Gently tracing patterns in my past had brought me back again to Indonesia, and the trip that had spiraled out of all control and all reason. The layers of my life were raw on the edges so much of the time, but for the moment I was experiencing clarity. The clarity of what had gone before now and how it shaped my world.
I could still hear Uncle Harry's voice inside my brain -- he wasn't actually mentally visiting like he had a while ago, but I could still perceive his train of thoughts. I continued hiking slowly through the thick and muggy humid air. The rain was still falling high up in the canopy, occasionally trickling down through the Indonesian foliage, and now and then hitting the ground. Thinking about Uncle Harry I could almost hear him saying, "Esmeralda Meredith, knock this off. You have to stay grounded. It's truly for your own good, Magpie." Reluctantly acknowledging his faintly heard advice, I figured I had to make my way to the hotel and officially check out and exit the country like a 'normal' human being.
My skin crawled with goose bumps as I rounded a curve in the path. Something was unsettling me about a large set of moss-covered rocks that were off to one side. My eyes refocused and my heart started thumping faster. It wasn't just a pile of rocks but an abandoned temple. All my nerve endings were tingling and I could feel the weight of time pressing on me -- tempting me. I cautiously made my way off the beaten path towards the ancient place of worship. I could make out the grooves scraped into some of the rocks, figures painstakingly carved into the hunks of earth, telling a story.
When I walked closer, I couldn't help but notice how still the forest had become. The natural sounds that were acting like a backdrop to my self-imposed hike into the forest were made up of raindrops falling between the layers of trees, the birds cheeping and chirping, singing their exotic songs, small buzzing of various bugs, bees and beetles that made their life in the trees, and now, throughout the canopy, they had gone quiet. All the noises had ceased like I was in a vacuum. I could feel how ancient the structure was thudding in my blood. The temple was long-deserted, and from the feeling I was having, mostly forgotten.
I was puzzled why it was that none of the indigenous people who had wandered by the structure had given the temple any sort of basic attention. Even the long-abandoned temples I'd seen in Indonesia usually had a respectful, carefully maintained, array of offerings to appease the ancients. As my fingers touched the engraved images I felt jolts of energy running through my body. I looked down at the dirt below the mossy rock and saw what looked like bite marks at ankle level. Just then I heard something in the wet vegetation. It was the sound of a body moving through the bush from the pathway I'd just left. No other noises could be heard but my heart quickly thumping in my ears, and the approach of someone or something. My fingertips were still shoved in the crack of the carvings in the rock when a dark-skinned man appeared not a foot from where I was.
His dark indigo eyes were rimmed red from what looked like exhaustion. His garb was like the clothing that I'd seen various villagers wearing earlier in the tour, the wrap-around kain that was tucked and folded, creating a skirt-like arrangement resting on his hip above his waist while draping his body to mid-thigh. His shirt was worn but traditional. He held a walking stick in one hand and smacked a small rock from the thin, ill-defined pathway. He wore no shoes but I could see that his feet were well callused and obviously used to the twigs and grasses of the forest beneath him. Then the oddest thing happened. I was expecting him to acknowledge my presence with a nod of greeting if nothing more. He looked right through me and casually pulled his penis free from his clothing and urinated a foot from where I was standing frozen.
The man shook himself and adjusted his clothing then spit off to the left of where I was. A string of dark, tobacco filled mucus flew from his lips to land mere inches from my feet. Not once did he seem to notice me standing there with my mouth gaping open and my fingers inside the temple carvings. As he went back on the path and disappeared from sight it dawned on me that he truly hadn't seen me. It seemed that for whatever reason I was as invisible to the man as the abandoned temple. I knew that I hadn't popped in and out of phase but had just been unseen by the man. I pulled my fingers out of the crevice slowly. I wondered if I'd slipped my fingers out of the structure while the man had been there would I have 'magically' appeared?
Thankfully I'd been too shocked by the free show to move, so that bit of local lore would remain an untold mystery. I wandered slowly around the outside of the dilapidated temple. It wasn't remarkably different from the ones that Johnny, the long-gone guide, had been showing the tour group earlier in the day before our ill-fated sojourn up the mountain. Well, except for the lack of worshippers at the temple I'd found it was similar in design to the ones that we'd visited. While there were some subtle differences everywhere we'd gone, there had been a small core group of religious folks either praying for or with people, blessing people, animals and offerings. The blessings took place outside the walls in a plaza sort of area. There also weren't any leaves on the ground filled with grains of cooked rice and flowers to appease the gods -- past or present. My confusion must have been felt on the other side of the globe because Uncle Harry pushed slightly into my thoughts, "Emma? Are you okay?" I silently thought back, "As ever, Uncle Harry." I felt his fang tipped smile in my thoughts along with a soft chuckle of amusement at my response. He faded back immediately, sensing I was under 'control' for now. He was only a whisper of a thought away. That consoled me as the uncanny feeling of being watched rolled over me again.
