Author Chat with Kristin Ward (Rise Of Gaia), Excerpt, Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Kristin Ward author of
Rise Of Gaia.
Read on for more about Kristin and her book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway!
Meet Kristin Ward!
Kristin Ward has loved writing since middle school but took thirty years to do something serious with it. The result is her Best Indie Book Award-winning debut novel, After the Green Withered, followed by the sequel, Burden of Truth. In her YA SciFi-Fantasy, Rise of Gaia, Kristin intertwines her environmental passions with fantasy elements, creating a world that holds a secret deep within its heart. She lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, three sons, and many furry and feathered friends. A SciFi geek to the core, she is fueled by dark chocolate and coffee and can be heard quoting eighties movies on a regular basis.
Meet Rise Of Gaia!
Under concrete jungles and poisoned rivers, she slumbers.
She is Mother Earth.
And mankind has turned its back on its mother.
The visions begin on Terran’s seventeenth birthday. Horrifying images pummel her brain, while a voice commands her to see beyond the world she thought she knew and into the heart of it. Gaia has awakened, brought to consciousness by the greed of a species that has tainted every aspect of her being in a tide of indifference. With this awareness, comes rage. Gaia calls upon her children to unleash her fury, wreaking vengeance on humanity.
Terran will emerge in a world on the brink of collapse, to face a being whose wrath is beyond imagining.
This exciting science fiction - fantasy novel by Kristin Ward will be released in 2019!
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Nature has always been a big part of my life and has truly shape many of the things I write. I’m an animal lover, and this trait was indulged in childhood as my parents allowed me to have pets from lizards to rats. LOL. I still have quite a menagerie at home and enjoy being out in the woods with my husband and three sons. Having this connection gave me the idea for Rise of Gaia, which I published in August of 2019. What if Mother Nature awakened and saw what mankind has done to the planet? How would she react? What consequences would the human race face? I feel the theme of this story, and my previous work, is very relevant given the many environmental issues we face today.
YABC: Why young adult and scifi?
I love reading YA books, among many other genres. In fact, I think the genre is a misnomer given that many people well beyond their teen years enjoy reading YA books. It was natural for me to carry this into my craft.
Delving into the dystopian genre for my first two novels was a necessity. The story I slowly developed over the years was always going to be a dystopian tale due to the very context of it and the overarching message I am trying to convey. I also happen to enjoy the science fiction genre, especially dystopian. I suppose this appreciation began with one of my favorite books, The Giver by Lois Lowry. Her story introduced a society that strove to smother human nature. The characterization was phenomenal and as I read, I felt a strong connection to Jonas. I also really enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games. I find myself gravitating to books that have powerful themes and this is evident in my own work. I continued this love of scifi with my third book, Rise of Gaia, but also added fantasy elements and a bit of romance.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I relate strongly to Terran. In fact, there is a great deal of me within her character, from her interests to her humor; she exudes many of my own character traits. Throughout the book, Terran is thrust into aspects of her world that had remained hidden in plain site. Her strength and resolve are tested and, as the story progresses, you see what a truly powerful young woman she is.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
To be honest, titles are one of the toughest aspects of writing. I went through many iterations for Rise of Gaia, each with its own clear connection to the themes in the book, before settling on the final title.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I love the climax at the end of the book. Throughout the writing process, I was anxious to get to the big action scenes as I had played out so many elements in my head. I couldn’t wait to bring them to life on the page!
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The cover for Rise of Gaia was a challenging adventure. Since the inception of the story, I had a vision in my head of what I wanted the cover to embody. However, bringing that original idea to fruition proved to be difficult and I began to rethink other elements of the cover while retaining the primary aspect of Gaia. I worked with an exceptional designer, JD from jdcoverdesigns. We collaborated daily on each design element and over time JD brought my ideas to stunning reality. I’m positively thrilled with the outcome of our work together!
YABC: What’s up next for you?
There are numerous stories swirling around in the miasma of my brain! A few readers have asked me if I would consider writing a third installment of my dystopian series and I have been mulling over writing a book in the same world but with a different storyline and main character. It would actually be Ander’s story, from the sequel, and could include some appearances from characters in the original storyline.
My current work in progress is a YA fiction that deals with a collision of two worlds and integrates pieces of our past with elements of our present. I don’t want to give anything away but it’s a great project and I am doing lots of research!
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I am passionate about environmental issues and you see this reflected in my work. This interest is infused in the themes of each of my books with the hope that my message resonates with readers and raises awareness.
