What Was Lost
Though my dreams were under control it was a while longer before I could stand going to any other realm. I avoided Davis and Ramailo, citing my new job as an excuse. I had started working at my mom's company and no longer attended school. Pretty soon I was bogged down in normality and that was fine with me. I had a growing suspicion that Jack was secretly moving in; every weekend when he left there was more and more of his stuff in my house. As October rolled around I realized he hadn’t gone home at all for two whole weeks. “Is your birthday present to me going to be signing the lease?” I asked him one day, aiming at the redwood across from me and shooting seeds at it.
Jack blushed and gazed at me, caught. “It kind of happened randomly. I don’t want to leave you, not even for one night,” he answered, setting his book to the side and leaning back into the trunk of the tree we sat in front of.
“I don’t want you to leave, either, Jackster. But shouldn’t we talk about it? I think Jesse’s going through withdrawals not having you around,” I pointed out.
“He comes over often enough. He’s fine,” Jack brushed it off. “Do you mind me staying? Is it okay?”
“I don’t mind. Evin might,” I shrugged.
“I’ll talk with Evin,” he promised, picking up his book. I pegged a few more seeds into the redwood and he piped up again, “Have you spoken with Davis lately?”
“Ashley says he went somewhere and hasn’t come back yet. Has he visited you in dreams, at least?”
I paused in mid-throw. “I…haven’t seen him in my dreams for a few months now. When did he leave?”
“He left about a month ago. That’s kind of why I’m staying close to you. I’m starting to worry he’s stuck somewhere. Last time I heard from him was a couple weeks ago,” Jack frowned.
“That’s not good. Where did he go? Did he say?”
Jack shook his head. “Ashley thinks he was messing around in some new realms. You’ve heard about the ghosts disappearing worldwide, right? It’s not just the ones that need to pass on. It’s all of them.”
“Where did you learn this and why didn’t you tell me sooner?” Had I really become so out of touch with the rest of the world?
“The container network. And Ramailo. We stay plugged in. You’ve been super busy lately. And I didn’t want Evin to know just yet.”
“Is that why you’ve been keeping him in the house? Does Rose know?” I inquired.
“Rose went with Davis. And yes.”
“I have to find him.” I got to my feet and started for the car. This is what happened when I ignored a facet of my life. It went to shit and people got hurt. I wouldn’t let it happen again.
“I’m going with you,” Jack declared, following me with long, easy strides.
“What about Jesse?” I asked as I slipped into the driver’s seat.
“We’ll ask him. But it may be better for him to stay in case we need to warn Ramailo. He’ll be able to tell if I’m in trouble or injured, remember?” he reasoned, hopping in the passenger seat.
“You’re right,” I sighed as I drove back to the house. “Will he be angry?”
“I don’t think so. He’ll understand.”
I got home in record time, informing my job and my family of my impending absence. I told them to contact Ramailo or his coven if something happened to us. Jesse came over, promising to hold down the fort. Evin wanted to come with me but I told him he’d be safer at home. I tethered myself to Jack and took us into the Middlespace. This time it was crowded. There were thousands of other colds popping in and out of different realms. “What’s going on?” I asked a brunette nearby.
“Everyone is trying to find their ghost. Something’s been snatching them up.”
“What do we know?”
“Not much. There are some reports of strange black clouds appearing shortly before they disappear. Everyone’s here looking for the source but it’s slow going. Most of us can only travel up to five realms in one go,” the woman informed me.
“Have any colds gone missing or is it only ghosts?” I questioned.
“All colds are accounted for,” she assured me. “I’m Elery, by the way. From what’s left of Russia.”
“I’m Aniella. I’m actually searching for a cold. Do you think anyone knows Davis Overly?”
Several other colds wandered over when they heard the name. “The Davis? He’s legendary for his realm-building skills. It was him who posited that lucid dreaming was an essential skill for traversing the realms and for building them,” one of the guys piped up. “Why are you looking for him?”
“He’s my boyfriend. His family hasn’t seen him in over a month,” I revealed.
“Any information you have would be very helpful,” Jack spoke up.
“If you know his call sign you can find out where he’s been,” Elery shared.
“Call sign?” Jack asked.
“You can search for traces of his tether and follow his path. It’s another idea he proposed,” the other guy answered.
“Do ghosts have tethers?” Jack wondered.
“That would make this so much simpler,” Elery chuckled. “But if you know what Davis’ tether is, you may be able to find him. Make sure you keep yours intact or you’ll end up lost. We’ve lost a few colds that way over the years. So be careful.” Elery warned us.
“Thank you,” I told them.
