"I don't like that man." Kiara whispered to her mother behind the counter.
"Don't be silly now. He's just a customer and we have to be nice to all our customers." Her mother clearly had no mind for childish wimps.
"Mr Legs don't like him either." Girl leaned down under the counter and poked the jar with her pet spider, hoping for some support, at least from her most treasured friend.
"Then maybe Mr Legs wants to go and serve our customers, in your place?
He's one of our regular customers and he always been nice to us. Only thanks to him and others like him we don't go sleep with empty bellies every night.
I really can't play games now, I need your help, please!.." Mother was losing patience.
After being hushed, the girl had no other choice but to get back to work. She's been helping around the shop most of the days now - the only two helping hands her mother could afford. Life hasn't been gentle to both of them, but that never bothered Kiara much. She was happy, even when working at the shop. Making friends with little creatures, mind - full of dreams, and a spirit untouched by evil, seeing only goodness all around. The whole world was full of wonder in her eyes.
She placed that plate with pie on his table and smiled, just to instantly sprint away, before that man could even thank her. The way he looks at her. The way he talks to her. The way he always tries to touch her hand, if she is not careful. Something is deeply unpleasant about this person. Something she can't explain to her self, let alone her mother. Something she just have to bear with, the best she can. Luckily he comes only couple times a week and not staying around for too long. But every time he is here, Kiara would always do her best, to try and stay as far away from him, as she possibly can. Coming up with most elaborate excuses, and even volunteering for some cleaning duties at the back of the shop. But the moment he close the door behind him, the whole world gets brighter. She starts to breath easily and she just breeze through the rest of the day with joy in her eyes.
Sun is going down and red glow floods the shop through the windows. Small things, that might seem mundane to most people, would often captivate Kiara's imagination and she would forget everything else completely, her mind drifting, lost in imagination. And this was one of those moments. She was standing there, frozen, under the spell of that golden sunset, staring through the window. Her mother likes to leave her be in such moments, as if trying to make up other shortcomings. For all she wished she could do for her, all that she wished she could offer, but was never able to. At least she can let her dream, for a moment or two.
"Honey! I need you to run to your grandma, please. Before it gets dark. Can you do that for me?" Mother whispered into little girl's ear, waking her up gently.
"Sure!" Kiara cheerfully answered with golden light bouncing of her eyes.
"Take this envelope and go straight to her, don't wander off the path, don't stop for anything. Don't go chasing butterflies! Okay?"
She ran straight to her grandma's, just as she was told. And she was on her way back, right after delivering what was given to her. But the evening was so warm and the light so dazzling, she thought it won't be any harm if she'll take another path going back to her mother's shop, path through a small park, with a pond in the middle. Some of the trees were preparing for winter already, with leaves changing colour, dotted in red and yellow here and there. Evening songs of the countless little creatures make it all so magical. Her mind chasing every chirp, every squeak, trying figure out where does every single note coming from, in this grand symphony of life. She was so lost in it all, she didn't notice someone else, right behind her.
"Hello there. Enjoying the lovely weather? All by your self?"
That voice.. That voice sent shivers down her spine and the music stopped. She turned around and saw that man, that same man. She tried to smile, out of habit, but now this place became the last place in the whole world she'd rather be.
"It's nice here. But I have to go now, my mom is waiting for me.." She turned away and start walking faster.
But she heard quick steps behind her and a sudden strong grip on her arm froze her on the spot.
"Wait! Don't go yet. It's still early. Want to see ducklings in the pond?" The man whispered in the friendliest voice he could possibly make.
"No, let me go! Mom!.." Kiara got scared and tried to break free.
The man dropped the smiles and there was only anger in his face now. He grabbed her with one arm around her waist and lifted her in the air, covering her mouth with his other hand. With tears of fear rolling down her face, she tried to scream, but no one could hear her now. Pressing his lips close to her ear he whispered:
"Shh now... Don't scream... I only want to be your friend..."