~ Excerpt ~
Rise of Gaia
By Kristin Ward
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2019 Kristin Ward
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author.
Editing: David Taylor, thEditors.com
Deep within the bowels of the earth, she stirs, awareness dawning by slow degrees until her being is flooded by it. Rooted within her consciousness, like a rotten tooth, is knowledge of a world plagued by indifferent beings whose wasteful pursuits have left a wake of corruption. She writhes, curling round and round in the confines of her shape, twisting in agony as a multitude of tortured voices drift through the mantle and into her heart.
In a moment of triumphant resolve, she wrenches away from a miasma of anguish and calls to her children, beckoning them. Like fireflies illuminating the darkness with pinpoints of light, they respond, reaching toward their mother with fierce purpose. She infuses their thoughts with her own, commanding them to rise, find the others, and begin.
It all began on my seventeenth birthday
The sun shines through my window, piercing the crack in the curtains and managing to find my left eye. It burns through my eyelid until I wake up. I roll over and look at the clock. It’s just after seven. I could totally sleep for another ten minutes. But downstairs, I hear the sound of my parents talking and it dawns on me. Today is December third. It’s also my seventeenth birthday. A grin splits my face as the scent of cinnamon French toast snakes beneath my door, directly to my nose. My stomach rumbles in anticipation.
I stretch my legs, relishing the little pops in my knees and ankles, and sit up. Leaning toward the window, I pull back the curtain and gaze outside, thinking about the upcoming weekend and a hike along the coast that I planned with my best friend, Beth. It’s a ritual, actually. Each year I choose a new place to hike to celebrate my birthday. Last year we trekked into the Cascades and camped at the base of Mount Hood. This year, the sea is calling to me and I know the only place that I want to be on Saturday is overlooking the Pacific, hoping to catch a glimpse of a seal or maybe even an Orca.
I burrow back under the covers, having decided to take advantage of every spare minute and turn my eyes to the ceiling. My room used to have one of those cottage cheese deals, complete with odd, little hunks of plaster poking out all over, surrounded by pale pink wallpaper with daisies on it. It was so seventies, my parents never having redecorated since they bought the house years before I was born. Two summers ago, my dad and I tackled the bedroom makeover, a long-overdue project I had been whining about since I turned twelve. We spent days scraping and painting, getting dust on every surface, including ourselves. Now the ceiling is riddled with sweeps of paint in terrific patterns and the pale, blue walls bear no resemblance to the juvenile mess they were before. It was definitely an amateur job but absolutely suits me. As I look at the many imperfections, I imagine I see mythical animals, trees, and fairies, so much like looking at the clouds and finding dragons or turtles. It’s a good way to pass the time as I contemplate dragging my butt out of bed.
I listen to the wind blowing outside, stirring up the branches of trees. A small tap against a pane of glass draws my attention as a leaf is tossed against my window, a lone straggler hanging on until the end. This would be perfect weather to go on a hike in the woods, no rain, and relatively dry ground, for Oregon anyway.
Hiking is not what one would call a ‘popular pastime’ for girls my age. I know this. Maybe that’s part of what makes me somewhat of an oddity among my peers. I certainly can’t talk to most of the girls at school about trailheads I long to tackle or the way the ocean pulls me. Whatever. I have no desire to fit some mold they call ‘normal’. I don’t take selfies or do much in the way of social media, really. In fact, much to Beth’s chagrin, my only social media app, and the one everyone else seems to love, is now nonexistent on my phone, having been deleted after months of nonuse so I could make space for an astronomy app instead.
Now, I’m not some granola-loving freak or anything. I just like to be outside. When I’m in the woods or somewhere equally nature-ish, I just feel better, like I’m whole. I can’t fully describe it, though I’ve tried to explain it to Beth. She usually rolls her eyes and gives me a look that implies I’ve lost my freakin’ mind. She may claim to be a bit of a hippie chick, but all the outdoorsy stuff is not her thing. And yet, she sticks with me despite it and sometimes even lets me drag her along the trails.
Stretching my arms to the ceiling, I yawn and roll out of bed, the minutes of freedom having gone by too quickly. As I stand up, I feel a wave of dizziness wash over me. I stagger forward, falling to my knees on the wood floor with a loud thump. My head feels like it’s spinning and my vision shifts, as though I’m looking through the bottom of a glass bottle, all distorted and strange. What the heck? Did I get up too fast? I try to shake it off but my eyes cloud over, eclipsing the elements of my room with something else. The floor seems to tilt and I feel my body follow the movement, shifting to the side at an awkward angle.
