DAWN OF EVE
Chronicles of Eve Wilder, Book 1
A Novel by Yvonne M. DeBandi
Copyright © 2015 Yvonne M. DeBandi
The moon was bigger than I had ever seen, and it was so quiet my thoughts seemed to be echoing through the valley. My mind was racing. I was excited. No wonder I couldn’t sleep. We would reach the top of the peak sometime late tomorrow if we hustled. What would we learn? Would we find the answers we were seeking? Would we really figure it all out?
I must have finally dozed off because I was startled when I felt something brush against my forehead.
“Hi Jack,” I mumbled as I opened my eyes to see the early light of dawn and my best friend and constant companion standing over me.
“My powerful protector!” I said, scratching his neck and chuckling as he began to lick my forehead and head-butt me in his affectionate way, demanding his morning massage.
“Careful! Don’t knock me off of here!” I laughed as I wiped the moisture from my face and looked below my comfortable tree limb to see exactly how far I had climbed.
So long ago, when this journey began, it was just the two of us. So much had changed and so fast.
I had adopted my special friend when he was only ten weeks old and, from that moment on, he went everywhere with me, much like a dog. Funny how those memories of our hectic travel schedule and former life seemed like a dream now. Everything was certainly different then.
Since that time, he had grown into a large and beautiful feline. Although originally considered to be a common Mackerel Tabby, his markings and bone structure had become striking and his eyes were sharp and full of expression. His size was impressive too. Jack was larger than any cat I had ever seen and he could perform acts that often left me puzzled.
Although we rarely frequented buildings anymore, when necessary he could open doors with his giant paws, and his instinct was strong. He generally seemed to know what I needed, sometimes before I did. He hunted for fish and even helped us determine what water was safe to drink without boiling it. Until now I had never had a human friend I could trust as much as I trusted this strange and wonderful animal.
As Jack nudged me out of my trance once again I growled, “I know, I know, I better get back before they wake up and worry.”
I could see them in the distance. The embers of the fire were still alive and provided just enough light for me to see their faces as they slept: so peaceful, yet so tired and worn. We had been traveling for quite a long time, but the last two weeks of traveling through the Rocky Mountains had been decidedly challenging.
We finally stumbled into this canyon overlook late yesterday. It was just as Aryel had described so many days before. Shaking my head and again marveling at her talent, I remembered her words clearly.
“We will follow a huge wall of rock for hours and then find ourselves in the most beautiful spot with shelter, fresh water, and a single tree overlooking a stage of beauty.”
Sure enough, we were somewhere in southwestern Colorado when we found ourselves next to a canyon wall and two choices, almost like a fork in the road. Without hesitation we headed towards the rocky pathway and, just as Aryel predicted, it opened to a beautiful outlook many hours later.
The outlook had huge canyon walls on two sides, their massive structure disturbed only by the opening from which we emerged. To our backs was a flat rock overhang providing perfect shelter. To our right was a fresh-water spring bursting forth through the rocks, spilling into a natural basin before overflowing and running back into the mountainside again. To the left was a beautiful foliage-covered hillside, the next leg of our journey. It was perfect and much nicer than the campsites of the previous evenings.
My perch was the single tree Aryel had seen in her dream, which was not too far from the water basin. It also stood close to the rocky edge that looked over the canyon valley of magnificence, an ideal spot to enjoy the day’s awakening. It was mesmerizing and invigorating. I hadn’t seen anything like it in a long time.
“Just one more minute. I mean, look at the sky, Jack! It’s such a perfect spot. Take a mental picture and treasure it,” I whispered.
Right after the words came out of my mouth I heard a worried voice call my name.
It was Kera. Her tiny, muscular body was now sitting up tall and erect. I could tell she was worried as her head darted from side to side and her keen blue eyes peered into the dimly lit morning.
“Eve? Jack?! Where are you?!”
