Authors: Felicia Starr
Just as he began to turn, I felt a blow to my abdomen that knocked me right back into my body.
COMING BACK TO my body with such force knocked the wind out of me. I gasped for air, but that ability seemed to be frozen with pain. I didn’t have time to really think about what I experienced. Fear set in and overrode all other thoughts. I started to come back up on my knees and attempted to get my physical bearings. I slowly started to take my first breath when I heard something moving in front of me—something slicing through the air—and before I could brace myself, a second blow came. This time, if I wasn’t mistaken, it came from a boot.
My body crumpled over on itself like a rag doll’s, making it harder to breathe. I knew for sure my guts had just been thrust up against my diaphragm. Having the wind knocked out of me again was making it hard to recover my sense of gravity. Before I could fully catch by breath, the boot of pain came at me again, knocking me across the floor. Knowing it was a boot didn’t make it feel any less like a sledgehammer shattering my ribs.
I knew I needed to defend myself. It was all happening so fast I couldn’t brace myself for what might come next, let alone attempt to retaliate. The boot repeatedly drove into my abdomen and hips. The blows kept coming, but somehow I managed to get my arms over my head to protect my face.
This seemed to ignite whoever wielded those boots. I could hear the huffs and puffs of anger starting to spew from my attacker’s lungs. I thought I heard a slight growl grinding through the air.
“Protect your face all you want.” Her voice was harsh and commanding. “I will destroy it. I will destroy you. I will do whatever needs to be done. I know you are weak and of no value. I will show him.”
I just lay there in utter disbelief of the amount of pain seizing my body. I could hear her boots slapping down on the cold concrete as she paced back and forth in front of me. I put one hand down to the floor in an attempt to steady myself so I could push up off the ground. The boots stomped in my direction again. Although no rage was dispensed in this motion, I still felt a slow nudge from her foot as she made a purposeful effort to turn me over.
“Kasha Alexander! Have you nothing to say? Look at you. You’re pathetic just lying there.”
My name, she knows my name. Say what? I’m pathetic? You’re beating my ass. What can I say?
Although still consumed by darkness, I lifted my face to look in her direction, never expecting to see even the slightest bit of her shadowy figure. There she stood towering over me. My eyes followed her boots made of shiny black leather that hugged her muscular thighs. Her stance was strong and menacing, her legs spread apart with her arms ending in fists at her sides. She wore a corset-like blouse accentuating her small waist and curvaceous hips. The crowns of her breasts spilled out the top.
She was striking in more ways than one. Her hair was straight and as black as a panther’s. I might not have noticed her hair color or her black clothes if it weren’t for the fact that she seemed to radiate a red hue. Her stature was dominating, but from my crouching position it was hard to tell if it was the stiletto boots or if she was wicked tall.
Perhaps I spent a moment too many noticing how striking her appearance was; before I knew it, she smacked me in the face. Even though she didn’t make direct contact with my nose, she hit me hard enough that I got that weird smelly twang in my nostrils.
“Are you too good to say anything to me?” she hissed at me. “You must think you’re something special?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I coughed out. It was hard for me to speak with my mouth full of the warm metallic fluid. After wiping the bloody drool from my chin, I managed to come back with, “Who are you…? Where am I?” I had much more to say and ask, but all that came out were grunts and groans from the pain. Somehow I managed not to break down in tears. I was sure that would come later.
She reached down slow and calculated, grabbing me by the throat. Her hands seemed large for a woman. I could feel all her fingers as they wrapped forcefully around my neck. She lifted me, the broken rag doll, right up off the floor. I felt my feet dangling below me. I didn’t even consider taking a breath. I just looked at her dead on. Her eyes were black, two onyx holes with an endless supply of nothing behind them.
“You will show your true self to me or you will suffer. I will make sure of that, over and over again.”
Her teeth were blindingly white as they flashed through an unpleasant smile that never neared her eyes. She snapped at me and began to laugh. And with that I felt her head come crashing into mine, only to leave me in total darkness again.
I FELT THE heat of something burning outside my eyelids. I wasn’t really ready to consider what might be waiting for me on the other side. I decided to push myself up to a sitting position just before allowing the hot reality to bombard my ocular senses.
Surprisingly, my movements weren’t hindered by what I expected to be an unforgiving amount of pain. With my eyes still closed, I lifted my hands to my face and caressed my smooth skin. It felt as it always did. I anticipated at least one aspect of my face to be protruding with tenderness. My eyes, on the other hand, squinted from the intensity of an external light source.
Apprehensively, I allowed my eyes to drift open. The hot yellow light beaming down from the sky wasn’t at all what I expected to see. At this point, I realized the sun warmed my whole body. Bathing in the rich sunlight was something I would never again take for granted.
Looking down to find my hands perched on pillows of white sand, I listened for the crashing of the waves. I knew the ocean couldn’t be far. Letting my ears do the work, I searched for the sounds of the sea—silence between the whispers of wind. Could the ocean be so still?
