Fear and Frustration

I needed air and warmth. Lots of both. 

The feeling was back. The one I got when I read the pages of a really good book and every single emotion in its words sent a current across my skin. I called it emotional electrocution and it was as physically intense as the worst panic attacks. In seconds, my body would tremble as tears erupted from my eyes and I would be helpless against the thunder of energy roaring throughly entire body. I hated this feeling and I was powerless to stop it. What good was being an empath if I felt it all so intensely? Only on the rarest of occasions did I welcome this sensation. The only thing I could do is jump on my heart and try to ride the waves without falling off. My stomach somersaulted as I stood up and looked at Peter.

"Take a minute," he said.

I nodded and thanked him with my eyes before striding over to the front door and onto the teak deck that ran around the Western side of the house. My eyes paused only briefly at the sight of Karl's red and yellow speedo dangling off the side of the hot tub as I walked towards the edge and an unreasonably stunning vista overlooking Maui's central plain.

Deep breaths. 

Deep. Breaths.

"You forgot this." 

I looked to my left and saw Morgan's outstretched hand, a snifter of her family's finest resting gently in it. "Do you ever get the urge to break out in song," I said as I reached out to accept the glass, "because things are just so fucked up your brain can't come up with a more reasonable way to cope with it?"

"Oh my god, all the time," Morgan said as she moved up to the balcony rail and stood next to me. "I blame fucking Disney. Their cartoon musicals broke the minds of at least four generations. But what's really bothering you?" 

I stared out towards the distant inky blackness that I knew enfolded Iao Valley, unsure more than ever of what I was looking for. "Last week I had a needle shoved into my right eye," I said as I took a sip of the whisky. "This is freaking me out way more than that did."

"To be honest, I find that hard to believe," she said. "Why the eye?"

"Well, a little over two years ago I started to notice a blurry patch in my vision. Given that my livelihood has better results when I can read properly, I was concerned and went to my doctor. He said 'the good news is, we can treat this. The bad news is, you'll have to get a shot in your eye every six weeks or so for several years.'"

"Shit, Joe, that sounds.... Eeeeeeeuuuugggggghhh. Yuck. No. No. No." Morgan made a face like I'd just waved an overused outhouse at a Boy Scout camp under her nose.

"Thing is, I didn't bat an eyelash when he said that. The only thought I had was, 'well at least it isn't a detached retina.' In retrospect, that was a stupid thing to say. It's apparently not too hard to fix a detached retina, but I'm stuck with injections in my eye until things somehow just magically go back to normal."

"Yeah, I think you got the short end there, pal."

"Still, it didn't scare me. My doctor was compelled to point out that I was being far more calm about the whole needle in the eye thing than 99% of his patients. I was just super fucking annoyed and... kind of sad."

"So you're not afraid of needles. That's... a plus?"

I shrugged. "As a kid, I had my blood drawn every three months because of a seizure disorder. Needles were a chore. As I got older, I even started to feel bad for the nurses who had to hunt my forearms for a vein that hadn't already gone into hiding from over-poking. But with my eye? Injections or not, I wasn't scared about the diagnosis at all." 

This was true. None of it really bothered me beyond mild annoyance. I was far more scared when I first noticed the blurry spot than I was when I learned genetic bad luck had caused a vein to corkscrew around my retinal artery. "Though, I will say," I added, "I really don't enjoy the after effects. Sometimes I look like I got punched in the eye. Sometimes I only feel like I was. Sometimes, I don't really feel anything. No two injections have been the same."

Morgan glanced down at her glass. "Well, you're braver than me, then."

I laughed. "Highly doubtful. I'm just not scared about a needle when there's a doctor holding the syringe. This... I don't even know what to call the situation we find ourselves in, is scary as fuck. It's taking every ounce of resolve not to have a full-blown panic attack right now."

"And a a not insignificant number of ounces of whisky, which I am happy to report are nearing the recommended daily allowance for most Scotsmen," remarked Morgan as she savored a whiff of the esters before knocking back a slug from her own glass.

"I don't like how many times I've looked longingly at my klonopin prescription bottle this week," I sighed. "More accurately, I don't like how anxious I've been since meeting up with Marisa at that damn restaurant. I'm getting a much clearer picture of just how much I'm afraid to die right now."

