She began to draw in the sand above the riverbed; she arced the dowsing rod in a slow spiral. Next to the spiral she carved several characters – symbols in language that Miles found somehow familiar, but he could not imagine why. The language disturbed him; it penetrated deeply through him and nuzzled a tender, uncomfortable part of his mind. The woman continued speaking, seemingly unaware of his growing unease.
“The ground began to swell and shake, and the sea began to boil. And one man rose above the tide, and lashed out with furious anger. ‘I have built a temple of worship; fall to your knees and praise me.’ And as he walked he gathered his flock – those who were not strong enough to fight him – and he poisoned the blood of the earth, and everything in his wake fell to bone and ash.”
The woman continued scratching madly as she rambled on, the shapes and symbols stretching out at her feet. Miles felt the blood drain from his face. A cold chill trembled down his spine.
“This city is unique in many ways. It was built in a still place’, in a place where no currents cross it. It is disconnected, completely free of the web, the network of energy. There are other cities like it, but the phenomenon is rare. This riverbed is the line between two places. It is called the grey, where one may look across the threshold into the light. But you must be cautious. How is the phrase: know that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.”
Through this monologue Miles remained silent, stunned by the woman who gracefully balanced the line between madness and sanity. Her color flickered while she spoke, red and orange as her voice rose, and then cold blue and back to white. He tried to calm his own racing mind, tried to bridge the gap between their minds and find out who she was and what she wanted. She was closed off to him, barricaded; either she was a veritable black hole or she was very, very powerful. Miles found he was surprisingly off-balance, uncertain of his own strength. Miles closed off his mind, forcing himself to focus, but the lines on his face betrayed his worried mind.
“Who are you?” he said, his voice almost a whisper.
He felt the smile in her voice before he saw it. “A nomad, like yourself. Someone looking for answers – only I’ve been looking for a very long time.” She paused. “I know you chose this place because it is quiet, because here you can pretend you are free.”
Something inside Miles snapped. He whirled around and faced the woman.
“I am tired of this. What the fuck do you–”
The woman was fast, much faster than Miles expected. She touched his temple and his head snapped back, jolted with a bolt of electric energy. He cried out in pain and stumbled, the wind knocked from him completely. “What... who are you?” he breathed heavily.
“I told you,” the woman said, but she was clearly affected by the exchange as well. She had a distant look about her, as though she was experiencing something neither of them could see. “I am much like you. I am a sensitive.”
“I am an old woman, and I have watched this world for a long time; watched, and waited. It is a cruel world, but it does not have to be. Men make it cruel; of this you are acutely aware. Men, and their greed for power. There is bad blood in the veins of the world, and it must be cut out. I am dying, Miles. I haven’t the strength to fight this battle. I wish I could fight by your side, but those days are long gone. You will not be alone, though. A man – a burly, clumsy man – will join you. He has a good heart.” She smiled at something Miles apparently could not see. “And the woman–” Her smiled widened, and her eyes twinkled.
“The woman?” Miles muttered curiously.
“The woman from your dreams. The pretty one. She is coming. She will find you here.”
“How do you–” he began, but the woman was not stopping. She spoke to him, but spoke as though she was dictating a message, as if Miles was not standing right in front of her. Her eyes lost their focus, and when she spoke she was breathless, as though delivering this message was sapping what energy she had left.
“He is rebuilding the engine, Miles. He is trying again. He cannot succeed. You must go home; you will learn of what you have lost, and what you have gained. Your father – he is waiting for you. And then…"
The woman stopped, her eyes regained their focus and locked onto Miles, paralyzing him. Her mouth dropped open. She was suddenly very visibly afraid.
“He already has you. I am too late. He is watching.” The woman looked near tears, then turned and ran. Her voice trembled as she fled. “You are beyond my help. God be with you, child! God be with us all.”
She scaled the embankment with surprising grace. The driver waited with the door open, and the car swiftly pulled away. Miles watched the two strangers leave, completely unmoving.
Miles was alone on the beach, and for reasons he could not quite explain, he was suddenly very afraid.