The quark thought of it. 'The Heavenly Rescuers of Earth's Animals = Deities', a group commonly known as THREAD, asked him how he'd save western giant elands, now extinct in three African countries. The elands were "critically endangered" in other countries in Africa.
Mother Creator was the deity that started THREAD and she was still in charge. No one but the Creator could even see the quark. He was merely a fidget on the horizon. But his idea about the elands was intriguing, to say the least. THREAD listened as the quark spoke.
"A giant eland antelope is scheduled to die shortly, and we can put its spirit side-by-side with a human spirit in a human body. That should teach humans the loss that will occur if nobody understands that these animals have great spirit and must be saved. I believe humans can be receptive to this."
The quark's voice sounded like it was inside the minds of each deity, from naiads to the Mother, and he spoke at length about the giant eland and how he'd put its spirit into a human woman he'd already chosen. The human was due to die shortly as well, but the quark knew Mother Creator could replace the human's spirit, as well as the eland's, into the human body so the spirits of both would live. The human body would come back to life with both human and eland instincts.
Bacchus spoke up then. He always spoke up first since he was always tipsy.
"It's a fine plan, quark. A fine plan. You're in everything on Earth, so you must know what you're doing. Everything, that is, except spirits, eh? I've studied human spirits over a thousand years and they are fickle things. I hope this human can hold her liquor. I've learned human spirits hold up better if they can hold my kind of 'spirits.' Haha!"
Mother Creator smoothly interrupted and called the meeting to order so all could vote on the quark's plan. It was unanimous. The eland spirit would go into a human. Everyone in THREAD stayed nearby to watch the plan unfold.
The giant eland mentioned had just told his small herd to "Run!" He could hear the noise humans made when they approached. Usually the humans put a small box in front of their faces and did something that touched the eland's spirit, but not his body. Still, danger was the first thing the eland felt when humans were around.
His herd ran across the savannah toward a nearby woodland. Though there were only fourteen elands, they sounded like three times as many, they were so large.
This eland's body weighed over twelve hundred pounds, and he was fully mature at twenty-five years old. He was six feet at the shoulder and nine feet long. He had spiraling horns that were four feet long. The eland stood, majestic, and braced himself to defend his herd from humans. He kept up his sonorous bark to the largest antelopes in the world, "Run! Run, run, run!"
The humans stopped farther away than usual. The eland's head was raised and ears pricked forward, curious as to why the humans stopped there. It seemed ominous.
The trophy hunter looked through his rifle scope at the giant eland and said, "God, he's beautiful!" then pulled the trigger. He shot the eland through the heart, and the eland dropped where he stood, coughed once and was dead. His herd kept running, but now they spoke to each other. "The Father is dead! The Father is dead! Oh, the Father is dead!"
Mother Creator took the eland's spirit into her white light and let it rest there as the members of THREAD turned their attentions to the human woman the quark chose. She was a continent and an ocean away from the eland's land. For a few minutes, she beat the dust out of a rug. Her name was Connie, and she worked on the old rug with her husband, Jack.
They laughed together as the dust rose in clouds from the rug, slung over a clothes line. Connie said, "With these tennis rackets like this, we're just as good as Federer and Nadal." Jack said, "No. We're better." Then Connie said, "Something's wrong..." and she collapsed on the sun-bleached grass. Jack ran to her and called her name, but she was unresponsive. He didn't know CPR and he was very scared. He picked her up, she was so little, and got her in the truck. He drove the three miles to a hospital in a furious hurry.
Once there, Jack carried Connie in and the emergency personnel took a look at Connie and told Jack to wait in the waiting room. They said they'd work on his wife. What they knew was that Connie was DOA and they'd have to use extreme measures to try to make her live again. A nurse interviewed Jack about what happened in the yard and said nobody knew how his wife was or why she fell. She also talked about insurance, which Jack didn't care for, but he knew it was needed. He told the nurse he just wanted to see his wife. Please.
THREAD deities knew it was a blood clot that traveled to Connie's brain and killed her so suddenly. Mother Creator took Connie's spirit to her white light space, just like she'd done with the eland. She let Connie rest a minute, too, then carefully placed Connie's spirit back in her body and also laid the eland's spirit next to Connie's.
The doctors and interns who surrounded Connie on her emergency room bed were getting ready to use the defibrillator again when a nurse said, "Look! She's back!" The monitor on Connie had been a flatline and it now showed a large spike followed by rapid smaller ones. Everyone looked at Connie and watched her come back from death.
Her eyes fluttered open and she yelled a hoarse, "Run! Run, run, run!" Then she looked around and, in a different tone, asked the nearest doctor where she was and why she was there. The doctor was alarmed by what Connie yelled, but he just told her she was hospitalized because she collapsed and she needed to have some tests done. He told her he'd go talk to her husband, and did she want to see him? "Yes!"
