Hollow by J.L Cowan

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Hollow by Jodie Cowan
Illustration by Sue Babcock

What seemed to be important but presented as a vague thought, perched on the edge of my awareness. I review the morning; I fed the dog, turned the coffee off, locked the door. I check my pocket; car keys are there, my phone too. So what’s up with the feeling of impending doom?

Tapping my pen on my thigh, probably causing little red welts to rise there, I’m counting the tiles on the ceiling in the room while waiting for the speech to start. My absent-minded assault on my thigh is interrupted by the chit chat in the study hall. I notice a crowd of students gathered since I’d arrived and sat in the back row. A majority of the students in the class were Native American attending  perhaps for the ancestral heritage.

The guest speaker was a man of many talents. A healer, what they call a Shaman or Curandero, who had an unprecedented reputation for miracle work. I presumed the speech would be about herbal plant remedies, hallucinogenic plant ingestion techniques or chanting, pipe ceremony, sweat lodge and peyote prayer meetings.

I didn’t believe in the miracle jargon. I was there to write a review of the guest speaker for the school paper. They appreciated the way I approached topics because it caused the students to engage in sometimes heated debates and to buy the newspaper. I sought out authorities, medical or law practice, discriminative groups, anything controversial and find what I perceive as an abuse of power in that practice then expose it. There was always a number of letters to the editor in response.

The lights dim; a door to the left of the room opens and in walks the illustrious Indian. The first thing I notice about the speaker is his surprisingly small build and humble appearance. It largely contradicts the imperious presence the Indian puts forth. He was in excellent shape too because according to the short bio written in the class agenda, he was the great, great, great grandfather of many in his tribe.

The solitary Curandero starts off talking about his relations with certain beings and warns not to confuse the meaning of ‘being’. “For instance, instance being inside, is a state of mind or place. A being of light or human being, is a faceted soul seeking truth. The type of being I am referring to, is an entity with information and ageless power.”

He spoke with an unrecognizable accent which demanded an increased level of attention to follow what was being said. I’m finding the speech interesting so, it was to my dismay, that I was drifting in a sleepy stupor while trying to take notes.

The old Indian goes on to say, “Intent, a being in its purest form having only one purpose, one conscious goal, is most powerful. It can create an action and subsequent reaction separate from itself, and is certainly well worth the effort of realizing relations with.”

Looking beyond the confines of the room, the Curandero’s eyes shimmer giving off a green, gold glow with an unintelligible quality that demanded something. His voice entices reassuringly as he continues, “If one chooses to employ these beings, they will be empowered to direct a favorable healing. Non ordinary states of awareness are required to realize the ability to conceive relations with energies that have such focused directives.” He pauses to look at the students and at me. “Intentions are the elixir of power!”

I write these last words on my note pad, trying to understand why it feels imperative to understand them, so much so that a burdening desolation takes precedence. I find it hard to breathe. When I look at my notebook to review the last statement, I find nothing but gibberish written in a script not my own. I feel an overwhelming air of disorder inside the room and sense that the Indian knew the purpose of my notes, and that I was an intruder.

Even so, I’d intruded before, with a job to do that I did very well. I at no time faltered in extreme conditions, never allowed my subject to get the best of me. So, to be on the brink of a panic attack was ridiculous. I entertain the thought that perhaps I was experiencing another level of attention, one I previously was excluded from.

By adjusting my reasons for attending the conference, I’m able to settle down long enough to remind myself how much I want this story, and that I’m in an ordinary study hall. There’s no reason to be frozen near hysteria with my emotions running wild. Even so, my stability seemed to be eroding rapidly.

Certain of a predatory energy stalking, no, it’s hunting me. I notice subtle movement in my peripheral vision and experience primal instincts of survival like never before in my life, fear so distinct I can smell it. Innumerable, unfathomable outcomes to imaginary terrific ideas surface in my mind. My body reacts; adrenaline rushes through my veins. I feel sick.

