Minerva was half-way home when she felt something strange over come her. It was a sensation in her middle, like hunger, but she knew that feeling well enough to know that it wasn’t a spate of hunger which had beset her. She slowed her already leisurely pace and leaned against an ice-coated chain link fence for support should her body decide to weaken any further. She looked around to see if anyone had noticed her, but there was no one around her. She was in a mostly industrialized area, so no houses lined the streets and the industries that did were old and abandoned long ago. The block was quiet except for the rustle of the wind and distant sounds of life and activity.

She started forward again when she was certain that she would not fall and then came to a stop when she realized with horror what was wrong.

Looking at her wrists, she saw that one of her bracelets was missing. Before panic could set in, she thought back to where she could possibly have lost it. After double checking her pockets to see if it had slipped off in them, she rewound her every step in her mind from the time she awoke and left her house to the second that she became aware of its absence. Then, she knew.

She looked around herself, and recalled that she had passed telephone booth two blocks back. She ran to it, barely touching the ground as she did so, thanks to the aid of a friendly zephyr that happened to be going her way.

She pulled a dollar coin from her pocket and dropped it in the slot. The phone lit up and asked her for the number or the person. "RRR Environmental."

"One moment please…"

The phone dialed and a woman answered. "RRR Environmental Consultants. How may I direct your call?"

"I am looking for Joel Goldstein. Is he there?"

"No, he isn’t. I am expecting him shortly. Would you like his voice mailbox?"

"Can I leave a message with you?"

It sounded like the woman sighed. "Okay…"

"Can you tell him that Minerva Snow called."

"Is that it?"

"And that it’s very important that I speak with him."

"Do you have a call back number?"

"Yes, this one, please."

"Which is?"

"Ummm..." She looked over the phone from top to bottom, but she couldn’t find a number. "I don’t know where it is."

This time, the woman did sigh. "Well, when you find it, call back." And she hung up.

Minerva frowned as she continued to search for the number. She couldn’t find it, so she left in a huff. She continued homeward, hoping somehow Joel would be able to call her, but since she wasn’t anywhere near a phone and since he didn’t have a number to call back to if she were near a phone, the likelihood was essentially zero. So she started looking for another phone.

She hurried down the street she’d been on when she discovered that her bracelet was lost and the thought of that urged her faster. The idea of the bracelet being out of her possession for even the slightest time was something that made her nervous and even worried. While the bracelet itself was not the most powerful of the charms that she had in her possession, it could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands. And with so much upheaval in the world over the past few years, she wasn’t at all certain that someone or something abound on the world wouldn’t be able to use it for ends that it wasn’t intended.

She came to a school and went to it. It was an ancient building, made of brown bricks and was basically a big, three leveled cube. I tall square smoke stack made of the same brown bricks arose from the top of the building. She scurried around it until she found the steps leading up into the building and quickly mounted them. She tried the door, but it was locked.

She banged on the door with the heel of her hand, the bracelets that remained on her arm jingling like chimes. Nothing happened. She peered through the wire mesh reinforced glass rectangle in the door, but the inside of the building was dark and it was hard to see if anyone was in there. She banged on the door again, and waited, but nothing happened. No one came. She circumnavigated the building again, looking for an alternate entrance, trying all the doors that she came across until…

The door opened, and she, looking around to see if anyone saw her, entered the building.

It was dark as pitch inside and she held the door open for a few seconds, wondering if it were wise for her to continue, but she had to, for she had to know if Joel knew anything about the bracelet. And if he didn’t, then she’d have to think of something else. No matter what and no matter how, she could not allow the bracelet to remain unfound, and out of her possession.

She released the door as she tipped toed into the building, and the door quietly choked off the light until it closed with a click-click, leaving her totally in the dark. The building was warm and muggy and automatically, she decided that she did not like the place. Still, it offered her some chance of being able to communicate with Joel.

Her eyes soon adjusted to the darkness and she saw that she was in the lower level of the building. It hadn’t occurred to her that she had had to go down a flight of steps to try the door to the outside. So she was in the underbelly of the school. From her own experience with her old school, she remembered that the lower parts of school usually hid the power and heating mechanisms. The smell of fuel oil lingering heavy in the air confirmed it.

She hated the smell of petroleum products. Much of what was wrong with the world today was a direct result of it, or of people’s obsession with using it, or controlling it. Too many wars and too many dead was the legacy of the blackness.