Jack came in, wringing Connie's pink sweater in his big hands. His face lit up when he saw her, and both waited impatiently for the doctor to leave. The doctor wanted to talk about tests, but he finally got the message from the two silent people in room and said, "I'll leave you two alone for a while."
The instant he was gone, Jack and Connie started talking at the same time. Jack said, "Okay, you go first. I'm just saying lovey-dovey stuff." Connie smiled and they held hands while she became very animated.
"I think I had one of those out-of-body experiences! You know what I mean?"
"Did you float over the hospital bed and see yourself in it?"
"No, baby. I saw the white light those people who have that experience talk about. I think I was sort of dead for a little while, and I saw this beautiful white light and went toward it until I woke up here. It was beautiful, Jack! And scary. It was very big and I felt very small."
"Well, you are a foot shorter than I am, and I barely top six feet."
"That's the other thing. Since I woke up here, I've felt as if I'm big. Really big. Powerful. I don't know why, Jack. What do you think?"
"Well, if you had that out-of-body experience and you really think you were dead, it would a big relief to wake up and be yourself again. Maybe the relief makes you feel stronger, you know?"
"Maybe. I love you. Will you bring me some bottled water, Jack? Hurry back. I don't want to miss you long, but I'm so thirsty I could drink a couple of bottles."
Jack returned from the vending machine with two bottled waters.
"Enjoy it," he said. "It cost way too much. But I love you, sweetheart, and I would do anything for you. At least right now." The couple laughed together. Then Connie drained one bottle of water, and then the next. Jack felt concern nip at his mind. She never drank water like that before.
She said, "Oh wow. I never had water that tasted so good. I feel like my big body needs a lot of water. It was really good! Thank you, Jack. Hold my hand again?"
"Of course. I'd climb into that bed and hold you tight if I could. You scared me when you fell. I can't imagine life without you! I love you."
Connie closed her eyes, trying to calm down and feel Jack's love. She was aware of it, and of her love for him, but when she closed her eyes, she saw a large grassy plain. She saw animals there, big animals with spirally horns and beautiful coats. Connie somehow felt she should go to them and comfort them for reasons she couldn't fathom. It was easier to open her eyes again, and look at Jack's frank and open face.
The quark's voice sounded again in all the minds of the members of THREAD.
"Don't forget to see how the eland spirit is doing. He's had a big change, too."
Mother Creator answered the quark. "Don't worry. THREAD will do as we're supposed to do. I chose you to think of this way to save an Earth species because you're an 'up' quark, present in all matter on Earth. You're part of the fundamental forces in everything and that's good. But Bacchus was right. You need more exposure to spirits. Listen and watch."
Connie asked Jack, "Do I seem different to you, honey? I feel different."
"You're the same Connie I've always loved, even if you change after a near-death experience. Just keep telling me how your feel and let me help you recover."
"I closed my eyes and saw a lot of animals and I felt very close to them. I wanted to talk to them. I wasn't even dreaming. It's like they were there, inside me somehow."
"Hold my hand, Connie, and don't be afraid. You can close your eyes again and not be afraid. I'm here." Jack was afraid, but would never say so. He made himself strong for Connie. He held her hand when she closed her eyes again and he simply watched her.
The giant eland's spirit had woken with a start, still trying to tell his herd to run. But he wasn't a giant eland anymore. With trepidation, the eland explored the body his spirit now occupied. It was a human! A female human, quite small, but with a spirit the eland could feel next to his own. The woman had been in the white light, too, and was waking to see many other humans around her. When she raised a hand, the eland marveled at it's petite size and how it had fingers and thumb, how it was used, how it was so different from his own hooves.
Because it was a shock, the eland concentrated on the woman's spirit rather than her body. Her spirit felt good, like a tiny portion of the Creator. That was what the eland's spirit was, too. The eland joined the woman's spirit, and found a well of strength. He didn't know it was also a reflection of his own spirit. All he knew was that it was comforting and he was sleepy. Elands were often nocturnal animals and it was bright daytime. The eland spirit dozed for a while.
The eland was pulled to full awareness by what the human female did a bit later. After moments of calm, she sat bolt upright in the bed and said, "I've been shot in the heart!" Jack stood and put his hands on her shoulders. She looked at him, confused.
"I'm going to get a doctor," he said. "Do you have heart pains? I'll get a doctor for you."
"No, you don't have to! They'll run tests soon anyway. My heart did hurt for a second, a sharp pain, but it's gone now and I may have dreamt it. Please stay with me, Jack. You calm me down. Something's going on that I don't understand, but I don't need a doctor right now. I need you. I keep seeing these animals in my head. I know I've seen them before. It must've been in one of those old National Geographics."
Jack said, "But, honey..."
A nurse came in and said, "Hi, Mrs. Kellington. It's time to take your vitals again. The doctor recommended a CAT scan for you..."
