Book of Gateways Installment 20

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“Hello there.” I hear his accent ring true.

“Hi, Matt.” I say smiling from my desk. “Can I help you find something?”

“You know I actually came to ask you to eat again. I figured it would be a more convenient time. It seems like you’ve been busy though.” He says leaning casually against my desk. For some reason I feel like he’s asking some underlying question. Something more than what is on the surface.

“Uh, not really I guess.” I say fidgeting with my hair.

“So how about it?”

“How about what?” I ask wrapping my hair into a messy bun.

“Food? Me? You?”

“I really can’t there’s no one here to watch the store and-.”

“I’ll bring it here then. You have to eat sometime don’t you?” He smiles effortlessly at me.

And like that he suckered my food order out of me and disappeared just as quickly as he had come in.

One customer comes in and moseys around the store while Matt sets down the food.

“You’re very determined…” Is all I say unwilling to eat. “How much do I owe you?” I pull out my wallet.

“No, no don’t worry about it, it’s my treat. Isn’t that what you are supposed to do for a date?” I almost spit out my Coke at the word “date”.

“Oh, is that what this is?…A date.” I say quietly.

“Not an ideal one for sure, but it is somewhere to start.” Matt chuckles. “At least you’re eating with me.”

“I suppose but I feel like you have a hidden agenda.” I say pushing the fried rice around in my to-go carton.

“Not at all… However, did you happen to get any books in on portals, like I had asked a while back?” He stuffs a large dumpling in his mouth.

“Not anything more than usual, it’s not really a popular subject around here I guess. I can make you a special order. I guess I was supposed to do that a while ago, huh? I forgot, sorry about that.”

“That’s alright…So, how have you been lately? I know it must’ve been difficult for you.” He says picking up a dumpling with his chopsticks. I swallow hard.

“I’ve been managing. Sometimes it’s easy to forgot, as if he’s just late to work. But most of the time it just feels like a pang of angst.” I shove a large bite of food into my mouth.

“I’m sorry to hear that, truly, I am.” He pauses for a long time looking down at his food almost as if he feels guilty. I feel icky all over. Then suddenly he looks up at me, smile as bright as ever, “You seemed to of just, disappeared in the beginning. Where did you go?” He drinks casually. I get a chill down my spine.

“I was mostly at home, or with Piers… Why do you ask?”

“I was just, worried. That’s all.” Do strangers usually worry like this? I feel a tingling at the base of my head.

“Matt, I don’t know what you’re trying to get at. You’re kind of unsettling me.” I say no longer hungry. Am I just being paranoid?…

“Listen, if you keep doing what I think you’re doing, then you should stop. That’s the only warning I can give you.” He smiles nicely again and continues to eat as if nothing was said. I shrink into my seat, a cold sweat drenching my neck. After that for the next half hour or so, Matt continues small talk that I try to involve myself in, I mostly nod and say yes or no.

Then the front door bell chimes its familiar sound as Piers saunters in. I sigh realizing I’ve been holding my breath. I look up and see a moment of hesitation on Piers’ face, and then return to normalcy.

“Are you ok? You look pale.” He says putting his shoulder bag down. I nod.

“Matt, stopped by for dinner.”

“A dinner date.” He adds and I swear I could die.

“That sounds nice.” Piers says with a genuine smile. “I’m just gunna grab my stuff and go up to the loft. Just let me know if you need me.” He says picking up his bag again.

“Matt was just about to leave.” I say. Matt smiles and stands.

“Have a nice night Cesar. Thank you for indulging me.” I smile and nod.

“Piers.” He nods again. Piers doesn’t respond.

Matt waves one last time as he opens the door and then disappears.

            “Are there anymore patrons here?” I shake my head no. Piers walks over to the door and locks it and turns the “open” sign off.

            “You need to be careful of that guy. He seems like a creep.” He sits down next to me. “Are you ok?”

            “Yes, I’m just a little shaken up… I think Matt knows we have the book.”

            “You told him?” Piers exclaims. I shake my head no.

