It had happened again, and Mackenzie didn’t know what to do. The first time was when she was seven years old, sitting in the fourth row with her family. Mackenzie had no context to understand it back then. It was just a feeling, like the instant you realize you’re swinging too high and the exhilaration turns to apprehension. The kind of knotted stomach feeling that climbs up to your heart and then grabs you in the throat, making you lead-bellied and light-headed all at once.
The second time Mackenzie was fourteen, lying in her bed during a thunderstorm. A particularly loud crack of thunder had ripped her awake from a dream. For an instant, when she was in that state between waking and sleeping, she had the sensation of floating, of hovering like a birthday balloon that’s lost some of its helium. She was floating, hovering three feet from the floor, blissful and motionless, waiting for consciousness to give her gravity. Even after consciousness came and enveloped her body that feeling of levity lingered somewhere deep within, making her giddy and disoriented in the dark. Lightning flashed through the window, injecting a pulse of adrenaline to her body. Thunder crashed against her eardrums and reverberated within the walls of her bedroom. Her body was heavy now with gravity, but the feeling of airiness continued to tug at her heart or stomach, at that unplaceable part of her being.
She remembered this feeling from long ago. It was different but somehow the same. The physical feeling was altered, but the underlying sense was unchanged. She had no words to explain it, but Mackenzie knew that this feeling, this sense, had come from the same source and that this source was a power or an energy, an individual or an identity. This realization flashed through the windows of her being in perfect synchronization with another flash of lightning. Another pulse of adrenaline gave the sensation of her brain expanding in a mental gasp.
Thunder bellowed in the darkness. She felt the presence all around her now, within her and moving through her. The presence felt dangerous and terrifying, but it also carried with it an overwhelming sense of goodness. Her brain was now breathing with adrenaline. Her thoughts raced about, taunting and tripping over one another, fighting to be the first to escape into words. She strained to speak, but her tongue seemed as heavy and immovable as iron.
Lightning . . . thunder . . . lightning lightning thunder.
The storm intensified. The thunder was omnipotent, running roughshod through the night and swallowing up any spark of lightning like a hungry lion. Mackenzie felt paralyzed. Her taunting and tripping thoughts kept coming back to one idea, one word, one person. God. Was this presence of terror and goodness the presence of God?
The third time Mackenzie was twenty-six years old, working on her master’s project in the library. Piles of books lay open on the table, a table tucked against a rough and clammy cement wall amid stacks and stacks of science books and periodicals. She liked the quiet and cave-like aspect of this spot, her spot. She had found it early on as an undergrad during that phase everyone calls “the freshman freak-out,” when the pace and caliber of the college curriculum precipitates a sink-or-swim, fight-or-flight phenomenon that cuts you to the core and requires every ounce of courage and savagery to overcome. This spot, this very table, had helped her prevail and had since become a sort of sanctuary for her, a sacred place of silence and serenity where her brain could breathe. This spot had become the one place where she could unplug from the world and just think. Here she was free to ponder and concentrate, to follow her train of thought and get lost in the caverns of her mind. No one had ever interrupted her here, until now. That feeling, that presence had returned. This time it was still and small like a fly. She tried to brush it aside, but it persisted, buzzing past her ear, flitting near her fingers and across her forearm, alighting on her shoulder then floating in and out of her line of sight before softly landing on an open book just out of reach. This presence was not so terrifying as she remembered. She couldn’t ignore it, so she stopped typing and just sat there.
If this was God, he was annoying, rudely interrupting her train of thought. She was in one of her code monkey trances and had just come up with an ingenious solution to one of the more difficult strands of code. He should’ve known. He is, after all, omniscient, isn’t he?