The eland spirit huffed and Connie said, "No!" with more fear than expected.
Her spirit and the eland's saw CAT as a pride of lions that once killed a juvenile in the eland's herd. Lions were a giant eland's primary predator, after mankind. Connie knew she wouldn't have that scan or any other tests.
She got out of the hospital bed. "I'm leaving now. I feel fine! Where are my clothes?"
Jack and the nurse spoke at once, and said same thing.
"Are you sure?"
The nurse continued. "If you leave now, it will be against medical advice. Your clothes are in that bag, but wait for the doctor..."
Connie didn't wait for anyone. She sidestepped Jack's arm, got her clothes and began to change.
Jack sighed. He'd seen a determined Connie before and knew she'd get her way.
THREAD watched the human with interest. Humans were the most mysterious thing in this galaxy. They couldn't really say what this human would do. But Bacchus wasn't afraid to lean in and whisper to Connie's spirit. He said, "Have a glass of wine. It'll soothe your mind. Have two glasses and it will soothe your body, too." Mother Creator hid her smile. She knew Bacchus would whisper that.
Mother Creator even had a pretty good idea about what this human would do, but she didn't tell the other deities because they had to draw their own conclusions. The quark was a deity, too, even among the other five flavors of quarks, but he still held his job and kept a neutron together, a neutron essential to everything on Earth. Except spirits. The Creator was pleased the quark was interested in spirits now. She hoped he'd learn a lot. He had high hopes for the eland spirit. Now he'd see a human's more closely.
The quark deity resided in a hadron with other quarks. He had low regard for humans, because they hadn't even figured out how to really see him. They only saw the hadron. That was his 'house' and not himself. Except he was in everything. They knew that.
This human woman was very responsive to the giant eland's spirit. She was leaving the hospital, signing a paper to leave AMA. The quark could feel the eland spirit's elation as soon as Connie and Jack went outside. The greenery! It almost made the eland hungry, but spirits didn't eat. Or did they? Connie wanted to eat a black plum as soon as she could get one, though she'd never seen one. The quark knew they grew wild in Africa and were an eland's treat. The quark almost liked Connie.
Connie and Jack didn't speak until they were in Jack's truck.
Jack said, "If you collapse again, I'll never forgive you."
He showed Connie his crossed fingers and laughed a bit. He was next to angry, though. Why did she leave the hospital that way? Her jaw was set. What was driving her to such lengths and such a strong will? The animals she said she saw in her mind? It must be.
"Isn't it funny," Connie said, "how hospital gowns are so revealing and also so unsexy?"
Jack's anger melted away. He laughed and agreed with her.
Connie looked out the passenger window at a green blur of trees and bushes that she thought was wonderful, even though their speed made her dizzy. An eland's top speed was forty-three miles per hour, and Jack drove much faster than that. Jack got them home in record time.
Once there, Connie sighed with content and made a pitcher full of ice water. She drank a glass in one go, then offered Jack some. He took the glass with no little alarm that Connie was behaving unlike Connie again. She took the pitcher to the living room and settled down next to the bookshelf full of old National Geographics. "I'll find them here," she said, almost to herself. No. She said it to the animal that made her feel big and powerful.
Jack mostly watched. He loved her, but not always with a comfortable warmth. He was uneasy again.
"Do you want to help me?" Connie asked. "You could just look for big animals with very long horns."
"Well, sure, I'll help."
"I've got to make a salad first. I just realized I'm starving!"
"You go ahead and look at those magazines," Jack said. "I'll make a salad and some sandwiches."
Connie was relieved when Jack left the room, almost the first time she ever felt that. She looked through the magazines, with a crazy idea that the animal she looked for was also in her, fascinated by all the photos. She had to make herself look quickly through each issue, working against a thought that each photo deserved scrutiny. At first, she paused on pictures of polar bears, tropical fish, and more. Then she made herself simply look for the animal in her mind. It seemed like a struggle, but Connie was determined to find 'her' animal today.
"Here we go," Jack said, settling next to her with the food he fixed.
"Thanks, Jack. It looks great." Connie picked up several lettuce pieces with her hand. She munched it gratefully. The eland thought it was tasty. Jack was dismayed that Connie ignored the fork on her plate. More strange behavior. He decided not to mention it. He picked up one of the old magazines.
More lettuce and another glass of water later, Connie was busy again.
They worked in silence. Then Connie caught her breath. This was her animal! "This one," she said to Jack, and they looked at the photos in silence. It was a giant eland. Reading the text made Connie feel different. The eland's spirit grew and nearly overwhelmed Connie's spirit. She couldn't stop looking at one photo in particular. It was a male giant eland and Connie recognized him.
The two spirits inside Connie became one. Connie knew what the eland knew and the eland knew Connie. They would never separate.