            “He said he noticed I ‘disappeared’ a lot recently, and that if I’m doing what he thinks I’m doing then I should stop.” I look down at my sweating hands. Out of the corner of my eye I see Piers wipe his face with both of his hands as if to release stress.

            “What are we going to do?” I say just above a whisper.

            “I don’t know…But I don’t want to give that book up.”

            “But we could die.” But I don’t want to give it up either.

            We both sigh.

            “What was my uncle thinking?” We sit in silence.

Finally after about five minutes of thinking to ourselves Piers stands up.

            “Come on we’re going to my house. Last thing I need is creepy Artful Dodger coming and attacking you.” He says grabbing my bag. I can’t help but laugh. I follow him out, turn on the alarm, turn off the lights, and lock the door. Then I put my hand on the door of the book store and say a little prayer:

Lord, please protect this place. It’s one of the few things I have. Please protect that book. And please protect me and Piers. ~Amen.

I look up and see Piers looking at me with big swimming pool eyes.

            “What?” I say a little embarrassed.

            “Were you praying just now?”

            “Yes?” He smiles. “Why?”

            “I like that you are you.”

“Who else would I be?”

“Probably some punk.” He laughs and walks towards the bike. I think you’re the punk. I think as I scrunch my nose and follow him anyways.

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The Five Providences (Installment 13)

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I open my eyes with Vel right in my face. Her white silhouette still slightly shimmering about her. I push her away from me.

            “What was that?!” I feel outraged. My little flame inside twirling with anger. “You did not say anything about the spirit world. I trusted you!” I sink into the couch. My body is drained but shaking with anger.

            “You are still half in the spirit world now.” She says unsympathetically. My chest is bobbing up and down from my heavy breathing. “It will become easier and easier for you to slip in and out of spiritual sight. Eventually you might not even need the Windstorm Tonic.” She casually sucks on the hookah.

            “I do not ever want to see the spirit world again.” I hiss through my teeth.

            “That is too bad. Eventually you would have seen it. I have just opened a door for you.” She puffs out a series of “O” shaped smoke rings. The smell starts to make me sick again. “An easier door than most.” She takes in another breath. “Tell me what do you see?” I tilt my head a little and bite the inside of my cheek.

            “You can be defiant or you can learn about what you have already been gifted with.” She says in a harsh tone. “Believe me when I say you have had the gift. It just was not fully developed.”

            “I see shimmering lights around you. They change color, and there’s a flame inside of you. Just above your stomach.” I say through gritted teeth.

            “Perfect. And the colors? What do they mean?”

            “How should I know that?” I say getting irritated.

            “Do not play stupid with me, girl.” She blows the tonic smoke in my face.

            “Red is passion. It might be zeal it might be anger. I do not know.” I bite down on my lip.

            “Continue.” She says sucking in another bit of Windstorm Tonic, and I continue.

            “Gray is some kind of distress.” She nods.

            “Graying of the soul, which is the fire you see, begins when you are under stress. The more stress you encounter, the darker it turns.” She looks at me intently.

            “Till it turns black? Doesn’t that mean they are evil? If they have a black soul, I mean.”

            “No… If they give themselves to evil… Their soul will be smothered by a nephtai…” I see Vel’s body try to control a nervous tremor. “Sometimes more than one.” She snaps herself back to reality.  An evil spirit… that does not seem like a gift.

            “Those silhouettes or color shadows you see around a person describe their overall selves. Their soul may be red in the moment you see it, but their overall self might be a neutral white.”

            “I told you I did not want this gift.” I say as all of this information overwhelms my mind.

            “Well, that doesn’t much matter when you were born with it, now does it?” She puts the spout in its holding spot. “You need some kind of defense, tomorrow. Something very big will happen to you…” She pauses in deep thought. “Something very big indeed.” Which does not curb my anxiety. “I have only started you on your journey. There will be much more for you to learn. After tomorrow’s event we will train more. You will grow thankful for this gift. Not many will ever know they even have it… You are fortunate.” I nod, because I know I have no choice. There is no arguing with Vel… I have learned that very quickly.

