ACCIDENTAL TRUTH – A VORTEX THROUGH TIME
by Nikool McIndoe
Based on a true story.
New York City, 1943
Two agents from the United States Government’s Office of Alien Property enter Nikola Tesla’s New Yorker Hotel room. Windows are closed. Curtains are drawn. The place reeks of decay and death. It’s been three days since Nikola was found in his bed, his body stiff with rigor mortis, and the hotel staff had been specifically told not to enter the room.
Frank and Declan had a job to do, one that usually a hotel maid would be doing. They were given their instructions and far be it for them to question authority: strip the room and empty it of all of Tesla’s possessions, then take every single item back to FBI Headquarters in Washington DC.
They bundled up Nikola’s clothes and shoes and placed them in a sturdy leather suitcase with reinforced corners, then locked it.
“I can’t believe we are in the same room where Nikola Tesla died.” Declan glances at Frank, who is sitting on the bed, viewing the emptied room.
“Yeah, it’s a tough gig. What a truly brilliant man. I wonder what they want with all his stuff. I mean, old clothes and personal effects? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, have we got it all? Did you clear out the bathroom?”
“Yes. Everything he owned is in this one case.” Frank taps the suitcase with his knuckle. “His whole life, and this is what is left.”
Declan is quiet for a moment, then steps toward the door. “Right, well, let’s get out of here. This place gives me the creeps. He only died a few days ago, and in that bed apparently.” Declan chuckles as he watches Frank jump from the bed and dash toward the door, nearly falling over the folded boxes stacked in its entrance.
“You bastard! You didn’t tell me that!” Frank dusts off his pants in disgust, hoping he hasn’t caught the death bug. “What the hell are these boxes for? Did the director say?”
“No, he just said to make sure we got everything, and to not leave one file behind.”
“File? There are no files here.” Declan looks at the set of hotel room keys he’d placed on the dresser upon entering. He notices two keys. “Hey, wait a minute.” He picks up the keys. “There’s another key.”
He flips through the bunch and reads out the room number: “3327.” He opens the door and sees 3327 in brass numbers at eye level, then looks at the other key. “This other key says 3328. Damn, there’s another room—next door!”
Frank and Declan exit the room, leaving the lone suitcase containing Tesla’s sole possessions, and open the door to room 3328.
“Oh, no. Are you serious?” Frank is dumbfounded.
The room is filled to the hilt with papers stacked high, nearly touching the ceiling in some places. Every inch of the floor is covered. Somewhere in there is a bed, but they can’t see it beneath all the papers. Piles of scientific journals and magazines echo the New York skyline outside the window. Declan picks up a yellowed, stained publication of The Century Magazine circa 1900 featuring Tesla on the cover with an article title in bold font written underneath his picture: “Experiments with Alternate Currents of High Potential and High Frequency.”
“High Frequency? What the hell does this mean?” Declan stares bewildered, acknowledging his lack of scientific terminology.
“Stuffed if I know. Where do we even start?” Frank kicks a box, sending it into the leg of a chair. “We need more manpower. Ring the office and tell them to get some more hands-on-deck down here and tell them we’re going to need another stack of boxes,” he grumbles, “and a truck. This is going to take us forever.”
Frank takes out his pack of Camel cigarettes and gold Zippo lighter and sparks one up, taking a long drag before exhaling it onto the dusty pile of magazines to his left. The door slams shut behind Declan as he heads down to the hotel foyer to use the public telephone.
* * *
A total of 347 boxes practically filled one of the FBI’s main conference rooms. The National Defense Research Committee enlisted John G. Trump, Professor of M.I.T.’s Engineering Department, to examine Tesla’s possessions and all of his documents seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act 1917.
The United States was in the middle of a world war, and Tesla’s experiments documented in several scientific journals about his powerful particle beam weapon termed the “Death Ray” could prove catastrophic if they landed in the wrong hands. This could not be allowed to happen.
The professor had been given strict instructions to examine in detail every single piece of what was now termed Evidence in the illustrious life of Nikola Tesla. It took John eleven grueling days and nights to sift through the mammoth amount of paperwork and to report his analysis, finding Tesla’s efforts to be “primarily of a speculative, philosophical, and promotional character.”
An additional note said the papers “did not include new sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results.” John was satisfied that any notion Tesla may have had of inventing any such weaponry that could cause massive destruction was the mere musings of a senile old man.
He did, however, find some unusual writings in a file titled “My discussions with Ravi and the Universal Energy Collective,” and decided that this particular file would be shown to the President of the United States himself, Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Placing the file into a red folder, John secured it in a yellow envelope marked Top Secret.
Nikola Tesla’s last journal entry into that file was made the night before he died on 6 January 1943. It was brought to the attention of the FBI Director by their undercover agent who doubled as a baggage handler at the New Yorker Hotel. The entry read:
Ravi informed me last night the Galactic Federation of Light were initiating “first contact” and that a landing was being planned to take place somewhere near the border of the United States of America and Mexico, in a central location, possibly New Mexico or Arizona, sometime within the next few years.
If this turned out to be true, John feared not only for his country’s future, but also the future of the world as he knew it.
Tonight, was a celebration of sorts. Tomorrow is a momentous day for me, one of the most important in my life. I have a meeting with a gallery owner, Lucinda, who’d seen one of my paintings at a mutual friend’s house and suggested I come by her gallery and show my portfolio.
Lucinda owns a small but well-established boutique gallery on New York City’s lower east side. Apparently, she’d felt my artwork and her gallery were a match made in heaven. I can only describe my work as Contemporary Abstract Expressionism. Lucinda had likened my work as a mixture of the Cubist period and the Dada movement, comparing my work specifically to surrealist artist Joan Miró, which I found extremely flattering. She’d also said something about geometry too, but my friend couldn’t remember what exactly. I am excited and thrilled for the opportunity to meet with her and talk about my art and my future.
As it happens, I had visited Lucinda’s gallery a few times since my arrival in the Big Apple from Australia only a few short years ago now. The talent and sheer genius of the works that graced the pristine zinc-white walls humbled me; to be considered worthy of being hung alongside these artists fueled my ambition to become the queen of NYC’s art scene.