"I don't think they want you dead, Joe," came Peter's voice as I turned to see him walking towards us. My departure from the house was more obvious than I'd realized. "I got the distinct impression that those goons were instructed to bring their prey back alive. Though between this and the news on TV lately, there's been far too many overtures that the end of the world as we know it is going to bust through our wall like the Kool-Aid man at any moment."

I chuckled softly. "Exactly. Why did our parents get be so damn lucky? Their forties were an AIDS crisis they could easily and inhumanely distance themselves from and several cycles of economic idiocy, but it really feels like We Who Came After are getting the splintery shaft and there's no lube in sight."

Morgan shuddered. "How vivid. "And speaking of vivid, what the fuck was up with you and that stone? Who are you, Joe Sullivan? 

I stared back out towards the valley. "I'm starting to worry I don't know."

Karl leaned his head out of a nearby open window, which I realized must have been the kitchen. "Get inside, the lot of you. I don't like you being so exposed. Also, dinner is ready, which means I can finally hear all about the schemes you three are plotting. I've prepared the very traditional Hawaiian meal of sausage and peppers. And rolling joints." One of his obscenely muscular arms stretched out the window and he handed said joint to Peter along with a lighter and a wink. "Why don't you get the party started, young man? A little indica will calm those nerves."

"Don't mind if I do," Peter said as he took the joint from Karl's hand and lit it. After a long pull and slow exhale, he said to Karl: "so these two have it in their heads that the stones you guys have studied mean something spooky and our only hope in figuring out what that means is a flight attendant who has the hots for Joe."

Karl didn't even bat an eyelash. "Ah, spooky. That's a technical term, is it not? Well this certainly sounds more exciting than tea with his grandfather. But then, I am just a dirty old man with a penchant for mysterious objects. And frankly, at the moment I suspect Joe is the most mysterious object of all."

"I think we're all in agreement there," Peter replied.

"I suddenly feel very... um, naked, and not in the good 'let's all go hang out at Little Beach' kind of way."

Karl chuckled. "Tan lines are the least of our worries at the moment, Joe. Morgan tells me you and our mysterious stones... reacted to each other. To say this is unusual would be redundant, eh? Can you tell me more about what happened?"

"Over sausage, promise," I said. "I just need a second alone to clear my head first." I looked at Peter and Morgan. "If you don't mind," I added.

"Of course not," Morgan replied. "Come on, Peter. I'm desperate for your help in picking a music station to stream while we dine and dish." She extended her hand to him and he bowed with a flourish before accepting it and escorting her back inside.

"Five minutes, please," called Karl from the window as he gently closed it out of courtesy. I turned back to stare out into ink painted on moss painted on pumice and limestone and clay. 

"Well look at that, I'm getting stronger," came her voice from literally nowhere and literally everywhere. Even my bones heard it. My eyes launched themselves eight inches out in front of my skull before bouncing back into their sockets with an explosion of interrobangs.

"What the actual fuck..." I whispered as my head swung around in search of the voice that simply was. "No. No this cannot be happening. Not right now."

"Yes, now. You think I cannot tell you're in danger? You think I don't know how important you are? You think I am not also scared for you?"

Wait, what?

Don't make me waste words. You are in danger, which means I am also in danger. We have a common threat and you do not have the luxury of time to fully understand who you are. 

Wait, what?

Good, you're listening. Now you must remember, child. Everything I tell you next matters. You are time. You are the current of the ocean. The stone around you is in your blood, your breath, your tears. Spirit is also in your blood, your breath, your tears. Flesh is in your blood, your breath, your tears. Fire is in your blood, your breath, your tears.

And wood is in my pants?

Joke all you want and we both die. That is your choice? 

I shrugged my shoulders. We have four minutes to talk so you'd better give me something I can tell everyone inside. We are lost and freaking out and what do you mean I'm important?

This world is alive but it needs caretakers. Some choose, others are chosen. I think you know why. Now you must find the other stones and connect them, quickly. Before they do. Our survival depends on it. 

Connect... stones?

You will understand when you begin this task, but it is pointless to explain now other than to say you will fail unless you first take our shield in your hand. 

But we don't know where to find them all yet.

Worry not about that, keiki. Once you begin this path, the stones will find you. And you will feel them. You feel the currents, don't you? You may not realize their source. You will. Now, go to your Ohana and, if you want them to live, set to this task once the sun in risen above Haleakala. You cannot waste any more time looking for answers to questions that do not matter. Only our survival matters.

Easy to say, harder to do. And how the hell was I going to explain any of this without sounding like a complete lunatic? 

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