Web of Trapped Souls

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I woke up in a bed with a light shining in my eyes. I pried my sticky eyes open, only to find myself lying in a fluffy, bleached white bed with someone pulling open the curtains. “What the hell? Where am I?” I grumbled while rubbing my eyes, hoping to get some sort of sense into my head.

"Rise and shine!” Adrian cried. “There won't be much time to get your supplies if you keep sleeping like this. Headmaster Torus only allows leaf transportation before sunset.” Well, I guess it wasn’t a dream then.

I groaned and reluctantly rolled out of the bed. Mornings would be the death of me. I slid on the floor, eventually getting up to open the nearest wardrobe. Like the room itself, it had a thick coating of white paint slathered onto the wood It was empty, except for one pair of clothes. I looked towards Adrian for an explanation.

"You didn't bring anything with you, except for that shoe. And also, your past life was just a lie so you didn't really have any clothes. I took the liberty of getting you a pair of casual clothes from the innkeeper, but I'll pay for some new clothes for you when we get to Sklanda Centre, as well as school stuff."

"Where are we now?" I wondered aloud.

"Sklanda Centre, like I said,” Adrian said.

"Where's that, exactly?"

"You really weren’t paying any attention last night, were you?"

“No, give me a refresher?”

“You were attacked by a werewolf. I came to get you. I would love to say I rescued you, but you seemed to take care of it yourself.” The memories flooded over me, and I remembered. I didn’t require any more fillers.

I eventually found the bathroom, after trying out many different doors, and the movement woke me up and made me wonder: how had I gotten up to my room? I know I didn’t fall asleep in that bed, so where did I…? Oh right, the couch. And someone must’ve brought me up here, and that someone would be… Oh yeah, Adrian. Of course, the extremely nice creeper.