What a beautiful evening tonight was. A sumptuous meal indeed. Walking dreamily through the perfectly still night to my car, I replay each moment of my celebratory dinner with my fiancé Ron. Leaving him to finish his dessert was the right move. I have to get up early to fight the morning rush hour as my meeting with Lucinda is at nine. A wide smile adorns my face as I embrace the feeling of a perfect evening and the excited anticipation of tomorrow. Gazing skyward, I’m almost brought to tears by the performance being put on by the stars. Dashing across the sky in a hurry to nowhere is a shooting star, exiting the stage almost as quickly as it entered. What a magnificent sign for me. Wow! I haven’t seen a shooting star for years, and on the eve of my most important meeting with Lucinda. I let out a mini woohoo! and dance over some cracks in the pavement.
Suddenly, a wave of uneasiness washes over me. The magnificent dinner turns to lead in my stomach as I hear the telltale sound of footsteps echoing my own. I’m on high alert as my intuition tells me I’m being followed!
Just ahead is a twenty-four-hour convenience store. Dashing in as casually as I can, I walk to the back of the store and pretend to browse in the refrigerated food and drink section. My heartbeat is hammering in my chest so hard I’m sure the sleepy shop attendant can hear it. All the while I keep an eye on the street through the glass storefront.
A group of suspicious-looking men pauses on the sidewalk. Peering through the shelves, I can see them look into the shop and then continue walking. They are wearing sunglasses. It’s nighttime, for Pete’s sake! Why are they wearing sunglasses? As they move out of sight, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
Gosh, tomorrow is such an important day for me. It might just be the break I’ve worked so hard for over the last few years. If I can get an exhibition arranged…every time I think about the possibilities, I almost burst with excitement. And now somebody is trying to kidnap or murder me!
Chill out, Aurora, I scold myself. Quit being such a drama queen. I’m just being paranoid. No one is following me. It’s all in my head. Anyway, it seems the men have gone now. Time to clear my mind and concentrate on my meeting. Upon leaving the store, I stand at the entrance and sneakily poke my head out and glance in the direction I saw the men walk. I can’t see anyone.
“See? Nothing to worry about,” I say out loud.
I look up the street and can just make out the entrance to the outside parking lot in the next block. A blue neon sign highlights my destination. With a hint of crispness in the air, I pull my coat collar up around my ears and set a brisk pace back to my car. Having pepped myself up a little, I have an extra skip in my step. It’s getting late and all the retail shops have closed. There’s not a soul around.
“There she is!” a man’s voice yells from across the street.
Panic sets in as I see the very same men, I sensed following me now running up the street directly towards me. They’re at least a hundred yards away. I knew it! I am being followed! Who are they? What do they want? They’re all wearing long, black trench coats and as one of the men’s coat flies open and with a white shirt as the background, I spot what looks like the handle of a gun poking out of a holster. I scream and run away as fast as I can in my high heels but they’re gaining on me.
“You’re not going to get away with this!” one of the men shouts. “You haven’t before, and you won’t now!”
Without thought or slowing down, I scream over my shoulder, “You can’t kill everyone! There are too many of us. The world will know the truth. It’s what I’m here for. It’s what we’re all here for!”
As I run, I frantically reach into my bag to find my keys. Luckily, I keep them in a separate compartment just on the inside section. I have a few seconds to try and catch my breath and calm myself to press the right button to open the door. The door lock springs open. I jump in, lock the car using the automatic locking system, and start the car. A loud thud behind me reverberates throughout the interior. It’s one of the men’s fists banging on the trunk.
I speed out of the parking lot, wheels screeching as I make a sharp right onto the dimly lit street. My heart is pounding out of my chest. Muffled screams echo in the distance. Suddenly I hear gunshots ringing out around me as I punch the pedal to the floor. Shaking uncontrollably, I try and take command of the vehicle, hanging onto the steering wheel for dear life. My little black dress is soaked with sweat. What the hell is happening? Who are those men and why are they shooting at me? It all feels very surreal, like something out of a movie!
My words play repeatedly in my head. The world will know the truth. It’s what I’m here for. What did I mean? I’ve never used those words before. I have no idea why I shouted that. I shudder to think about what could have happened. The whole panic-stricken episode is a blur.
What was I not going to get away with? Those men have the wrong woman. I’ve never done anything dishonest in my life. I’m an artist, for God’s sake. I lead a quiet, respectable existence and I’m about to get married to a respectable businessman. You haven’t before, and you won’t now! These men have it all wrong. I have never seen them before, or given them—or anyone else, for that matter—any cause to be chasing me, yelling those accusations, let alone shoot at me. They have mistaken me for someone else.
I’m streets away now and safe. You can’t kill everyone! There are too many of us. What was I saying! It must have been sheer adrenaline. Plus, I was in protective mode. Defensive. Yes, that’s it. I saw a gun and panicked. I try to calm myself down with some deep breathing exercises I’ve fine-tuned in meditation class.
“Everything is going to be alright. I’m safe now,” I chant to myself over and over.
Thank God, the men don’t appear to be pursuing me. I’m nearly on the freeway that leads directly home, and they have no idea where I live, I hope. The freeway ramp is in view, so I accelerate to gain the speed required for the traffic flow ahead.
“Deep breaths, Aurora,” I say aloud, soothing myself to composure.
Suddenly an imposing, shiny black beast of a car with darkly tinted windows lurches off a side street and barrels straight towards me like a freight train. I have no time to do anything but brace myself.
Smash! My car hurtles through the guardrail and flies off the side of the ramp, twirling in midair. My head is spinning and being shaken from side to side. Glass flies tornado-like throughout my car’s interior as it crashes onto the busy freeway below, landing on its roof. The screech of metal on concrete is deafening. A shower of sparks lights up the darkness. After spinning a few times like a breakdancer on their back, my car finally comes to a standstill.
I’m dangling upside down, held in place by my seatbelt. In my peripheral vision, I can just make out the hint of bright lights getting brighter by the second. I can barely turn my head to look out of my shattered driver’s side window. I’m horrified to see what is now barreling down on me. It’s a truck! All I can do is stare, paralyzed by fear, all too aware of what is about to happen.
