And So We Meet
‘Hello there!’ I am completely incapacitated and still flat on my back
but I wave enthusiastically all the same. I was right, the whiskey didn’t knock
me out but I certainly don’t give a toss about the pain anymore.
The shimmer behind my visitors snaps shut. There is something familiar about it. A faint alarm that it should mean something to me rings in my head but my mind feels as if it’s been stuffed with cotton wool – all thoughts muffled if not smothered entirely – and I cannot make the connection. I sneeze for perhaps the millionth time, and for the millionth time I neglect to wipe the snot off my face.
Now they are rushing over to me. I hear the faint splash of water as they run across the brook.
‘You are hurt,’ states the one who reaches me first. Maybe it’s just me, but he seems to have three eyes and two noses. One thing is sure, though, he has bright yellow hair. I squint at him.
‘Yes, I hurt,’ I whine, ‘hold me.’ I attempt to wrap my arms around him but they refuse to lift more than a few inches off the ground, feeling as heavy as lead.
‘Oh my gosh,’ says a girl with short spiky hair who has caught up, ‘it’s you.’
Now the blonde is staring from me to the girl and back again.
‘Blimey!’ He moves away from me, like I’m contagious; probably am. Misery does love company after all. ‘I didn’t even realise.’
Now the other two have joined and are doing the same double-take, finally back to me.
‘Do I have something in my teeth?’ I cackle eccentrically.
‘The counterpart.’ A boy kneels down beside me and my heart constricts. I am positive there is something familiar about him. I blink a few thousand times and shake my head, desperately trying to shift the cotton balls. The alarm is definitely louder.
‘I know you,’ I slur. He stares at me, confused, then realisation dawns.
‘You must know my counterpart.’ He is excited but I shatter his hopes, thrusting my index finger in his face and shaking my head – my brain rattles.
‘No! No, no, no, no, no... I know you. Right up here in the old noggin.’ I point to my head which throbs excessively in response.
‘She’s hurt.’ He turns to the spiky haired girl. ‘You’re up.’
‘So much for saving her life.’ She squats beside me, ripping off her rucksack and tossing it in the mud. Things are getting bizarre. I definitely recognise this girl. She places her hands over my torso and moves them up and down. ‘This doesn’t look good.’
‘Can we help her?’ Finally, the other girl has spoken. Her hair isn’t lanky at all; it’s full with no split ends in sight. Her skin is like milk chocolate, dark and seemingly smooth as the moonlight bounces off it. I wonder how much time she spends forming those ringlets or if they are natural.
Spiky nods. ‘I think so.’
Adopting a take-charge demeanour, Ringlets kneels beside me. ‘I know a few spells that might help. You two, go and see if you can find her something warm to change into.’
The boys agree and head off whilst the girls stay behind. I watch lethargically, sneezing a few more times. I haven’t the foggiest idea what is going on. Ringlets is chanting incoherently in a language I don’t understand and Spiky is trailing amber sparks from her fingertips along my body, and suddenly I don’t hurt as much.
‘Don’t worry,’ she murmurs. ‘You are going to be fine.’
How drunk am I? I wonder.
A little while later, I am wearing Spiky’s coat and have Ringlets’ shawl wrapped around my head. They have propped me into a sitting position against a tree and are now simply staring at me, as if I’m some sort of foreign species. My head is still a little fuzzy and I do not know what to say besides ‘Thank you’ which I’ve already said, quite passionately and about fifteen times over.
However, as things get less hazy, I realise that the reason I recognise Spiky is because she looks an awful lot like me; her eyes are bright ochre, opposed to my pale green ones, she has a nose piercing and pointed ears highlighted by her short and boyish hairdo but otherwise we look the same. She doesn’t sound like me, though; her voice is low, raspy and ripe with confidence.
I hear my old cell mate’s words – something about the last Elentrice – and another chink of recognition links the chain in my head, but I am still too far gone to make sense of it.
‘Who did this to you?’ Spiky asks.
‘The physical damage? My brother.’ I lean my head back against the tree trunk. ‘The large amount of alcohol? That would be me.’
‘That man was your brother?’ Spiky’s eyes are wide and she talks as if she has seen Drake. I nod and wish I had more whiskey. The more I sober up the more I realise I actually preferred my alcoholic cocoon.
‘Dezaray!’ The three of us jump at the sound of my name.
‘Who is that?’ squeaks Ringlets.