I exited the cosy room after getting changed in the clothes that hung loosely off my frame and went out into the hallway. The size of the corridor amazed me, as outside, it looked like it only held fifty people. Now that I could really see the inside, it was like a luxury hotel. I looked around, puzzled about how this worked. I came to the conclusion that the same magic that was applied on the shoe in the room was applied to this inn.
The room. That reminded me. I had left my shoe, which was apparently important, in the room."Hold on,” I said, pausing in the middle of the stairway. "I left the shoe in my room."I hurried back up the stairs, while Adrian continued climbing down towards the lobby. The levis was just lying astray on the floor. Picking it up, I wondered how I would carry it without looking odd. It would also be a hindrance, having to carry it everywhere and doing stuff with one hand.I looked back at the bed. Well, it’s not like I would use it again. I pulled the thin sheet off and tore from it a strip. Enough to hold the shoe. I threaded the end of the sheet through a loop made by the shoelaces and tied the ends around my hip. Just like a belt."Smart,” commented Adrian once I reached the lobby. I grinned.Adrian continued leading me towards the door. Outside, the view was amazing. Buildings were arranged in a tight little circle, with a fountain resembling a spider, marking the centre. The abdomen was a large black distorted sphere and the legs were shooting water out from the sides. The pavement was bustling with all sorts of... creatures. Most of them seemed human, but there I had a strange feeling they weren't. Something that resembled a faerie whizzed between the bright buildings. “It’s so beautiful.” The words fell from my lips like the whisper of wind, barely heard. “And all of this is hidden from humans?”“All of Tedalia is within the portal. No human can see it, unless they’re invited. Let's go get your books."Creature bustled past us, some slithering through our legs, others barging through the rest of the crowd with their huge muscles. Feathers, scales and nails scraped against my bare arms and I couldn’t suppress the shudder that ran through my body.We approached a small oval shaped building with one of the curved sides made of glass. Looking through, I could see that there were two levels, packed with books with barely any space to move. The pure white outer walls gave it sense of being technologically advanced, but the books suggested tradition. I entered first, Adrian following. Two pen-sized people zoomed in our direction to greet us. My eyes widened in shock as I watched them flutter in our faces. Adrian reassured me, telling me that they were pixies. His attempt of calming me down failed, as I was still wary.“Greetings, greetings! We are very delighted to have you here. I’m Angie.” She was the one on the left with lime green hair, and a matching dress. Her emerald wings fluttered like a hummingbirds and glittered in the light. The other was Opal, a mirror image of Angie, but dressed in royal blue with sapphire wings. “Welcome. It’s a pleasure to know you selected our humble store among others,” perked Opal in a prickly voice.Despite the warm welcome, I kept my distance. Adrian handed them a list, presumably with the titles of the books I needed for this new school. Each pixie raced off in a different section, flying from each section of the shop to the other. It was strange seeing tiny people holding books even bigger than them. It appeared as if the piles were whizzing around the shop on their accord. I held my breath, anticipating the moment they would topple over and squash one of the pixies underneath.After watching them zoom around for a few more minutes, they finally landed on the desk in front of us, with a variety of books neatly arranging themselves into a pile next to them. I watched in awe as Opal slowly hovered the books into a nearby bag while Angie wiggled her fingers atop a piece of paper, not unlike Adrian had done last night. Adrian stuck his hands in his pockets and rummaged around in them. They later emerged with a couple of disfigured silver circles and crumpled pieces of paper in his palm.It was only when Adrian exchanged the books for them that I realised it was money. I was intrigued by the strange currency. As if he was reading my mind, Adrian said, "We prefer to have nothing to do with humans, so we basically changed everything. Too bad they always find ways of copying our stuff. Take our technology for example.” I pondered over this information while we exited the cramped shop and back into the magnificent centre, where the sun had lowered itself into the sky. “Damn, winter,” Adrian said. “The sun always sets so early. We only have a few hours before it gets dark.” “It’s not even winter yet.” “It’s close enough.”Less people were gathered in the area, but one girl stood out. Her eyes were clouded over like a thick black film was stretched over her eyeball, preventing any light passing through. The girl was surrounded by many people, all fawning over her, but she paid them no attention. She just stared at me, only me.Adrian seemed to have noticed her as well. The girl’s face split into a grin as she saw us coming towards her and as her lips pulled up, two protruding teeth stuck out and I froze mid-step, not wanting to get any closer to those fangs."What’s this, Adrian? Your new plaything?” she crooned."Shouldn't you be back at the Academy, Isabella? Curfew's only in a few hours."Ignoring him, Isabella approached me and whispered into my ear with a wispy voice, "Be careful of Adrian."As she glided away, I was puzzled at her comment. I stared at her, while Adrian ushered me forwards."What are you, a teacher?” I snickered.There was a blatantly false appalled look on his face. "Prefect, actually. My reputation would be ruined if I had let Isabella just skip school like that." I turned away, only to find us at the entrance of a completely transparent cube shaped building, revealing its insides, although I had no idea why anybody would think that was a good idea, especially for this shop. Lining the walls were shelves packed with jars filled with strange objects inside. One had something that looked alive, swimming in a thick, translucent substance. Being careful of the sharp edges that clearly separated the building from everything else, I entered through the door positioned neatly to the left of me. I felt uncomfortable being amongst all these foreign substances so I dropped some not so subtle hints for Adrian to hurry up. Like tugging on his boring white shirt. He actually noticed, so he quickly bought a few items.Free from the disgusting shop, which I later learned to be an apothecary, I asked a question that had been on my mind for a while."Are you using your own money to buy my stuff? I can pay you back if you want." I reached for the pockets in my pants before remembering they weren’t even my clothes."No," Adrian replied sharply, "Headmaster Torus lent me some money to buy your supplies, and I don't want your filthy human money."“Chill, dude. Calm down.”"There's just one more shop we need to visit, and we can look around the Centre after we're done and buy some clothes for you."We entered a tall building that was slightly curved to the side. I stared at my distorted reflection as we passed it. When Adrian and I were inside, a fancy, flashing "Super Stationery" sign on the front beamed at us. Surprisingly, this store was normal in comparison to the others I had recently visited. It was filled with all sorts of complicated-looking pens and paper. In the corner of my eye, I saw Adrian purchase some paper and books, but nothing else. I questioned him about this afterwards. His only reply was "No need for pens." I waited for him to explain but he didn't.We stood in the courtyard, looking at all the shops on either side of us."Where do you want to go now? We've still got some time before we have to leave." I glanced around at the shops around Sklanda Centre. There was Elemental Candy: Candy With a Zing!, Aria's Animal Assortment and Carpet Capital, each in their own unique building, with amazing architecture. I was drawn towards the large, uneven, multi-coloured pet shop and led the way.
Squawks and hisses filled the room the moment I entered. Mice scurried around my feet, birds swooped near my head and fish leaped high into the air from their tanks. I never knew ordinary fish could do that. On the side, phoenixes gazed upon the commotion, not joining in. The shopkeeper, a bubbly, plump woman, welcomed us into her store, apologising for the mess.I marvelled at the majestic phoenixes, ruffling their flaming feathers as if they were superior over anything else. I took in the reality of real life phoenixes; it was easy to believe almost anything after yesterday."Phoenixes are pretty boring," Adrian interrupted my thoughts, "They just sit there and occasionally burst into flames."I laughed. Then I realised that his expression didn’t change. “Oh, you’re not joking. Well, that's a really horrible way to die. Imagine randomly bursting into flames and burning to death." I cringed."Oh, no. Phoenixes don't die. They burst into flames when they need to be reborn. Since they live forever, they usually get passed down from generation to generation. My grandfather gave me Aurelia, my phoenix not that long ago. She just sits there, probably judging everyone she's ever seen. At least they're better than fish."