The truck brakes hard but is unable to stop in time. It swerves and hammers my rear door. Bang! My car soars a few hundred yards before finally slamming into a freeway pylon. Intense pain from the seatbelt’s stranglehold on my chest is the only thing I can feel. The stuck horn repeats the same urgent, ear-splitting note. Steam explodes from the hood. Trickles of warmth begin exploring my face. As I reach up to find the source, the smell of blood becomes the last lingering impression before it’s all too much information for my brain to handle. In a flash, all pain and sensations cease. I feel nothing.
I become one with the blackness. Weightless, dreamlike, unable to process thought. My only awareness is that a major trauma has occurred, and that I will never be the same again.
I’m floating freely, as if under the ocean on a pitch-black night with no moon to highlight the water. I feel like an astronaut in space hovering without gravity, my arms and legs forming a star-shaped pattern.
What happened? Where am I? Am I dead? I have just been involved in an extremely serious car accident, yet I don’t feel any pain. The opposite, in fact. I feel alive. Energized. Filled with infinite possibilities, like I can do anything. I struggle to get my bearings, make sense of my situation. With the absence of any light, I have a definite feeling of barrenness. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a small glowing light, minuscule in relation to the vastness and emptiness of the black void.
I zoom in on the light source and squint to obtain a more focused view. The more I concentrate, the more the light expands. It appears to be coming toward me. It’s circular, like the light projected from a torch. It’s moving closer now and at high speed, with definite colors appearing. It’s a circular rainbow, floating, swirling in a clockwise motion, suspended amidst the black nothingness.
What is this? It’s divine. It looks like a whirlpool of sorts, spinning vertically and moving towards me. The word “vortex” echoes throughout my mind. The whole structure has maneuvered itself right in front of me, occupying my whole field of view. An enormous swirling rainbow—a vortex containing every color within the spectrum. Violet is the outside layer, then indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and a red center, all twirling in unison. Colors so vivid and real and dense, yet somehow translucent, with each color blending seamlessly into the next. When I focus on one color, it appears to have a depth that goes on forever.
It’s difficult to put into words. It’s such a magical scene in front of me—one you might see in a science fiction movie or an image from the Hubble Space Telescope. Such beauty I have never witnessed before! It’s magnificent and takes my breath away. I have a very strange feeling, a sense that all the secrets of the universe are contained within this place.
I wonder what it would be like to touch. With that thought, I find myself drifting at high speed towards the vortex. I’m up against the violet perimeter. How magical! What a rush. Raising my hand and placing it slowly into the violet, I’m reminded of my girlhood, playfully placing my hand into the light of an old movie projector. I watch my hand enter and notice it appears in full flesh tint and not tinged at all with any violet hue. The energy emanating from this gloriously powerful structure is palpable, and my hand is tingling with pins and needles. I’m aware of every cell being ionized.
My heart is racing. The vortex is mesmerizing, sending me into an almost trancelike state. A euphoric smile blossoms upon my face. Desperately wishing to see more, I’m overwhelmed by a strange sensation of being pulled—no, willed—forward. It’s magnetic. Something is luring me towards the center.
I look and see the next color is indigo. I release my hand from the violet and wonder what indigo feels like. Again, with just that thought, my body glides sideways through the ether and I’m in front of the indigo. Fascinating! What fun! Without hesitating, I slowly ease my fingertips inside. The energy shift is subtle but noticeable. The pins and needles sensation is slightly amped up. As I embed my hand further into the indigo mass, I stare in disbelief as the outline and shape of my hand begins to transform. My once feminine hand, with slender fingers and manicured nails, becomes masculine—thick, strong, tanned, and covered in curly, blond hair, the digits terminating in short, square-cut fingernails!
In shock, I snap my hand out from the indigo and watch as it instantly changes back to my own feminine hand. I examine it once again in detail and pay close attention as I plunge it back into the indigo. I gasp in wonder. My goodness, it changes like a chameleon in front of my very eyes! No doubt it: I am indeed looking at a man’s hand. Even though this is not my hand, it seems familiar to me. The more I focus on the structure and shape, the more I feel I have seen this hand before. Whose hand is this? What is happening? What is this place? This can’t be real, but I feel only insatiable curiosity within its presence, not fear. A spark has been ignited.
In seeming slow motion, I pull my hand out of the indigo and gaze toward the next color in the rainbow vortex. It’s blue. I wonder what will happen if I put my hand inside? Will I be male? Female? As before, with that thought alone, and without moving a single muscle, my whole body shifts, placing me directly in front of the blue. I take a deep breath and slowly ease my fingertips into the blue and immediately feel a definite shift in energy. This time it’s more electrifying. My fingertips are buzzing; I can hear the sound, as if a bee were present within this structure. My fingers are irresistibly dragged inside, followed immediately by the rest of my hand.
I’m stunned as once again it takes on the shape of yet another male hand but different in size and skin color to that in the indigo. This time my skin is pale and not as hairy; this hair is much finer and quite dark. Amazing. The same feeling washes over me that I felt in the indigo—that eerie sensation I’ve seen this hand before. Definite déjà-vu happening.
The insides of my body are now swirling in harmony with the vortex. A million butterflies are dancing in a clockwise motion throughout my whole being, mirroring the swirling rainbow in front of me. I examine in detail the finer points of this male hand. Delicate, long, thin fingers. Not only does my whole hand now feel like it’s shaking, but there’s also a definite warmth, as if I’m warming it in front of a fire. I am so excited now. The energy radiating from this majestic vortex is electric. The atmosphere scintillated with that feeling you get when you sense something amazing is going to happen, but you don’t know what. Anticipation on steroids is the only way to describe it.
I feel a stronger pull toward the center of the vortex, as if my hand has its own desires. It’s like a drug, and I have no control over it. It has total power over my whole being, over every sense. The most powerful magnet in existence is begging me to discover more, and willing me to its core.
Before I know it, my hand is making its way from the blue and is teetering on the edge of the green. The allure is too much for my willpower to resist. There I am, rendered speechless; my hand, fully entrenched in the green, takes on the appearance of an aged woman’s gnarled paw, the fingers skeletal, the dirt-ridden fingernails yellowed and pointed, like claws. The hands of a woman who has lived a life of hard labor.