"Rita! I could use a hand here.. I got two on my tail! Where are you?." I know I'm better than those two behind me, but they have the numbers and with my left wind acting up, I might hit the water sooner than I'd like.
"Hold on! I'm at north sector, but I have one of my own. And these..damn..anti air guns everywhere..not helping at all.."
"Ok, how about we switch partners? Head to central channel. I'm coming from the south."
"Got it. On my way."
I hit the throttle, skipping the water and dancing around the the buildings, trying wiggle my tail as hard as I can, because if they get at least one good lock - I'm going down. Just one more pirouette and I'm the the main city's channel. I can see her coming in hot. Just few more moments.
"Get ready.. In two.. One.. Pull!" At my signal she pulls up, giving me clear line of fire and my guns tear through s-sec scum's hull. I push my craft down just in time to see her sliding only inches above me with her guns burning red.
"Pull in the loop now! One left to go, if I get him first, tonight's bill is on you!" Rita is always one step ahead.
We both went in to double loop, with the last guy zipping past under us just to get straight in to Rita's firing sight. Pieces of his craft start flying in all directions and he disappeared in the cloud of black smoke and steam.
"Not very fair, he was hanging on your guns before the bet. But I'll let this one slide."
"Ha! Losers weepers.
We should get back before they'll get more of them in the air. This isn't going very well. We've lost too many today as it is."
"I'm right behind you."
We went under water to get out of sight and got to our rendezvous point, under the cover of darkness.
Only less then half of us returned. And of those that did return, most were in no flying shape. At least not any time soon. We did not speak of it that evening. Just went straight to our usual gathering place for some meal and to rinse today's memories with as much booze as necessary to get back in shape by the morning. This unsanctioned underground bar been acting as our unofficial home base since the start of the resistance. It's surprising, perhaps even a little suspicious, it was not been raided by s-sec yet.
The place was unusually quiet today. At least for the first few hours, until the booze start doing it's magic and all was back to normal, seemingly. Only now there were fewer of us around.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Our silence was beginning to feel a little too heavy for me.
"That we should fuck and go sleep?"
"Eh, maybe that too. But I mean about all of this, what we are doing and the point of it, that we are getting nowhere.."
"Not tonight. I have no mind for any of it. Can we just finish it up and sleep this day off? I don't want to think about any of it now."
She used to be very different, we all were different people back then, but this war changed us all. We were very naive back then, we only wanted to change our world. And now, only couple years later, we are being called terrorists and hunted like animals. Hope is a rare commodity these days.
Most of the following day I spent getting my flyer in order. Rita left early without saying anything, which is not unusual. She often does her own thing and only gets others in the loop, when she feels like it, or there is a need for it.
"I'm back." I heard her voice behind me.
"I thought you'll get some food." I released a sigh of disappointment after single glance at her.
"I was in the library. Will have to get something on the way."
"On the way to where?"
You were right, you know. We are fighting a loosing war."
"Are you thinking of running away from it? Feel like building a hut somewhere, far from this corrupted place and spending the rest of your life raising goats?"
"Tempting, but no. We've gone too far to just walk away now."
"I probably could, if you'd come with me."
"Don't load it all on me."
"That's not what I meant.. Eh never mind. What was that about the base, are getting in to another fight tonight? So soon?"
"Either that, or there's some change of plans, or maybe they are out of ideas and about to disband the resistance entirely.."
Everybody was already in this damp and dark cave when we arrived. At least all those that still breathing and not locked up. "The base" is a very big word for something barely more than a hole in the ground, but big words helps to boost the morale, at least a little. There is strong smell of despair in the air, even fear. All our leadership is arguing behind closed doors, while the rest of us waiting for somebody to come out and reveal to us some grand plan, some miracle idea that will turn the tide, something we could believe in. But nothing, no one was coming out.