And then, I’m no longer kneeling on the floor of my bedroom. Beneath my fingers, I feel the prickly texture of grass, the blades pressing into my skin like dull needles. Blinking rapidly, my vision clears somewhat, although a strange haze remains along the edges, just there in my peripheral, making it seem as though I’m looking through a tunnel. Before me, I notice that the scenery looks very wrong. The grass I’m feeling isn’t a normal, lush green. It is dead, mottled with yellow and singed. Hanging over all of it is a strange smell, almost like burning death. I scan this odd dreamscape and see a dark lump just a couple of feet away. Even squinting my eyes I can’t quite define it, though I know it’s not a rock or mound of dirt. My mind shies away from other possibilities as I shift my gaze to encompass more of the landscape surrounding me.
Panic flutters inside when I notice more of those smallish hills of…what are they? Tentatively, I crawl forward to get a better look. Tendrils of smoke curl around the bulky form and I reach over to wave them away. When the air stirs, a voice whispers, not quite a real sound, more like it’s from inside my head, “See.”
The moment the word registers, I do see it. A charred, bloated mass of some once-living thing, so far gone that I can’t possibly make out what it once was. I fall backward, digging my heels into the burned grasses, scrambling away from whatever it is. The smoke that hangs in the air becomes thicker, stinging my eyes and tickling my chest until I begin to cough spastically, doubling over with the force of it until my lungs ache. Tears stream down my cheeks, brought on by the smoke and fear that is bubbling inside. What is this place? I swipe at my eyes, trying to fully clear my vision, and look around as terror takes over reason. Everywhere is death. The only things stirring are wisps of smoke in a gentle breeze that mocks the horror of this place.
And then, just as suddenly as it came, it’s gone. I’m back on the wood floor of my room, with aching knees that are sure to show bruises before the end of the day. I slide to a sitting position against my bed and take a deep breath, “What the hell was that?” I mumble to myself.
My heart is racing and my brain feels fuzzy. I can still hear the echo of that voice in my head and smell a decaying scent, as though it has seeped into my pores. I am not sure how long I sit, but eventually, the world begins to right itself, my heart stops fluttering, and I begin to calm. Like an old lady, I get to my feet, hoping another strange episode won’t wash over me again. I stand still and just breathe deeply, taking in the familiar sights and smells of my bedroom.
Was that some lingering dream that made its way to my conscious mind? Is that even a thing? A little battle plays out internally as I wrestle with some way to explain what just happened. It was so real. One moment I was here, normal as can be, and the next I’m in some kind of Stephen King nightmare. It’s like my mind fractured and I went to an alternate reality, only that’s something that happens in movies, not real life. When no rational explanations are forthcoming, I rub my hands over my face, trying to wipe away the images trapped inside.
I head to the bathroom and turn on the shower, determined to get on with my day. It’s my birthday, for crying out loud! I tell myself to pull it together and step under the spray of water, closing my eyes under the flow and letting it pour over me, bringing me back to myself. The stench of decay washes away with the soap, but the lingering sense of things unspoken and unknown remains.
I step out of the shower and rub vigorously with the towel, debating with myself as I scrub so hard my skin pinkens. Am I going crazy? Is this an early sign of a mental breakdown or something? Maybe I have some sort of brain tumor that has been growing for years and is only now showing signs. Ugh.
“This is stupid, Terran. Get a hold of yourself,” I mutter. With effort, I shut away my inner analysis and finish drying off. From my closet, I grab my favorite purple V-neck shirt, hoping the soft texture and beautiful mandala printed on the front will help me center myself. A pair of jeans and a hoodie complete my ensemble and I head back to the bathroom to brush my hair and put on a bit of eyeliner and mascara, without these accents I look totally washed out.
When that’s done, I sit on my bed, reluctant to go downstairs just yet. What if my parents see how off I’m feeling? They’ll grill me until I tell them what happened, and then what? I mean, what did happen? I didn’t actually go to that horrifying place. I just imagined it or dreamed it or something. It wasn’t real. I nod my head, squelching any crazy, mental protests. Rubbing my hands on my jeans, I tell myself it was nothing. The niggling worry fades when I’ve repeated the mantra enough and I get up and leave my room.