I cannot comprehend what is happening. The swirling inside me accelerates. Millions more butterflies flutter throughout my body. The heat and the pressure within my hand is becoming unbearable. With all my might I yank my hand free from the clutches of the green.
My heart is jackhammering in my chest and sweat gushes from every pore of my body. I’m overcome with the power and magnitude of the energy field in front of me. Just as I’m about to faint, as swiftly as it had shown itself to me, it vanishes, and I’m once again left floating amidst the black. Mouth agape, devoid of all thought and feeling, I meld with nothingness.
The Coming To
I open my eyes with a start and gasp. I sit bolt upright and proclaim passionately, “HOW CAN ONE BE SHOWN THE LIGHT IF THEY HAVE ONLY EVER KNOWN THE LIGHT? IT IS ONLY WHEN THE LIGHT IS SWITCHED OFF THAT DARKNESS ABOUNDS. IT CAN TAKE MANY YEARS, LIFETIMES EVEN, TO RECLAIM ONE’S PLACE BACK AMONGST THE LAND OF THE AWAKENED.”
I raise my hands and bring them together in front of my face, fingertips touching, thumbs overlapping each other to form an X. I then place them against my forehead and bow.
A nurse monitoring my vitals reacts to my outburst by calling for the doctor, who is standing nearby with another patient.
“Doctor! She’s awake!”
Dr. Maclean Curran rushes over and gently places his hand underneath the back of my head, guiding it back to the pillow.
“Shhh, it’s okay now, Aurora. I’m Dr. Curran. You’re in the Intensive Care Unit at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx. You’ve been in a car accident and suffered severe head trauma. You were brought here a few weeks ago and placed in an induced coma until your brain swelling receded. Do you know your full name?”
He waits for a reply, but I can’t quite remember and stare at him blankly.
“That’s okay. There’s no hurry. Just relax. It’ll take a little while to come around.”
Dr. Curran is a giant of a man, like my Ron, well over six feet tall, with very broad shoulders. He speaks with a subtle Scottish accent. Red hair so thick you wonder how he would ever get a comb through it, and dark, brooding eyes that echo on forever.
Judging from the hustle and bustle I glimpse in the hallway, Dr. Curran and his staff run what might be the busiest ICU in New York City. He holds up a small flashlight and states he is going to peek into my eyes; he asks me to look at his finger that he holds out a few centimeters away from my nose.
My mouth feels like it’s full of cotton. My tongue, heavy as an anvil, has a mind of its own. When I speak, I’m aware my speech is profoundly slurred, which embarrasses me.
“Men chas-hing my car—tuh-ribble crash!”
The visions of the accident come flooding back and envelop all my senses. The sharp screech of the brakes and the deafening reverberation of metal crumbling all around me replaying throughout my head. I have never heard anything like it in all my life.
What the hell is happening to me? Why am I saying all this stuff that means nothing to me? Screaming back at the men shooting at me. Waking up from a deep sleep where that incredible vortex swirls and sprouting prose that makes no sense at all?
Attempting to disappear, I hold my hands up and mask my eyes, burying my face in the darkness of my palms. There is no escape. No answers.
“Help me! Shum-body help me! What’s go-hing on?”
I begin crying uncontrollably. Dr. Curran moves to the other side of my bed and is tending to the tubes in my wrist, which my thrashing about has threatened to dislodge. In a flash, I shift into nothingness.
Ron rushes into the room and the nurse quickly cuts him off.
“I ran into Dr. Curran in the hallway,” I hear him say. “He said she’d regained consciousness. How is she?”
“She’s been mostly sleeping but is waking here and there so you may be able to speak with her, but quietly, and be very gentle. And please, no questions about the accident. Do I make myself clear?” Ron nods his understanding. “She was pretty rattled when she came to, shouting something about a light and the land of something or other. She’s doing better now and seems to be stabilizing.”
Ron has been anxiously waiting for me to wake up and has hardly left my bedside, the nurse relayed to me a little earlier, and Dr. Curran has filled him in on all the details of my brain injury and recovery. But, as with all brain injuries, they are never quite sure what damage has been done, and I’ve yet to hear the reassuring words “she’ll be back to normal in no time” spoken.
I’d know Ron’s cologne—Paco Rabanne—from a mile away. As it’s my favorite, it’s all he’s ever worn since we’ve been together.
I’ve been under heavy sedation since waking earlier that morning and I’m feeling a lot more relaxed now. The cottony feeling in my mouth has gone away; my tongue no longer feels like an anvil. In conversing with the nurse, I’ve discovered by sheer force of will—and if I enunciate my words deliberately—I can control my slurred speech to the point it sounds almost normal. A halting quality remains, however, as I sometimes find it necessary to gulp between phrases.
“Hi, darling. How … are you?”
“Hello, sweetheart. You had me so worried and scared.” He kisses me gently on the cheek, lingering slightly, and avoiding the tubes coming in and out of practically everywhere. “I’m so happy to see you awake. My goodness, what would I ever do without you!”
He sits down on the chair next to my bed and takes hold of my hand, gently caressing it. Ron is so loving and thoughtful. He is always very attentive and caring, asking me how my day was, and if there’s anything he could do to make it better and happier. It’s so wonderful to see his face. However, he looks tired. Gaunt. Dark circles are visible under his eyes, which is to be expected after what he’s been through. It must have been very distressing for him, not knowing whether I was going to pull through.
Ron is the classic businessman—very ambitious—at the office well before everyone else and still there when the cleaners arrive. He’s a commodity trader, upper management level; he talks in numbers, and how they’re acquiring this company and doing this unreal expansion with it or selling it off for profit. One could confuse him with being European from the way he converses, waving his hands around expressively. This enthusiasm, combined with the passion in his eyes and the inflection in his voice, never fails to draw me into his world. Many times, he has commented that even though he knows I don’t quite understand the complexities of his work, he loves me for listening and at least pretending I do.