~*~

I can’t help but keep my eyes glued to the brown ceiling. All the girls in the Wolah house are sound asleep. I assume that their strict well-disciplined schedules keep their bodies on a constant track. My mind flits from thing to thing. Flying, adventuring to different lands, but mostly to tomorrow’s event. My heart begins to pound as I take apart the ideas of my commitment. I am going to willing go to a party with tons of drunk diplomats, possibly be groped, thrown up on, or abused… My head feels like it is going to explode… At the expense of someone’s freedom… My stomach begins to solidify and my heart rate begins to slow. I suppose that is worth it… I nod my head and make up my mind. However, my dreams do not follow suit.

            I shut my eyes and I’m whisked into a large room filled with wonderful exotic foods and wines. Women dance in scandalous clothing. Some women speak with the clearly intoxicated men. One man in particular is half resting on the dancer while his head wrap  leans to one side. My vision blurs and I am standing in front of Jezab and a friend of his. My whole body tenses. He looks at me, but says nothing. Then I realize he is looking through me. He must not be able to see me.

            “I would like to take one of these girls and add them to my collection.” He smiles, the alcohol emanating from his breath. I spit in disgust.

            “How about that one?” His friend suggests. I follow his gaze and my vision blurs again, I am now across the room dancing foolishly to the music as if I have had too much wine. I feel Jezab’s eyes on me and I instantly know he has recognized me. He stands up stiffly and cautiously makes his way over to me. I can’t do anything but dance. My legs unwilling to spring into a full run, only the repetitious dance moves come to my mind. I blink and suddenly he is only a few feet away from me. His strides longer and more robust. Then his muscles contract and he jumps towards me. His hands locking around my biceps as he shakes me. I try to scream, but nothing comes out. Nothing but panic and grief. A pulse goes through my head and I’m back in the erratic world of spirits. Everyone’s color shadows blinding me. I press through and focus on Jezab. His color shadow a sickly yellow radiating from the inside out. His soul a bright and brilliant red… He’s enjoying this. My eyes snap to a dark shadow hovering over his shoulder. It’s hard to focus as he shoves me into a wall. No one tries to help. In fact no one seems to notice what is happening at all. I see the darkness flicker again. The words spill out of my mouth.

“What are you?” And just like that the darkness sharpened into a humanoid being. Well muscled and at least ten feet tall. Large black leathery wings jut from his back folded into a much smaller dimension. His eyes are slits in his head, while the rest of his features are dull and barely exist. His nose barely a small ridge, and the only indication of his mouth a long horizontal slit.  He has an overwhelming power radiating from his very being. My body starts to violently shake from fear. The creature smiles to reveal his sharp obsidian teeth.

            “I my dear…” He leans in close. “am a nephtai. You are afraid aren’t you?” He leans closer till our foreheads are just inches apart. Tears start to spill out of my eyes. My sanity feels like it might fly away like a flock of chased birds. The demon smirks again his breath smells like death.

 

I shut my eyes as I start to lose my breath. The oxygen escaping my body. I feel like I might start to lose consciousness, when suddenly my body screams for air and I’m thrown from my dream world.

I’m back in the Wolah house, sweating spots into my clothes. My hands gripping the sheets in terror, and then… I throw up.

The Five Providences (Installment 12)

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We stand in the courtyard as open as ever and now I notice the four other houses that look similar to the one I’m standing in front of.

            “That is the Wojen clan, learners of medicine.” Til points to the house on the opposite side of the courtyard. “Wotem clan, learners of poetry and written arts. Wokai clan, house of dance and music. Wolem clan of self-defense and refugee work. Quite honestly, I am surprised you were not housed there. That’s where everyone starts in.” I smile awkwardly not sure I should say anything.

            “Do you have any questions?” Her eyebrows raise.

            “No I do not but thank you for your help. Where does Kipa stay?” I ask looking at the Wolem house.

            “Over there at Wolem.” She says. “Do you want me to walk you over there?”

            “No I think I can manage.” I say and dip into a short bow. I felt like it was a good decision to walk by myself but as I stand in front of the door to the Wolem house I start to feel nervous. I suck in another deep breath. I rap on the door three times. Before my hand even gets back to my side the door opens and I jump.