I recognise the voice. ‘Nathaniel,’ I smile. ‘Nathaniel,’ I shout as loud as I can in my current state. Ringlets visibly relaxes as does Spiky though she turns slightly, as if trying to hide her face.
Seconds later, Nathaniel enters the clearing by the brook. He stares for a moment, no doubt in shock to discover me with people. Then, spying my busted lip and bruised forehead, he rushes to me.
‘What happened?’ He gently removes the coat I’m wearing and replaces it with his own, then scoops me up like he usually does, allowing me to drape my arms around his neck and rest my head on his shoulder. ‘I came round to see you. The kitchen is a mess: back door cracked, stools on the floor.’
‘J...Jmmpph,’ I mumble into his shirt.
‘She said it was her brother,’ Ringlets offers apprehensively.
Nathaniel makes a sound: something between a growl and sigh. ‘Let’s get you home,’ he says.
‘No.’ I attempt to pull away. ‘I’m not going back.’
‘Don’t worry. Drake is out.’ Nathaniel holds me tight so I don’t go rolling onto the ground. ‘At least let me clean you up and get you some food. We’ll take it from there.’ I nod, my heart rate rapidly increasing at the thought of having to return. ‘Your...friends can join us if you like.’
‘We should probably wait here,’ Spiky says hurriedly, fiddling with her zip, deftly avoiding eye contact.
‘Alright. We’ll be right up there,’ and Nathaniel indicates the house on the top of the hill, just visible through the needles of the trees, ‘if you change your mind.’
‘Thanks.’ Spiky nods. ‘Maybe we will.’
I slowly start to feel better. Nathaniel gave me the un-recommended dosage of four pain killers and made me wash them down with something red, thick and vile, containing a stick of celery and, I am pretty sure, a couple of raw eggs. However, after hurling out my insides a few times, I must admit that things are getting a whole lot clearer. I no longer feel as if I am trying to identify the twenty seventh letter of the alphabet and I have managed to keep down half a slice of toast. I look at the destruction around me, not quite believing I was a part of it.
‘It was him,’ I say more to myself than Nathaniel.
‘I’m sorry?’ he asks absently.
‘He was there. In the woods.’
‘The one from my visions.’
Nathaniel glances over his shoulder at me before returning to the dishes. ‘No, you were with two girls.’
‘Yes, but before, there were two boys there as well.’ Nathaniel is about to protest but is interrupted by a knock on the cracked back door. I peer out the window and almost choke on my mouthful of toast.
‘It’s him,’ I splutter.
Nathaniel cocks his head to one side then, drying his hands on a tea towel, instructs me to sit back down before he slides open the door to our four visitors. He looks at me. The one I told him about is exactly as I described, right down to the subtle curve of his eyelashes. I toss the remainder of my toast on the plate. The fact that Mystery Man is now in front of me, in the flesh, has led my stomach to perform a private circus show of somersaults and back flips. Our eyes meet. I forget to breathe. I wonder if he feels what I do. At the same time, I wonder what it is I’m feeling exactly.
‘Hello.’ He removes his hat and gloves and shakes Nathaniel’s hand. His voice is exactly how I remember. He removes his coat and extends his hand to me. ‘I’m Milo.’ Milo. Milo. I like it. Truth be told, he could have said his name was oogly-moogly and I still would have gone all gooey.
‘Dezaray.’ I accept his hand. There’s that jolt again, like a burning of fire and ice competing inside me. He watches me and I watch him back. The other three have already entered and introduced themselves to Nathaniel, yet Milo – it’s such a revelation having a name for the face – and I are still clutching each other’s hand, like a baby to its bottle. Spiky, still with her hood securely fastened, clears her throat, snapping us out of whatever trance we’d slipped into.
‘I’m Yvane.’ Ringlets shakes my hand and in the light I see she has one lock of scarlet hair. Howard half-heartedly greets me after greedily eyeing a jar of biscuits.
‘Help yourself,’ Nathaniel offers. Howard happily accepts.
‘I’m...’ Spiky steps forward.
‘Lexovia,’ I cut in. It goes so silent I bet we could hear silk hit the ground.
‘You’ve heard of me?’
I nod. ‘Just tonight, funnily enough. Someone thought I was you.’
She smiles, happily removing her coat and gloves, quite speedily in fact. Her short hair is plastered to her forehead from being under her hood and she immediately shakes it out, ruffling her hand through it to get her earlier alluring spikes.