We met at our local coffee house. He, being a workaholic, and me, an artist, coffee is extremely important to both of us. One would almost say a necessity. We work all hours and regular caffeine hits turn night into day and day into night. I’d seen him in there quite a few times, dressed to the nines in an array of three-piece suits and polished lace-up shoes, and sporting outrageously ostentatious ties.
He’s rather tall—at six feet four, nearly a foot taller than me. Thick, dark hair like George Clooney. Bit of salt starting to encroach on the pepper. Very sexy.
I think it was his selection of ties that first caught my attention. Hard not to notice them really, but color is my thing, being an artist and all, and if a suit is what a man must wear, I like that he chooses for his personality to shine through by his choice of ties. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear the same one twice. Plus, I like people with personality—a bit of spunk.
I, on the other hand, always wear paint-stained jeans and T-shirts, and I seldom wear shoes, except in winter when I wear Converse in all colors and styles—hardly the outfit one would wish to be wearing when meeting the man of your dreams.
One morning when I was lining up for my usual cappuccino, he was on his way out—coffee in one hand, briefcase in the other—and shot a purposeful look in my direction. Once I caught a glimpse of his sparkling green eyes, I was gone. Lost forever in his gaze.
It got to the point where I’d daydream while painting of how we would meet, playing out different scenarios of our first interaction. Little did I know he was doing the same, finally taking the plunge to speak to me one day when we were next to each other in line to order our coffee. He had a plan—if he was ever directly in front of me in line—he would pay for my coffee, hoping it would lead to an introduction, or at least a smile and a thank you.
Well, he got his smile and his thank you—and my phone number. Six months later we are engaged, the wedding planned for a year away.
Now, looking at him in this sterile hospital room, slumped over and barely meeting my gaze, his thoughts seem to be elsewhere.
“How’s work going? Are you … managing to get some sleep?” I’m searching for some surety that he’s okay and looking after himself.
Ron raises his head and manages a wan smile. “Oh, work’s fine. Yes, darling, I am getting some sleep. I don’t want you to worry about me. After all, I’m not the one in the hospital. I hate seeing you in here, all bandaged up and unable to move. And speaking of work, I’ve arranged for some time off…whenever you need me. I just need to let the top brass know when you’re released and it’s all set. They said I can have as much time as I need to get you on your feet again. I’m very keen to get you home and take care of you.”
Ron loves doting on me. The thought of him looking after me full-time sounds heavenly. He reaches out and touches my head daintily as if I am a china doll on the verge of breaking. With his touch I become self-conscious of my appearance. I vaguely remember a nurse telling me earlier I’ve had “quite a haircut,” as they needed access to the deep gashes I sustained when my head had bounced around the car like a ball inside a pinball machine. In fact, my hair was shaved to the skin and, after several weeks, is still short and spiky. I recall being told I’m extremely lucky to be alive.
Ron’s voice interrupts my reverie.
“How are you feeling? Are you in any pain?”
“No, no pain. It’s … all a blur.” Controlling the slurring requires all my concentration, but I must put on a brave face for Ron’s benefit. “I was having these visions earlier. I don’t know why. The doctor put me back to sleep. I’m so confused! I don’t understand … what happened.”
My blood pressure starts to rise and my heart pounds with a pagan rhythm. Panic rises within me as, once again, the footage of the accident loops within my memory.
“There were these men, and—”
Ron stops me, remembering the nurse’s admonishment. “Now, now, we can talk about that later. You need to focus on resting. You’ve had a very nasty accident, darling, and we need you to relax. No more thinking. Just concentrate on breathing, like you do when meditating. Heal. Then we can work out later what happened. The police will need to speak to you at some point, anyway.”
“The police!” I bolt upright, get lightheaded, and drift back down to my pillow slowly, putting my hand on the side of my head. Dizziness overcomes me.
“Shhhh. It’s okay. Just standard procedure for all accidents. You know, for insurance purposes. To see who was at fault.”
In trying to allay my fears, he manages to do the exact opposite.
“I wasn’t at fault! Those men … chased me and hunted me down in their big black car. I don’t know what they were doing … or what they were saying to me. I had done nothing wrong. They could’ve killed me. Ron, they had guns! They … shot at me! Bring the police to me. I want them found and charged!”
I’m exhausted from the effort required to enunciate clearly. The agitation I felt earlier resurfaces and I begin shaking uncontrollably. I start uttering senseless words; Ron panics and calls the nurse over. Before I know it, I’m entering that hazy blackness again.
Darkness envelops me once more like a blanket over my entire body. I remember this place. This is where I saw the swirling rainbow—the vortex. And with that thought, it again reveals itself to me. It startles me and almost takes my breath away. I smile broadly as pure bliss replaces any anxious feelings. I have immediate recall of what happened last time and feel at home here. There’s an abounding peacefulness, as if the vortex and I are friends, meeting again after a long separation. Basking in its magnificent presence, I have full control of my senses and feel no pain whatsoever.
I’m on the outskirts of the rainbow, so I raise my hand up and place it into the violet once more. I see my hand as I know it to be. The pins and needles return. Okay, here we go again! Sliding it into the indigo, my hand changes, as it did before, to a man’s tanned, brawny hand, covered in curly blond hair, with distinctive square-cut fingernails. I extract my hand, marvel for a moment at its reversion to feminine form, and then slide it into the blue. Just as before, it transmogrifies into the other male hand—smaller, with paler skin and fine, dark hair.
The magnetic pull toward the center of the vortex is increasing, as are the vibrations and warmth. Without warning, my hand is being led to the green, and I remember now what happened last time. As my hand enters, I see the change occurring as it reveals an old lady’s hand— gnarled and timeworn, with dirty, claw-like fingernails. It was at this point last time that I withdrew my hand altogether and the vortex disappeared.
I summon the courage to continue this time. As I slowly move my hand towards the yellow, the magnetic pull is so strong that it takes hold of my hand and drags it smack into the middle of the yellow. My jaw almost hits the ground. My hand is twice the size of a normal hand—male again, and much stronger—like the hand of Thor. It is huge. Each finger well defined and muscular, heavily veined. I can’t see any hair, although surely there are some; they must be extremely fine and fair. The heat has intensified yet again. The vibrations are making the hand throb. I can see the blood clearly pumping through the veins.