By the time I’m halfway down the stairs, the strangeness of the morning has been shoved to the back of my mind, a place where I can smother them completely. I walk into the kitchen with a growl emanating from my stomach and a small smile stamped on my face. My parents burst out with a cringy, off-key version of the birthday song. I try not to laugh as they raise their voices in a pathetic attempt at melody until the mildly embarrassing serenade becomes downright awkward.
I hold my hands up as they begin to belt out, ‘Are you one? Are you two?’ “Okay, okay. Thank you for the song but let’s not take it too far.”
“Happy birthday!” My mom croons as she wraps her arms around me.
Being adopted, my mom and I look nothing alike, aside from our stature. While my mom’s wavy hair is so dark it’s almost black, mine is red and straight to such a degree that it won’t hold a curl for more than five minutes. Unlike my mom’s rich, brown eyes, I’ve got the stereotypical green ones that seem to be allotted to every redhead. Combine that with my smooth, pale complexion, strangely freckle-free for a redhead, and I look totally Irish. We’re the same height now, and as I look into her soft visage, I kind of wish I knew what I might look like when I’m in my fifties.
I glance at my dad who swoops in to capture me in one of his famous bear hugs. As I crane my head back, I catch a glimpse of his bald spot reflecting the kitchen light between strands of graying hair. His well-padded frame crushes me and I half squeak, half giggle to let him know my lungs are beginning to collapse.
He pulls away and grins down at me. “I don’t know about you, Eleanor, but she’s looking older to me.” His eyes crinkle in his freshly shaven face.
My mom swats him playfully. “Let her eat, Mike. I made your favorite, sweetie.”
“Thanks, Mom.” I look at the towering plate of French toast sitting in the middle of the table next to a bowl of fruit. “Um, are we inviting the neighbors over or something, ‘cause that’s a lot of food?”
My dad sits down, forking a couple of slices onto his plate. “Your mom got a little carried away. I think she’s trying to fatten us up.”
“Stop it, you two.” I watch her turn off the griddle and join us at the kitchen table. “What time will you be home today? I’ve made reservations at The Hacienda for six.”
I love Mexican food. To me, there is nothing better than a cheese enchilada smothered in sauce with a side of beans and rice. Top that with fresh guacamole and I’m in gastronomical heaven. “Yum, I can’t wait!” I respond, talking around a huge forkful of French toast. “I should be home by four. Beth and I plan to go out for a smoothie after school.”
“Don’t eat with your mouthful, Terran. It’s not polite,” my mom admonishes.
I can feel my cheeks redden as I mumble an apology into my napkin.
“Do you need some money?” She asks, reaching for her purse.
I hold out my hand. “Have I ever turned down an offer of some cash?”
“Actually, no,” my mom replies, digging out a ten and handing it to me. “Is this enough?”
“Yep. Thanks, Mom,” I say, folding the bill into a small square and stuffing it in my pocket. She smiles and sits back down.
We sit in silence for a few minutes, the only sound being forks and knives clinking and soft chewing noises. As I eat, I feel my mom’s stare and look over at her. “What?”
Her head is slightly cocked to the side, wrinkles creasing her brow. “I don’t know. You just look different, something in the eyes maybe?” She shakes her head, musing over her comment. “It must be you getting another year older. Where has the time gone?”
My parents’ voices fade into the background as they reminisce about my younger days. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard them tell the story about the day I tried to steal twelve packs of bubblegum by stuffing it into my underwear because I had no pockets. I would’ve gotten away with it too if the bulkiness hadn’t caused me to waddle. I shake my head, recalling how I worried I was about the threat of going to jail when my mom hauled me back into the store to return the gum.
My dad launches into another embarrassing memory and I let their conversation drift until it becomes white noise. Inside, I’m feeling a strangeness come over me as I think about what my mom said and what happened this morning. Could I be terminally ill or having a psychological breakdown? Can you look at someone and see they’re crazy or suffering from an incurable disease? The French toast sits in my stomach like a ball of lead, my appetite completely gone.
I stand up and rinse off my plate, leaning around the counter to put it in the dishwasher. My hands are shaking and I flex my fingers to rid myself of the tremors. I have just grabbed my backpack and purse when Beth calls.
I pick up my cell phone. “Hey, Beth.”
“Happy Birthday, Terran!”
“Thanks! Are you picking me up today?” Did my voice sound a little desperate?
“Duh…of course! I’ve got a surprise for you that you’re gonna flip over! I’m on my way, see you in a couple.”