"Let's go." Rita called me up. "I have an idea, not very good one, but it looks like we've run out of all the better ones."
She spoke a little with the guy at the door to the main hall and they let us in. Whole room went quiet instantly and all eyes locked on us.
"So what have you got, let's hear it." Man at the middle - Aton skipped all the pleasantries and just went straight to the point, desperate times. Even though we don't subscribe to authoritarian hierarchies, Aton became our leader over the last year or so.
"Ok, we all know things are bad for us, and getting worse each day." Rita start with the basics. "We lose people not only in battles, but on daily s-sec sweeps too now. For a while we had an edge in the air at least, but they covered the whole damn city with anti air guns. And raiding the docks and s-sec warehouses for aircraft and other equipment been near impossible for months now. We are losing on all sides.."
"Yes, could you please skip to the part we don't know about yet?"
"We need something to level the field, at least for a bit, long enough to make a difference. I know it's crazy, it's unthinkable, but we don't have any other option. We have to blow of the dam."
"That's insane! We are not here to destroy the city and kill our own families." One of the men start gasping for air.
"Even if we'd blown the main damn, the secondary dam would raise the barriers instantly." Another man, a little wiser one, wasn't impressed either. "It would be pointless, and even worse - we would lose people's support after such act."
But Rita was was determined to be heard, no one could silence her. A far cry from a shy, quiet girl I remember back in school.
"We are in desperate times and we must take riskier options. We don't have any other choice now. We can take over control station and delay raising back up barriers just long enough to cause some chaos, but not long enough to cause any long term damage. That would give us a window we desperately need, a window to even the odds, to level the field. And on even field, we can defeat that them, we are better in everything but numbers and equipment. If we could get their numbers running in panic, and their warehouses unguarded at least for an hour, we can defeat them. Defeat the corruption, that disease, that self appointed rotten authority above everyone else. We must flush it all out, or else it's been all for nothing. I've spent whole morning going through blueprints in the main library, it can work..."
I could not believe my own ears. What she is suggesting is unthinkable, at least it was, merely a day ago. But to hear something as insane as that from her, from someone I thought I knew most of my life, made me question my own sanity. Maybe I'm the crazy one, maybe I'm not seeing it right? How did it come to this? We were just sitting on the pier with our school books, feeding birds, watching sun to go down and dreaming outloud about exploring the world, I remember as if it was yesterday. And then I joined the a movement only to impress her. I didn't care much for politics. We were so native then, thinking we can change the world with few slogans, few posters and by shouting our radical ideas to passing crowds, without spilling a drop of blood.. And today we are casually talking about something that could kill us all. How did it happen?
My mind went a bit blank, I felt darkness all around me, creeping up on me and crushing my very core. I didn't hear what they were talking about, perhaps I just didn't want to hear. I got scared and went to hide in my own mind. I was there, but not really there..
"..Rocco! Hey, did you hear me?" Rita's shouting, straight in to my ear, brought me back in to reality. "Let's go!"
"Huh? Oh okay.
..I think I need a drink."
"So do I."
"Sorry I spaced out a little there. So did they agree?" I asked her when we left.
"Not yet. They are considering it. I just hope by the time they decide something, there will be enough of us still left to do something."
"You sure you are not interested raising goats instead?" That idea suddenly seemed like the best one of all the ideas that came forth today.
"You know.. If this, or whatever else they throw us in to over the next few days, won't work.. Yes, anything you want, even goats. Or we can just go around the world in a little boat exploring. Just as we used to dream about."
Once again I woke up floating in the same space. Swimming in the void, in the emptiness. But it's not empty, it's full of stuff. The skies, above and below, dotted with stars, with realms. I'm alone, so I just go to explore, only for peek in to one and another. One is green, lush with growth and so peaceful. Another is covered in mountain ranges and, even if I can't see very clearly without entering it, I'm pretty sure I see dragons flying over and around those mountain peeks. There is life going on in all of those. But there is one a little further that's bothering me somehow, I feel drawn to it, something is calling me there. I must go investigate.
