we can’t just sever ties at a moment’s notice

“Alright, Ophelia, we’ve all gathered here to discuss whatever extremely important news you felt like waking me to share, so spill it.” We’d gotten her and Calum into Emma’s hospital room and had Maxine lean against the door to keep Ophelia from opening it again, Calum dragging her in and restraining her until we knew that she wouldn’t be trying to escape for a while.

“Well-” she looked over to Calum from where we’d tied her into the chair, a deep annoyance burning in her eyes that I didn’t understand where it had come from- “this piece of crap over here was mucking around with some messenger from his home dimension or whatever, and now he thinks that there’s some troops coming from the north. He wouldn’t tell me much details, though, and he was going on and on this morning about how we should just take you in the skyskipper and run for our lives.”

“But Emma’s still healing,” Maxine countered from the door. “I mean, she can walk normally and see with the floating ball thing, but she’s still going through physical therapy, and who knows if there’s going to be any complications while we’d be on the run.”

“I’m here, you know.” Emma was sitting cross-legged quietly on her bed, observing the pathetic scene from a few feet away. “You don’t have to talk about me like I’m not here.”

“Anyways…” I looked over to Calum, who was fidgeting nervously in his place on the floor next to Ophelia’s chair. “Do you seriously just expect us to jump up and leave everything and go with you?”

“We could take you back to Earth, May,” Calum offered. “Speaking of that, where did Constance go?”

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Emma made me post this since she was too lazy to do it herself

“May? Do you suppose that we’ll ever find the rest of the family?” I turned my head back to the sky as if I were drinking straight from it. The auburn skies covering us like a welcome blanket in the cold were sheltering the farm that belonged to the elders of my mother’s side of the family.”In time for dinner, or in general?” May’s long red hair was tangling and blowing around in the wind perfectly like we were in a Disney movie, reminding me that even though we were about the same age, she was already far closer to perfection that I would ever be.

“In time for dinner. I’m hungry, and that witch’s brew we made earlier didn’t help at all.” In reality, the witch’s brew was just a barrel filled with rain water that we’d put some of the loose grain from the yard into, pretending to drink from it and be bewitched.

May took my hand and started almost dragging me across the front yard of the house that we’d already crossed, walking around in a huge circle. Every nook and cranny of that house felt familiar to me as we had been there numerous occasions before (and one of those times, there had been a false tornado alert while I had been eating ice cream, most likely with my mother out of the house) but also felt alien- although I didn’t notice it at the time- because my great-grandmother was still stuck in a completely different and older era. Our family had been in the house earlier when we’d left to go play, but it was desolate and locked up now. “Come on, Emma, I think I know the way now.”

We passed by the huge metallic silo, glistening silver in the muted light, but I couldn’t pay much attention as she was pulling hard on my arm, almost dragging me across the slightly less grassy pathways that time had carved into the ground.

“May? Do you think you could slow down a bit?” She ignored me as usual, and I could feel a few blades of grass tickle the spot in between my toes where the skin was prone to ripping at inopportune times. “Please?”

Pretending that I hadn’t spoken at all and pointing to a spot off in the distance, she inquired, “Do you think that maybe they’re in that house?”

I had to squint in order to see something other than a blur, and after a few seconds, I could make it out to be another house. My vision has never been excellent, and it wasn’t that much better at nine years old. “Maybe. Are we going over there? Or are you going to keep pretending that I have shoes on like you and keep going so fast?”

“It isn’t my fault that you forgot your shoes inside the house. Maybe you should have brought them before they locked the house up and left.” She picked her nose right in front of me, not giving a crap about the rules of politeness, and wiped her fingers on her cheap jeans when she was done. “Now come on. We got to keep going.”

We continued trudging through the fields as fast as our preteen legs could carry us, and eventually enough, we approached the front porch of a house that looked like it hadn’t seen proper maintenance in quite a while. “Are you going to go in first, Emma, or are you?”

“I’ll go, May. You’d probably mess something up horribly.” I took a few apprehensive steps, my toes wishing that they didn’t have to go on the wood that looked like it might splinter at a moment’s notice. When I reached the door, which felt like it took forever, I quietly knocked on the door, hoping that is was the right house and that we wouldn’t have to wander any more.

The door creaked, and an adolescent boy peered from behind the door, wondering who in the world could be disturbing him at dinner time. “Hello?”

“Is our family here?”

“I don’t know who you are, but I’m the only person here. I hear that the neighbors are having a dinner party over at that house-” and he opened the door wider so that he could point behind the house, at which point May went to go look around in that direction- “and I’d prefer that you please don’t knock again.” He slowly closed the door, probably trying to make sure that he didn’t jam any of our fingers in the door hinge.

“Well, would you look at that,” May complained, her hands on her hips. “We missed it by… oh, I don’t know, fifty feet.” And sure enough, there was another house practically sharing a backyard with the teenage boy’s residence, a clothesline connecting the two. We practically started running towards it like those race horses you see after the front gate’s been opened and crossed the distance in less than a minute, ending up as a tangle of sweaty limbs and denim clothes in the ending house’s garden.