She tugged at a charm and whispered something in her ancient language which caused the charm to come to life. People did not realize that the vapors of the petroleum products that the coveted contained the spiritual essence of those things which eventually formed the petroleum. And when they were confined and captured in enclosed spaces, they presented great danger. Scientists would say that the levels in such places that she traversed wouldn’t reach levels where the vapors would ignite and cause fires, but there were still dangers. And not from the toxic nature of those vapors either. Those things were only a cover for the fact that those spiritual essences were angry at having been hauled from their eternal sleep, and lashed out at anything they could out of misery and spite.

People didn’t know that when people died in a petroleum explosion, it was only because the spirits wanted another soul to share in their dread.

She walked through the vapor, feeling the swirling mass of spirits around her. Countless types of animals and plants and things that people had never dared imagine came to her, snarling and gnashing their teeth. But she was protected by her charm and walked through them with ease, albeit with sadness that they had been torn from their slumber.

With almost no warning, a door squealed opened ahead of her, and a rectangle of light formed in the distance. She froze when the light dimmed for a second as a human figure eclipsed it, and then the door squealed closed. She saw that it was a man—a very big man—and that he was lumbering toward her like some colossus.

She started to back away, but she decided to stay right where she was. She didn’t want to alert him to her presence by doing something stupid like bumping into something or tripping over something. That always happened in the movies that she watched.

Sure enough, he opened another door along the corridor and entered, apparently having never noticed her.

She took this chance to dash forward toward where she had been heading prior to the man’s appearance, which happened to be toward where the man had been. She saw the door through which he had disappeared as a rectangular outline from where light spilled. When she saw this, she paused, staring at the thin lines of light that surrounded the door.

She bit her lip, and wheeled away from it as fast as she could and escaped the corridor through the same door that the man had entered. It was much more brightly lit than the other area she was in, but it was still dim, although not nearly as dim as her hopes had become. She didn’t want to believe what she had just seen, but there was no mistaking it. It was sign. A very bad sign. In fact, it was a deadly omen.

She had to talk to Joel now!

She ran down another corridor, slashing through fuel oil odors that would have choked her but for the charm’s protection and found a set of stairs that took her up to the more friendly parts of the building. Before she even reached the top, she heard a number of adult voices, both male and female, discussing the weather conditions and the fact that the school was going to open late because of it. They were not pleasant voices at all. They were agitated due to the weather and their harrowing experience it had been just to get to the school.

She waited until the voices past before finishing her climb to the top of the steps. When she did, she welcomed the sight of brightly lit, clean hallways. The floors sparkled and the air was much fresher than the air in the dungeon. It still had too much of a chemical odor, one that she recognized as disinfectant cleaner, but it didn’t have a millions angry spirits frothing and fuming in it.

She moved down the hallway as quickly and as quietly as she could, searching for the school’s offices. There were no signs to direct her, so she was forced to wander down one hall, up another, down the other and another, until she was back where she started. The cubic building’s hallways were apparently completely open-ended. Yet, she didn’t see any offices.

She moved to a classroom, peered inside, and when she saw it was unoccupied, slipped in. She looked at the walls and on the teacher’s desk, but there wasn’t a sign of a phone anywhere. From her time in school, she never remembered classrooms having telephones in them. When her eyes glanced past the windows, she sae that she was very high. She must have been on the second floor!

She dashed from the room, and found a set of steps that led both up and down, and took the set that headed down. She immediately saw the office, but there were lots of voices coming from it. She didn’t want to take the chance of being seen, so she quickly moved away, and started looking for another place where there might be a phone. And much to her surprise, she found it. Just down the hall and around the corner from the office was a tall rectangular box, with a closable door that said along the top in bold white block letters "TELEPHONE."

She all but jumped into it and closed the door behind her so that any casual glance toward it by some person down the hall or even passing by would not see her as she sat on the booth’s floor. She stood up only long enough to see how much the calls would cost and was shocked that they were free! The tag on the phone even said so. It was an old, old phone, with actual push buttons and everything!

She immediately dialed Joel’s office again. The same woman answered, much to her chagrin.

"Good morning, RRR Environmental Consultants, how may I direct your call?"

"It’s me again. Is Joel there yet?"

"Who’s me?"

"The one who called earlier?"

"Do you have a name?"

"Yes, it’s Minerva."

"Minerva what?"

"Minerva Snow!"

"He’s not here at the moment, would you like me to connect you to his voice mail?"


Unto the Living Earth © 2007 Walter R. Milton