“Did you know that Marcus’ mom collected old maps and books on the history of California? She even had a treasure map, which Marcus gave to me,” I said to Dad. We were driving in the foothills toward the Atajo property, and the Santa Ana winds were beginning to whip up again. Fire danger was extreme.
“I knew she was interested in crystals and crystal detection,” said Dad, thoughtfully. “I didn’t know she was doing map-dowsing.”
Map-dowsing, Dad had explained to me earlier, was a technique that some people used to locate any animate or inanimate thing. In theory, this would happen through a process of “sympathetic attraction” or telepathic communication. The person would go into a trance-like state and either hold a pointer or a crystal pendulum over any piece of paper that represents a map of an area of land. Where the pendulum or pointed stopped was the desired location to find anything from lost children to buried treasure
“It never worked for me,” he continued. “I bought an Aurameter, but the readings were always false.”
“Did you ever try a quartz crystal?” I asked. “Marcus’ mom used a quartz crystal that looked like it had little gold needles all through it.”
“Oh yes. She must have gotten her hands on a good piece of rutilated quartz. What you saw inside the quartz crystal were inclusions of acicular rutile,” said Dad.
“What’s that?” I asked. I had an extensive mineral collection, but I had never heard of acicular rutile.
“Acicular means ‘needle-like.’ It refers to the shape of the inclusion. Supposedly, the acicular rutile acts as a booster, and it magnifies any signal,” continued Dad.
“But what’s rutile?” I asked.
“Rutile is titanium dioxide. It does not often occur in crystal form. In fact, a lot of it occurs in the form of beach sands or dune deposits in western Australia, associated with other minerals such as zirconium dioxide and ilmenite,” said Dad. A Gambel’s quail scurried along the side of the road, and flash of fur appeared between creosote bushes.
“She said she could locate treasure with the crystal. But, it didn’t matter because the map that Marcus gave me shows treasure marked on it,” I said.
I proceeded to tell Dad about the bundle of old maps that Marcus had given me the night his mom died. They were maps she had bought at a yard sale, but after checking them out, she believed they were valuable. Marcus’ mom thought that it was possible the treasure was still there.
“Why doesn’t Marcus have the maps? Why did he give them to you?” asked Dad.
“He didn’t want them. He thinks they’re cursed and that they will kill anyone who touches them.”
“Nice that he gave them to you,” said Dad, wryly.
“Oh. I never thought about that.” I felt my heart sink. I thought of the night sky, the stars glittering and fading as high, wispy clouds passed overhead, and of the lights of the pool. The shadows made Marcus’ face seem ethereal, surreal, redemptive. The thought of his slender, 16-year-old legs, his teen-idol lips made my stomach tremble, my knees shake. I was 15, a year younger. To me, Marcus seemed much more than a year older.
“Maybe we should check out the maps. See if it’s real,” said Dad. “You don’t mind missing a few more days of school, do you?”
I didn’t say anything. Dad already knew the answer anyway, even without my telling him about how I was taunted at school for being “smart.” I wasn’t sure if he knew why I spent every lunch period in the library, or why I walked home immediately after school rather staying in the after-school activities I used to love. Long gone were my dreams of being on the “pom squad” or even staying in the pep club. I was terrified of what might happen. How could I tell Dad? I needed to talk to him. Perhaps he already knew. The thought relieved me somewhat.
“Marcus should definitely go with us,” said Dad. “After all, they were his maps.”
“He doesn’t want to,” I said. I was afraid of seeing Marcus again. Who knew what might happen. My left knee began to twitch, my tongue started to feel thick, and a weird ringing begin in my head.
“That’s what he might say, but it’s not what he means. We need to ask him,” said Dad, firmly.
The ringing turned into a buzz. My left leg began to shake.
“Dad,” I said, pausing. The leather seat seemed very cold on my back. I noticed that the Santa Ana winds had created a dust storm.
“Are you okay?” asked Dad.
“Maybe. Yes. No. Well, it’s just that now I don’t know, and I’m in pretty hard, well,” I heard myself babbling.
“Ophelia?” Dad’s voice sounded alarmed. We pulled to the side of the two-lane highway. I forced myself to breathe.
“Dad.” I took a breath, forced air into my lungs. “Dad. Something’s wrong with me. I have been afraid to tell you.”
Tears slipped down my cheeks as I forced air out of my lungs, and I struggled to quell the ugly trembling in my leg, the buzzing noise in my head.
Suddenly, the world went dark except for a pinpoint of light. Soon, even that was gone. I slumped over.