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Excerpted from Second Sight by Judith Orloff. Copyright 1996 by Judith Orloff, M.D. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner Books and Time Warner Bookmark.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I felt utterly at peace, contained, and self-contained, in a place that seemed to be without limits, going on forever."

Judith Orloff, Second Sight, Part 2

With no impulse to move or to be anywhere other than where I found myself, I looked around the tunnel now surrounding me. It was an amazingly still, long, cylindrical space, its gray color gleaming as if illuminated from behind by a subtle, shimmering source. Though the tunnel did not seem solid, as in ordinary reality, its translucent walls appeared to extend endlessly in both directions, comprised of a swirling, vaporous material resembling billions of orbiting atoms moving at enormous speeds. Other than enclosing me, this surreal world was completely empty, but comfortable and soothing: There were no harsh edges, and the whole tunnel seemed to be vibrating gently. In fact, my body now also looked translucent and was vibrating, as if it had changed form to suit this new environment. I felt utterly at peace, contained, and self-contained, in a place that seemed to be without limits, going on forever.

Suddenly I remembered being a little girl, looking up into space while sitting on my rooftop, fascinated by the sky and the planets, sensing an invisible presence. For hours I'd stare at what I couldn't see but could feel more strongly than anything material. From my earliest memory, I always believed in God. Not so much the God of the Jewish religion in which I was raised, or any other religion for that matter, but a formless, ever-present being that twinkled through all things and lovingly watched over me. That same presence was now with me in the tunnel, more familiar and closer than it ever had been when I was a child. Enveloped by it, as if wrapped in a warm cashmere blanket on a cold winter's night, I was in perfect balance, impervious to harm, protected by an invisible but somehow tangible, sustaining life force.

Time had stopped, each moment stretching out into eternity. From what felt like a great distance away, I gazed through the shattered windshield, noticing soft moonlight streaming through the canyon. The car bounced off huge boulders, turning end over end through the air as we plummeted down the mountainside. And yet I never perceived that I was in the slightest danger; I experienced not a single moment of fear. With the coolness of a detached observer, I counted the times the car somersaulted: once, twice, three, four, all the way up to eight. Protected by the shelter of the tunnel, I remained in a void, suspended in free fall, not knowing if this was life or death.

As abruptly as I'd been pulled into it, I was jolted out of the tunnel and back into the present, just as the car crashed down on solid ground. With a high, shuddering bounce and a grating sound of steel against rock, we careened to a grinding halt, the front wheels of the car projecting over a narrow ledge. We were precariously balanced, actually teetering on the precipice.

Thrown by the impact of our landing, my companion and I had both ended up in the backseat. Fragments of broken glass were scattered all over the inside of the car, but miraculously, neither of us was hurt. We quickly realized, though, that we were still in danger: At any moment the car might slide forward and tumble into a large ravine below. We had to get out of there fast.

A live oak tree trying to crawl in through the window appeared to be our only available support. Without looking back I grabbed on to its branches and managed to pull myself out of the mangled car. My companion close behind, we scrambled up the side of the cliff, pushing through thickets of manzanita and wild mustard, barely penetrable scrub brush and wild chaparral. Trying to avoid the loose, unstable mounds of dirt and slippery leaves beneath our feet, we used shrubs as ropes to pull ourselves up the sheer hillside. Yet even as we inched our way to the top, I kept asking myself, Why were our lives spared? We should have been killed. Instead, we were walking away with hardly a scratch. And already the image of the tunnel haunted me.

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