved like a falling star through her bowels of water, rock and light. He could breathe. There was no struggle. Maybe he died in that moment? Maybe he was being reborn? Baptized into his faith? The metaphors and allegories are endless, but the one consistent outcome is that John River surrendered in that moment. He was done fighting to understand and control his life. The light came to him as he opened his eyes. He was spiraling in an underground ocean of tepid fluid that he could float and breathe in. He allowed himself to be supported and nourished in this place. He thought this must be heaven.
The black goddess appeared, although she was now a mermaid. At least she had something like a tail and could move through the fluid effortlessly. She took his hand and led him deeper into the belly of the Mother. John surrendered even more. Floating along, not bothering to look too much at the surroundings, rather giving in to the feeling of floating through paradise. He didn’t care what it meant or what it was. The black goddess became more beautiful and iridescent each time John looked at her. She became the life-sized version of the little nymph he had first seen in the pool several weeks ago. She smiled. John had the funniest feeling that she was something like a mother to him.
They continued swimming through illuminated places of creation and life. Beautiful, glowing life. They came to the entrance of a majestic place. A sky opened above them. They were able to stop swimming and walk above the fluid, float above the fluid, fly above the fluid. The glowing goddess was still holding his hand. It felt good. John smiled as a feeling washed over him. It was pure ecstasy. He heard himself say, “I am home.”