Let's Get Started
Jack gave up his room to Aeryn and Riel. I bunked with Ashley and Cal bunked with Davis so that Jonas could have a room to himself and so Nathan and Paul could have a room to themselves. Evin was still gone by the time we all arrived and settled in. I hoped he wouldn’t be too upset when he came back. I hoped it wouldn’t be one of those mornings where he’d crawl into bed with me and snuggle; he’d be in for a rather rude awakening. Still, I really hoped he’d find me easily. And I hoped he hadn’t yet learned about the attack in Australia. I didn’t know what it would do to him. I spent restless hours tossing and turning, interspersed with fitful dreams of Djinn screaming. I woke with a start, sitting up and breathing hard. Ashley was already up for the day and in the shower. I nearly shit myself when Evin’s arms tugged me into his chest. He sounded like he was sobbing but when I looked at his face it was dry. His cries echoed in an otherworldly way and I could almost swear the walls darkened with his despair. “You can’t cry?” I questioned, stroking his cheek.
“No. No tears. No water. I’m not that alive,” he said blankly.
“I’m so sorry, Evin. I wanted to tell you myself. I’m so sorry.” I hugged him tightly.
“It’s not your fault, mon pauvre. I’m simply grateful you’re well and alive. It hurts that she’s dead but I always knew she’d die one day. It’s a tragedy how but I’d prepared myself for it long ago. It’s you I can’t lose,” Evin told me.
“Oh, Evin, it’s so awful. So many people. An entire race,” I blubbered.
He kissed my face desperately, as if I’d disappear. “Ani, do you hear me?” he asked sternly.
“Yes, Evin. I hear you. Not even death would take me from you. No matter how many realms I’d have to cross.”
“Good.” The walls began to lighten to their original color.
“Evin, if she-”
“No, Ani. No. I don’t need to see her again. Besides, we have no idea which realm Djinn go to when they die. Let me just be with you right now,” he cut me off angrily.
“Okay.” I closed my eyes and laid my head on his chest. He didn’t breathe so there was no rise and fall in his body. Nor was there a heartbeat. I didn’t care. His ghostly stillness left me in a peaceful state of silence and acceptance. Nothing else mattered but his frame enveloping mine. By the time Ashley came out of the bathroom I felt like I could face the day. “I need to speak with Davis. Even if you don’t need to see the girl you loved we do need to find out where Djinn go. It’s part of mapping the layout of the realms,” I told Evin.
“I understand. Let’s go.” He kissed me and stepped back so I could get ready. “We’ll meet you downstairs,” he said and followed Ashley out.
I donned my camo outfit and went down to fuel up for the day. Davis and I ate quickly and headed up to his room. We set up pillows on the floor and he sat his pager between us. “Davis, I want to find out where they went. How feasible would it be to find them?” I wondered.
“We can start with a process of elimination first. But I also want to take you by a few of the relatively safer realms to get you used to travelling. In most realms you’ll travel by thought instead of action. I’ll teach you once we get there. How many of those spells do you remember? We won’t be able to take the physical books with us to most realms. But you’ll be able to recreate it through memory,” Davis explained.
“I can recall most of them, no worries,” I confirmed.
“Good. Now, before you set out anywhere you need to tether yourself to your original realm. For every subsequent realm you visit you must extend your tether. The longer the tether the more disturbance you’ll experience on your way back. I myself keep an internal ledger and link them using a very specific thought or memory. It helps to use something with massive emotional significance to it. Something that’s not only remembered consciously but instinctively as well. Smells are usually fairly strong. Before, I’d rely on the smell of cinnamon to bring me back. Lately. I’ve…” he trailed off and looked away. His cheeks rouged slightly.
“What do you think of now?” I prompted softly.
“Um, I remember your smell,” he muttered.
I tried to hide my grin. “That’s really sweet.”
“Your scent is really sweet,” he flirted, chancing a look at me. His pupils were large and still growing.