            “Ah! Yasari! Welcome back, what brings you to us?” Kipa claps me on the shoulder. My eyebrows wrinkle with pain.

            “Hi Kipa.” I almost cough out. “How are you?”

            “I’m well, come in, let me introduce you to the Wolem clan.” She ushers me into a building much like the one I’m staying in. Beds evenly lined up on each side of the wall. Some with tables some without. There are weapons scattered throughout the room. Some hanging over beds, others on side tables, and others leaned against the walls. This house is filled much more than the Wolah house. There are at least ten girls here excluding Kipa. Kipa rattles off a few names starting at the right. I try to acknowledge and remember each name, but I’m not really succeeding. Then she comes to Jepah whose name I clearly remember. Her long hair is undone and cascading down her shoulders; her nose purple underneath her pink bandage. I feel a pang of guilt run through me.

            “Everyone this is Yasari.” I snap out of my thoughts and bow deep, I do not want to upset these people any more than I already have. Everyone is silent. They all incline their head an inch or two with their eyes locked on me. My eyes turn to the ground. This is probably why Vel didn’t place me here.

            “What brings you here?” Kipa turns back to me still seemingly happy.

            “I wanted to know how it went with the dancers.” My curiosity has been at the back of my head since she mentioned it.

            “Well we spoke with a couple of them yesterday and a few are willing to come with us.”

            “Only a few?” I question.

            “Many women are too afraid to escape. Or they have attempted it too many times and would not chance it again. Also it would be impossible to release more than a few at a time.” Kipa says thoughtfully.

            “Well I am happy they will receive freedom soon.” I smile still feeling the eyes in the room on me. Kipa’s small eyes draw me back. She gives me a wry smile and shoves her hands into the pockets of her man pants.

            “Do you want to accompany us tomorrow night?” She leans in towards me. My heart starts to race. I shouldn’t, I think to myself. I should lay low.

            “I cannot offer any services to you. I am not skilled in anything.” I dig my nails into my palms. I see one of the house girls raise an eyebrow.

            “You can be a distraction.” She smiles cunningly. I cringe. “Do not be alarmed. Nothing will happen to you. You can dance and pour wine with Darya.” My mouth is unbearably dry. So I nod. The other girls smirk in surprise or maybe approval I am not sure.

            “Then so be it.” Kipa smile and slaps me on the back. I grimace. “Darya will come to you with more word about it when I finish my plans. Thank you my friend. You will do well.” She nods in assurance. I hope so. I leave the house of Wolem and stand in the courtyard. The sun shines brightly in my eyes as I feel the nausea of a stupid decision enter my stomach. I heave a large sigh and swallow down the sickness. What is done is done. I cannot go back on my word now. I’m brought from my thoughts when a little girl with dark hair and big eyes suddenly appears next to me. She looks up at me and smiles wide. She has little white flowers strung together on a string on her head like a crown. A beautiful contrast to her tan skin. I can’t help but smile back. Her head jerks back to where she must have come from and nods in the same direction. I look up to see who I assume to be her mom standing under a shaded tent with another infant in her arms. The little girl next to me could not have been more than five years old went running off towards the gong in the courtyard. I watched as the little girl with flowers in her hair yanked up the large mallet and in one swoop struck the gong resounding in a loud clang. She gently set it down and frolicked back towards me. Another smile takes over my lips without even thinking about it. The little girl passes me and almost slams into her mother’s leg from her momentum. Her eyes are gleaming in that childish way when they have succeed in something grand. I smile again. All of the women of the houses are congregated in the center like the first day they had been there so I hurriedly fall into the back of the group to go unnoticed.

            “Metlah will lead you in your exercises today.” Vel appears from her home. “Not you.” She points at me. “You will come with me.” She still doesn’t know my name. I mouse my way over to her back door and dip into a bow. Vel nods to me and the girls about to begin training, and then we step into her dark house.

            “You will be accompanying the group to tomorrow’s event?” She says walking over to a little table with her back turned to me.

