No one loves you, not even your mama, it said. You’re despicable. You’re just a disgusting mutation, a hideous freak of nature.

​Who are me? Naya replied, the insidious mind invasion confusing her with both subjective and objective perspectives.

Get out of my body!”One of them yelled aloud.

 Your salvation requires your pain,
the other said. Your pain for your salvation.

Naya tried to take deep calming breaths, but the stress of the moment weakened her guard, and she closed her eyes while inhaling. That act removed the visual aspect of the storm from her mind for a split second and gave the foreign consciousness space to lurch forward.

The storm took on the feel of a dream while the sensation of a polished stone floor emerged beneath Naya’s knees. The walls and ceiling of a huge kitchen became discernible surrounding her, and a large food knife glistened on the floor between her thighs. The foreigner’s anguish surged into Naya as this interior environment solidified, propelling Naya toward hysteria.

“Get out of me!”
A voice again yelled that could have belonged to Naya or to the foreign consciousness or some merger of the two. One of them picked the knife up from the floor.

I’ll get you out of me for good,” a voice insisted. An impulse to drop the knife flashed through Naya’s mind, but the more primal desire to cut the invader out of her body swallowed it.

A lightning flash seemed to glitter against the knife’s edge. Instead of racing through the air, it crawled through her flesh, the knife opening it up with mind-boggling pain. Naya howled as crimson rained out of the wounds and covered her thighs. The scent of blood rose to her face and bits of flesh slid off her groin.

And then another explosion of thunder rattled her. The kitchen and the knife vanished. Naya opened her eyes and found she had not moved from her standing position. She squinted through the rain and darkness at her legs, but couldn’t find any blood or wounds. A swipe of her hand across her groin confirmed that her flesh remained undamaged.

Naya did notice a red streak glistening against her palm. She focused and discerned her fingers outlined in a red tint. The tinge of crimson carried a faint flickering glow that spread to her arms. Normally, Naya would admire this reflection of light off the radiation neutralizer her body secreted, but when she looked up in search of the light’s source, she caught the telling scent of smoke in the air.

Naya turned around and discovered a large section of the mountain side on fire behind her. The ecological mutations allowing vegetation to thrive in the high radiation and over one-hundred-degree heat also allowed it to burn in the drenching downpour. The flames and rain lashed out at each other in a life or death struggle.

Goddess! She thought, looking upward across the nearly half-mile of jungle between her and the fire. It’s moving toward my vehicle.