I've mostly left this story out during Burning Man discussions with my friends because it's not normal and the experience could be chalked up as brush with insanity and coincidence. But, since I feel a sense of anonymity here, I feel open about sharing. Before going further though, I want to say that I'm a fairly logical person and nothing like this has ever happened to me before.
On my 6th night (Friday), my friends and I went out to roam around the open playa. After being out for a while, we got tired and made our way back to camp. Once alone, I relaxed in my chair for a bit, then, as I got up to go into my tent, I heard a voice.
"You must go to the deep playa. Someone needs your help."
What? Nobody was around. And it wasn't an audible voice - it was in my head. The message was very clear and stopped me dead in my tracks. Did I just go crazy for a second? Go out there and help this person how? Hold on. Did I really just hear this?
The answers didn't come so clearly, but as the seconds of pondering turned into minutes, an intense feeling of worry came over me. What if someone really
did need help out there? I couldn't shake this bad feeling. I needed to go or else I wouldn't be able to sleep. So, I prepared my backpack with some water, glow sticks, EL wire, scarf thing (shemagh?), and a blanket, put on my headphones to listen to some calming music and started walking. Considering the distance from my camp to the deep playa, I don't know why I decided to walk, but it felt right.
So off I went. 2am or so. Logic thrown out the window, walking to an unknown destination.
Lots of people were still out partying and playing. Conflicting sounds bled through my headphones and lights were flashing all around me. What had been wonderful music and pretty lights just a few hours ago, were now audial/visual chaos. I passed Pink Heart. Then Osiris. I finally passed the huge disco ball and the frenzy started to subside. I walked out further and, like the sunset bringing comfort after a day of difficult heat, being in the presence of the deep brought calm to my soul.
The voice was conveniently MIA, but there was something guiding me from within. I looked towards the darkness and my doubts faded. "I see. I need to go to the trash fence." I walked further away from the city and each step I took put me deeper in a zen-like state. I was no longer questioning. Logical, illogical, it didn't matter. I just knew I needed to go the fence. And after arriving, I'd know what to do.
As I walked, my mind was telling me that I was looking for a girl. By herself. And she would have some lights on her, but not much. I finally reached the trash fence and found a guy sitting on the ground. Could it maybe be this guy, instead?
I took off my headphones and asked the only thing I could think to ask. "Are you okay?" He tells me he's good and he just came out to listen to music and chill. Fair enough. I politely ejected and let him do his thing. Turning back around, the lights and fire of the city were barely visible. The vast, open space had me wondering once again, "Now what?"
Intuition navigated me left, about 45 degrees away from the fence. I walked and walked...then walked some more. I don't know how long I'd been at it, but it must have been hours. My legs were in getting tired and I was feeling a little defeated, so I sat and contemplated whether or not this was a wasted effort. "Oh, well. At least I tried." But the thought didn't settle well. My mission felt incomplete. I stood and proceeded in the direction of the pull.
As I kept at it, I found myself at a bench, so I sat. I was about halfway from the trash fence and the temple by this time. From my seat, a tiny blue light in the direction of the fence caught my attention. I squinted and couldn't tell how far it was, maybe a few football fields away. Was it part of an art piece? Someone's bike? As daunting as the thought of heading back towards the trash fence was...and though my initial pull was in a very opposite direction, my eyes were fixated on this light. I got up and decided to walk towards it.
As I made progress, the light continued to remain small. Perhaps delirium had set in. But, I've walked this far already, might as keep going. Realizing I shared Forrest Gump's reasoning for running across the country for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours (my favorite movie, btw), I laughed out loud.
Eventually, I reached the light. It was one of those little lights in the shape of an ice cube that you drop into your cocktail at a party to light up your drink. I was puzzled as to why it was just sitting there idly on the floor. Next to it was a red plastic drink cup. And then, I found her...
Wrapped in a dark blanket in the middle of the deep playa, almost invisible, there she was. I was standing next to her and I didn't even realize she was there until my eyes adjusted. All I could think was, "You're the one. I can't believe I found you!!!" I was elated. Then a spine chilling feeling came over me. "What if she's dead?"
I observed her as I did as a child of my mother when she was sleeping. I watched for the blanket to slightly rise and fall to confirm she was breathing. I couldn't tell so well in the darkness. So I lifted the blanket and her slightly delayed hands grabbed the blanket to cover her face from the cold. Okay, good. She's alive, just drunk. I was beyond exhausted and the thought of carrying her to a safer place seemed impossible. The glowsticks and EL wire - I knew they had a purpose!
I set the lights around her as a perimeter sat about 5ft away. I didn't want her to wake up and think I was some creeper trying to make prey of her. Quite the opposite. The man sent me to protect her. I noticed a few bicycles ride by, then a few art cars. It then dawned on me that if she had been in the path of an art car, they would not have seen her. Maybe she could have gotten run over?
I sat for a good half hour and started freezing. I put on my blanket and scarf, then turned around to find she was now in the sleeping in the sitting position. "Cool, she's coming to." I turned back around and drifted off. When I awoke, she was gone. It was a little odd that this interaction ended with zero dialogue exchanged. She probably wondered what the hell I was doing there next to her. She might have sobered up and gone back to camp thinking she had a run in with a crazy person. Regardless, I felt a great sense of resolve.
I picked up my lights and headed back to camp myself. My outfit that night included a cape and as it flapped gracefully in the wind, I felt my duty as a temporary superhero was fulfilled. The sun was coming up by the time I got to camp and it was my first time seeing the sunrise at Burning Man. It was a nice experience. I entered my tent and fell asleep peacefully and immediately.
...only to be woken up a couple hours later when the sun unapologetically converted my peaceful desert bedroom into an easy-bake oven.
All in all, great burn and I think I'll be back next year tldr; The man told me that a girl needed help in the deep playa. I walked out there and actually found her. Made sure she was safe, then went back to camp. Total adventure time: 5 hours or so.