“See ya!” I say, hoping the forced enthusiasm will take over completely. It’s my birthday and I should be happy. Everyone expects me to be happy. They don’t need to be hearing about any mental breakdown stuff. Ugh.
A few minutes later I give my parents hugs, dodging my dad’s attempt to squeeze the breath out of me, and paint my face in a smile, before heading toward the front door. Inside, where they can’t see, I feel a prickling sensation crawling up my neck. Something has changed this morning, whether I want to acknowledge it or not. I can feel it and, clearly, my mom sees it too. I’m not quite the same.
Beth honks the horn, jarring me out of my circle of worry, and I dash out of the house, waving to my parents on my way out, and hop into Beth’s Prius.
“Happy birthday,” she squeals, leaning over to hug me.
The contact acts like a balm, it’s always been that way when we’re together. I let her happiness wash over me, giving me the push I need to block out everything but my excitement. “So, what’s this surprise I’m gonna flip over?”
“Ha, like I’m going to tell you. You’ll just have to wait. I want to get to school first and make sure I have enough time to give it to you rather than just hand it off. You’ll understand when you see it. Plus, my mom will kill me if I’m tardy and she gets another one of those messages from Mrs. Snyder again.”
“Aw! Can’t I just open it now? Pretty please?” I clap my hands together and give her puppy eyes.
Beth looks over at me, an eyebrow cocked. “Really? When has that ever worked on me?”
I give an exaggerated sigh. “Fine. I’ll wait. But it’s my birthday and you’re supposed to do whatever I want.”
I frown, an expression that’s completely ruined when I can’t hold it, and then turn up the radio. I’m a sucker for eighties music. I blame my mom for this. I’m sure I even heard classic eighties tunes in the womb, which probably wired my brain to love that neon-ridden era. The Bangles’, Hazy Shade of Winter, pours through the speakers as I sing along. Winter has yet to make its appearance, but I can feel the chill in the air. The song seems appropriate. Beth joins me in the chorus and we bop our heads and tap the rolling drumbeat the few blocks to school.
Roosevelt High School isn’t so bad. I keep a low profile and do pretty well. Of course, there are the typical social hurdles that I can’t always avoid, which usually end up with me pretending interest in things that bore me or mumbling something rather incoherent. I’m not what you would call a popular person, sort of quiet really, but plenty of people in this sea of teenagery know me as I walk the halls. That’s small-town life for you. Honestly, I’m more of a watch and listen kind of girl than a jump into a conversation sort. I’ve never enjoyed mingling with people I don’t know and would rather get lost in the woods than go to a party. And don’t get me started on talking in front of the class, that’s the worst. I sound like some bumbling idiot and sweat profusely the whole time. Mortifying. So I stick with my small group of friends and we keep low on the social radar.
I have known Beth forever. Our moms were friends long before we were born. Celeste Ordell and Eleanor Kelly had made plans to have baby girls who would become inseparable, and that’s exactly how it turned out. I guess it was fate. We’ve so many shared memories that we may as well be sisters. Beth’s mom is into all sorts of new age stuff and Beth is just like her. I swear if I ever want an astral reading or something I know just who to see!
We park in the student lot and sit in the car singing another ballad until the song ends. We’ve made good time, having avoided getting stuck behind a bus picking up kids every ten feet, as we’ve experienced too many times before. Beth turns down the radio and looks at me. “Okay, are you ready for your surprise?”
“No. I think I’d like to sit here and wonder about it some more,” I reply, running my fingers along my chin.
Beth rolls her eyes. “Close your eyes and hold out your hands.”
“Seriously? What are we, like five ot something?”
“Just do it!”
I sigh and dutifully hold out my hands. I can hear Beth rummaging behind my seat, and then feel her place something in my hands. My brows crease. It’s light and obviously paper, but definitely not a book. The texture feels rough and thick.
“Can I open my eyes now?” I ask, unable to keep the curiosity out of my voice.
I hear Beth chuckle as she says, “Open sesame.”
It looks like a scroll, that’s the only thing that I can think of when I see it. The paper, some kind of paper anyway, is rolled up into a tube. I give Beth a questioning glance.
“Go on, unroll it,” she urges.
I slowly unroll the paper, and as I do I can feel a prickly sensation flare up and wrap around my head like tentacles. The paper is stiff, but not old. As it slowly uncurls, I see it’s some kind of chart like the ones I’ve seen at Beth’s house so many times. There are strange symbols around a circular form and under this is a full narrative.