“What’s wrong with fish?”

“Nothing. They’re just really… wet.”

"Then why do people bother to get phoenixes?”

"Mainly because they're beautiful. When we get to the Academy, I can show you Aurelia. She's far more glorious than these birds. I think they're approaching the end of their lives."“I thought phoenixes didn’t die.”“They have a limited number of lives, around ten for each.”I watched a feather from one of the glowing birds flutter and spiral down to the floor. Amazed, I pocketed it for proof that phoenixes exist as well as everything else contained in Tedalia.I wandered around the store, until something caught my eye. I turned around and there it was. It flew towards me and landed neatly on my shoulder. There stood a bird tall enough so its head loomed over mine. Its sharpened beak almost grazed the tip of my head as its beady eyes stared at me possessively. Its chest feathers alternated between whites and light browns. Meanwhile, the wings were a grey-blue colour, soft and silky. Its head cocked to the side, interested in me.“Beautiful, isn’t he?” I agreed."This is Astor, a sharp-shinned hawk. He doesn't really feel this attached to my customers. You must be special.""Astor. That's a cool name for such a cute hawk." I traced the outline of his wing, feeling the soft down blanketing his frame.It was as if a bond had formed between us. I looked towards Adrian, who was interested in the mice scurrying around his feet."Hey Adrian," I interrupted. "Can I get this hawk?"He hesitated."It's alright if you don't have enough money. I can pay you back.""No, it's not that. You see, hawks are for pwasoons who are skilled in the wind element. Your element is unknown so far."I thought about this for a while. Astor looked at me as if he wanted to be with me as well."Can we just buy him, and if I don't end up having the wind skill, we can return him.""You really want him, don't you?I nodded sheepishly. Adrian pulled out the paper containing my details from his pocket and glanced down at it."27th of November, I could get you an early birthday present."“Like half a year early.”He pulled out a few notes from his other pocket and handed it to Aria. Astor flew into the air in delight, swooping around. As we exited the shop, he followed us, enjoying the freedom.Adrian led us to another building, looking strangely normal compared to the other shops located in the centre. A sign on the front told me that it was just a plain, clothing shop. The ones I was used to shopping in. Eager to leave for the Academy, I grabbed the nearest pile of clothes, making sure they were my size and headed for the cashier. Thankfully, these clothes weren’t as weird and wacky as everything else I had seen in this place. They were the typical kinds of shirts and pants. At least some things were familiar to me.Adrian had also picked up a few articles of clothing for me that turned out to be my uniform.Adrian checked his watch and urged me to hurry up, as we only had a short while until his transportation usage permission ceased. We hurried out the door, and into the nearby group of trees. The dying sun had cast long shadows across the forest floor, the bare trees looking skeletal in the greying sky. Adrian scanned the ground for a suitable leaf that could last the journey. I could feel Astor's presence as he landed on my shoulder, finding it his favourite spot to rest. As we gently stepped onto the slightly glowing leaf, the hawk flew off above me, wishing to not be compressed into a tiny hawk. I experienced the queasy and confusing feeling of being shrunk and found myself looking at a giant hawk, which I soon realised was Astor.The sun started to dip down behind the trees as we zoomed between them. Astor was closely following us, twisting and turning in the wind, enjoying his freedom after being in the cramped shop. His shrieking cry filled the air and pierced our ears, the effect being amplified due to our small size.Trying to pass the time, I made small talk with Adrian, getting to know him better. It didn't work.I marvelled at the stretch of land below us. There was a mix of rickety and pristine buildings, nothing in between. It was strange looking down at a world of extremes. It was getting quite dark now, and I wondered how we would find our way to our destination with the light available.The leaf we were sitting on started to flash without any warning. “No, no, no, no, no,” Adrian muttered as he jumped to his feet. He muttered curses, and another string of no’s, banging his fist against his head.“What’s wrong?” I knew the answer before I received a reply.The leaf twisted and dipped, as if it was trying to throw us off. Clinging onto the leaf, we fell from the sky until we lost contact. Astor swooped in below us, making an attempt to catch our helpless bodies. But since we had released the leaf, our bodies stretched as they yearned to return to their original sizes, too big for little Astor to carry.Just as we were about to hit the ground, the hawk managed to get himself out underneath us. Adrian and I landed on the grass with not much cushioning. I was certain there was going to be a fresh bruise there soon. Rubbing my hip, I realised that we were lost in the approaching dark, with no way to contact anybody.
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