I approach it slowly and before my eyes a dire picture emerge. The realm is under attack and the defenders are vastly outgunned and outnumbered, they are barely holding. The attackers have giants and all manner of other vile tools of war and destruction. There seem to be no hope for the home team.
That just seem not right at all. I feel I have no choice, I have to step in. I entered straight in to the front lines, with my blades and my dogs of war. I got some of the retreating troops back in line and got them hold that line. While we went on assault, we went after those giants. Grinding them down, one by one, piece by piece, until every single one of those monsters were laying in dirt. With the biggest threats eliminated, defending forced somehow miraculously managed to repel the invaders, eventually, just barely. But there were no celebrations, no screams of joy. Death and destruction was near absolute - all I could see was just ruins.
I left that place feeling sadness, with a sense of loss. What is the point of fighting if you are lost no matter the outcome of your fight?.. It all feel so wasteful, so empty, devoid of purpose.
I just felt I need a time off. A moment of rest to get my self back in to more positive vibe. I got out of that "sea of realms" to the shore, just to find my sis already sitting there, waiting for me.
"Sneaking up on me again?"
"I thought you might need a shoulder to rest on."
"Thanks. All better already.
Since you are here anyway, do you know anything about that forbidden realm, hidden in the very depths?"
"No, I never went that far. Maybe you shouldn't either?"
"I have no desire to ever go back there. But I have a feeling I might have to, someday. But not today, or any time soon.
On more positive note, would you like to go explore some places, peaceful ones?"
She just smiled in agreement and jumped on her feet ready to dive in to it with me. And so our day ended with some sightseeing, of only peaceful sights.
I woke up in a little strange place, or perhaps more precisely - strange state. Suspended, floating in an ocean of nothing and something at the same time. There was no up or down, no ground nor sky, only the space. And something else - tiny specks of light, like stars, scattered around me. My first instinct was to try and move around in a physical sense - moving my body part, but it was no use. I looked as helpless and a fly fallen in a bowl of water. But soon I realised, or perhaps remembered other ways to get around in places, states as this. I only have to use my mind, my awareness, my focus, to change my "point of perception" and thus changing my location. It's all relative, all matter of perception.
I got interested in those "stars" around me, so I focused on one of those, and as I did, I began moving closer to it. But as I approached one of those "stars", it began to grow in my perception, from a small speck to a planet, a whole world. Those were not stars, those were world, entire realms scattered around. I moved from one to another. Every single one was a realm. I realised I could enter any of them, if I'd like, to explore deeper, closer. But as I was about to go in to one, Jonny showed up.
"You need to go check this place." He's giving me some coordinates, or maybe it was more like distance and relative direction to everything else.
But he ran off before I could even ask anything more. I just know where to go, and that this place quite far, hidden deep in the void. Far from all other specks of light. I got curious my self what could possibly be hidden there, far from any eyes. So I locked on it, spread my wings and at full speed soared through to void. Zipping passed many realms until there was nothing, only a vast ocean of dark and empty space. There was no more light, only faint sense of direction, a feeling of one. A little while after, I began seeing a tiny faint speck of light far in the distance. That was a relief, because I was beginning to doubt my sense of direction and maybe I got lost. But now that destination was in sight it should be smooth sailing. As I was getting closer I noticed some other object in my path. I slowed down a bit to get better look at it, and that thing began moving. It was moving towards me. A sentry? Looks more like machine, but I sense something alive inside. At this point I have no idea if it's friendly or hostile, if he/it even see me or maybe that thing is just flying somewhere else. But just in case, I start taking wide circle around it, and lo and behold, he's matching my every move. Well at least it's clear now, I was spotted and he is trying to catch up with me and it seems he is heavily armed, although from so far away it's hard to tell for sure. On the other hand, not sure if I want to find out. Since I noticed he is a lot slower than me, there is no reason to get in to fight with whatever can be outrun. On that thought, I realigned my self with my destination again and left that sentry in the dusts.
