Chapter 36: Green

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The sudden crazy-relaxed mood had long since passed, and with it, my ability to sleep. Or at least, that's what I thought before an image rose before my eyes. Smoke? No. Shadow. It swirled before my eyes, obscuring everything but a vial of innocent-looking water.

"You don't know what your father bargained for, do you?"

I backed away from the vial. I didn't want it. My life would have been one of those stupid magical stories that Jack loved so much if it had never entered my life.

"You still haven't figured it out."

It grew. I stumbled back.

"Well, let me put your mind at ease." The words were booming now, pounding against my ears. "He bargained for you."

Red hot engulfing pain. Everywhere. From my toes to the top of my head to the air around me. I couldn't pick out where the pain stopped and my blood began. Neon orange flashed in the red.

Only the shadows remained in this toxic mix of pain, fear, and disbelief.

Until cobalt blue washed it all away. The tranquil shade lapped gently against me, filling my consciousness with a white peace.

From the pool of blue soon rose a magnificent building- tall enough in places to be a skyscraper, but the entirely wrong shape and material. It was almost like four skyscrapers were connected by stretches of wall that reminded me of the cobblestone walkways of the Edge. There was this ongoing pattern on the tops of all the walls and scrapers: the top rose and fell and rose and fell, creating a paradigm of rectangles. It almost seemed similar to Archibald's home, in ways. What was this place?

Then sweet music started playing. It took me more than a minute to recognize it as the song of a bird.

Before I could make out any other details, though, the scene before me faded and I slowly transitioned to consciousness. I woke up completely drained. I lay there for a moment, remembering the scenes and potent feelings I had experienced just moments before. Now I was too wiped to feel much of anything.

The magician's accusations were there, nagging at me, from the back of my mind, but I pushed myself to my feet and started on the path back out to the light.

My people. . . Their ingenuity is their poison. Just as Jack's desire for magic in general and flight specifically were his. How could such good things become traps? Maybe it was just that there was too much of them. Maybe they needed to be balanced out by something else. I felt along the wall until there was enough light to see by.

What's my poison? I could smell the wind now. My mind grabbed immediately at the life water, but I sternly shook my head. The others' problems weren't external objects; they were internal traits. Things that made them uniquely them.

I trailed my hand over the rough rock. The magician had said my father had traded me for the Semper. It couldn't be true, could it?

I reached the mouth of the cave and gasped at the view before me. Maybe it had been too dim for me to really see last night? Or else I was too preoccupied to notice.

From the mouth of the cave outward, the ground was red and torn: no plants, dirt piled up and dug out as if scratched out by giant claws, though there was no consistency to it. Red pebbles strewn along the dirt, all leading to an orange stream.

I felt the inexplicable urge to cross it and see what was on the other side.

Then my logical side kicked in. I couldn't afford to get lost.

But I'd only take a peek. Just one.

Follow some strange urging? That sounded like something Jack would do.

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