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Pu-Tor. Argo. Pu-tor.
I just keep repeating it as I stitch my side. A rusted needle and old thread I stole from one of the houses where I used to hide from the Lady in Red, before I was able to lose her here.
I bleed orange here. Funny. I hate orange. I never did stop to appreciate this body.
I can still feel the vibrations from Shaman's soft jazzy voice in my ear:
"It is said we only get one body. That is not true. We only get one soul. What you will come to find young Adrien, is that many people spend a lifetime nourishing the body, but mistreating the soul."
I never did really know what she meant by that, until I started projecting on my own; going places I was never allowed to go, even with her. We always traveled to places my soul could roam freely outside of a body.
But this—I was never ready for this, and she knew it.
It's getting harder to maintain my thought. This vessel is failing me. If I can't maintain its safety, my soul may end up stuck here.
I keep thinking about when Amaranth and Cantu vanished. No smoke, no tracks, and within the blink of an eye. That had to have been months ago. Who knows where they went or what kind of trouble they're in?
I rub my eyes until I see something familiar in the distance.
Argo Pu-Tor poorly painted black on a broken wooden sign.
I have to get out of this forest. That's the 35th time I've seen that sign. I'm walking in a damned loop.
Wait? That can't be—
—footsteps in the distance.
I dart behind one of the large leafy palm trees. I can't afford another meeting with my new friend. I place my hand on the trunk as if to propel forward to my next retreat.
Feels like wet paint.
I look down to see blood. Red. I hear a crack come from behind me, which startles me into flight mode. Running as quickly and hard as I can to my next safe point, a tree of similar size a few feet away, I'm sure I can avoid an ill-fated end. It's only when I get a few steps away from my goal when I see the red dress—dead still.
I immediately mimic the dress, stuck in motion. As suddenly as I stop, I pivot to break away from my would-be captor. I narrowly escaped last time.
Our first encounter led to me stabbing this woman with a chimney poke stolen from the house we found Cantu in. What was I supposed to do though, she was screaming at me, and I couldn't understand anything.
"Adrien," wait. She knows my name.
"So you did bring us here?! Why were you screaming at me? And if you know Common Tongue, why weren't you speaking it?!"
"I expected you to be full of questions. Us? So there was someone else with you?"
"Yeah, Amaranth. Amaranth Evans from—"
"Where is she?"
"I don't know. They vanished from thin air. I thought maybe you'd taken them."
"Why would I?" Her face is strong. Her skin has just the slightest green tint to it. She's built like an Amazonian and stands as one too. Wearing the weight of her full expression. "Them. There was someone else with you two?"
"Oh yeah, Cantu. We met him here. He said you were the one who sent him here."
"Is that why you stabbed me?"
"Anyway, that doesn't explain you yelling and not speaking Common Tongue."
"I thought you spoke the language here. I didn't realize until you stabbed me and yelled 'die she-witch' you were a human; from the earth, by the judge of the accent."
"I don't have an accent. And the yelling?"
"I was asking you about the girl. I knew I had felt her presence both of yours. I knew she'd come looking." She raises her chin and brushes a brownish-gray bang from her forehead. A third eye!?
"You're— Mrs. Evans?!" The smile softens her face.
"Tilly-—you can call me Tilly. I know you probably have a lot of questions, and I can help answer whatever you need me to, but now we need to find my daughter. The boy who she was with, you said he was brought here by me?"
"Cantu. A boy no taller than chest height." Her smile turns worried.
"She's not safe—"
I mean he is only eight.
"I don't know where they could be."
"I know where we can start looking."
She takes a step closer. Even with the new revelation of her identity, I can feel my heart beating very rapidly. Her hand raises towards my chest, causing beads of sweat to flow off of me.
"We are in purgatory. It takes me a while to get to this plane. This plane parallels another that exists in the same space. You are set in a time loop. It feels like you've been walking in circles for months, correct? I can see you are unbalanced. Until you balance yourself you will be trapped here. But don't worry. I can and will fix it. Just take a deep breath." I follow her instructions. "This might hurt a little. And Adrien— thank you for bringing my daughter back to me."
Amaranth we're coming. Just hang in there.