“Okay. Okay. Let’s move on before we’re both blazed,” I tittered.
He nodded and got back on track. “Pick something you’d be able to recall if injured or barely conscious. If nothing else, it will ensure you return safely. Now, there are shortcuts through the realms. But they take a lot of energy and it takes a lot of practice to get it right. We won’t start on those until we go to a few of the more complex realms. The last thing you need to know is this: tether to your fellow travelers. The better you know them the easier it is.”
“How do you accomplish that?”
“With shared experiences. For home tethers use something completely personal. For partner tethers use something interpersonal but brief. It helps if you both focus on a physical touch. Something as simple as a handshake. It gets trickier with a group of three or more people but there’s a trick to that. You imagine everyone wearing the same color.”
“Got it,” I nodded.
“I think we’re ready.” He straightened his back and reached for my hands. “Have you set your tether?”
“What is it?” he inquired.
“A nice cuppa, of course.”
He smiled. “Adorable. What would you like to use to link you and I, sweetie?”
“The time you slipped Reggie’s note into my back pocket.”
“Interesting. Sentimental. Alright. Close your eyes and recite with me. We’re only going one level to the left. Ah, you’ll see what I mean in a minute,” he instructed. I closed my eyes and we chanted the astral spell. The room fell away and I felt what seemed like a body-wide hiccup. I heard what sounded like chimes and birdsong. Open your eyes, sweetie, Davis thought to me. I gazed out at an endless series of clear bubbles. Inside each was a glimpse of the room we’d left but they were all different perspectives and shades of color. Some barely resembled the room at all. They all vibrated at different frequencies and I realized that was what I could hear. They were each chiming their own note, from the low end to the high end. Yet instead of it cancelling all sound out and rendering it silent, I noticed that moving my head this way and that changed what I could hear. The closer realms were louder in volume and the distant ones were softer. There was also a fairly pronounced Doppler effect as we floated between them. “This is Middlespace,” Davis said aloud. “Higher frequencies to move up. Lower frequencies to move down. Sustained notes to move left. Vibrato to move right. Relatively speaking. It helps if you can sing. Sharp takes you forward and flat takes you back.”
“Fascinating,” I remarked.
He began to whistle, resonating with a bubble to our left. Like magnets we drifted towards it. That hiccup happened again and we were back in the room. But it was all fuzzy. “This is most often the realm ghosts exist in if they’re tethered to Earth. Try to touch something,” he urged.
I looked around and noticed my feet weren’t touching the floor. It was like there was an ice layer between my body and any other surface. I walked forward and the air sparked to life with a light yellow glow. It was like crackling static electricity. “Is this how Evin experiences the world?” I wondered in awe.
“Rose says it’s spot on,” Davis replied.
“Amazing.” I ran my hands over the desk. The sparks crackled. I tried to lift the alarm bird but it seemed to bend and warp out of my reach.
“It’s light and time,” Davis told me. “Ghosts are out of sync with reality. Many of them are blocked by their emotional state. Basically, the more rational you are the more you can physically affect things normally. On the other end, the more emotional the more distorted reactions become. That’s where you cross into poltergeist territory. Stuff like The Grudge.”
“Hm. Rational,” I murmured to myself. I focused on a few math problems and to my delight was able to feel the alarm bird in my fingers. I gasped and drew back.
“If you want to lift and manipulate objects it helps to think about more complicated or theoretical subjects. I’m partial to metaphysics and philosophy, myself,” Davis mentioned, coming over and picking up the alarm bird. He tossed it into the air and it squealed. He picked up a physical book and his glasses and juggled the items, doing a little dance.
I laughed with glee at the display, “Nice,” I commented.
He let all of the items go and they floated in midair. He lifted me and gently sent me upwards. He pushed off the floor and floated after me. We passed through the ceiling (it was like moving through water) and popped up outside. He held my hand as we continued to float upwards. “Ready to go to the next level?” he asked.
“Shouldn’t you fix those objects? Are they floating in our realm?”