As I came closer to the place, that speck of light start to grow and grow and now that realm was almost filling my entire field of view. I didn't stop, I just went straight in to it and landed in front of bridge leading to large gates. The whole place is like a fortress, surrounded by walls. Huge walls, seemingly reaching the sky. And these gates ahead of me seem like the only entrance and something prevents my from just flying over those walls. But that's not a big deal, I'll just walk over there. There was single guard by the gates. Looks like some kind of sleeping golem. A machine from the outside, but something alive underneath all that layer of machinery. I wonder if I can talk to him. I only took one step and he woke up.
"Hello, I come in peace.." I waved my hand in the air.
But that guard responded with all the fire power he had, without warning or a single word. Projectiles were zipping all around me. So much for diplomacy... I opened fire too and he was down in a moment. But I didn't get a moment to contemplate the situation, should I try to investigate anything or should I leave. The moment that guard's body hit the grown, gates opened and more of them appeared. Two, three, five, ten and then another ten or twenty. And all of them rushing at me their guns blazing. "What the hells is wrong with these people? Can't we all chill a little and have a chat?" All of it was very confusing, since I didn't show any aggression, except the self defence part, but now there seem to be no other option on the table, only to fight. So we did battle there for while, but no matter how many of them I take down, more kept coming, and coming and coming. Until I got my self surrounded, with no escape, and running out fire power. Out numbered and outgunned. "Well shit, this expedition going to leave a scar." I began saying my prayers to ease my passing. But almost at the very last moment I heard a cracking noise above me. Seemed as if the sky is opened and three beams of light struck the ground, right in front of me and my crew landed.
"Your asses just had to wait to the very last moment, didn't you?"
"We didn't know it could get this messy. Take these."
They start loading me with new weapons and armour. After refitting me all three just took shelter behind me and I was back in butchering business, but now I have better range, and stronger hits. They were dropping fast until not a single one of them was left standing. That was our window to get out, because I've seen enough for one day. We just packed up and left that hostile place, before more of them would show up, more than I could handle even with all the upgrades.
It was Halloween week, but I had no spare mind for any festivities. I was ears deep in my work and other stuff. Even in my dream I was hard at work, so focused on it I didn't even notice when she came. Just at some point I felt someone was nearby. I turn to my right and my sis is sitting right next to me.
"Oh hello, didn't see you here. It's been a while since last time you came by." I leaned my head on her shoulder for a moment, instead of a hug. Her presence is always very soothing and calming. "How's your family? Work?"
"Family is well. My work is tiring though, but that can't be helped."
"Can I help with anything?"
"No, it's OK. Just too much experience makes it hard to see other, new things at times. Speaking of experience, I want to take you somewhere."
"Some place with many answers, if you're willing to dig.."
