In this selection from Chapter 2, Abby has returned to Harmony Springs in rural Florida, her spiritual home. She has just graduated from high school in New Jersey and is now living with her grandmother. She hopes to spend a peaceful summer catching up with her friends, taking one college course, and (of course) resuming her magical studies.
But the peaceful part is not to be. Her first night back in town…
That night, the terror begins.
I am in some kind of virtual reality space—muted colors and huge shapes looming all around. My body is an avatar, a robot or two-legged bug, and I’m running. Running frantically.
Something is chasing me.
The dream is charged with much more emotion than you would expect from an online game. Besides, I’ve hardly done any gaming since I was thirteen and had my breakdown. That was when I started hallucinating, seeing goblins and alligator men from the games appearing in my waking life. Terrifying me.
Terror like this dream. Except, this feels different—less about me and more about the whole world.
The world isn’t as safe as it used to be.
I dash into a long building that looks like an office or school. But when I get inside, I see it’s a dungeon. I flee through stone-paved rooms with low ceilings. There are kids everywhere, mostly guys, but some girls. Some are running, like me. Some are just milling around, or standing in front of monitors hung on the walls, hypnotized by VR displays. I watch one boy get sucked into a monitor and changed into a wriggling reptile.
I run up a long corridor, climb a flight of steps. I pass a girl collapsed on the landing, sobbing. Her hands are gone, her arms bloody stumps. I want to stop and help her, but I’m too afraid.
I enter an upper chamber, like a temple or throne room. Suits of glittering armor stand along the walls. More kids are lined up in a queue, approaching a throne. On the throne sits a huge white frog, with mad angry eyes in its head—and dozens more eyes in its stomach. A girl approaches the throne, and the frog monster opens its mouth. She shrieks as he sucks her in, like sipping cola through a straw.
I wake up, horrified, shaking, I stare into the corners of my bedroom, looking for monsters or floating eyes. It takes me a long time to catch my breath. Climbing out of bed, I sit down on the rug. I do the Ablution exercise, the basic meditation designed to calm and center the spirit. Taking long, slow breaths, I visualize the five Springs of Harmony as fountains at the nerve centers of my body.
Love, at the root of my spine, pure water, clear and cleansing.
Endurance, at the solar plexus, filling me with strength.
Balance, at the heart, centering my energies.
Amity, at the throat, filling me with serenity and love.
Bliss, at the crown of my head, the water pouring out and down over my body, washing away all fear.
Bliss is a long time in coming.