“We’ll put the word out about Davis. Jimmy, hand me your charm. You can use this to find out if anyone has any information on him. We can send you telepathic messages through it. Most of us have one already.” She wrapped a braided bracelet around my wrist.
“I appreciate it. We should get going. Good luck finding your ghosts. Once we find Davis we’ll help you look.” I waved to them. They set off on their way and I concentrated on Davis’ tether. There wasn’t much time for me to feel guilty for how I’d treated him these past months. No time to worry if he was still alive. I simply had to find him as soon as possible. I closed my eyes and concentrated on Davis’ tether, my scent. Or I hoped it was still the one he used. After a few minutes I sensed a new tug, this one in my heart. Yes! I held tightly to Jack’s hand and whistled a series of notes to bring me to the realm the tug came from. As we came closer to it the tug grew slightly stronger. “Try to stay calm. These excursions can get a little trippy. Make sure you focus on our tether as much as possible. Stay close to me,” I instructed Jack. He nodded. We entered the golden realm, so named for the golden hue and objects. The landscape looked a bit like Gallifrey, actually (Jack had finally shown me that old show he’d told me about). Our bodies seemed to stream apart, flowing in long streaks as if to join the rocky outcrop below us. Golden tornados swept along the ground and hummed. “Don’t touch any of those. They’re spirits and they’re very picky about letting others by,” I warned Jack.
“They’re beautiful,” he commented.
“That they are,” I agreed. We slinked and slid our way across the mountains and deserts, looking for any sign of Davis. A few hours later, I felt a slight pull towards a cave. “This way.” Carefully, we made our way in. Jack kept slipping up towards the ceiling and I recommended that he think of something heavy to weigh himself down. The walls, ceiling, and ground were all casting off even more golden light. I had to squint to make out the correct path and avoid smacking into the walls. We came across a small open area and there was a shimmer of red on the far wall. Curious, I left Jack’s side and moved closer to inspect it. I reached an exaggeratedly stretched hand up and touched the red light. It unfolded into a series of words:
I am searching for the missing ghosts. I don’t know how many realms I’ll have to cross. I’ve included a guide below for skipping between realms. It’ll likely make you sick but it’ll get you around a lot faster. And if you’re reading this it probably means I’ve gone very, very far and gotten stuck.
I can’t wait to see you, sweetie.
I sighed and gestured for Jack to come over. “Prepare to throw up. We’re taking a shortcut,” I said. Davis had written directions for skipping up to five realms in a row, claiming he didn’t want to make me too ill. Thoughtful of him.
I took note of my tethers, made sure my mental ledger was open, and then cast out like Davis’ instructions said. It was an odd experience; I felt like my mind was thrumming as heavy vibrations worked through me. A portal opened up in front of me with several realms layered one behind the other. I whistled the resonant note for the one furthest away and Jack and I were yanked through to the other side. For a moment my lungs felt crushed. Jack exclaimed something and gripped his chest. We both bent over to catch our breath and then looked around. This realm was super dark. The Shadow realm. It was freezing! Jack wrapped his arm around me and I upped my body temperature for both our sakes. Inky black blobs moaned and screamed their way past in all directions. Everything was grey and black. “We need to find our way through quickly. Shadows are bastards,” I noted.
Jack and I were as quick as we could be on our way through this realm. I had him put up a mental block just in case. I had taught him and Jesse how to block mind-readers in general. It came in handy in the realms if you didn’t want to draw unwanted attention to yourself. Many creatures in the realms didn’t have traditional ways of sensing things around them but many of them could sense mental energy. And a lot of them liked to eat it. Jack and I continued to sneak around searching for the other side of Davis’ tether. The Shadows’ dismal atmosphere started to wear on me and I began to feel slightly crazy. I found myself worrying about Davis, wondering if he’d be angry with me for avoiding him. I should have been brave enough to face my fears earlier. I should have let him know that my cowardice had nothing to do with him. I should have been strong enough to put all that aside to help him with the task that had gotten him into this mess. I shuddered as I felt something tugging at my leg. Shit! One of the Shadows had got ahold of me.Its inky blackness worked its way through me and I grew desolate. Shame filled me. I don’t deserve Davis. I don’t deserve Jack’s patience. I’m not good enough to have the support of Jesse and Evin. I accepted a job and sold out on my dream. I haven’t even glanced at a comic in six months. I-
“Ani, snap out of it. You can’t let it drag you down. Fight it!” Jack grit his teeth and urged me.
“It’s all so useless. How can you be fine? Aren’t you terrified? You’re in an entirely new world full of monsters. We could get lost or worse. Why would you want to live with me, anyway? I’ve been hiding ever since I saw Marduk. I’m worthless,” I lamented, slipping from his grasp.