“What is it?” I ask, leaning forward to look at the tiny details in the circle.
“It’s your natal chart. My mom and I made it for you. She’s been teaching me all about this stuff. Yours is the first one I’ve done, well, with her help.”
I look at her and smile. “Yeah? Thank you, Beth! So, umm, what’s it mean? What are all these symbols?”
She pulls the paper to center it between us above the gearshift. “All of this has to do with when you were born and planet alignment and such. I know you’ve been into astronomy lately, so I thought you’d like to know which planet you’re ruled by and what it all means.”
“Totally! Which planet am I?”
“Uranus.” She says this like a twelve-year-old boy: your-anus.
I glance back at the paper, a look of distaste on my face. “Seriously? My planet is an anus?”
Beth cracks up, laughing so hard it ends in a fit of snorting. “It’s not really Uranus. I just had to see your reaction.”
I give her a look. “Thanks.”
She wipes her eyes and catches her breath. “Oh, that was funny.”
“Ha-ha,” I say in a snarky voice.
“Okay,” Beth says, pulling herself together. “You’re actually Neptune in Sagittarius in the ninth house.”
“You do realize that is totally confusing, right?”
Beth chuckles. “Yeah, I know. So down here,” she points to the narrative at the bottom. “Is a whole explanation of what each part means. Basically, you’ve got a ton of mystical power. It’s pretty cool, actually.”
I look over the symbols again, running my fingers along the rough paper, feeling the indentations. “So, this is kind of like a map of who I am?”
Much to my surprise, I’m totally captivated by the figures on the chart. Their circular formation draws my eye over and over and I find myself feeling lost in it for a few moments. Finally, I pull my attention away and give Beth a brilliant smile. “This is the best gift. Could I come over tomorrow so we can go over it with your mom? I really want to understand what it all means.”
I roll up the paper, careful not to bend the edges, and place it on the back seat so it doesn’t get squished by my legs or backpack. Beth cranks up the radio while we wait for the bell to ring. I let the music wash over me as I close my eyes, but inside, I still see those strange markings, some seeming to flash in my mind as they mix with images from the episode I experienced this morning. Part of me wonders if it’s all connected.
Going to Beth’s house the next day is like entering another world, one filled with granola and hanging herbs, while a sitar strums in the background. It’s a funky place, but I always feel a sense of ease when I walk through the door. Perhaps it’s the incense that’s always burning or the feng shui vibe, but I inevitably feel like the weight of my life is lifted as I cross the threshold.
Beth’s mom is a wispy thing. Barely topping five-foot-two in heels, she typically wears flowing dresses that are right out of some hippie-love-fest clothing catalog. Her hair, blond and hanging to her hips, is always down, but somehow manages to look soft and flowing whereas my red strands just get tangled and stringy.
She sweeps toward me as Beth closes the door behind us. “Terran! Happy birthday, my dear!” As she pulls me in for a peck on the cheek, I catch a whiff of a scent that is purely hers, flowery but not too sweet.
“Hi, Celeste.” She’s always insisted I call her by her first name.
“Come into the kitchen. I just baked some cookies, a new recipe I’m trying with carob chips and walnuts.”
Beth and I follow her into the kitchen, a cheery place of yellow walls and lots of sunlight. One corner of the room is devoted to her herb collection, overflowing from pots or dried and hanging from the hooks that dot the ceiling. I pull out a tall stool and sit at the island, reaching for a cookie. I look at it skeptically, never much of a fan of carob chips as they just can’t compare to real chocolate, but I’m used to sampling Celeste’s concoctions and take a bite. They aren’t terrible, just not a chocolate chip cookie, so I chew gamely and finish it off while Beth makes us some tea.
“Hey, Mom. Terran wants to go over her natal chart.”
Celeste’s eyes sparkle as I pull it out and unroll it onto the kitchen island. “I’d love to go over it with you. Yours is actually quite unique.”
Beth grabs four river rocks from a windowsill and places one on each corner. I lean in as Celeste begins. “Your natal chart is like a roadmap to who you are. It can show you strengths and weaknesses and can help you understand your life path.”
“So, it’s kind of like fortune-telling?”
