When I kneel at Ovelia's side to pick her up, she glares at me as if I have slighted her. Whatever she witnessed in the many-faceted realities Nalowei told us were available to her, she didn't like what she saw. I'm just not sure if it's something I did—that is, something an alternate version of me did—or if she's misplacing a fiery ball of rage she gathered from a offense beyond my power.

She lets me support her weight by giving her a leaning shoulder. She won't let me carry her, though. And she won't look me in the eye either, much less speak to me.

As I'm yet again at the crossroads of trying to figure Ovelia out, I overhear Chante ask, "Nalowei, what do you think of the two of us flanking us as we single-file the wormhole?"

"You mean to keep it stable?" she asks.

"What's the point of stability if we're going to spaghettify?" Elexus retorts.

Hahn chuckles. "Oh, there'll be no spaghettification here. The wormhole may have the same potential for teleportation as a black hole, but it's not a singularity. It's more like a tunnel than a point."

I shoot him a curious look. "Since when did you study wormholes?"

"They're a type of gate," Hahn says. Then the leader of the Wizardhood beams with like the sun as he adds, "I do love gates."

"All the gray goo on the other side—," Elexus starts, then Nalowei interrupts, "How do you know about grey goo?"

"She was a cyber mage once," I tell her. "Remember? She studied under Lady Lorelai."

Nalowei just shrugs.

Her and Chante decide that flanking our single-line coterie is the best idea. Nalowei takes the front, with Chante behind us, and Hahn just ahead of me, and Elexus on my heels, while Ovelia rests on my shoulder, yet manages to still cold shoulder me.

As a rollercoaster clanking it's way to the top of the first drop, we approach the wormhole hesitantly, until the gentle whir of the event horizon tugs on Nalowei's clothes, and she fades into the silvery shadows.

Of course, before Hahn fades next, I'm already burning with regret. I don't want to enter any teleporting ripple in space-time, much less an interdimensional rift. Who wouldn't feel shit-their-pants scared about that?

But Hahn enters without flinching, and he's the other Lord here. No way he's doing this chill, then I follow up with panic. Besides, Ovelia is practically dragging me forward, throwing one heavy foot in front of another, like I've got an iron golem using me for support.

When the wormhole is spinning all around me, I think I see a mechanical dragon, or perhaps a sea serpent, in the middle of a technological whorl, but just as I convince myself that the gearwork beast in there, I buckle over and vomit.

The world bends beneath me like a fun house mirror.

♦️

First draft: October 18
Word count: 501

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