And I appeared somewhere far away from home. I don't see my sis any more, no one with with. In front of me I only see some strange old machines, seeming hundreds of years old. Not a single button or flashy light, only rusted gears and levers. It's not clear what those supposed to do, or how one should operate them, it makes no sense at all. Only then I noticed some voice in the background, as if there was TV on, behind me and on it some add running. The narrator was explaining features of those machines. But whatever that very professional salesman's voice said, it made so little sense to my mind that nothing from his sales pitch registered in my memory. But shortly his voice went silent and the machines woke up. Slowly gears began spinning, levers turning. Like some old steam engines woken up from a centuries old slumber by some invisible force, magically brought to live. Those machines began digging soil. Pitch black dirt start rolling down the conveyors and in to large pile of dirt. All seems so peaceful and calming yet somehow quite lively, even without anyone else around. I just stare in to that growing pile of black dirt and suddenly see something white rolling down that pile. It's a human skull. Then some more white clean bones emerged from the dirt. Only then I looked around and realised where I was - a graveyard. And those machines were all digging some old graves. I start feeling a little uneasy in this place, seeing as this experience is turning in to some grotesque spectacle. Why I am here? What's the point of it? And that black dirt.. It looks so lovely and feel some strong pull to it. I want to touch it. Not sure if I can, or if I should, but perhaps due to that sense of privacy, as if it all just for me and not a single soul around, I give in to my completely inappropriate desires and get my hand on that pile of dirt. It feels so nice, so magical, so intoxicating.. And I can't resist even stranger desire to taste, just a tiny bit. I put pinch of it in my mouth.. Oh my gods, it's to rich in flavour, so nutritious, it taste divine. I start gorging on it, I couldn't resist it, like nothing I ever tasted, there's just no words to describe it. I couldn't stop eating that dirt. Until some inner voice of my own start yelling at me: "WTF you are are doing? You are eating decomposed corpses! What is wrong with you? Spit that out now!" It felt so wrong and so good at the same time. But eventually I surrendered to that voice of mortal morals. "No, I can't be eating that. It's wrong." And I spat out whatever I still had left in my mouth. And went to rinse my mouth with water in some fountain nearby. But even after that, I couldn't forget the taste. So good... Possibly best treat I ever had.
That Ki's big grin give it all away. She is up to something, I can feel it in my bones. She is cheating for sure, but I have no idea how, yet. Perhaps she marked the cards somehow, but I can't see any markings. Well not a bother, I'm sure we will find out soon enough. It's all just for some good fun anyway to kill the time. We've been waiting for this guest for a while now, whatever he has, if anything, is important enough to wait for days if I have to.
"He is here." Blossom announced his arrival before he even entered our tavern.
He merely glanced over the place and swiftly marched to our table. Not a moment to waste.
"Welcome, please take a seat, have a drink." I try to show my best manners.
"Thank you, but it's okay. I'm just for a moment. I have something that might help you." This friend of a friend begin to give me some mild anxiety with all the rushing, and his "straight to the point, business first" ways.
"Are you sure I can't interest you in a glass of whiskey, on the house?"
"A finest whiskey in town, Sir! Smooth as baby's butt and kicks gentler than love-sick maid." Rob joined in advertising his wares.
"Thank you, but I don't consume alcohol." Our guest was not impressed.
"Non alcoholic drinks only outside, in the lake.." But my failed attempt of a joke received no applause.
.. Eh don't mind it. I apologies for my juvenile humor. So what you said you have for me?"
He pulled from his pocket folded piece of paper and passed it to me. On it just one word - a name.
"Who is it?" It just didn't ring any bells and the meaning of it was lost on me.
"The girl you are trying to find."
"Huh? Oh.. Are you trying to tell me that is her real name? The witch lied to me?"
He just shrugged his shoulders: "That's all I got right now, hope it helps."
"I'm sure it will help, thank you. What do I owe you for it?"
"Don't mention it, just a favor to your friend. Good luck." And he disappeared in the doorway as swiftly as he came.
I don't know what will I do with it, what I can do with it, but I know it's very important piece I was missing. I'm feel much closer to her now.
"Who is she?" Ki's question brought my mind back in to present.
"Someone I used to know. Before you joined us. And then we lost Rei. Because I was blind and ignorant. But we'll find her. One of these days we will find her, I'm sure."
"Does she want to be found?"
"That is very good question. We will ask her that the next time we see her..
Lets get back to our game, shall we?"
I have good cards, there is no pint in dragging it any longer: "I call with.."
"Welcome traveller! You seem to be long way from home. Our finest selection of liqueur will rejuvenate your weary feet in no time." Rob's voice caught all our attention. Who is he talking to? We didn't expect anybody else today. The man look very tired, his rags barely holding on his frail body. I never seen him before. A human?
"What this human doing here?" I asked Blossom.
"He was following you."
