Divine Madness

Divine Madness by Melanie Jackson

Book: Divine Madness by Melanie Jackson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Melanie Jackson
Tags: Fiction
and it was a place that had no shadows, no secrets from the sun.
    There had been rain—hard rain—sometime in the past few weeks, and it had gnawed with voracious hunger at the stream’s banks as they overflowed their edges. Larger plants had been ripped away, but tiny opportunists had moved in to replace them. In a few more weeks there would be no evidence of the upheaval. This place did not like change.
    World without end…
    Amen .
    Ninon found the lago mentioned on the stone and thenwalked north. She stopped outside the cave where the hieroglyphs had indicated that the god of the Smoking Mirror was supposed to appear on the final days of the year. She sniffed the air cautiously, but smelled nothing obviously sulfurous. She looked for signs of ornamentation that befitted a god, but from the outside at least there was nothing to mark this cave as special, a place of worship, just some large stones that had been defaced by man-made tools so long ago that they had again grown smooth. She reached out with other senses, but felt no ghosts, no shades of old violence. Yet legend insisted this was where the god, Smoking Mirror, lived and was worshipped.
    Ninon took in another lungful of air and opened her senses. Nothing. There was nothing strange about this place. No nerve-tingling power, no aura of supernatural dread. It was, if anything, less alive than the desert around it. Annoyed, she stared at the spreading ring of mushrooms that had stopped only when they reached the edge of the turgid creek that disappeared into the cave. She knelt down, not sure why they should grab at her thoughts and insist she study them, but willing to be led by intuition.
    Mushrooms. There was nothing special about them. Small, brown, they looked a great deal like Haymaker’s mushrooms, the fairy rings that were quite common all over the United States. The only thing interesting about the species was that the Haymaker mushrooms were not individual plants that marched outward in a magical expanding ring, but were actually only the fruiting part of a larger underground fungus that crept through the soil like a disease. The roots were part of the interconnected fibers of something that looked a bit like the synapses of a giant human brain.
    Ninon blinked and focused on that thought.
    They were each part of a larger entity. Like groves of aspen trees that spread from rhizomes and were in fact interconnected—a single plant that looked like manytrees. Actually, she recalled that many plants did this. And there were scientists who insisted that it made them aware at some level. Damage or stimulus to one was recognized by all. Certain plants knew when insects were attacking and would emit chemicals to repel them, but didn’t react when the damage was caused by fire or crushing. Because they were part of a collective awareness?
    She stepped closer to the river and looked down into its coffee-colored water that sparkled like broken obsidian. The long stringy grasses within waved sluggishly. Could it be true of the strange dark grass snaking through the underground rivers of this area—were they tapping out a watery Morse code? Might that be how Smoking Mirror kept track of where people were and when sacrifices were brought?
    Too bad there wasn’t a botanist nearby to answer her questions. The other way of testing her theory was so much more dangerous.
    Don’t step in the water. The voice in Ninon’s head was alarmed. Go back to Miguel if you must .
    But this could be another way—something that would not involve Miguel . If I can call the god himself…
    She listened intently. Frogs ground out their painful songs at the creek’s murky edge. If she didn’t know better, she would swear that nothing urgent ever happened here, that she was imagining things. Except…sunlight seemed to stop at the mouth of the cave as though turned away by a solid darkness.
    “Hello—anybody home?” she called softly, dipping a finger into the water.

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