“No, not like that. Though I can give you a palm reading later if you’d like.” Celeste winks at me. I knew she’d been studying how to do that for the last year because Beth mentioned that she was officially starting to practice. “When you were born, the planets were aligned in a certain way as the earth orbited the sun. It is this alignment that shapes your understanding of the world and the direction your life will take. You are ruled by Neptune, in the ninth house, with a ruling sun sign in Sagittarius. Neptune is characterized by creativity and idealism. People in the ninth house often have psychic abilities, especially when combined with Neptune as the ruling planet.”
I have to smother a snort as I mentally scoff at the idea that planets and alignment have given me some kind of psychic ability. The only thing remotely psychic about me is knowing I need to leave a ten-minute buffer before entering the bathroom after my dad. Putting on my poker face, I lean in and give Celeste my attention.
The next hour is spent going over each symbol in my chart and its meaning. Beth chimes in often, having been learning alongside her mother as they created my chart. It’s a bit overwhelming as they tell me about the pros and cons of each piece of a map, which they claim, define who I am. I know that I will only remember portions of their explanations and am thankful for the summaries at the bottom of my chart.
As Celeste is wrapping up the last bits of information, she pauses and says, “An unusual aspect of your chart is the path you will take in your life. You have strong intuition and a deep connection to the earth, which I am not at all surprised to see, but there is uncertainty here. Without a conscious effort on your part to see and embrace truth, you could get lost in your dreamy optimism.”
I’m taken aback by that comment, as I’ve always thought of myself as a doer. “Do you mean that I’m kind of a flake and won’t see things through?”
Celeste laughs, a tinkling sound totally in tune with her persona. “Not at all. What I mean is that you can’t let your ideology keep you from acting. Sometimes, reality is hard to face and it may be up to you to be a voice of reason and a person of action.”
It’s an interesting assessment of my character, and I don’t totally buy into it. However, I can’t argue that most of what my chart says is spot on. I carefully roll it up and put it with my purse so I won’t accidentally leave it behind. When offered, I eat another cookie, smothering a giggle when Beth wags her eyebrows at me as I try to resist a grimace over the utter lack of real chocolate.
Celeste drifts out of the room, heading to her little greenhouse in the backyard. Beth sits next to me, pouring me another cup of chai tea laced with lots of honey.
Setting her mug on the counter she asks, “What time do you want to hike on Saturday?”
Being one of those people who relish sleep, I have no desire to wake up at the crack of dawn to get started. “I’m thinking we could leave at ten and grab breakfast on the way to the trailhead.”
“Cool. Want to go to The Broken Yolk and pick up some bagel sandwiches and cocoa?”
I smile at the thought. “Oh my God, yes!”
I pull out a trail map and go over the loop I’d like to hike. It should take us to some beautiful viewpoints and I plan on snapping lots of photos to mark the day. As we chat, thoughts of my natal chart flit through my brain. According to what Celeste said, I have a strong bond with nature, on an almost mystical level. This makes sense, and she mentioned that she’s not surprised by it. I’ve always felt more at home in the woods than walking the concrete streets of my town and it’s kind of cool to think that this affinity is predestined or something.
I wonder if my birth parents were like me. I’ve always known I was adopted, my mom having been unable to get pregnant after years of trying. My parents even bought me a book all about being adopted when I was five. But there’s always been a piece of who I really am that’s missing from my life. Of my birth family, I know nothing. I was surrendered at the hospital and whoever gave me away didn’t give anyone any information. Sometimes, I catch myself staring at people who look like me and wonder if we’re related. Does my birth mom ever think of me? Does she wonder where I ended up? Does she even care? I give myself a mental shake. These thoughts always ramp up around my birthday and I know better than to dwell on them.
Beth and I chat about the weekend while pulling up the most recent weather forecast. It looks like it’ll be a nice day, which just adds to my excitement. While I’m game to hike in just about any weather, Beth has a strong preference for the dry and sunny versus rain-slicked trails of mud. We wrap up our plans and I’m about to leave when Celeste comes back inside. “Terran, how about that palm reading before you go?”
We head into the cozy living room and she pats the spot next to her on a sofa covered in a crazy pattern of colorful afghan throws. I sit down and hold out my left hand, palm up.
Celeste strokes her hands over my palm and smiles at me. “I’m new to chiromancy, so bear with me.”
“Oh, that’s the name for palmistry. It’s been around for thousands of years, since the ancient Hindus. You’ll have to forgive me if I fumble with this.” She smiles at me and then leans over my open palm, smoothing out the creases and looking at each line etched in my skin.