“Well, at least we avoided the vegetables,” May whispered, helping me out of the garden. “Imagine explaining that to our parents.”

“Yeah, that would be bad.” I turned my back to her, and she followed me as we went around the house, finding the front door and opening it to be greeted by a widely-smiling woman and my parents.

“Why, hello there, Emma! We’ve been waiting for you!” Is she the owner of the house? “Your parents are here, and they want to speak to you for a moment.”

Mom and Dad appeared in the doorway then. “Emma? Where have you been?”

“I’ve been-” but I turned around, hoping that May would back me up, but she wasn’t there. She’d never been there.

…yep, I did hear about this the next day

“Ophelia! Ophelia, dang it, wake up!” I was dragged out of my blissful non-state by Calum rolling me around in the bed, panic in his eyes. “About the Mithrae summoning last night-”

“Yep, I did guess right, I was going to hear about it the next day.” I slipped out of bed, stumbling over to the small pile of clothes from yesterday that I’d washed and groggily pulled them on, trying to will myself not to be annoyed about my tangled hair until I could get to a bathroom and fix it. “What happened that’s so important to disturb my sleep for?”

He sputtered around for a few seconds, trying to articulate words and failing before he finally blurted, “One of the messengers from my city responded when I finally got all the markings right. He didn’t believe me that I was-” and he gagged for a moment, having tried and failed to pronounce whatever his name was since he forgot that a human couldn’t do so- “but I eventually convinced him after a while with some regional knowledge that an ignorant human mucking around with the Mithrae for personal gains wouldn’t know, and he agreed to assure my family that I was surviving just fine and that I’d try to live a normal life. He kept trying to interrupt me, though, saying that… that…” Calum was out of breath now, his chest heaving and attempting to keep him from going completely out of breath.

“For God’s sake, Calum, spit it out already!”

He glared at me, like I’d just thrown some curse words and slurs at him and expected him to take them lightly. “There are troops advancing on us. He didn’t say from which direction, though. We- all of us, including May and her pack of friends- are sitting ducks here. We’ve got to move, Ophelia. This war has been dragging on uneventfully for months now, and we’re running out of time.”

I moved to exit the room, thinking that Calum would at least let me go brush my hair so that I’d be presentable for whatever plan he was about to hatch on four seconds and then execute right away, but he slipped in front of me and blocked my path. “And what exactly are we supposed to do about that, Calum? We don’t owe Emma and Maxine anything.”

“We have it in our power to do something, Ophelia.”

“Just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should, Calum. I don’t want to become their babysitters. I want to find a way to go home.”

I suppose I’ll be hearing about this tomorrow

“Calum?” I whispered, brushing aside the curtain that we had hung instead of a door and peering into the room that Calum and claimed as his own. “What are you doing?”
He had lit candles in a circle around him, and he was sitting in the middle, his legs pulled up to his chest and his head resting in between his knees. “Ophelia? That’s you, right?”
“Who else would it be?” He lifted his head, dark circles under his eyes like he hadn’t slept in a while, and I sat down next to him outside the circle, making sure not to touch any candles. “Calum? What exactly are you trying to do?”
“I…” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “I just wanted to have some kind of communication with my family, and I figured that since there are all of these stories of humans who’ve successfully summoned a Mithrae, I might as well try it. I don’t want to go through my whole life here- I’m not going to kill myself to make it any shorter, unless I get some kind of uncurable cancer, in which case I’ll get a lethal injection instead of suffering- and then finally get to come back home when I’m dead, only to have a Rip Van Winkle pulled on me and have my whole family and all my friends be long dead.” There were tears glistening in his eyes, and he put his head back down again. “If I’m never going to see any of them in person again, then I might as well get a messenger to tell them that I’m okay and living an acceptable life.”
“But won’t you be old too when you get back? I mean…” I put a hand on his knee, trying to show some nonverbal support. Empathy isn’t a strength of mine, can’t you tell? “If your soul ages at the same pace as their bodies do, when you come back, won’t you be old and die too?”
“I don’t know, Ophelia. I genuinely don’t know.” He moved to get up, and I scooted back, not wanting to disturb any of the candles and give him enough space to stand without doing that same thing. “Do you want to help me?”
“No thanks, I think I’ll stay out of a Mithrae summoning, just in case something goes wrong.” He offered me a hand, and I pulled myself up to a standing position, leaving the room. “You better not burn the whole place down.”

two sides of nature’s coin

do you know that clean feeling
the one where everything inside you feels like you just
stepped out of a waterfall
not sterile, not void
just clean

do you know that dirty feeling
the one that happens after you mess up
and you want to hide in a hole for a million years
and nothing can assauge the crappy feeling inside
and you can’t get away from yourself

in memoriam

a family member of mine is dying of cancer back on earth
and so are countless people in unknown regions of both worlds
and when one is surrounded by death
one cannot help but wonder what what it is like
to simply stop existing
one does not want to end their life
but wonders at what the void would feel like
if it were possible to embrace it for a short finite time
and return to life with the knowledge
of what self-destructive tendencies would turn them to
were they not properly harnessed and utilized towards something good