This is unbelievable! What is happening to me? What is this place? My heart has leapt to my throat, where it beats a furious tattoo. Sweat drenches my top lip and the internal swirls have once again made themselves known to me.
As I study this mammoth hand of mine, turning it over and seeing the heavily lined palm, I get distracted and accidentally move my hand slightly toward the center of the vortex, which takes hold, dragging it further into its maw. My hand now firmly entrenched in the orange’s vice-like grip. I stand frozen in utter disbelief. The vortex has total control over my hand now, and I’m unable to withdraw it. All I can do is stare in bewilderment.
What I’m looking at is not human in any way, shape, or form. My skin is glowing in the most spectacular blue I have ever seen. My fingers are slim and elongated but have no nails or hair. There are hardly any markings or indication of bone structure or veins whatsoever. One could easily mistake it for a blue glove. Its sheer beauty mesmerizes me. Blue has always been my favorite color, but this blue doesn’t exist in the range of colors I have in my paint box. It’s slightly iridescent and translucent. I turn my hand over to look at the palm; it sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight.
I become aware of my breathing slowing down and my heartbeat settling back into its normal rhythm. Even though the heat in my hand is far beyond what I could bear in human form, I’m able to handle it somehow, and I feel no pain. My sweating has also subsided.
I keep my hand very still, lest it be dragged into the center of the vortex, into the red. I have no idea what would happen if I entered the center. Strangely, though, I feel exhilarated and renewed. This is enough for now.
Then a thought comes to me. I have no idea why, but I hear myself saying, “I’ll be back home again soon.”
I’m awakened by a gentle tap on the arm. My sleep-encrusted eyelids slowly open like heavy coffin lids. I see the outline of an imposing figure blocking the sunlight streaming through the window. It’s morning. I’ve slept the whole night through. I blink a few times and my focus returns.
“Aurora, are you awake?”
“Oh, good morning, Doctor. What a night! I have been having the most … amazing dreams.”
I try to string words together, but part of me still feels left in the rainbow vortex. I need time to think about what I’d experienced there.
“How are you feeling? Are you in any pain?” His tone is one of complete and utter compassion.
“No, not much.”
“Good. Now, I understand you are experiencing a bit of trauma and anxiety. That is to be expected after such a horrific event. I want you to know you are in the best of hands here and are being monitored around the clock. Do you feel well enough to talk about your condition?” He is very soft and gentle in his asking.
“Yes.” I manage to sit up a bit. I grimace a little at the tenderness around my chest and neck area and take it very slowly. Dr. Curran carefully arranges a few pillows behind my head so that I’m not lying flat on my back, and more at his eye level. He hands me a glass of water that I gratefully accept with a painful smile. I take a small sip through a straw.
“Where’s Ron?” I ask, suddenly aware he isn’t at my bedside.
“Hmm, I’m not sure; I’ll check with the nurse. He may have gone home to get a good night’s sleep, knowing you’re out of your coma finally.”
Dr. Curran takes my chart from the holder at the foot of the bed. He then settles his tall frame into the clunky bedside chair and does his best to get comfortable. Steepling his long fingers, he addresses me in a voice at once professional and empathetic.
“Now, when you came in, you presented with a number of injuries. Most notably, you were unconscious. You suffered multiple scalp wounds due to broken glass and sustained some severe deep gashes in both of your legs. We did an MRI that shows a cross-section of your brain, and we did an EEG that measures electrical activity. We also did a full-body X-ray to accurately determine the location and extent of any other injuries. Fortunately, there were no breaks or fractures present. When you sat up you experienced discomfort from the severe bruising across your chest and neck area from your seatbelt. It’s a fairly common condition resulting from motor vehicle accidents, and you’ll be quite tender in that region for a while.
“You’ve suffered what is termed a diffuse axonal injury or DAI, which is caused by the shaking or strong rotation of the head. Most severe automobile accidents, such as the one you were in, are often the cause of this type of brain injury. When the head is thrown about, the unmoving brain lags behind the movement of the skull, causing brain structures to tear. This tearing of the nerve fibers results in the dying of cells and swelling in the brain, which caused you to be unconscious, and can lead to a disruption in nerve communications, affecting a person’s physical and cognitive abilities. We placed you in an induced coma until the swelling receded, which it has.”
Pausing, he smiles and touches my arm. “Are you following me so far?”
Dr. Curran has a pleasant bedside manner. I feel very safe in his obviously capable hands.
“Yes, Doctor. Please … continue.”
“It appears the part of your brain that was affected the most is the occipital lobe. This is located at the back of the head, above the cerebellum. There was no need for any surgery, although it was necessary to shave your head, to gain access to the open wounds on your scalp. You received sixty-nine self-dissolving stitches that are healing nicely, and around the same number in your legs. In fact, your legs suffered the worst I’m afraid. Some of the wounds were very deep, particularly in your thighs, and will take quite some time to heal.
“With your particular brain injury, more than 90 percent of patients remain in a persistent vegetative state, so we were all anxiously awaiting any kind of sign you were still with us. I must say, to hear you speaking quite clearly is a positive sign.”
“That’s good news,” I reply, keeping to myself the tremendous effort it requires to control this impediment. He smiles and continues.
“Some patients who suffer an injury to the occipital lobe experience severe vision loss or total blindness. You may have some defects in vision, difficulty with locating objects in the environment, or difficulty with identifying colors. Production of hallucinations and visual illusions are also very common, as is the difficulty in recognizing drawn objects, and reading and writing. This could explain the visions or dreams you say you’re having.
“Now, I understand you’re an artist, Aurora. Let’s hope that you haven’t suffered any permanent damage to your vision. We would hate for you to lose your precious gift for bringing beauty into the world. Do you understand this information? I know it’s a lot to take in.”
“Yes, I … I think so.”
My gaze strays to the IV I’m hooked up to. Dr. Curran sees this and remarks, “You’re on a morphine drip, Aurora. It’s currently set at four-hour intervals. This makes it easy to administer medication for your pain, and to ease your anxiety. The best thing for you right now is to remain calm and rest. The more you sleep, the faster you’ll heal.”
He notices my deep breaths and tries to allay my fears.