I watch silently as Celeste looks me over with great care. Beth sits across from us and I know that she’s probably been dabbling in this art along with her mother. Those two are so alike. Celeste reaches for my right hand and places them side-by-side, palms up. I can see her brow wrinkle as she looks closely at a couple of the creases.
“What is it?” I ask, feeling a strange anxiety wash over me.
“I’m not sure. It’s strange. First off, you’re a fire hand.”
I look hard at my hands. “Is that bad?”
“No, it just means that you are a leader with a clear vision.”
I can’t help laughing. “I am definitely not the leader-type!”
Celeste looks up at me. “Sometimes we don’t choose our roles, Terran. Many leaders in history didn’t start out as such.”
“Uh-huh. So, what do you see in my future?”
Her eyebrows rise as she considers my question. “Your future seems to be tied to a fate you have no control over. You will have a long life, but your immediate future appears uncertain. See the faint breaks here?” She asks and I lean forward to get a better look. “The majority of people have a continuous line, but yours has points of fracturing, never a full disconnect, but as though you may not have a precise path.”
“Should I be worried?” Honestly, after what happened yesterday morning, I’m getting kind of freaked out by what she’s saying. Maybe I should tell her about that whole incident.
“No, you have nothing to worry about. After all, I’m a total newbie and could be reading this all wrong!”
Beth laughs as her mom shakes her head and folds my hands closed. But I don’t join in the revelry. This whole experience, from what happened yesterday to my birth chart and the palm reading, has got me spooked.
My voice shakes as I decide to talk about the strange vision I had. “Celeste?”
She looks at me, smiling. “Yes?”
“Um. Have you ever had, like, visions or anything?”
I look at Beth who’s watching me with a perplexed expression. “Um. Yeah, like have you ever been one place one moment and another the next?”
“I can’t say that I have, though I’ve experienced déjà vu many times. Can you tell me more about what you mean?”
Licking my lips and clenching my hands, I begin telling them what happened. “I got up yesterday and felt really dizzy. I mean, so dizzy that I actually lost my balance and ended up on the floor. But the weirdest thing was that one second I was on the floor and the next I’m kneeling on some grass that feels all sharp and crisp and there’s a terrible smell all around me.”
I stop and look at the two of them, hoping to glean whether they think I’ve totally lost my mind. But their expressions show no judgment, only curious worry. With a sigh of relief, I continue. “And I heard a voice.”
“What did it say?” Beth asks.
“See.” They are quiet after I say this. I wait, hoping that they don’t look at me like I’ve turned into a freak.
“And did you see something?” Celeste asks. When I nod my head, she continues. “What exactly?”
“Death. Everywhere there was death. It was awful. The smell and smoke overpowered everything. All around me were these lumps of…of…well, I don’t know what they once were but they had been living things at some point. It felt like I was trapped in a nightmare landscape, only there was something familiar about it, like maybe I have been there before. Just as quickly as it came, it was gone. I was back in my room as though nothing had changed.”
After a few seconds of silence, Celeste speaks up. “I wonder if you have some type of psychic connection to something. This would fall in line with your natal chart. You are deeply in sync with the mystical, Terran.”
Beth gets up and sits next to me. She takes my hand and gives it a squeeze. “Are you okay?”
I lean my head on her shoulder. “Yeah, it was just really strange. Nothing like that has ever happened before. With all of the stuff we’ve talked about though, I wondered if it was connected.”
“I think you should keep a journal,” Celeste says, as she gets up and heads to the secretary in the corner of the room. Opening it, she rifles through a cubby and pulls out a beautiful book.
I look down at the cover when she hands it to me. It’s covered in a series of intricate designs that remind me a little of the symbols on my birth chart. I open it and see that it’s filled with blank pages, thicker than normal paper and soft to the touch. “Are you sure you want me to have this? It looks really special.”
Celeste nods. “I think it would be a good idea to keep a record. If you have another vision, put it in the journal and we can analyze it together. Perhaps it will help us understand what you’re experiencing.”
As strange as it is, I feel better having this, though I hope to never have another episode. “Thank you. For everything, I mean. Today has been perfect.”
Celeste leans forward and kisses my cheeks. “You’re very welcome, sweetie.”
Beth wraps an arm around my shoulders, giving me a half-hug. It feels good to be here, to have shared that strange experience. Eventually, the conversation drifts to simpler things and I embrace the feeling of normalcy.
©2019, Kristin Ward
Rise Of Gaia
By: Kristin Ward
Release Date: August 24th, 2019
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