Ch. X, p4

“Home? You know how I can get home?” The words dribbled out of her mouth pleasantly. She was feeling more and more sedate…

“Your body remembers where home is,” the being answered, “even if your brain can’t describe it directly. All you need is a mechanism to help you cross over.”

“And where would I find something like that?”

“There is a village nearby… Do you know the one of which I speak?”

Something told her it knew the answer, and had asked only out of politeness. “Yes, I saw it from the mountain.”

The being shifted in the black. “A people live there. They are well versed in the laws of the universes. They can help you.”

“Will I need anything? As payment?”

“I do not know. I only know that I found a lost soul in these woods and that it is my duty to help it find its way home. Beyond that… Well, I have no right to speak for others.”

“Then what do you want?” she asked.

“It is as I said. My duty is to help those who enter these woods. I need nothing in return.”

So it’s some kind of guardian…

“Yes,”
it replied to her thought, “I am this dark forest’s keeper.”

A question lingered at the edge of her consciousness. Something about Frank and his death, but… She couldn’t commit to the thought, and it kept slipping away. Then, as she struggled to get a hold of her mind, she was sure she saw something—a faint outline of a face in the glowing specks.

Could it be…?

The specks dispersed, as if hiding their natural form. She felt a queasy surge of unrest spark up her neck and very nearly activated her flashlight in panic.

“Be easy…” said the being soothingly. “If it is so important to you, then…” the specks swarmed together, “here I am.”

She held her breath. A unique creature presented itself before her; she had never seen anything like it, its features curved and slender, yet powerful, with a kind of energy to them that could only come from light. In the darkness, she couldn’t make it out distinctly, but it felt human, no matter its looks.

“You’re not like me…” she said. “Physically.” Even so, she recognized its sentience, its presence of being, and felt more at ease. It had shown her what it was—there was no deception.

“We are alike where it is important,” it said, “And since it will help, I shall give you my name. Relax your jaw, and open your throat.”

She did as she was told and let feelings that were distinctly not her own guide her mouth. “Heh-cen-eh-deh,” she said slowly. Then she put it together, “Hecen Edeh?”

“When you go to the village, call me by that name. They will be relieved to hear of me.”

“Why?” she asked, “What happened?”

“My answer is intertwined with the fate of this forest and the fate of your friend. Come, we should make for the city. All will be made clear soon...”


. . .


Cold, dark cityscape had led to cold, dark cityscape, now with a more industrial appeal. Dominic’s eyes searched among squat, grimy buildings for the one labeled “Alpha.”

It didn’t take long to find. In bright, beautiful lettering across a wide placard, he saw the words “Alpha Magic” adorning a large warehouse. He gazed at the sign—a naked, winged woman, grinning mischievously, lay upon the word “magic,” her demon tail snaking and hooking around its end.

It was a charming frontispiece. But where was the entrance? The entire building was coloured the same shade of reddish gray. Completely solid.

He looked upwards, shouting, “Hello?”

At first, nothing happened. Then he saw movement overhead, from within the “A” of the sign.

“Ahoy, you down there!” a female voice yelled. “Stranger! Are you lost?”

He peered at the woman quizzically and said loudly, “I’m looking for Kairi Celine.”

“I am she.” The young woman leaned out of the window, her dark brown hair draped around her face. “You’re Dominic, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, well… Come on in then.”

He scrutinized the building again, making sure he hadn’t missed something.

She turned to leave.

“Wait!” he yelled, “Where’s the door?”

“Wherever you believe it to be… Say, what kind of tea do you like?”

“What?” he said, incredulous.

“Tea. I’m making you some tea.”

This is absurd. “Look, just tell me how to get inside.”

“Oh, but that wouldn’t be any fun, would it? I’ll make you something relaxing, you seem kind of stressed out.”

He shouted to her again as she disappeared into the building, but only the echo of his own voice sounded in reply. Enough of this. He grasped the building with his hands.

‘Grip.’ Millions of tiny claws protruded from his gloves and… slipped right off. “Urngh…” he groaned. An energy field… I guess I have to do this her way.

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