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Rowan

Dr. Osborne watched us all for a long moment. "The Otherworld?" he echoed, looking first at Blue and then to each of us. I could meet his gaze for only a second; it burned into me like the fire had, demanding everything I knew. Not that I knew much.

Blue nodded in agreement. "The Otherworld. She left us a map there."

"We met her there," Lightning added.

Dr. Osborne turned to me as if waiting for me to add something, to agree with or deny it. I couldn't deny what had happened. "That's where we went during the fire," I told him softly. "SAM was there."

"And what happened in this Otherworld?"

"Nothing," Griffin snapped. "We barely even got a chance to see her and then we woke up here. Nothing happened."

I wasn't sure I agreed with that but I didn't argue. My memory of the encounter was hazy at best, like a dream I was quickly forgetting now that I was awake. The more time passed the less sure I was of what had happened.

"She must have found a way to reside there," he said in wonder, almost to himself. "Very impressive. And you all managed to go there?"

We all nodded vaguely, though I could tell the others were as sure of whatever had happened during the fire as I was. "What's the Otherworld, exactly?" Blue asked.

He hesitated to answer, as if formulating his response carefully. "Do any of you know what astral projection is?" We were silent, each of us answering with an unspoken but resounding no. "It's believed by some people that a person can leave their body and walk in spirit through the world. An out-of-body experience, you might call it, but usually intentional. It can be very dangerous if done incorrectly, supposedly, but it's not something we ever felt would be safe or useful to attempt."

That made a vague sort of sense, in a something-out-of-a-movie kind of way. "So you think we got to the Otherworld through astral projection?" Blue asked.

"Or something similar to it. It's certainly a possibility. Some time ago Dr. Marsh and I discussed the possibility of a place of origin of psychic power, of sorts. A place that powerful psychics could access with the proper training and preparation. I never imagined she herself would try to find it, much less try to lead you children there without extensively preparing you first."

"It saved our lives," I told him. "Maybe she knew that was the only choice."

"I'd like to think that was the case." The way he said it sent a shudder through me and I said nothing more, looking down again.

"You guys realize how crazy this sounds, right?" Lightning spoke up finally. "Psychics don't exist."

"Okay, yes, it's crazy, but how else do you explain literally everything that happened?" Blue asked him.

I nodded. "You talked to SAM. You saw what she did. You saw what we did."

"C'mon, Ro, you don't actually believe it?" I looked away, unable to reply, and he turned to Blue. "Blue?"

"Do you have a logical explanation?"

His face answered that for him. "No..."

"Would you like proof of what you are?" Dr. Osborne asked, getting our attention again. He seemed to take our tense silence for a yes; standing, he made his way to the window across the room and pushed it open easily. There was a tree outside, its bare branches stretched forward like reaching fingers, grasping at the glass. It was too cold for many birds to be left but one small one—a sparrow, I thought—sat there. It fluttered in surprise at the movement but he held out one hand to it and it stopped, hesitating a second before hopping towards him to perch on his palm. He carefully drew his hand back inside, eyes never leaving the little thing. With his free hand he closed the window all but a crack and turned back to us. My stomach churned with dread, wondering where this was going.

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