The masquerade was only a day away. Jacelyn practically announced to the student body that she’d be dressed as a famous Queen, and Kyle would be her mate. Her friends were supposed to go as her court, but I overheard one of them discussing a different costume aloud one morning before class. Ella kept throwing me clues regarding Lynna’s costume; she was helping her with it, but she wouldn’t completely let loose the secret of what it was. Kevin and Teresa would be arriving as a famous couple in history, and Drew planned to dress as a pirate. He kept saying “Yarrr, matey,” during hockey practice which eventually became annoying. Justin and I hung behind when the others left, and hit some goals on the ice, once practice ended.
“Who are you taking to the formal?” he asked me as he shot the puck into the goal with tremendous force. We had won ten games and lost one other since Homecoming. We’d know by tonight if our team made the cut into the playoffs.
“I’m not taking anyone,” I answered him and shot off a goal into the net, matching his last speed.
He shot another goal. “Why not?”
Since the night of the dream, I hadn’t been able to get Lynna’s name out of my head. She had something to do with that dream, and I knew what it was in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t remember what the details were. The puck suddenly nailed me in the leg. It ricocheted off my shin and hit the baseboards.
I glanced up at Justin, completely caught off guard. “Sorry, what were you saying?”
He skated close to me. “Are you okay?”
His face looked worried. “That shot at your shin should’ve had you crying out in pain. I hit that sucker hard.”
I thought about it. He had hit it hard and I hadn’t even noticed. I glanced down at my leg, expecting it to swell or start gushing blood.
“Are you wearing shin pads?” he asked me.
My legs were already thick with muscles, but today they seemed slightly bigger. My pants still fit though, and I wasn’t wearing any padding. “Yeah,” I lied, not wanting to discuss this new development with him.
“Who are you taking to the dance?” I asked him, changing the subject back to what it was before I got lost in my own thoughts.
“Isn’t that one of Jacelyn’s friends?” I remembered Mehgan was a part of the Homecoming court, and though she considered herself to be on speaking terms with Jacelyn, she associated herself with the yearbook staff and the band.
“Yeah. She was stunning at Homecoming. We hung out that night, going to the band’s after-party. They’re actually raucous you know.”
I nodded. “Yeah, Kevin used to be a band nerd until he dropped the horn for the football team.”
“Really?” Justin was shocked. He resumed hitting goals, trying to mask it but not really succeeding.
“Yeah. That was back in middle school though. But he states they were all crazy. I guess they still are.”
Justin grinned. “Their parties are just like ours. You’d never know they were nerds.”
I smiled, glad that he found someone other than Jacelyn. It was good to be on speaking terms with him once more.
Drew and Toby appeared. “Guess what?” they shouted in unison.
Toby jumped onto the ice. “Bosely forfeited! We won by default!!”
“We’re going to the playoffs!” Drew sang in a horrible off-key tone.
I grinned, fascinated by this news.
Justin scowled in response. “Aw man, I wanted to play them tonight!” He threw down his stick and it clattered to the ice.
I turned back to him. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, the captain was at this bar on main street the other night going on and on about kicking our butts in tonight’s game. Naturally, I had to make a bet. I bet him we would win, and that Garrett would score the winning goal.”
I frowned and rolled my eyes. Justin would do something that crazy.
“Why’d they forfeit?” he asked, clearly frustrated that he was out of pocket cash now.
“Two members of their team have food poisoning and the captain is in the hospital for an allergic reaction to peanuts. Apparently, he’s always been allergic to them and a West Fork guy threw them at the team after last night’s victory,” Toby explained.
Now it was Justin’s turn to be confused. His facial expression changed drastically that I thought him to be more upset by the news rather than Toby’s explanation.
“What is it?” I asked him.
“Are you sure they said he was allergic to peanuts?” he stressed.
Toby exchanged looks with Drew. “Yeah, the newspaper reported it this morning.”
“It’s all over the local stations too,” Drew chimed in.
Justin skated over to us, closing the gap. “But they can make a mistake, right?”
“Yeah, though not usually. Why?” he queried the boy.
Justin shook his head. “The night I made the bet with Cody, the captain was seated at the bar eating peanuts, and not once did he break out into a rash or go into shock. He ate like a whole bowl of mixed nuts.”
We all glanced at each other and traded facial expressions.
“Are you saying someone rigged this?” Toby suggested.
“So that we would go to the playoffs?” Drew finished.
Justin shrugged. “Maybe he grew an allergy that night. It’s possible and heard of…but still…”
“Not that quickly,” I mumbled. But what the three guys discussed threw me. Who would go to the trouble of getting us into the playoffs at the expense of harming another team’s player removing them from the season? Plus, why would someone do that? I had a bad feeling about the upcoming playoff games suddenly.