Was it the Curandero’s eyes, somehow emitting dusty beams of light that were making shadows appear in the dim lit room? His strange voice echoes inside my head and apprehends me. I’m hanging on every prolific word the Indian says.  “One must be prepared when conceiving this impressively direct and lucrative ally. Because the intent is separate from the complexities of human beings, it is a power nonpareil. Even an impeccable warrior with eyes trained to identify these beings, must have all their power, all their light. They must seek intent with ears inside eyes.”

The radical anxiety I was feeling is replaced with sublime clarity. The Indian appears lustrous in a shroud of light. Someone is humming or chanting softly in the background. My ears pop and the sound of rushing air is deafening. The room is much brighter than before, all this happens with such ferocity that I startle and drop my pen.

Looking around, I see everyone else in the class enthralled with unblinking attention as the Curandero indulges the group saying, “You see, intent sees through shadows, it sees inside.”

The Indian is ebbing with a devious energy that obscures his human form. Thoughts’ race in and command my inspection, but I’m unable to recall anything. Then as if experiencing astral catalepsy, my body will not obey my mind as I wrestle with some unknown oppressor.

I can’t make out any descriptive features on the peculiar man. I blink hard but it doesn’t help, only serves to weigh my eyelids down, heavy with exhaustion. Was it survival creating the warming sensation inside? Was it trying to alert me of imminent danger, trying to wake me up?

From some unknown place, not inside the room, certainly not imagined although the whole experience was proving to be something of a nightmare I hoped to wake from soon, I hear laughter, smug laughter.

The gazing predatory eyes of intent are aglow, steady watching, waiting. Something shifts, slips in and is dissolving. Alien bodies changing, shape shifting, feeding on the terror of those who have forgotten; feeding on the human being, relishing their savage needs.

I pinch myself, slap my face. It’s so obscure I’m not sure what’s wrong. My head is swimming, and I’m confused beyond reason. Like the universe ceased to exist, there’s complete silence, no static, the air is crisp, cool as it washes away the sense of time and space.

A smell like ions in an electrical storm is in the air, and the hair on my arms is standing straight up. Concealed within a brilliant, metallic, effervescent light the Curandero moves about the room, moves through the intricacies of the soul, compact inside a dense human body as if swimming in cloudy water.


The Indians’ fiendish voice is coming from all directions. “I command intent. I bend it to my will!” “Is it my intention that you read these words?”

Fleeting thoughts tease what’s left of my consciousness. Tickling a distinct part of me that my very existence relies upon. ‘We are condensed beings of light, light, is seed information, cellular memory, the sparks of life. Realization of truth is purification of that truth. Majestic with clarity, it becomes white-hot light, a terrific fear that explodes on release; it’s dispersion so severe it is incomprehensible; it is everything, and nothing. It is you.’

The idea is preposterous, where did it come from? Being a realist, I’m shocked for thinking like one of the ridiculous philosophers in the class. I place my hands on the side of my head and apply pressure, trying to stop the painful, loud thunder inside.  The Curandero persists, “It is intent inside. The force of this intent is inexorable, savoring profanation!”

I never imagined I’d be rendered helpless by my knees until I found myself on the floor. Burning inside, my mouth is but a gap from which a horrific scream should have been sounding but nothing escapes; even the fear inside me is hiding within my skin. I gave nothing away. It was taken.

Intent; infusing, independent, then satisfied.


The light beckoning, then withering, along with the helpless screams echoing from where it is now,



BIO: J.L Cowan is an adrenaline junky who loves reading outrageous fiction and horror. J.L uses the craft to clear the clutter and stay sane. She has written several stories, and three novels that are making their rounds in search of a home. J.L strives to convey a multitude of expressions vying for a channel onto the landscape of your imagination. Living in the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys trees, working with plants, trees, eating sweets, trees, and exploring the multiverse with fringe thinking minds, while waiting for that perfect elevator interview.