"A lot of random things might be following me. But I mean, why would you let him in?"
"I though you knew him."
"Maybe we should just stick with our families and friends. Wandering souls can surely find some other places to hang around."
"Okay, you want me to send him off?"
"No, it's fine. He's already here, at least we can listen to his story. This once."
The man was not responding to Rob's questions. As if trying to, perhaps even struggling to make sense of all that's around him. But after few moments his eyes lit up a little.
"I'm looking for something, for someone." He pored words out at Rob. There was deep feeling of despair and urgency in his voice.
"Well you might be in luck here. I just happen to know someone half-decent at finding things." Rob waved his hand towards our table.
He walked straight to us, his eyes fixed on me.
"Can you help me? I'm looking for my son, it's very important. I must speak to him." And I got yet another piece of paper shoved in to my hands. With a name.
"Your son? Is that his name?" I know that name. It all beginning to make sense. But I'm not sure if this man can be helped, knowing who is he looking for.
"I see now. So you were following his scent, that I'm carrying.. Perhaps I should shower more often. Anyhow, what you are asking might be beyond my abilities, but I will try what I can. It might take a while. You are free to stay here in the mean time. You don't seem to have where to go anyway."
Old man just nodded his head in silence and sat down at the far corner of the tavern. Just staring in to the wall and drowning in his own regrets. But that can't be helped, at least not any time soon. If opportunity presents it self - sure, but I have too much on my hands now to worry about his pain any more than necessary.
"So where were we?" I turn to Ki. "Ah right, I call you with two aces.."
Ki throws her cards on the table laughing: "Ha Ha! I have 3 aces! I win! I win!"
"Hmm, three clearly beats two.."
"Hey Alice. Are you busy?"
I just dropped on her without warning while she was clearly in the middle of something. She greeted me with her usual smile.
"It can wait a moment. Do you need my help with something?"
"Well yeah.. It's about my realm. I think I'm missing something, maybe even something obvious. Every time I come back to it, there's hardly anything left of it, I have to start it all over. And the longer I'm away, to less of it left. What is missing?"
She pulled her eyebrows together and was just staring at me for a little, as if I grew a horn on my forehead.
"You are quite right, it is obvious. You must forgive me, I'm a little surprised. You, of all people, got stuck on something as simple as that. Perhaps they did took away from you much more than I imagined."
"So it can be fixed?"
"Fixing would imply something is broken, which is hardly the case here. Everything just as it should be, as it meant to be."
"But I never seen anything like that here. Not even once I noticed anything fading in your domain. Yours is stable."
"Precisely. Well, try to solve it your self. What is the main difference between your place and mine? No.. Perhaps the right question would be: what is the greatest difference between you and me?"
There was thousand things I could name, but neither of those seem to have any relation to the problem. Except.. Maybe just that one main difference..
"Hmm.. Is it because you are here at all times, while I'm mostly down there?"
"Indeed. You are half way there."
"But you know that I can't be there at all times, not yet. So I'm stuck with constantly rotting away realm?"
She start to laugh at me, which confused me even more.
"Any other day I would love to play riddles with you. It is truly a joy to watch your mind trying to find a way out of every maze to find your self in. But there are far too many things waiting for my attention at this moment, so I will give you some of that cheese and I'm sure you will manage the rest."
"So there is a way?"
"There is always a way, if the need is there. What you create is nothing more but a dream, a memory. And memories have a habit of fading away over time, don't they? Unless! Unless you keep keep them alive by remembering, dreaming.. Or in other words - by observing. You can't be that observer at all times, so the magic answer is - you need someone else who can. You simply need a guardian."
"Guarding from what?"
"Oh! I understand it now!"
"Ha Ha!.. Do you now?"
Her laughter did deflate my initial burst of confidence.
"I think I do. More or less. At least, I think I have pretty good idea now, of the matter. I have some ideas to work with, at the very least.."