Drew and Toby shrugged it off. “Guess he never knew he had an allergy,” Toby said.
“Or maybe, he usually just itched, and it got worse within a week,” Drew assumed.
I wasn’t convinced like they were. I don’t know why they suddenly changed their minds, when I knew I would be wary; this seemed more like someone fixed all this on purpose to me, but I didn’t know why. Later that night I decided to walk back home instead of catching a ride with Drew. My car was back at the house and not up at the rink. My home wasn’t far away, and I could take the shortcut. I didn’t have to bring anything with me, because I’d finished all my schoolwork before the game, and since there wasn’t a game now, I left my stuff in the locker room of the field house. The dance was tomorrow night and I had yet to decide who I was going to go as. I’d been having dreams about the maiden and her world, none of which made any sense. I needed time by myself to think about the current state of things, and the walk would clear my head.
Since the dreams began I researched folklore in my spare time. I tried reasoning out the origin of the images using the stories written down in the past. But nothing in history or mythology told of a world with waterfalls and their sources within the clouds or a sky that changed from day to night in just a few hours. There were no tales of golden haired women with a warrior at their command that fit the description I dreamt of. No stories of trees turning into pillars of rock before burning away the shadows in the sky had been written. The world I dreamt of seemed to defy gravity, if gravity even existed on this planet, wherever it might be in the universe. I remembered jets of water floating up into the sky instead of falling below, creating a mirror pool above my head when it should be underneath my feet. When the children jumped into the clouds they lightly went up as though no natural force pushed against them but instead helped them rise higher.
I didn’t usually ponder my dreams, but these were different than what I dreamt of before. I couldn’t act in these, like I did the others. I couldn’t choose what I wanted to see and what I didn’t, like I could manipulate the ones I’ve had before. These dreams were like I was there, on the world, visiting it. I felt the wind on my back and the smell of spring wafting through my nose, whenever my body visited the place. I even felt the cold of the ice from the shards and the shadows as well as the warmth of the light when it speared the boughs of the tree. Everything about the dreams were real to me, as if the world itself existed within my grasp.
I stopped in the darkness, nearly out of breath from feeling the rush of summer in my lungs. This was what happened when I thought about things for too long, especially that world. I grew excited over the prospect that such a place existed and could be real when I knew there was a chance it was only a dream and the planet didn’t exist. I allowed myself time to calm down, taking in huge deep breaths of air. The night was cold; we expected snow soon.
When I felt calm enough to continue walking I paused, hearing faint noises that weren’t there before. People approached me, two by the sound of their footsteps. I was only on Pudlum Road, at least three streets away from my house. I planned to cut through the trees across the street and take the winding trail home. But as the pair’s voices neared me, I caught a part of the conversation and froze. The two spoke Gaelic and I was sure they didn’t want to be overheard. I couldn’t help myself. I ducked into the nearest shadow of a building, making sure I obscured myself from sight. I didn’t normally eavesdrop on people, but this was a conversation I felt inclined to listen to.
“The small one mentioned a tree,” one of the boys stated.
“Keillan was thorough in his investigation. You don’t have to worry. She has no clue what it refers to. She stared at the glass like she tried understanding its meaning and failed,” the other boy responded.
“He also mentioned something about the architecture…”
“Yeah, I got the message and checked into it.” The other kid interjected, cutting off the statement the boy was about to say. I wanted to know more, but it wasn’t like I could ask. “There’s nothing to worry about. All the papers haven’t been manipulated or faked. There’s no way that kid knows anything about us.”
“I still feel uneasy.”
“Because of the pictures?”
They stopped in the middle of the street. From where I stood I couldn’t see their faces as they were shrouded in darkness. I had a feeling they were discussing me or my house, I don’t know why.
“Look Caervassan, what’s done is done. We are never going back home, and just because you’ve seen pictures of the living tree doesn’t mean that our time here will change because it won’t. She’s gone. We’re lucky we still have breath and life and can continue living.”
The one called Caervassan turned away and resumed his pace. “You’re right Ignatius. I shouldn’t get worked up over a silly mural.”
Ignatius caught up to him. “Now we need to start making plans,” he changed the subject.
“Keillan wants to be present. He was piqued by the last outcome.”
“If the girl wants to go, then he’ll be forced to come.”
They disappeared out of hearing range.
I had no idea of what they were talking about let alone who they mentioned. Whenever they talked about the tree, I thought about the tree in my dreams immediately. Whoever those guys were, they were not from around here, probably not from Earth either. And I suspected they knew Lynna and her siblings just from the fact they spoke Gaelic.
I eventually made it back home without any more interruptions. When I arrived, my father was at the house with presents from his latest business trip. For the first time, since the beginning of school, we ate dinner as a family.