‘Lexovia Trice,’ she states once she is upright. She seems surprisingly nonchalant though she is well aware, as am I, that every eye is on us. ‘Nice to meet you.’
‘And you.’ I mimic her indifference. Though my throat feels like it is about to close up, I take a deep breath. ‘What brings you to our dimension?’
She shrugs. ‘Tired of being under surveillance all the time. It’s no fun being the last of your kind.’ She hops up onto the bar stool opposite me. ‘Fancied a little adventure.’
Is she blind? The mere sight of Milo – blood pounding in my ears, heart racing, and quickening pulse – is adventure enough.
Shortly after, I give the grand tour. Conversation flows easily, and by the time we venture upstairs, Lexovia has already explained that she is the reason I am still alive.
‘I really wish I had done something before he broke your rib.’ She shudders. ‘I just wasn’t aware I could.’
‘Well…I’m still here.’ I force a smile.
‘And what’s your plan?’ Yvane asks as I lead them into my parents’ old room. Everything is covered in dusty old sheets except a family portrait hanging above the headboard. My eyes quickly pass over it.
I shrug, ‘I don’t really have one.’
‘You won’t stay here.’ Milo says quite assertively considering we’ve just met.
I sigh, ‘where would I go?’ Closing the door behind me, I lead them across the landing to my own room. ‘Here’s my safe haven.’
Decidedly, Lexovia marches over to my wardrobe and pulls out a few random items. I haven’t worn most things in there since I was twelve but I don’t have the heart to tell her.
‘You can go anywhere but here’ she states. Spying a fairly large rucksack at the bottom of the wardrobe, she drags it out and together we all start tossing things in. I’m not sure what I will do or where I will go but just having the bag packed brings me comfort. Perhaps I will try to find that Feranvil Farm Imogen mentioned.
‘Shoot!’ Yvane jumps up, as if she has been stung. ‘The portal is going to open in three minutes.’ We immediately leap to our feet. I don’t know why Nathaniel and I do, simply caught up in the moment I presume. I notice the gethamot resting on the bed. Sure enough, the denomty, or whatever it is called, has appeared and its green hue is slowly lessening. I snatch the device off the blanket and scoop up my bag.
Now Milo is pulling on my hand and the five of us are fleeing down the stairs and out the front door. They agree it is too risky to teleport, so we go pelting down the hillside; the light of the cottages showing the way. The wind stings our cheeks as we each struggle to put on our coats and gloves. It is extremely difficult for me since neither Milo nor I seem to want to let go of each other’s hand, but for the sake of not getting frostbite, we do. I look across at Lexovia. With each of us carrying almost identical backpacks and our hoods securely fastened over our heads, it is damn near impossible to tell us apart.
‘I cannot believe we were such idiots.’ Lexovia’s breath can be seen leaving her mouth as she yells over the wind’s roar. ‘What colour is it now?’
‘A very pale green,’ I holler back. Noticing the gethamot is with me, Milo takes it and tosses it to Lexovia.
‘We have about a minute and we aren’t even in the woods yet,’ she moans.
‘I know a shortcut,’ I announce when I realise they are about to follow the footpath.
‘Brilliant.’ Lexovia pulls me forward. ‘Lead the way.’ I retrieve the flashlight from my coat pocket and aim it out in front of us. We squelch through the mud, rushing past many trees. To the untrained eye they all seem the same but there are intricate details that are familiar to my eyes alone. We arrive by the brook, just in the nick of time.
Swoosh! The pale lime glow extends from the gethamot and the portal springs open. I feel someone grab my hand and pull.
‘Come on,’ cries Milo, tugging on my arm. A strong force lifts us off the ground. It feels strangely like being sucked up into a vacuum. The portal engulfs us and in an instant we are gone; yanked from one dimension into another.
We manifest on the other side. I turn back to the swirls of green we’ve just come through and can vaguely see Lexovia still beyond it. I attempt to run towards her but Milo’s grip is firm as he pulls me in the opposite direction.
‘Guys, wait,’ Lexovia calls. I see her attempt to run through the threshold but only half the gethamot makes it before she yanks back her hand and the portal vanishes.
‘You have the wrong girl,’ I yell, but no one is listening. They all seem to be in a rush and extremely cautious all of a sudden. ‘I am not supposed to be here,’ I insist.
‘Dezaray?’ Milo stops in his tracks. He is beautiful. My heart beat quickens; Déjà vu.
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