"Splendid! Can't wait to hear about those next time you come by. Now off you go, I must return to my work. Be sure to tell me of your progress soon."
She waved her hand, before I could even thank her, and I sunk in to fog, just to emerge in my own domain a moment later.
All seemed to be clear as day. I can't be here all the time and there is nobody else who would, so that leaves me the only other choice - I have to make "somebody". And I tried. For days, but that turned out to be a whole lot harder than I imagined. I didn't want to go back to Alice, I was determined to crack this one all by my self, at least this once, even if it takes me a while.
But couple days later, while I was trying to fix the unfixable, I felt presence getting closer. It was strong but not overly intimidating, someone new but somehow vaguely familiar.
She emerged just few steps in front of me. Someone I've never seen before - a lady of some different kind. Clothed in silk, red hair dancing in the breeze, and that strange mask. But she feels familiar, even if there's no memory attached to that feeling.
"I didn't know I still had any of those left."
"Now, now. We are almost family and family never forget their own. At least we didn't. We know you went through a lot, things were taken, memories were lost."
"Happens, I guess."
"Not very often, at least not what happened to you.. But it'll all come back to you in time. But I'm not here to talk about the past. We've been watching you and we know you could use a helping hand. I brought someone here - one of ours. She will help you, if that's okay with you?"
"Fabulous! Have fun you two then."
...And she's gone."
I'm left standing there alone with my confusion. Almost alone. There's now two little red eyes staring at me.
"I guess, make your self at home then."
I opened my eyes and all I could see was clouds. I was standing at the very top of a pyramid like structure, and it was piercing the sky. There was not a sign of land, only this small island of stone, seemingly floating in this cotton sea. And the light. I seemed as if the light was all around me, it was coming from all direction, the heavens were radiating golden light with no Sun in sight.
But I was not alone. I lift my eyes and at the very top of the structure, there was a throne and on that throne - Him. My eyes fixed on His presence, so majestic, so divine. He was radiating pure white light, he was radiating power and superiority. I got overwhelmed. In an instant I felt so small and insignificant, and dropped down on my knees before Him. I want to ask Him so much, but all these feelings and all those words just stuck in my throat, and I can't make a single sound. I lift my eyes again, hoping for something, maybe for him to say something, a blessing perhaps, or just a sign, anything at all, but.. Some strange feelings begin to settle in, that I don't understand. He's just standing there looking down on me. I feel no fatherly love or even care from this being, nothing I was expecting or hoping. No, nothing at all. It all so cold. But wait, it's not nothing, there is something, but it cannot be.. Why would he have such feelings for me? I feel disgust, resentment and even hostility towards me. But how can that be? I don't understand.. Did I bow not low enough? Did I kneel in the wrong way? What could I possibly do to deserve anything of such?
I look at him with all those questions in my eyes, still not able to let a single word out my throat. He didn't answer my silent plea. He stood there for a moment in disgust with my unworthy presence and then raised his hand pointing towards something to my left. And there I saw stones floating in the air, in a circle. Maybe a dozen or so. It didn't make any sense to me, until I walked up closer to those. When I came closer it all felt strangely familiar and it wasn't just any stones.. It was gravestones with different names on them, in different languages. I couldn't read it, He wouldn't allow me to. Whenever I would try to read one, letters would just begin to wash away in front of my eyes, spinning and dancing around, turning in to unrecognizable hieroglyphs. But when I touched one stone, I felt I know it. It is mine. And that one, and the other one. All of them are mine. Those are my names. So many names.. My names..
I feel uneasy, but still don't understand what it all means, why would He show me this? I look at Him hoping for an answer, but His eyes are dead cold and His lips wouldn't even twitch. But something begins to sink in, some words sink in to my mind:
"There will be more. One or a thousand - We will judge.."
Aah, it's all coming back to me. Vaguely, but it's slowly coming back. I guess I should thank you for reminding me my place. I remember now..