            “Yes, but how did you know that?” I ask astounded.

            “Well for one you did not ask for my leave, and I discern things quite easily.” She pauses and turns to me halfway. “It is my gift.”

            “Are you a sorceress?” I feel my skin begin to crawl.

            “I am of different sorts.” She turns back to her table and begins to mix things. I shrink down into her sofa. She turns around with a contraption that looks a lot like a hookah.

            “I have also discerned your special gift.” She sets the hookah down on the table in front of me and sits across from me.

            “I do not have a special gift.” My spirit starts to swirl making me feel anxious.

            “We will see if that is so.” She picks up a pipe spout and hands it to me. I take it gingerly.

            “What is this?” I sniff the smoke that is lightly spilling out.

            “A special mixture amongst things, it is not the usual mixture. I will tell you that.” She looks at me seriously. “It won’t kill you.”

            “That is not exactly comforting.” I squeeze my legs.

            “You are apprehensive. I like that about you. However, it is time for you to put down your apprehension.” She pushes the hookah spout to my lips. I feel my spirit stirring in panic.

            “Breathe it in slowly. Keep yourself calm or you will not enter in.” She takes in a deep breath to exemplify. Where am I going? I inhale deeply and slowly and begin to cough. The mixture burns my throat and makes my eyes water.

            “You’ll get used to the burn.” I hear Vel’s voice from somewhere. My head starts to spin as equally fast as my spirit in my chest. Everything is beginning to blur and change shape. Nothing feels stable, as if I might fall through the very floor.

            “That’s it. Take another breath.” She presses the spout to my lips again. “Now try to focus. Focus on making something stay still.” I must take another inhale of the mixture because the whole room gets tossed to the left. I pick a table to focus on, but it is not much use. The table is constantly turning different shades of brown. Its legs warping and bending only to go back to being straight and firm. My eyes shift over to where Vel is sitting, but it no longer looks quite like her. She looks more like an outlined version of her. A white aura is outlining her general figure, like a silhouette. You can tell who it is, but not quite, and in the center a pomegranate sized flame burning just above her stomach.

            “Ah you’ve entered.” Her voice sounds like it’s underwater. I cannot help but let out a scream as she comes towards me. The flame inside her turns uneasily.

            “I’m helping you sit upright.” She says slowly approaching me. I try to protest but I can’t get the words out. I feel the electric feeling of her hands on my shoulders propping me up to a sitting position. My head droops down so that I am looking at my own stomach, and just above it I see my own flame. Purplish-gray, the size of  a pomegranate as well. I begin to panic. I try to ask for help but the only thing that comes out is gibberish and moaning. My flame starts to turn a darker gray and turn anxiously. I start to feel even more nauseas.

            “You are going to have to calm down. The drugs are going to wear off and you are going to be yanked from the spirit world.” Vel grabs my shoulder. My eyes lock onto her flame as it flares into a passionate red. My heart starts to race as my body goes into a revolt, shaking and rejecting all of the different stimulation I am taking in.  

            “Take in a deep breath Yasari. You are not breathing.” She grabs my shoulders tighter. But I can’t. I can’t make myself breathe, I’ve forgotten how to. Then I feel a sharp pain in my stomach, and I am gasping for air. Vel punched me in the solar plexus.

            “Calm down.  Bring in deep breathes. Focus on breathing.” My head is still spinning, but I force myself to take in deep breath and suddenly everything sharpens and takes its normal form.

The Five Providences (Installment 11)

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Chapter 3

            “Thank you for letting me stay with you.” I say as I quietly place my things on my new bed. The other girls stiffen as they wait to hear Til’s reaction. She smiles brightly and nods a sort of bow.

            “If Vel believes you are worth a risk then it must be so. She is the best of discerners.” I wince a little at the word “risk”. The last thing I want to do is get myself into more trouble.

            “I will stay out of your way as much as possible.” I stand uncomfortably. The other girls seemed to have relaxed now that Til is welcoming.