We had met Kera first. After the catastrophe struck, Jack and I had wandered aimlessly for what seemed like years; but in reality was only 201 days according to the little stick calendar we had made to keep track. We found Kera surrounded by animals in full conversation. At first I thought she was crazy, like the time alone had gotten to her, but she truly had a special gift of communication. While I had a special connection with Jack, we didn’t actually “talk.”
Kera actually talked and laughed, completely understanding what the animals had to say. Sometimes I even thought the laughter was at my expense, but laughter was necessary in these trying times so I never minded. One thing was certain. Kera was at an advantage when it came to socializing. With more opportunity for conversation than the rest of us, she would never be lonely.
I tried to answer her, but when she didn’t hear my response, Jack let out a mew, a mini-roar if you will, that was just loud enough to carry the short distance. I saw her pale heart-shaped face and anxious body sigh with relief as the sound reached her. I couldn’t help but laugh a bit out loud as she settled back into her make-shift bed and all of her little animal friends, too many for me to count at a glance, resumed a comfortable position around her.
“Thanks Jack,” I said, patting his back and relaxing once again on my tree limb.
When the sun settled in the sky above the horizon, I knew it was time to get moving. I jumped to the ground and headed towards camp. When I got close, I heard a familiar groan as Aryel rolled over and covered her eyes.
“Just a few more minutes,” she said in a slightly grouchy voice.
She said that every day as the sun began to rise. She wasn’t much of a morning person and, frankly, we had given up trying to change that. We simply found it easier to wait patiently until she was ready to get moving. Personally, I would have liked to get started earlier to avoid the heat of the day, but Kera pointed out that we would hike until dusk anyway, so what heat would we avoid? She had a point.
Aryel had been with us for many months now. We quickly learned that she didn’t stumble upon us by accident. She found us. In fact, she was looking for us.
She had arrived in the dark of the night with no light to light her way. Her light-brown hair, streaked with grey, was wildly sticking up in every direction. Her tall, thick figure was dressed in an all-white flowing garment and she had a beautiful silver fish hawk, named Sam, sitting on her left shoulder.
Aryel scared us at first with her stories of our destiny and future journey, but even more simply because she knew our names before we introduced ourselves. She wasn’t a psychic and couldn’t read our minds, but she apparently had powerful dreams that gave her information like who we were and where to find us. Her dreams led her to us, just like her dreams had led us here to this beautiful place.
“What else do you know about us?” asked an always-curious Kera on that first night.
While initially taken aback by the strong presence of the newcomer, after being reassured by Sam that his friend could be trusted, Kera found herself smiling and laughing easily with the wacky woman who said she was a retired accountant from Atlanta.
“Well . . .” Aryel replied with an overly dramatic royal tone of voice, a playful wink of the eye, one arm outreached and the other fisted on her chest, “Kera, you are a warrior at heart; your communion with the animals around you is only the beginning of your talents being recognized.”
Our expressions must have revealed we thought she was joking. In response, she smiled, returned her voice to normal, and spoke with quiet sincerity.
“Seriously Kera, you and your talents are vital to our success and survival.”
“Wow, Kera, a warrior,” I joked after a long moment of silence, jabbing my elbow into her side. “No pressure.”
“No kidding,” said a subdued Kera in thoughtful response.
“Oh, do not think she is alone in this journey,” Aryel said, turning her attention to me. “You, Eve Wilder, dare I say it, are the key element. I don’t know why or how, but I believe it with my whole being. Every time I dream about you, you might as well have a key tattooed on your forehead. It’s true, without our support you would not survive this journey; but without you, the journey would be pointless.”
“Wow, Eve. The key on your forehead.” Kera joked, mocking my earlier sarcasm as she leaned over and finger-flicked me between my eyebrows.
“Look,” Aryel interrupted,“ I know you don’t know me and you wouldn’t be the first to think I was crazy, but believe me when I say that we must make this journey.”
At our continued disbelieving stare, Aryel eventually became frustrated, like a teacher losing patience with a student failing to comprehend a simple truth. She stood up abruptly and began pacing, mumbling under her breath as we giggled and joked about her outlandish prophecy.
