Buying the largest and most expensive burger he could find, Walter sat down to eat. It wasn’t long before Kriskin joined him with a meal of her own. “I’m sorry about him,” she said, “he’s not the easiest person to get along with.”
Walter only chewed at her.
“So…what do you like to do?”
Grabbing a napkin to wipe his face, Walter swallowed and asked, “What should I expect when we reach the island?”
“Well, first we introduce you to my brother, Dust. He’s the one who asked us to come find you.”
“He wrote that letter?”
“Yeah, that was him.”
She thought about it for a second. “I could give you a tour of the island.”
“Will you help me move back to the city? I’d like to get back here as soon as possible.”
Taken aback, Kriskin’s shoulders drooped. “Uh…sure.”
“I don’t understand why you two are okay with forcing me into your weird island club.”
“I’m not--!” She paused to compose herself. “I never meant for James to force you. I was hoping you’d come willingly. What James does…it’s awful sometimes, but I’ve learned to trust him.”
Walter squinted at her.
“Let me explain. It has to do with his…talent. Like mine, or-or yours. He…sees things that no one else can see. It’s like, he has a guide to making the right move. I don’t approve of his methods, but…”
“He can see the future?”
“Not exactly….I’ll let him explain it to you.”
“Fellas.” James had snuck up behind them, placing a hand on Walter’s shoulder. He could feel him tense up. “Change of plans. Kriskin, you see that plane over in gate C-8?”
She stood up to search for it. “You mean the one that’s already leaving?”
“That’s the one! Can you get us on it?”
“But what about…?” He only had to smile to change her mind. “See what I mean?” she said to Walter as she opened a portal.
“He will.” James smiled at Walter, then vanished as the ring swallowed him whole.
“Your turn,” said Kriskin as the portal floated over his head like a halo.
Walter looked at the people around them. “Won’t they—” For the fourth time today, his world changed around him, shifting into a smaller, cozier space. “…see?” He had reappeared inside the cabin of the plane. James sat in front of him, reclining in a leather chair.
“We’ve been upgraded to first class! Have a seat, man.”
He did so, surprised at how comfortable the spinning bucket seat was. Kriskin appeared seconds later. Hands on her hips, she looked at James expectantly. “So…?”
“James?” called a voice, “Kriskin?” To Walter’s left, a pretty young flight attendant with a stylish haircut emerged from behind a curtain. A sweet smile spread across her face as she recognized them. “What are you guys doing here?”
“Robin!” Kriskin exclaimed as she rushed over to hug her. “What a coincidence!”
“Hey Bright Eyes,” greeted James, “just thought we’d catch a ride.”
“Oh,” she gasped, prying Kriskin away from her. “In that case, I’ll be right back.” She crossed the cabin and slipped through the curtain on the other side. Walter could only sit there, wide-eyed at everything that was happening.
“That was Robin,” Kriskin elaborated as she took her own seat behind James. “She’s another one of us.”
“Don’t look into her eyes!” James warned, his voice a hoarse whisper.
“Okay,” Robin huffed as she returned. “No one should bother us now…oh, who’s this?”
“This is Walter,” Kriskin introduced. “We just picked him up.”
Robin gasped again. “Is he the one with the…?”
James nodded, holding up Walter’s arm for her to see until he shook him off.
“Nice to meet you!” she smiled. Walter stood up to shake her hand as she approached him. “It’s okay, you can look at me,” she assured him as their hands locked. Leering toward James, she added, “I can control myself.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Walter reciprocated, now noticing her brilliant, violet eyes. He could see the tiniest blue shape in the sclera of her right eye; another star.
“Would you guys like anything to drink before we take off?”
“Root beer,” James didn’t hesitate.
“Apple juice?” said Kriskin in turn.
“Just water for me,” said Walter as he sat back down. “Thanks.”
“No problem. Be right back.” With that, she returned to the curtain from which she had originated.
“…What is her talent?”
James groaned, “Another one smitten! It’s only been what, ten seconds?”
Kriskin laughed. “She can hypnotize people. She probably already made sure the pilots are okay with us stowing away. Speaking of which, why are we on this plane?”
Before James could open his mouth, the intercom chimed. “Good morning passengers, this is your captain speaking. It’s currently fifty-eight degrees with partly cloudy skies, making it the perfect day for our flight out to the beautiful island nation of Kitsobsu[WH1] —”
“Kitsobsu!?” Walter exclaimed, “I thought we were flying to Navei!”
“Relax,” James intoned, “It just so happens that this plane is going to fly directly over the island on the way to Kitsobsu.” Walter stared at him, then at Kriskin, whom had already buried her face in frustrated hands. “You ever been sky-diving?”
“For the love of—” Kriskin grumbled, “shut up, James.”
“Please!” Robin added as she returned to them with their drinks. After handing them out to everyone, she took the remaining seat behind Walter. “Don’t open them ‘til we’re in the air. I don’t have to explain to any of you how to put on your seatbelts, do I?”
Before Walter could dial it back to sky-diving, their pilot had finished his broadcast and began takeoff. The engines roared, the cabin lurched, and within minutes they reached the stratosphere. Watching out the window, Walter remembered the first time he’d been on a plane. The summer he had turned ten, he got to tag along with his mother on an educational tour to Equ’ulua[WH2] . Thinking of her made him think of the rest of his family. His father, his sister, and….
He felt a hand touch him on the arm.
“Are you okay?” Kriskin asked, concern all over her face.
Walter sniffed, realizing the plane had reached cruising altitude. “Yeah,” he said, “why? What’s up?”
“Your eyes are…smoking.” Looking around, the other two had also been staring at him.
“Oh, yeah.” Walter sniffed again and rubbed his eyes. “They do that sometimes—must be the elevation.”
Kriskin stood up and rubbed her arm. “Okay,” she said, returning to her seat. “Get some sleep; it’s going to be a while before we get there.”
Walter nodded, turning his seat away from the others. Then, he decided to look at his phone again—there was a message from Victoria! Trying to hide his excitement, Walter opened the text:
I’m sorry too. Goodbye, Walter.
Whatever that meant, it couldn’t be good. Walter let the phone drop between the cushions of his chair. Weariness taking him, he could feel more steam leaking from his eyelids. He didn’t care who saw.