Chapter Five - Gone
“What the hell happened in there?” Jay asked in between breaths as he struggled to keep up with Eli’s quicker than normal pace. They had been walking for around fifteen minutes now and Elias hadn’t said a single thing since leaving his Grandmother’s house. His brain was malfunctioning. He felt like his thoughts and memories were all part of one enormous jigsaw puzzle and none of the pieces was fitting together.
“I don’t know! I don’t know what happened in there, Jay. I watched my grandma take off her coat and poof, she wasn’t my Grandma any more, but she was, it was still her only not her. She’s a guardian of Avi. What even is Avi? I’ve never heard of it.” Eli stopped after realising his angry rambling was causing his sister to hide behind his best friend. “I’ll tell you all about it later,” he said to Jay, signalling towards his sister with his eyes.
Eli continued walking. Could he explain this to Jay? Would he even believe what Eli told him? Did Eli even believe it himself? An hour ago Elias Thorn was just a teenager and now he finds out that his Grandma is some freaking mystical entity that can shoot bolts of lightning and hurdles of flame from her wrists using magic? This had to be a dream, it had to be!
As they continued walking along the now darkening roads Eli had the strangest feeling he was being watched. No, not watched... Avoided. Every person they passed turned their heads and hurried away or closed the blinds on the windows they had been peering through. Even the birds had stopped flying overhead. Elias could see a strange shape crumpled up on the pavement ahead and as they drew closer the silhouette started taking shape. Where the huddled mass once lay, Elias could now clearly make out the form of a person. They wore an old, dirty plain skirt, scuffed and heel-less tan shoes, a tattered old quilted coat and an old rain cover sprinkled with holes and rips. It was the old woman that had asked if Eli was okay when he walked into the lamppost the week earlier.
Elias took a few hurried steps towards the woman to help her off the ground but stopped sharply when he caught a glimpse of her face. It seemed different if only for a second but Elias knew what he saw. Jay continued rushing towards the woman with Sarah in hand but Elias held back and looked around. There was an ominous feel to the air and the trees were swaying almost violently. “Jay-” Elias placed a hand on Jay’s lower back and one on his shoulder as he leaned in to whisper, “-the trees are swaying Jay”.
“Who cares what the trees are doing, this woman clearly needs help,” Jay replied with a disgusted twinge to his voice.
“Jay you don’t understand. The trees are swaying.” Elias was dragging Jay away from the elderly woman as Sarah ran ahead. “There’s no wind!”
The realisation hit Jay like a bullet to the brain and he took off alongside Eli and Sarah. Elias looked back towards the old woman, she was getting to her feet now and her face was as it was in that brief second when he had first seen her again. Her eyes were hollowed out sockets and her jaw swung low leaving a dark abyss in its wake. Keep running.
The trio collapsed through Eli’s Moms house and slammed the door behind them. Eli noticed a symbol, another of which he had unknowingly drawn on the paper, on the door next to the lock and as if by instinct Eli knew that nothing could get through this door. It was warded. He rushed to check the back door and saw that it had the same symbol as the front door at the lock but had another next to the handle. Elias ran his finger over the one at the handle and instantly the symbol began to glow a neon green and began to disappear into the woodwork. As the symbol faded the door started to dissolve from the sides, moving inwards revealing the impossible.
Through the frame of the door was a whole other world. There were trees, the bark of blue and leaves of orange, water the colour of amber and a sky of rose pink. Elias had never seen anything so surreal. He felt as though he had walked into a Dr Seuss novel.
“Jay, oh my God, you need to see this!” Eli yelled excitedly.
“Eli?” Jay said. There was fear in his friend’s voice.
Walking into the room Elias found his friend in the corner of the room peeking through the edge of the curtains.
Elias stood close to Jay and brought his head in close to see what his best friend was so scared of. He could feel Jay’s breath falter and break on his neck as he looked out. Standing at the edge of the garden were three figures. The old woman with the hollowed eyes who had once been so kind to Eli stood in the centre facing the house. The other two figures were hooded in dark cloaks running the length of their tall, slender frames. Facing each other their arms stretched out, linking hands and glowing spirals of deep purple seemed to appear at their shoulders and run down each of their arms connecting in the middle with other.