            “That is not the way it is here.” She smiles as she sits on her bed. “We all take care of each other here. Loyalty is our most honored rule. Unity is closely following. You will learn that soon.” She smiles warmly again. I tremble a little knowing that. Unity has never been apparent in my life. “Do you know what ‘Wolah’ means?”

            “No I do not.”

            “It is from the ancient language. ‘Wo’ means woman and ‘lah’ means flower. When translated it means ‘Woman of flowers’. That is what we do in this clan. We grow flowers. We make things flourish in dry places, much like beauty and elegance in uncertain situations.” She says continuously stroking her long black hair. I shift uneasily.

            “What a lovely tradition.” I manage to regain some kind of communication.

            “It is.” She smiles again. “Well, I’m Til. Daughter of Vel. I’m the head of the Wolah clan. This is Jenmah to my right.” She flicks her head to gesture the girl to her right. “And Leven.” She gestures to the girl on her left. I cringe knowing how Leven doesn’t like me since I’ve bloodied her sister. I look at her for a second and quickly look back to Til. Leven seems indifferent.

            “You are welcomed here. This is your home for your stay here. Make yourself comfortable. I know you will only be here for so long but what are your skills that I might acquaint you with a clan?” She smiles again. She seems to be an all around cheery person.

            “I’m not sure what I excel at.” The inside of my mouth tastes sour. I can’t do much can I? “I’m sneaky.” I start to force a laugh. I receive a sympathy chuckle.

            “Well for now we will just get you acquainted with everyone.” She walks to the front of the door. “Follow me.” She says quickly as she walks out the door and I scurry on my tip toes to catch her outside.

The Five Providences (Installment 10)

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I make it home. I am no longer a human being, but a withered flower beaten by a severe and harsh wind. Kalim takes notice of this.

            “Will you be making a habit of this I assume?” He brings a bowl of water and food. I sprawl on my bed.

            “I would say no, but that would make me a liar.” I say sucking in a deep breath.

            “You already are.” Kalim says tossing a towel on my face. I leave it there. Things start to become muffled as I start to think of silly meaningless things. Then silence.

~*~

            “Wake up!” I hear a voice out of the dark. I ignore it. “Didn’t you hear me? Wake up!” a violent shaking makes me open my eyes.

            “What? What Kalim?” I snap.

            “It’s almost time for you to go, and you need to go because there is word that Jezab is coming for you today. Stay out today…Maybe the night too.” Those words sparked me to an alert state. I couldn’t help but sit there blankly. After a moment I bring myself back to reality and lock eyes with Kalim. Even such a slight panic in his eyes was unnerving. Kalim is always calm and collected.

            “Uhh…” Was all I could manage. “D-do you have my things packed?” I stutter. He nods. We both knew that it would be more than a day and a night before I would come home. Jezab would not go till I was out of reach. He had been waiting long enough as it was. Kalim disappeared for a moment and came back with a satchel in hand. He also gave me a pouch of what I assumed to be gold. I thank him and rush to get my clothes on.

            “I’ll see you in a few days.” I silently hope that’s true. “Please be safe, and if you can stay away from him. He will not have mercy on you.” I plead with him. Jezab is a fool but he knows that he will be severely punished if there is proof that he has tried to fraternize with me. However one false move on Kalim’s part and it could mean death. I don’t want that to happen. Kalim barely acknowledges my wish and hands me a tan satchel with yellow and orange thread woven in a Mandela pattern. I give him a weak smile. “I will do my best to be careful… I promise.” I don’t know why but I feel a tugging in my spirit as if I won’t be seeing him for a long time. A strange feeling indeed.

 

I stand at Vel’s door and take in a deep breath. I’m not really sure what I’ll say to her. I have already managed to make a mistake and now I need to ask a favor. I take in another deep breath and knock on the door. I remember the events of the day before. My muscles ache in sympathy with the anxiety I feel in my head. I take another breath as I feel my stomach swirl and out of an impulse knock on the door. I need to just do it. I think to myself. Vel opens the door in a drowsy state.

            “What’s wrong with you?” She says as she ties her hair up in an elaborate hairdo with a wooden pin. I forget how to talk for a moment.