“The main thing is you’re alive and the physical traumas you’ve suffered will just take time to heal. Now that you’ve totally regained consciousness, I’ll arrange to move you to the recovery wing. You appear to be out of the danger zone, and I’m pretty confident in your full recovery.”
Dr. Curran rises and replaces my chart at the foot of the bed. My eyes dart all over the place. I want to ask a question but am a bit hesitant. He senses I have something else to say.
“Do you have any questions?” he asks.
I nod and try to think of how to put it. I have so many questions. Will I be okay? Will I return to normal? Why were those men following me? Has he spoken to the police? Do they have any leads? Am I safe in this hospital? What if those men try to find me? Why do I suddenly start ranting about weird things like “light” and “darkness” and “the land of the awakened’—whatever that means! What are the long-term effects of the type of brain injury I have suffered? What drugs are you giving me—beyond the morphine—that take me to that magical place with the rainbow vortex?
Finally, I come up with: “I have the feeling there is … something I’m forgetting. Do you think I suffered any kind of … memory loss in the accident?”
“I’m not sure, Aurora. How about we give you some time to fully wake up and regain your senses? Take it slowly, of course. Baby steps. But from what I’m seeing here today, you’re showing some remarkable signs of recovery. You must be very resilient and have a strong will to live.” A broad smile on his kind face reveals obvious relief I’m doing so well.
I smile back, his words having given me hope. I’m positive I’m going to make a full recovery. Time is all I need.
“Now, it’s been quite a while since you’ve had anything to eat. Do you think you could stomach some food?”
“Yes, food! Sounds … good.”
“Great. I’ll have the nurse order you a tray. Then I’ll see if I can track Ron down, too. Now promise me you’ll rest.”
A smile flickers upon my face. “I will, Doctor.”
“That’s a good girl. I’ll check on you later, Aurora.”
As Dr. Curran leaves the room, I sink back into my pillow. Absorbing all that information has sapped the energy out of me. At the same time, I’m aware of the pain in my legs, head, and chest subsiding rapidly. I look at the drip running from my arm to a clear plastic bag connected to a silver pole. I notice tiny droplets running through the thin, see-through tubes. It must be dosage time.
I close my eyes, my smile fading along with the relaxation of my face, and with a few deep breaths, I’m back in the black.
When I finally wake, dusk is falling. I’ve been out for hours, and during that time I’ve been moved out of the ICU. They must have been very gentle with me, as I don’t remember a thing. So, this must be the recovery wing, and I’m blessed to have a private room all to myself. I also have a window with a view to the outside world. How marvelous! It’s just light enough outside so I can see another wing of the hospital opposite mine. A few stars are beginning to twinkle, and I see a glimmer of the moon rising on the distant horizon.
I hear trolleys being wheeled around but I’m still a tad groggy and hazy in my thought process, and drifting in and out that now very familiar morphine-induced fog. As I begin slipping back into that serene dream state, a uniformed lady enters my room holding a tray of food.
“THE MOON. IT WAXES AND WANES. LOSES ITSELF IN LIGHT ONLY TO SHINE AT FULL STRENGTH AGAIN AMIDST THE DARKNESS. INFLUENCING EVERYTHING IN ITS WAKE. THE TIDES. ALL BEINGS. MOTHER GAIA. DARKNESS COMES AND GOES BUT THE MOON ALWAYS REMEMBERS TO SHINE. NAMASTE.”
Once again, I find myself posing as before, head bowed and hands together, touching my forehead. I proclaim this free verse out of nowhere. The words flow effortlessly, in sharp contrast to the effort my standard speech now requires. The dinner lady stands in front of me, betraying no emotion. She’s probably seen all kinds of weird things in this hospital and makes no comment about my “performance.”
“Feel like eating a little something, honey?” she asks pleasantly.
Famished, I snap out of my daze. “Oh! Yes, please,” I say to the lovely lady.
She smiles, her wide mouth displaying perfect white teeth. Her blue eyes sparkle. She places the tray of food down on my tray table and slides it across my lap, gently helping me sit up with some pillows behind my back for support.
“Easy does it,” she says as she pushes the table further in.
What a nice lady. I’m sure this goes way beyond her duties as the dinner lady, and I’m very thankful. “You are too kind.”
Another glowing smile surfaces. “My pleasure, honey. Enjoy your meal.” Then, as quickly as she appeared, she’s gone.
Totally forgetting what I had just prattled on about the moon, I long for the taste of something scrumptious, even if it is hospital food. Mmm, now what do we have here! There’s a bowl of fruit salad, a cup of vanilla yogurt, and some orange juice. Okay, a nice start. I take a deep breath, pick up the spoon and start on the yogurt. I take small mouthfuls, swirling the deliciousness very slowly around my tongue and swallowing gently.
“Not bad,” I murmur to myself.
How long has it been since food has graced my lips! The last meal I remember having was with Ron, right before the accident. We’d gotten together to celebrate … my meeting! Oh, no, I can’t believe this! If this accident has ruined my chances of an exhibition, I will be so angry.
My mind drifts back to my decision to leave Australia after completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the most prestigious selective art college in Paddington, Sydney, and taking the leap of faith to move to the Big Apple in order to make art my fulltime career.
I’ll never forget the first time I opened the doors to my studio space in the East Village. I’d shelled out almost every cent I’d saved to pay the rent well in advance, which was just doable if I could secure a menial part-time job in the evenings, which I was lucky enough to get shortly after arriving.
Harking back to those heady days, I can just about make out the smell of fresh paint as I examined my new workspace, a little over a year ago now. I relive in sheer joy and exhilaration that moment all over again as I take in the dimensions of the typical loft warehouse—not too big, not too small. Golden sunlight streams through the oversized casement windows, hitting the wide plank floorboards in checkerboard fashion, shadowing pipelines that jut out along the industrial style roofline. Remnants of a previous tenant—another artist, in fact—are still present in some areas of the flooring. I imagined they had moved into larger premises after several successful exhibitions, and I heartily endeavored to follow in their footsteps. Such excitement filled the air! The countless hours of hoping and wishing, coupled with the work required that lay ahead of me, filled me with breathless anticipation. Oh, the marvelous pieces I would create! The art world would soon sing the praises of Aurora Knightley! Many wannabes had this fantastical dream, of course, but I was going to make it come true.