Jack’s eyes flared as if on fire and he gripped my hand tightly. “Ani, cut it out. I have worries and fears. But I know that I can take it. Knowing you has opened my eyes. I’m excited to see what comes next. Aren’t you? I know you’re strong. You can break free of this. Tell me something: are you more afraid Davis will be angry or more determined to rescue him?”
I could feel him amplifying my resolve and soaked it in. I stared into his brown eyes and took a deep breath. I kicked the Shadow away and moved forward. “Thanks, Jack.”
“No problem, little ma’am. I’m not going to have you stuck here. I’m looking forward to signing that lease with you as soon as you, Davis, and I get back safe and sound.” Jack stroked my face. “Let’s go get our friend.”
I focused my concentration on finding Davis’ tether. I felt a tug and followed it. It grew stronger as I closed in on a green orb. I opened a portal and five worlds opened before me. I resonated with the one furthest away and Jack and I jumped through. The space behind my belly tightened, becoming a slightly painful twinge. I began to tremble, feeling dizzy. “How are you holding up? You okay?” I asked Jack.
“It hurts like hell but I’ll live,” he shared.
We sat down on a purple glass floor. The sky was one giant rainbow. We rested for a while before setting off. Davis’ tether was stronger here. We bounced along the glass in the direction the tug came from. We spotted Davis laying curled up on the glass and slid up to him. I lifted him into my arms. “Davis? Wake up!”
“Hold on, Ani. He’s bleeding.” Jack placed a hand on my arm.
I examined Davis and saw an enormous gash in his abdomen. The blood had coagulated but the wound was still open. “Oh, Davis? What’s happened to you?” I cried softly.
“He needs medical attention.”
I nodded. Holding tightly to both of them, I focused on my tether home. The three of us were yanked back to Earth with glimpses and visions of all the realms we’d travelled through. We were sprawled out on the living room floor. Both Jack and I vomited. Davis was still unconscious. Jesse lifted me and cleaned me off, setting me laid out on the couch while Evin assisted Jack. Stan ran next door to get help, knowing Momma had medical training and always kept a kit nearby in case of emergencies. She came running in. “Get him to the bedroom. Grab towels,” she ordered Stan and Jesse. They lifted Davis and carried him into the guest bedroom (which was going to be Jack’s room). I got up to follow but Evin stopped me. “You need to eat. Both of you. You’ve been gone for over a week,” he mentioned, rubbing my arms. “Your mother will take care of Davis. You relax for now.”
“I’m so scared, Evin. He’s so pale,” I told him.
“I know. It’ll be okay,” he assured me.
Jack whipped up something delicious for us and then held me in his lap while we awaited news of Davis’ fate. Jesse sat next to us nervously bouncing his knee up and down. At long last, Momma and Stan came out of the guest room. “He’s awake and stable. He’s going to need to take it easy for a few weeks as he heals. I’ve never seen a wound like that,” Momma shook her head. “You can go in to see him but only for a little while. He needs to rest as much as he can. I’ll go let everyone else know that he’s alive and well.” She gave me a big hug before heading for the door. Over her shoulder she called, “I’ll gather the entire family. We can all watch the game here on Sunday if you’re up for it.”
“That sounds great, Momma. Invite everyone,” I agreed.
“I’ll cater. Just let me know what’s on the menu,” Jack added as we rose to our feet.
Momma waved at us and headed next door. I peeked into the guest room to see if Davis was still awake. “Come here, sweetie. Ani, it’s been too long. Are Jack, Jesse, and Evin with you?” came Davis’ sweet, soft voice.
My belly fluttered as I stepped closer. “Hi, love. We’re all here. And the whole family will be here on Sunday to see you and watch the game,” I said, loving the way his green eyes drank me in.
“Sounds like fun.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me into him, tugging my legs up on the bed beside him. “I really missed you, baby. I got stabbed by a fucking unicorn and couldn’t get anywhere without passing out,” he sighed. “Rose disappeared while I was out.”
“How weird,” I snorted. “I’m so sorry about Rose… Listen, Davis…”
“Don’t worry about it. I understand already. I know you needed time. I know your issue wasn’t with me or Ramailo. I still love and trust you just as much.” Davis rubbed my legs, simply enjoying the feel of me after such a long time apart.
“Hey, Davis, did you ask Mrs. Brewster the most important question?” Evin wondered seriously.
“What’s that?” Davis gave him his full attention.
“How soon before you can have sex again? I’m sure Ani’s been missing it,” he went on in the same tone.
We all burst into laughter. My boys, all together again. In my home. Where they belonged.