            “Uh, I can’t go home.” I accidentally blurt out. I rub my eyebrows. I wanted to ask in an independent manner not blurt out my favor like an uncultured idiot. “I can work while I stay. I mean not like… I can clean.” I pin my eyes to the ground. Vel looks unamused. I feel chills roll down my back when I hear Vel laugh.

            “You are a strange one aren’t you.” You she states more than asks.

            “I just need to hide for a while.” I heave a sigh.

            “How long?” She leans against her door post.

            “Just a couple days.”

            “Just?” I realize a few days is quite an inconvenience.

            “I can do chores and I have some dharat I brought with me to compensate your troubles.” I say pulling out a pouch. She takes it from me and gently tosses her hand around to estimate the amount inside. She pours out about ten or fifteen dharat and tosses me the bag back.

            “For food.” She says matter-of-factly and slips them into a hidden pocket in her dress.

            “A couple days then.” She says nodding me into her home and I scurry inside. She doesn’t ask any more questions and it makes me uncomfortable.

            “You’ll be staying with the Wolah clan.” She says ripping back that same heavy door to the courtyard. I’m always astounded by her unseen strength. I tip toe through the doorway and do my best to wrench the door close. She comes behind be and closes it the rest of the way. She leads me across the still beautiful courtyard to an archway covered in beautiful green vines that have taken it over which is very unusual for our desert climate. Under the doorway there is a small wooden door with a little wooden sign that reads “Wolah” in beautiful calligraphy.

            “Well?” Vel says.

            “Oh, thank you Vel. I am more grateful than you know.” I quickly dip into a shallow bow. She nods her head and knocks on the door and a strong voice answers “Enter!”,

            A large one-room building presents itself with three beds on the left side and four on the right. Each bed sporting a side table, some with various items on it showing ownership.

“Ah Til,” Vel begins. A small girl with long pitch black braided hair stands and dips slightly to recognize Vel. She couldn’t be more than twelve years old. She’s petite, but something tells me she’s just like fireworks. She has large eyes and even larger eye lashes that look like fans adorning her dark black eyes.

            “I’m sure you all know…” She nods to me. She still doesn’t know my name. “She will be staying with you for the next few days.” I let my eyes shoot from one girl to the next monitoring their reactions and body language. None seem fazed.

            “What bed can she take?” Vel asks Til.

            “That one.” She points to the bed on the right side opposite of her. I smile appreciatively, but I feel a little isolated since the right side is completely unclaimed. There seems to be only three girls staying in this place.

I have a feeling this might be a more difficult couple of days than I thought

The Book of Gateways (Installment 19)

“What happens if we can’t draw?” I ask as Piers puts the book in the safe behind the hideous flower, which I have now decided, is a guardian of some sorts.

“Well I mean I can sort of draw… But I still wouldn’t want to chance it. What if the drawing is so bad we end up stuck in the middle of the portal and our bodies are separated and we die…Or worse we end up melded together.” Piers seems genuinely concerned.

“Way to stay positive.”

“Hey, I’m just weighing our options of survival.” I just shake my head.

“I wonder if we could use a photo.” Piers looks unimpressed. “Well? It’s an idea isn’t it?” I remove the framed guardian and punch in the numbers to the safe. I flick open the book to an empty page.

“Hang on, I’ll be right back.” I hand the book to Piers and quickly slip through the office door to my desk. I rummage around to find some pictures I had taken from awhile ago. I walk back to the office door and try to open it. A defiant click answers my efforts.

“Piers?” I put my ear to the door.

“Who is it?” He calls back.

“Who do you think it is? Open the door!” So childish.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. You could be here to reap my soul from rugged and handsome body.” I’m gunna break this door down.

“Quit this game will you?”

“But it’s so much fun.” He pokes one eye between a crack in the door. I take the chance and slap the door open. Thud.

            “Ow! My nose!” I enter with Piers clutching his nose.