“C’mon,” she spat a few minutes later, retaking her seat by the fire. “What else have you got to do?! Check your social calendars, clear your schedule, and let’s make a plan.”
Kera breathed a heavy sigh in my direction, clearly emoting her reservations about whether or not to take Aryel seriously.
“No pressure,” whispered Kera.
“No kidding,” I responded, shaking my head with a bit of incredulity.
We agreed to think about it and over the next few weeks we talked more about her strange dreams and ideas. We got to know her better and with every passing day began to understand and accept Aryel’s abrupt, unusual ways. She spoke her mind openly and her sarcastic wit made her quite the entertaining presence, despite her moodiness. We quickly became friends. Good friends. Family. One day we realized there was nothing more to talk about. We trusted her. So . . . we made a plan.
Forty days into our journey we met the newest and youngest member of our troop, Annie, whom we lovingly called Angel.
We found Annie on a hillside, sitting cross-legged with the sun in her face. As we approached from behind, the plants around her made it look like she had wings and, with the sun in our eyes, she appeared to have a halo over her head. The beautiful sight made us stop in our tracks, all whispering about whether the scene before us was mutual. Aryel had mentioned that her latest dreams were about an Angel, but seeing one sitting Indian-style before us was not what any of us expected.
During our hesitation, many of the animals sped up their pace to circle and greet her quietly. She must have had her eyes closed because the first words we heard her speak were in surprise.
“My goodness, where did you all come from?!”
When we saw the most timid of our animal group, a floppy-eared rabbit, jump into her lap; we knew luck was on our side.
As I headed towards the firewood pile with the intent to stoke and rekindle the blaze, I could see our Angel Annie was already tossing and turning. It wouldn’t be long before she was up preparing breakfast and making sure everyone had what they needed. Despite her short time with us, she had already settled into the routine of caretaker.
As my stomach growled I smiled and gave a silent shout of joy. Before our Angel arrived, we didn’t eat very well. Food was scarce and preparation was time consuming, but she managed just fine. She had a way of not only making the food taste better, but it looked better too.
“It’s nothing! Really! Presentation is the trick. If it looks good, it just seems to taste better. That certainly helps when you’re working with such a monotonous menu,” Angel had explained, laughing at our first gasp of culinary wonder.
She had been a teacher of young children in her “previous life” and I guessed from everything I had learned about my new friend that she was probably quite perfect at it. Her generous nature was unprecedented in my eyes and her energy was enviable. Even in the toughest of circumstances, she would share her radiant smile and crack a corny joke to lighten the mood. And trust me, corny is being a bit generous. But one glance from those kind brown eyes and everything just seemed better. Simply put, Annie truly was an Angel.
I had just begun to warm my hands when a loud squawking broke the silence of the morning, practically making me jump out of my skin. No matter how many times I heard it, it always caught me by surprise. As Sam flapped his wings trying to get his bearings, I admonished my feline friend.
“Jack, why do you do that every morning? Can’t the two of you get along?” Jack simply trotted off with his proud tail high in the air.
Kera laughed and squawked something at Sam who promptly settled down and landed directly on Aryel’s chest. As Aryel’s eyes opened wide in surprise, I whispered, “Kera, you’re asking for it.”
Aryel wasn’t fazed. She simply rolled over shooing Sam away and again grumbled, “just a few more minutes.”
Kera shrugged her shoulders and winked at me devilishly as she began to gather her things and prepare for the many miles we would trek that day.
Despite Aryel’s dreams, I found it strange that they looked at me as the leader, the decision maker. These three women all had extraordinary skills and enhanced senses, and all I ever seemed to offer was my best guess. Still, they believed in me. They made me feel like I had a specific purpose, like maybe each of us survived for a reason beyond luck.
I hoped we would find some of the answers we were seeking at the top of the peak, but no matter what happened, I knew our journey was just beginning.