“What have you done?” Eli’s Mom rushed in from the staircase, she had obviously been passed out drunk when they blasted in, Morgan ran to the kitchen and boomed “CLAUDITIS!” The gateway to Dr Seuss world filtered away like soap being washed off of a window revealing the hard brown door as it had been.
“What was that? Where was that?”
“We don’t have time right now Eli. Under the stairs. All of you.” Morgan’s words rattled Eli to the core. In the years since she had been back in his life, he had never seen his Mother so calculated. Could she actually be sober?
Everyone gathered in the closet under the stairs and Morgan locked the door behind it and charmed it the way she had the front door, with a symbol and a single word. “Clauditis”.
No sooner had the word been spoken when the resounding obliteration of the front door echoed throughout the house. Sarah started to whimper in the back of the closet and instinctively Jay placed an arm around her and pulled her into a tight hug. A small smile of thanks passed from Eli to Jay, Elias had always loved that Jay treated his family as if it were his own.
“Mom I don’t understand any of this,” Elias said quietly to his mother. The sound of footsteps on the floorboards overhead made everyone’s eyes look upwards in a clearly nervous act. “Why do they want us so badly?”
“They don’t want us my darling, they want you only, but they do not yet know who you are.” His mum sat back and closed her eyes and as she did, her form began to change. Her skin slowly started to tighten and stretch to reveal a figure that was a mirror image of Virtue. As her eyes began to reopen he noticed they were more of a lavender purple than his Granma’s stunning deep purple but everything else about her was identical.
“Now listen, all of you.” Morgan addressed the trio of shaking children, “I’m going to reveal myself to the lapdogs upstairs and when I do they will take me but they will think that it was I who opened the doorway to Avi. Eli, you must open it again the way that you did before and take your sister through. Jay... look after my boy.”
Morgan leaned in close to Eli and touched his face. “I am sorry that I will not be around for the trials ahead my son. You will be glorious. There are more of us, they will find you on the other side. Goodbye, my sweet prince.” A glittered tear gathered in the corner of her eye and as it ran down her face, her skin below turned gold for as long as the tear remained and reverted quickly back to a blue glow.
“Patentibus,” Morgan whispered and with a look back at he son she smiled before leaving the cupboard and heading up to meet the intruders.
Elias took his sister’s and Jay’s hand and led them to the kitchen as quietly as they could. Reaching his hand out towards the symbol he felt guilty for leaving his Mom to fend off the no doubt vicious invaders alone but looking at Sarah standing there in front of him he knew what must be done. He touched the symbol and as it had before, the gateway opened.
There were thuds upstairs in quick succession. Shit! They were rushing downstairs. Quickly Eli pushed Jay and Sarah through the doorway into the luminous world beyond and followed suit.
“Eli close it, close it!” Jay yelled with great urgency.
“I don’t know how!” Elias’ heart was racing, his mind working at a thousand miles per hour. What had his mother said to close it before?
“Cloudius, clodustis, cladious. It’s not fucking working Jay!” Eli looked to his best friend seeing the terror in his eyes. “Clauditis.” The gateway closed.
No new notifications. Noah was checking his phone every thirty seconds for a text, a phone call, a snap, anything that would explain why Elias hadn’t shown up yet.
“More coffee sweetie?” Asked the waitress
“I’m still nursing this one thanks,” Noah tapped the side of his mug and the waitress walked on smiling towards the next table.
Nope, still no messages.
Noah opened up his social media and started stalking Eli’s profile. Okay, not the whole profile... just the photos. Dog filter, dog filter, dog filter, dog filter with his sister, dog filter, topless. Now, this was more like it. Photo uploaded by Jay Volk. Noah zoomed in for a better look and almost dropped his phone.
A leaf-shaped red mark sat on Eli just below his collarbone on the left-hand side of his chest. Noah knew what that meant. He threw some cash on the table and ran out the door. He needed to see his Father.
