By Victoria Foyt
I awoke with a start and jerked up on my cot. My heart was racing, my skin sweaty. The pitch-black night closed in around me, the heavy branches outside the window of my hut rattled in the breeze.
In my mind’s eye, a pink dolphin loomed large and menacing. Specifically, it was a male Amazon River dolphin, but in my dream it had two legs and walked like a man. He wanted something from me, something bad.
I shut my eyes tight and shook my head, hoping to erase the nightmare. But the pink dolphin only laughed with a high-pitched squeal. I willed myself to picture the Jaguar Man, Bramford, my mate-to-be and protector, but strangely I could not. All I could see was this ominous pink dolphin with its pointed nose to one side and one black eye glaring at me.
With a sinking feeling, I recalled that a real one had looked at me in the same way the day before. I had been sitting on the riverbank with Bramford when a pod of them swam past.
How could I not look at that lovely sight? Inia geoffrensis, as it is classified, has bright pink skin that looks unnatural but incredibly beautiful against the blue water. In the fiery blaze of yesterday’s sunset, the shimmering pink pod appeared otherworldly.
One particularly large pink dolphin had stopped, lifted its head and turned its very flexible neck, until for one startling moment, it caught my eye. I felt a weird tingling sensation in the middle of my chest, as if it had stretched open.
Bramford had grabbed my shoulder and turned me away from the river. “Eden,” he said, “Don’t look at them.”
“Why not? They’re so pretty.”
“The Indians believe they used to be men, at least. If you look a pink dolphin in the eye, its spirit can enter yours and possess you.”
I had to laugh. First of all, where I come from in the world of the tunnels, mankind has lost its spirit, love is dead, and all that matters is evolutionary climbing and survival.
And yet, incredible as it sounds, here in this last patch of rainforest, I have discovered that love still exists. I love Bramford, no doubt about it, even if he is a hybrid beast-human. Even more, he’s a shaman who speaks to the spirit world, or so he says. I wasn’t so sure I believed in spirits, but Bramford seemed to know things that couldn’t be otherwise explained.
“And then what happens?” I asked, ducking into his warm embrace.
As he stroked my hair, his hand made an electric trail down my back that made me shiver. I would die without his touch, I swear.
Bramford’s reply sounded full of warning. “They are encantados, shape shifters with the power to destroy your life.”
I had braved a lot of real danger in the last few weeks, but the idea of a phantasmagorical force frightened me. And yet, I scoffed to hide my fears.
“Don’t be silly,” I said. “Everything is going so well now.”
It was true. In a few days I would adapt into a hybrid like Bramford and we would be mates forever. What harm could a pink dolphin do?
Bramford had lifted my chin so that I met his steely gaze. The last glint of light lit his cat-like eyes with a glow and he spoke in a low raspy voice that made my stomach do a little flip.
“Eden, my love, the future is not set. It can change in an instant.”
“But I’ll adapt, won’t I?”
“Think of the future as a block of wood that can be cut in different ways. If you cut it one way, you see the grain flow in a certain direction. Cut it in another way and you have a different pattern.”
“But how do you ‘cut’ it the right way?”
“Sometimes you don’t. But if you respect the world around you and stay strong in your mind and heart, you are more likely to find happiness.”
I smiled and snuggled back into his embrace. “Then there’s nothing to worry about,” I murmured.
I had already found happiness. So how could a simple glance at a marine mammal “cut” my fate in an unwanted direction?
I had pushed the thought from my mind until now. Was it possible that this encantado had entered my spirit and would cause havoc with my fate? Oh, Mother Earth, if I don’t adapt tomorrow, I will never become Bramford’s mate—a fate worse than death!