            “Thanks for playing.” I say and close the door and lock it behind me. He gives me an ugly look. I flip the pages again to where I was before. I pull out a picture of a little street from North Carolina. The street sign read “Estrim Street” just in front of an old barn that had been there for ages. I assumed these would be “defining details” or whatever the term was. I tried to eyeball the middle of the page and stuck the picture there.

            “Now I need some tape or something.” I think aloud, but before I could grab some the book began to grow warm. Little glowing blue vines of the foreign language appear and grow from the top left corner to the right and around the page. The picture is smoothed onto the page and looks as if I could stick my hand into North Carolina right now. No longer a picture. Now it’s a gateway.

 

            “It looks like it worked.” I smile as the book begins to cool down.

            “Ya, but now you’ve wasted a page on a little old town in North Carolina.”

            “Maybe I like North Carolina.” I say still happy with my latest discovery.

            “I guess it is nice there.” Piers says flipping through more of the pages. “Ooh we could go to Germany! They have a lot of great history there. I’ve always wanted to go.” Piers points to a picture labeled “Near Munich, Germany”. Then I feel a funny scratching at the back of my mind.

            “Piers when is your class?” I ask remembering that he actually has a job other than annoy me.

            “Crap!” He shoves the book in my hand. “Put it in the safe! I’ll be back later today.” He says bolting out of the office slamming the door behind him. I do as I’m told and lock up the book and open up the shop. No sooner do I open it does good ole British guy walk in.

The Book of Gateways (Installment 18)

After our bodies adjust to their normal functions Piers and I decide to create some “guidelines” for this book. We sit comfortably on the floor of the backroom with the book on the floor in between us.

            “So?” I say my eye brows raised high in question.

            “I think it should stay in the safe. It’s secretive, and only you and I know the password.” Piers says pulling on the corner of the book to bring it towards him. I nod in agreement.

            “I think we should tell each other when and where we are going when we use the book.” I say not sure how he will react to those perimeters. Piers looks up at me, his eyes conveying the gears in his mind spinning at a million miles per hour. He doesn’t answer for a while. Still thinking. He may be a history teacher but he acts like a business man. Constantly considering all options to see which has the most benefits.

            “That seems… reasonable. After all we did find the book together, and I’m sure Milo would have wanted it that way.” He starts flipping through the book aimlessly while he talks with me. I nod as he continues to flip the pages. Then I notice a little white piece of paper slip out from between the pages and gently land on the floor.

            “What is that?” I point to the little paper.

            “I’m not sure.” Piers says picking it up. His eyebrows furrow. “It’s from Milo, ‘To whomever finds this book, be cautious, there are many nuances and guidelines to these books that I have had to figure out by trial and error. As I am sure you have noticed there are blank pages and destination pages. I have found that you can create a destination page by drawing the destination in which you would like to go. However, you must have defining keys in the design of your destination.’” Piers pauses.

            “What does he mean by that?” I ask. Piers shrugs. He flips over the little page and continues to read. “‘By defining keys I mean items in your destination that define the location. You could draw an alleyway and want it to be the alleyway next to Macallister’s pub, however if there is no sign, particular garbage can with an address, or other defining items you could end up in any alleyway in the world (if it is too similar) or the gateway may not work at all. I have affectionately started calling this book, ‘The Book of Gateways’”

            “Well that makes it infinitely more complicated.” Piers flips the page again as if more instructions will appear. “That seems to be it. There’s nothing else written here.” He heaves a sigh.

            “Could I?” I ask gently taking the paper from his hand. The paper reads true. There’s nothing else. I feel a sad twinge in my heart knowing Milo wrote this not too long. The old man still had secrets. I hand the paper back.

            “You know what this means?” Piers smiles at me as if knowing I need to see it.

            “No, what?”

            “We can go anywhere.” His eyes light up. “It was better that time, right? We’ll get used to the shock.” My first instinct is to say no and chastise him for even thinking of such a thing, but then I think on it for a while. Although my mental cogs aren’t running a mile a minute they still turn and I come to a conclusion.

            “Alright.” I say quietly. “Let’s make this happen.”

His mouth opens into a wide smile. I feel afraid, but for once in a very long time I feel alive.

~*~