Elias looked across the fire, that Jay had managed to kindle after around forty minutes of unsatisfied grunts and moans of frustration, at his sister. She lay on the ground sleeping with her head on Jay’s lap almost completely enveloped by his jacket. Jay had fallen asleep too with his back against the blue barked tree and his head hanging low, his chin to his chest. In the erratic orange glow from the fire, Eli remembered what had first brought he and Jay together.
Eight years ago Eli had got into a fight with a group of three other kids, he’d like to have said that they were all older than him with massive muscles and quick wit but they weren’t. In reality, the other children were slightly younger than Elias and really scrawny too, but there were three of them. They pushed Elias to the ground and were spitting on him when his rescuer came along. Jay with his childish features and his disproportionate seven-year-old body threw himself into one of the kids knocking him to the ground. Jay’s bright red face somehow scared the other two into retreat, picking up their fallen comrade as they went. Jay sat with Elias for hours after that, with his head in his lap just as he was now doing with his sister.
Jay wasn’t that same kid any more, he had aged beautifully. His body, still not quite a mans but Eli could see what he would be like given another two or three years and he knew that he’d be gorgeous. His already square jaw and larger than average calf muscles set him aside from any other boy their age but it was the kindness of Jay that always brought Elias back to his side. Never before had a friend came rushing to his aid as fast as Jay had. Never before had a friend taken care of Eli’s sister as Jay had. And never before had a friend leapt through a mystical portal into a realm of glowing shrubbery as Jay had. He knew he and Jay would be forever bonded from what they had been through and everything that had yet to come and he couldn’t even begin to imagine anyone else he’d rather have at his side.
Shit! Noah. Eli whisked his phone from his pocket, four missed calls from Noah, three text messages from Noah. Swiping the phone violently Elias dialled the number and raised it to his ear. The resounding beeps of ‘failed to connect’ rang through the handset. Again and again, he tried to make contact with Noah and after the fifth time he remembered he wasn’t in Aitken anymore, was he even on Earth anymore?
Remembering that there were three texts from Noah, Eli scrolled to the messages app on his phone and clicked to open the thread.
18:24: Hey pretty, I hope you aren’t standing me up. I’ve got some extra tight jeans to try on and reeeeeaaaalllllyyy want your opinion ;)
18:37: Okay so I’m starting to get the feeling you aren’t coming. Am I that ugly? :’(
18:42: Just kidding, I know I’m hot... and so do you so don’t keep me waiting ;)
God, he was cocky.
As slowly and gently as he could, Jay lifted Sarah’s head off of his lap and replaced it on the soft folded sweatshirt that he had put on the ground before moving over to sit next to Elias. “You look troubled old boy, stress isn’t a great look on you.” He said with a mischievous grin.
“Piss of Jay,” Eli nudged him in the ribs with his elbow. “You know what I don’t understand?” quizzed Eli, “Why were you at my Grandma’s house earlier?”
“I don’t know really, I guess I was going to help you clean up all the mess in Sarah’s room... Or watch you do it, probably the latter.”
Eli felt a lump rise in his throat and bit his lip to hold back the whimper that fought to break free.
“Hey big guy, don’t worry.” Jay threw his arm around his friend and grabbed his faraway shoulder. “We’ll get through this, Morgan said that someone would find us here right? So really we just need to wait. Besides, it’s my watch anyway so get some sleep.”
“Thanks, buddy,” Eli pasted an appreciative smile on his face as a single tear rolled down his cheek. Wrapping his arms around Jay’s waist, Eli closed his eyes and fell asleep listening to the comforting noise of his best friend breathing and the heart beating in his chest.
Through the open doorway into his Dad’s study, Noah could see him sitting straight-backed at his desk as he typed on and on at his laptop. “Dad I need to show you something. I was waiting for my date in the coffee shop and he-”
“I don’t have time to listen to your teenage dramas, yes its all heartbreak and puberty but you’ll get over it.” His Dad’s reply was short and cutting as it always was.
“Dad, listen. He never showed up so I started stalking his feed online and...” Noah turned the device so that his Father could see the screen, “He has their mark.”
“No my son, he has the mark.” His father clutched his hands and his brow furrowed, “We’re going home.”
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