Rising up with my toes still covered in a blanket of white sand, I slowly started pivoting my body to scan my surroundings. Dunes of white were all around me. As far as the eye could see there were mounds of white topped with a sheet of sweet baby blue, not a cloud in the sky above. It almost felt like I floated amongst them.
My eyes squinted, trying to defend against the harsh rays from above and the glare from below. The fact that the sand beneath my feet was actually cool to the touch, despite the heat of the sun, clued me in to my location.
I remembered Gram bringing me to White Sands, New Mexico, when I was a young girl. We found cardboard boxes in the trunk and used them as makeshift sleds. The images of us giggling as we tumbled down the sand dunes filled my head. It was hard to keep myself from smiling.
Gram always made sure our adventures were full of fun. She told me to never forget the power of laughter. Nothing heals the heart and soul like a good laugh.
Of course Gram was there on her own little mission. She needed to collect the elements of the earth. She always had selenite, or gypsum as she sometimes called it, in the cupboard. Even though it’s one of the most common minerals, it is very rare to be spread in this form over the earth’s surface. White Sands might be the only location in the world.
Gram tried to teach me her craft of wielding nature to her bidding through teas, tonics, salves, and incense. Although I was never interested, I did recall most of what she tried to teach me. I also picked up a thing or two listening to her give instructions to her customers.
The larger pieces of selenite were beautiful. She made some of the nicer fragments into jewelry. Most of them she sold, but I had the one she made special for me. The crystal had a pear-like luster. It always reminded me of the full moon glow. I guess that’s why I usually donned it on my rare evenings out.
Thoughts of this necklace brought me full circle. I reached up to clench my amulet and gasped. It was no longer draped around my neck. Horrified, I also came to realize the rest of my body appeared to be fitted with someone else’s clothes.
Purple unicorns, rainbows, and shooting stars—these things were always at the top of my childhood favorites. I vaguely remembered the nightgown belonged to me as a small child. Maybe even before Mom left. I could still hear Mom’s voice calling my name. It sounded a lot like my Gram’s, but I could always tell the difference.
“Kasha… Kaaa-shaaa…” came at me from the rear.
I snapped around, and in the distance I could see what appeared to be both my mother and my grandmother standing on a dune.
“Kasha!” they called to me over and over again.
“I’m coming!” I hollered back.
The excitement that filled me had my feet locked into place for only a moment before I began a full-out sprint down the dune. I couldn’t run fast enough. The momentum down the sand hill wasn’t sufficient to get me to the top of the next dune fast enough. The sand kicked up all around me. I wasn’t sure if I was getting any closer. My legs started to burn along with my lungs longing for some low and steady breaths. I couldn’t surrender to my discomfort. I had to see Mom and Gram, together no less.
Dune after dune, the closer I got, the more my nose filled with the earthy scented oils Gram always dabbed here or there, usually for some kind of medicinal or spiritual reason. One more dune should’ve done it. Finally, I was close enough I could see Gram’s long silver hair lifted in the wind. Mother’s hair hung heavy in one long braid down the center of her back.
Running so fast with my eyes locked on the only family I’d ever known, I never thought to look down. My foot caught on something and my body, in what felt like slow motion, flew through the air. As I slammed face first into the sand at their feet, things went black again.
I WASN’T SURE how long I lay there with my face pressed into the sand that filled my mouth, nose, and eyes. Waves of static crashed against my eardrums. Pressing up to a sitting position, I wiped the sand from my eyes and spit what I could out of my mouth. I feared I would be crunching on sand for a while.
With my eyes cleared of debris, I looked up to greet Mom and Gram. The sun shone so bright into my eyes, there was no mistake they were gone.
The sand beneath me wasn’t quite as white and it was hot to the touch. The loud static sounds I heard were actually waves breaking on the shore only a few feet from where I stood. The sun hung low and the sky looked like rainbow sherbet. It was scorching hot, but not like the desert heat. There was moisture on my skin, a combination of sweat and humidity. My hair was full of sand and bushy from the frizz and the ocean breeze.
Luckily for me, I was wearing a white-and-turquoise bikini covered by a pair of sheer, flowing pants.
Alone again, not a soul in sight.
The beach stretched as far as the eye could see with some kind of forest or jungle behind me. The water looked inviting and refreshing. If only I didn’t want to drink it up. I was so parched, but a dip would have to do.
I wasn’t about to bother removing my pants. I figured they would dry pretty quickly and it was so hot I wouldn’t mind the cool fabric against my legs when I got out.
Even though I wanted to run and dive into the water, I apprehensively stood ankle deep and let the surf wash over my toes. I was nervous about going in too far. There was no one there to save me from the tide. Wading in to about my waist, just past where the waves crashed, seemed like a safe enough distance. I dipped under to allow myself a moment to enjoy the weightlessness and the unusual quiet the ocean gifted me.