Painting totally captivated me. Pushing paint around various sizes of canvas in order to convey a certain emotion consumed my every waking thought. Color is intoxicating and breathtaking, and nothing gave me greater pleasure than mixing any number of color combinations on my grainy wooden palette bequeathed to me by my great aunty, a relatively successful artist in her own right. Holding the stiff utensil gently in my lap, my thumb protruding through the palette’s hole, I’d fall into a trance until satisfied I had mixed the color my soul craved to represent my affection of the moment.
Whether it be expressions of delight and joy, complexity and balance, or zest and audaciousness, sensually curvaceous strokes were ushered onto the canvas like patrons into theatre seats. Lines caressed into place with the tender care of a lover’s touch on a cheek. Such was the desire that had long held me a faithful companion to the king of all mediums in my humble opinion—painting.
Sinking back into my pillow, I relished the memories of the past year, as I delved into each day from sunup to moonlight glow to my soul’s delight to bring my fantasies into fruition, reveling in the time I had to nurture the relationship with whatever subject that had entranced me and driven me to distraction.
The relationship with my canvases took full priority, even above my yearnings and longing for a male suitor—a companion that held the same esteem for my passion as did I, so we could dance to the rhythm together in our studio.
Periodically during brief moments of restlessness, and usually coinciding with whatever holiday was being celebrated in the outside world, I wondered whether I would ever find such a companion. One who matched me completely in all the ways that matter. Not in the ways of the common folk, but according to my wants and desires. Ways I had lately come to think of more in terms of needs. Needs buried so deep that I traveled through many manic states of highs and depressive states of lows to find my way out—and the only way I knew how to do that was to paint. Feverishly, endlessly, tirelessly, with the devotion one has in the very early stages of seduction.
I had always considered myself completely satisfied—whole, one would say. A fiercely independent character who’s totally free to indulge in one’s passion, such that it was most unwelcome to receive persistent nudges seemingly coming from nowhere, forcing me to entertain the notion that, indeed, I was not completely satisfied after all.
I put it down to the usual biological clock-ticking notion that most women adhere to, but after many, many months of searching within my heart and soul, determined to discover what I was seeking, I came to the only conclusion I could. Much to my disbelief, it was something painting—the king of my world—could not provide. No matter how realistic my brush strokes, the image on the canvas could never reach out, like a flesh and blood human, and touch me.
Little did I know, it was by entertaining this scenario that I had subconsciously broadcast to the universe the energetic signals of desiring a partner. It was not long after reaching that conclusion that Ron had asked for my phone number. The fact Ron was a businessman and didn’t fit my initial requirements for a suitor never entered my mind. When people commented that he and I were from two different worlds—the artist from Oz and the button-down businessman—we would quote the usual cliché, “opposites attract,” in defending our compatibility.
I came late to the art college party, and at twenty-eight, was considered a mature age, especially at an art college where daily nude performance art pieces during lunchtime were considered the norm. I did feel oddly out of place, although my solitary existence didn’t hinder my creative performance—fully clothed though I was—and three years later I graduated with honors.
I never regretted one minute having made the decision to study, and the day I left my former life as a desktop publisher in the corporate world behind, and went out on my own, was the happiest day of my life. I’m so happy to finally be doing what I love and am good at and being solely responsible for the results I achieve.
Many nights Ron and I would lie in bed talking about our future and our hopes and dreams for ourselves and as a couple.
I recall with crystal clarity the night he proclaimed: “I absolutely want you to stay at home and look after our children and be able to paint and create, without any stress. It will be my honor.” He beamed with pride at being able to do this for me.
I’m not a materialistic person and having traveled clear across the globe chasing a will-o’-the-wisp, I haven’t weighed myself down with too many possessions. Pretty much everything I own is in my studio. I’ve let go of all the baggage of the past and am looking forward to my future with Ron. He loves that I’m finally able to make a go of life and give it my all, submerged in my passion.
“It takes real guts to go after what you want in life,” Ron affirms to the naysayers who hassle me after I reveal what I do for a living. So many people are quick to put in their unwanted opinion and tell me why it isn’t going to work—that art is a career for the chosen few. Ron always defends me by saying, “Working a nine-to-five job for the Man is easy. Taking that leap of faith and putting your heart and soul into your own business, doing what you love to do, involves tremendous courage and sacrifice.” He finds it all very exciting and wishes he had “the balls”—as he calls it—to do it himself, but he is happy being the provider in our relationship until I’m able to support myself, a reality hopefully not that far off.
Ron has brought so much pleasure into my life; one moment not too long ago flashes before me for my viewing pleasure. I was painting away, oblivious to the fact day had faded to night, my studio’s fluorescent lighting fooling me into thinking it was still light out. I was singing along to the radio when Ron surprised me by swinging past my studio on his way home from work. He’d brought Chinese food.
He knew how busy I was, concentrating on getting the current series of paintings finished, in the hopes of getting an exhibition, and knew I would often forget to eat. I didn’t see or hear him enter the studio; the radio was blaring such that I could hardly hear myself singing above it. I don’t know how long he was standing there, but when I finally noticed him, he had the biggest grin on his face. Having finally caught my attention, he walked over to me and took me in his arms, and we danced for the rest of the song, whereupon the delicious aroma of Chinese food wafting throughout the space reminded us both we were starving. We sat cross-legged on the floor, eating, laughing, and talking of our respective day’s highlights. It was such a pure and simple pleasure, one of sharing a meal together and enjoying each other’s company. We’ve crammed many beautiful memories into such a short amount of time.
But now my focus needs to be on getting strong and healthy. All I can do is take it one day at a time, and I will be fine. Better than fine, in fact. Dr. Curran is confident in my full recovery, and so am I. This accident will not ruin any of my plans. It’s just a small delay, that’s all. I’m determined to stay positive and get back on track. I can do this.
As I sink further into the pillow, another dose of morphine begins to trickle through the IV drip, and I float back into the black.
NEXT CHAPTER…THE VIOLET
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In joy xo