After the ritual, there was a blinding flash and everything began to fade. “I’m dying”, Dr. Graves thought. There was a part of him that knew that the ritual was successful, they had completed what they had set out to do. For the first time since the nightmare had begun, he felt peace and let the blackness take him…
Dr. Graves opened his eyes. Disoriented and confused, he blinked his eyes and turned his head, trying to clear the think cobwebs from his mind. He was laying in an unfamiliar bed. Looking around the room, he found himself in what appeared to be in a cabin. His clothes were cleaned and folded neatly on a wooden chair next to the bed. He heard small noises of movement from the adjacent room, coming in through the open door way.
Sliding quietly out of bed, Dr. Graves picked up the only thing in the room that he could use as an improvised weapon: a medium sized ceramic wash basin from the nightstand. Clad in only his boxers shorts, Graves slid through the doorway, warily. Standing at a kitchen sink was a woman, her back turned to the archeologist. Her jet black hair was in a ponytail and she wore yoga pants and a sweatshirt. To Dr. Graves, her suburban-mom look seemed out of place in the rustic cabin.
“That’s an antique, and I’d kindly ask you to treat it with care, please.” She spoke without as much as a glance towards the doorway. Graves slowly lowered the bowl. “Besides, if I meant you harm, I’d not have spent so much time cleaning you up and tending to your injuries.” The woman turned and sized him up. “Well?” she asked.
“Ummm…” Dr. Graves was unsure what the question was, or how to answer. “Is this…you know…the afterlife…or Heaven…or whatever?” The woman laughed at this and said, “Heaven? No, I’m afraid not. You are on the rez, a guest of the Navajo Nation.”
“Well, I guess you probably have a lot of questions. I have a few of my own, as well. Let me get us some coffee and we’ll see what we can figure out.”
- *************** *****************
Her name is Mara. She is 33 years old and a business intelligence analyst (whatever that was) before the end of the world. She had a family, but lost them during the first few days of The Event, as she calls it, but doesn’t seem willing to talk much about them. She returned to the reservation and has been living in the family cabin since the early days. At first she survived on the stash of food that she found. Later though her people’s sheep and small farms allowed them to take care of their own.
She explains that she found Dr. Graves battered and unconscious near Black Creek where she gets water from. There were no footprints, no sign of where you came from, she explains, like he just appeared from thin air.
Dr. Graves is hesitant to explain much at first but decides there is little risk in telling the truth. He tells her everything, from the first dangerous days in Tehachapi, the time spent at the ostrich farm, the deadly fight with Michael’s Army, the Rosicrucian’s and the knowledge that he gained from them, the Book, their tortuous captivity and Joanne’s death at the hands of the neo-Aztecs, and the final ritual. He related the battle with a giant bloated reptilian creature, all the while he, Voorman and Alejandro desperately tried to complete the ritual. Then a blinding flash, the release of an incredible amount of power…and then nothing. He explains that he doesn’t remember anything after the ritual and has no idea how he got from Felicity to the Window Rock on the Arizona-New Mexico border 500 miles away. To his surprise, she mentions that this area used to be known only by its ceremonial name Niʼ Ałníiʼgi which means “Center of the World”. During their conversations Dr. Graves also realizes that the date does not match up with what he remembers. Then the biggest shock – it is over three years after the ritual in Felicity. It is not clear whether he was flung into the future or passed the time in some sort of limbo.
Dr. Graves spends the next few months in the cabin, helping Mara with the daily work and slowly regaining his strength. During that time he was contacted via Sending by Christopher Voorman. His mentor and superior had a similar experience but found himself in Georgia. That was the first of many conversations with Voorman. Soon he was contacted by Imperator Gray, and George Cox the regent of the San Jose Grand Lodge. Among other things he learned that the Rosicrucians had promoted him and Alejandro to the rank of Equestrian posthumously. Voorman had been raised to Tribune. Voorman had been in contact with Alejandro and the remaining band members also, and he communicated with other members of the group.
It was harder than he expected when he sat Mara down to explain that he would be leaving to return to the Rosicrucians in California. He asked her to come with him, but she politely declined, explaining that this was her home and she didn’t want to leave it. Dr. Graves was surprised at how hard it was to leave. He even considered staying with Mara, perhaps indefinitely, but the sense of duty to the Rosicrucians and a desire to see his friends and companions someday was too much to live with. With a final goodbye, Dr. Graves began the long journey to home. He traveled west and stayed some time in a Rosicrucian safe house in Las Vegas until there was a group to travel with the rest of the way to San Jose. Once he arrived at Rosicrucian Park, there were many questions for Graves, but very few answers.