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I don't even know what we are looking for at this point. She hasn't said a goddamn word since we've been here.
Feeling the oddly perfect paved road on my sneakers is a major relief
Ah, the main road again! Just six more houses to go.
I hear a large oak door slam shut—
At least tell me where we're going next.
I walk into the house on the other side; an exact replica of every house we've been in so far.
No stores. No gas stations. No playgrounds. Just houses. Shaman always explained that realms are sometimes expanding, and sometimes collapsing; but, certainly always real.
They are relative to space and time. Two theoretical infinites. In the Old World, religion was seen as the center of society—then came Intellectualism. All forms of mysticism, magic, and faith were essentially mocked out of existence. It was common for people to travel, through prayer or meditation, to different realms. The Old World contained people who could sense energy shifts, known then as Psychics. They were mocked for believing they could communicate with the deceased-- but the dead have never truly been gone—the energy only transferred. It was common to interact with people through the Divine's Energy.
Now few people access The Divine Energy. You just have to be careful projecting yourself into the Space-Time. Your body isn't physically traveling, but your soul is directly exposed.
I find Amaranth standing with a boy no older than eight. His eyes were an icy grey-blue, and his blonde hair made dirty by the abundance of it in this small piece of the universe.
"Hey kid, my name is Adrien. What's yours?"
"Cantu." He boasts a smallish frame causing him to appear timid.
"A very nice name. Do you live here, Cantu?"
"Where are you from?"
Hmm, Adenvale is such a big city. He's young—and clearly untrained. There is no way he brought us here. I doubt he even brought himself here.
"Do you remember how you got here? Do you know how long you’ve been here?"
"No. The lady in red brought me here."
That has to be our culprit. I look at Amaranth and her third eye matches the color of the boys now. I think it may be best I pull her aside. I don't want to scare the kid any more than he already is.
"Amaranth, you okay?"
"Yes, fine—I'm fine—"
"You haven't said anything to me in a few days. Just making sure."
"Wait, a few… how-how long?"
I guess she's used to judging her time off of the movement of the sun. And fully projecting is like jet lag to the nth degree. She’s been entranced for a few days. Probably adjusting.
"Did you hear? The lady in the red dress! That's who we're looking for. That's who brought us here. That's who can get us home."
I switch my attention back to the kid. "Do you know where she is?"
We've been all over this place and haven't seen anyone outside of you.
"She finds you." The sad in his eyes pulls with Thor-like power on my heart almost bringing a tear to mine.
How long has this kid been running? Hiding? Scared?
"It's okay. We'll protect you. You have my word." I don't know if I can guarantee it, Cantu. But I promise I will try my best—Adenvale can't lose another son.
Cantu grips onto Amaranth's sweater tightly as I take a step towards him.
"It's okay, Cantu,” she smiles softly at me. “I trust him."
Her third eye glows the prettiest turquoise I've ever seen. Focus, Adrien.
"I say we hunt this woman down, whoever she is."
"Better than being sitting ducks." Amaranth grabs a chimney brush from the fireplace mantle.
That's curious. None of the other houses had fireplaces. I stick my hand in my pocket to grab my pocket knife. Shaman had given it to me our first projection in order to cut through a vine to access a fruit patch.
I turn to look at the boy who appears more confused than terrified at this point. "I want you to take this. I've had it since I was about your age. It's been pretty handy for me. My Shaman—she’s kind of like my mom. She gave this to me. It has special energy flowing through it and was forged by the Divine herself. She always said 'Just as the Divine is, it will always be there when you need it.'" I try to imitate the 800-year-olds voice as best I can remember.
Cantu reaches out and hesitantly takes the knife from my hand. I turn and open the door with true intention and optimism dancing fresh across my face. "Let's go home. I'm growing increasingly bored of this realm."
"Wow! The sun is still so bright! But—it's… so… cold."
She's right it did get colder. What an odd little town.
Amaranth and Cantu trot ahead in front of me, only to stop a few feet from the house frozen. "Amaranth, you okay?"
Shit, she's in a trance… again. This town is not good—
I see Cantu's finger raise, directing my attention off of Amaranth, back to where Amaranth and I had entered town just a few days prior. Small in height with the build of a warrior. A rancid woman in a menacingly ragged red dress—she looks pissed.
I turn back to face Cantu and Amaranth to release what feels like my final distress signal.
I fix my gaze only to realize they are no longer there. I swivel my head back in panic to see the woman walking towards me, rapidly.
Wherever you are Amaranth, I hope you and Cantu are safe. I will find you. I'll make sure you return home… and I'm truly sorry I got you into this.