“I’ll show you when we return to the other side. Right now I want to show you how lengthening the tether feels.”
He started up the chant again and I joined him. We appeared in the Middlespace once more. “This way.” He whistled and we floated down and forward to another bubble. We went inside and everything was tinged red. There didn’t seem to be any sound. At least not from anything outside of me. I was suddenly aware of every process in my body. I could hear my blood pumping and rushing. I could hear my stomach digesting. I could hear my saliva production, my lungs inflating and deflating, my cells dying and being born. I also felt a slight pinch behind my navel. Davis touched my belly button and then put his hands together, drawing them apart to indicate that’s where my tether was. He pointed up and said, “One more and then we’ll head back.” But I didn’t hear it audibly. I felt the vibrations and because there weren’t any external sounds I could translate them into words. It was a strange experience, to say the least. We were up in the clouds by now. Together we chanted and went back to the Middlespace. “We’re taking the long way through but it’s useful until you get used to building your ledger. This next one isn’t going to be that delightful. But it might give you insight into what containers experience. I let us float upwards so that it wouldn’t make you nauseous. The closer you are, the crazier it gets. For this realm you don’t need to tether to me. You’ll see why.”
“Oh, boy.” I braced myself as we slipped into a darker bubble. The surroundings all seemed secondary, faded, and unimportant. Davis let go of my hand and moved back about 15ft. He was glowing in some spots. I squinted, trying to figure out the shifting golds and reds that now seemed to be part of him. His navel was a dark blue. But as he looked at me a lot of pink came exploding out of his head. It was like strands of color weaving out of him. I had to look away. Pink still induced rather a violent and violently ill reaction in me. I examined my hand, which was mostly green with some gold. I looked at my own belly, where the pinch had turned into a dull ache, and saw that it was also blue. Pain, it dawned on me. It was like infrared for physical health. To test my theory I pinched my hand. Sure enough it changed from green to blue. I chanced a look towards the cabin. There was a lot of deep red and dark blue inside, marking each person. The walls of the cabin seemed to fall away to reveal the people within. There was bruise-shade purple streaming out of their heads and hearts. Depression, perhaps, over the events in Australia. I hadn’t noticed it at first but we were both being drawn closer to one another and drawn toward our friends below. The closer we got the more pronounced the colors became. It was starting to feel like a bad acid trip as colors began to run together like that scene in Pagemaster. Even the trees and grass were in pain. “Please get me out of here,” I begged Davis.
“I’ve got you. Quick, say it with me,” Davis said as he came within five feet of me. We chanted and thankfully appeared in the Middlespace before I could go fully insane.
“Why were you pink?” I asked him.
“Because I was looking at you. Pink is lust.”
“That kind of sucks,” I noted.
“For you, yeah. We’ll have to work on that. There are going to be a lot of things out there that are pink. We can’t have it messing you up. I’ll research color-aversion therapy when we get back.”
“I feel like I need a bath,” I shuddered.
Davis smirked, his pupils growing once more. “Maybe I’ll join you, sweetie. I’ll get you squeaky clean… Ball your fists. It’ll help on the journey back. It’s quick but intense,” he warned me. We recited the return spell. I was yanked back to our original realm in a flash. I nearly fell over as dizziness swept over me. Davis grabbed me and laid me back on the floor. “Sorry, Ani. I should have started you off laying down. You okay?”
“I’m fine. It’s alright,” I assured him.
“You did well. Heh, and now you see it’ll be no small feat to map every realm. Some are way more intense. Your mind and will have to be strong enough to withstand it. But babe, you are strong. It took me about five trips to visit three levels without puking or shaking,” he revealed.
“Ooh. I’m quite good, then.” I smiled up at him.
“Speaking of hell, is there such a realm and will we go there?”
“There are several thousand hells. And someday. Let’s take that bath and check in on everyone.” He retrieved a change of clothes. As I followed him I saw that the items he’d left floating were still in midair. I smiled again and shut the bathroom door behind us.