A whistle of noise brought me back with a flash to the present. I still had the feeling I was being followed and that something was coming for me. It wasn't like everyone was able to pop in and out of phase to land in spots I often found. Just the idea of being followed caused another chill to race down my back and I wondered how I kept getting stuck inside the bell jar of near insanity. The world was chaos bent on finding me in the middle of it all and blaming me for things beyond my control.
Sighing I looked slowly around my current hidey-hole.
Deep dark dirt -- check# More than a few small rodent droppings -- check# The usual array of shards of old pottery -- check# Dirt walls -- check, oh wait sorta kinda like a check because after all adobe was made from mud and straw mixed with a bit more water and slowly sun baked. So I'd have to say not exactly dirt walls but close enough. So -- again a check.
In all my years of popping in and out of various archaeological sites and graveyards the one in the remote hills in the rainforest in Indonesia still pulled hauntingly at me. Looking down at the dirt and around at the adobe walls is what had started all my recollection s... I traced a finger across the black soot mark etched into the ground which I knew was probably from a stick that had been resting in an open fire. The black mark just made me think again of Indonesia and the moss-covered abandoned temple. I allowed myself to go back into the past and remember. It was the safest way to calm myself while I figured out how to get free from my current little experience.
Once the man had left to go back to whatever and wherever it was he'd been heading, I took my hand completely free from the carvings and began to cautiously explore the place. My senses were still tingling. Like they did when I found a pretty, or hunters with their hungers. Someone or something was creating a vibration I could feel through my entire body. Inside the temple it was cold and musty. Little in the way of the jungle rainforest had made its way inside. There were no signs of life anywhere. The air was still and not as humid as outside. The humidity was still pushing in but not quite as damply and certainly without any raindrops. I couldn't hear anything. No scurrying of bugs, insects or rodents -- which I found highly unusual.
As I traveled deeper into the labyrinth that made up the insides of the temple I noticed not only the absolute silence and lack of living creatures, but how I felt like a tuning fork that had been struck soundly, and a humming vibration flowed through every fiber of my body. The air was stale and the dust nearly choking, but I kept going inside. There wasn't much light, but enough for me to see that I wanted to go further into the maze. I pulled out a flashlight from my backpack -- having popped in and out of more than a few dimly-lit spots I traveled with a few necessities. The sound wasn't painful but highly distracting. My ears were tingling with the pulsing energy. My stomach was a bit sketchy. I nearly felt like I was going to throw up the water I'd just drunk. I closed my eyes and tried to relax. That just made everything worse. With my eyes shut I was getting bed spins. Considering I hadn't been on an all-day bender it was kind of unnerving. I pushed through the room with a staggering set of missteps. I stumbled into a huge nearly empty room. With all the winding maze of corridors I wasn't positive but fairly sure that I was in the center of the temple.
The huge altar was my first clue where I was. It wasn't engraved like the other stones had been along the way. It had a different feeling. It was a large stark altar in the middle of a very huge room. There was a pretty complicated combination of dust-colored slabs arranged in the space with two large base stones and a flat stone on top. The dimensions of the stones weren't exactly mammoth like Stonehenge, but still larger than I expected, at least ten feet by eight feet if an inch. I thought slowly about why an altar would be so large as I approached the structure.
At first I'd thought that perhaps they were so large because that was the only available size for stones from the local quarries, but as I approached the top, I noticed there was a latticework of grooves dug into the surface. My mind began to sketch out the design and a sickening thought pushed into my brain, and it suddenly all fell completely into focus. The altar was a sacrificial surface, and not for the large local animals, but rather supernatural creatures and more than likely with a few stray humans tossed in for fun. I'd been to sites before where human sacrifice was the norm during certain ages but this altar had been used recently -- very recently. The smell of death was drifting towards me as dust motes danced in a slight breeze away from the altar towards the doorway where I stood frozen.