“Hey, Hayle! How are you doing today?” Calum reclined against the headboard on his bed, holding his phone to his ear as he adjusted the crumpled sheets. “Anything interesting happen since we last met?”

“I just paid $170 to stand in the presence of a man who answered three questions I didn’t even ask. But it was Earthen money from a jerk, so it’s okay.” She rustled a few papers on the other end of the phone. “He deserved to have his money wasted since he was mocking a kid with cancer. What do you want, Calum? We haven’t talked since we walked out on Akov.”

“Where are you, exactly?” He pulled his backpack over to where he’d gotten comfortable and pulled out a calculator and a few sharpened dowels. “There aren’t any fortune tellers over here, and the ones closer to Altaris aren’t that blatantly expensive.”

“A few blocks away from a bar. Don’t ask me what I was doing there.” A few men shouted in the distance, and Hayle’s phone warbled. “Why are you calling me?”

“I was wondering if you had the science homework that we were supposed to catch up on over the weekend. I forgot to do any of it, and I was wondering if I could copy off of yours so that I don’t get the third detention this month.”

“That’s all you want?…” The phone went silent for a few moments, only permeated by the sounds of heavy footsteps behind Hayle. “Do you want the answers now, or do I have to come over?”

“You have to come over. It’s urgent.”

“It’s just an assignment, but fine…” She hung up, and Calum groaned as he tossed the calculator on the floor. Pulling out three plastic bags filled with sparkly powder and flinging them onto the floor, he rolled off of the bed and started arranging his dowels by the bed. Five minutes passed by in solitude until socks appeared in the crack under his door and somebody knocked.

“Who’s there?” Calum tugged a loose blanket from his bed and tossed it over the shoddily-built star. “What do you want?”

“Open up, you jerk.” Calum reached over and unlocked the door, allowing a tousled Hayle in. She closed the door behind her and relocked it, taking a seat by the edge of the blanket. “What is this supposed to be? Convoluted Netflix-and-chill?”

“Do I really look like the kind of person who would want to break statutory rape laws with somebody I barely know?”

“Not really…” She pulled the blanket away, expecting something lewd but being met with the scattered collection of dowels. “This doesn’t look like science homework.”

“It’s an illegal demon portal. We’re going to go check on Miranda ourselves.”

“Well, I can see that now.” Hayle looked up, glaring at Calum for a moment before grasping one of the plastic bags. “Where did you get this stuff?”

“I smuggled it away from the art classroom when nobody was looking.”

“I see.” She rolled her eyes at Calum’s smug expression, leaned over the portal while putting the dowels back to the proper configuration. “Where’s the activator powder? None of this is going to work unless you have that.”

“I…” His words drifted off as panic set in across his face, leaning back and facepalming. “Of course that’s the one thing I forgot…”

“Hello?” Both turned towards the door as a soft voice outside the door broke in and knocked against the locked knob. “Can you please let me in?”

“Marphele? Is that you?” Calum pressed his hands against his knees, attempting to keep himself calm.

“Yes.” She stomped a foot outside the door. “Please let me in. I have a delivery for you.”

“Alright…” With shaking hands, Calum unlocked the door, allowing a blonde-haired poof of a girl to walk in and sit down cross-legged by Hayle. “You haven’t visited me in a while.”

“You were away for a while.” Marphele pulled out a small pouch from her pocket and handed it to Calum. “Here’s the activator powder that you need. I snuck it away from the institution on Friday just in case. Please don’t question it.”

“How did you-”

“I just said, please don’t question it.” Marphele got back up again and promptly headed for the door without giving a second glance to his misshapen portal. “Please don’t tell Mom that I helped in any way whenever you get back. Dad won’t care, probably.”

“Thanks, Marphele.” Calum finished the circle around the dowels and tossed what little powder the pouch contained into the middle of the portal, activating it with a loose match and dipping a foot in. “Brisk, but not too cold. Kind of like that outdoor swimming pool we visited last year back when the weather was perfect the entire season. Ladies first?”

“I can’t possibly fathom you learning that one from anywhere good on Earth. You go first.”

“Oops, too late!” He tugged on Hayle’s jacket and shoved her into the portal before him, jumping in after her and closing the portal with a snap before her scream could leave the room. The black void only hung for a few seconds before the two were dumped onto a pile of brittle and brown leaves leftover from last autumn.

“Calum! Why would you…” Hayle paused as she picked herself up off of the ground, trees reaching up to the sky filling her vision. Sunlight streamed in between the cracks in the leaf cover, pine and maple trees scatered as far as she could see. “Where the heck are we?”

“Close enough to where Miranda is.” Calum wobbled as he stood up, glancing around until his eyes picked up on a campsite a good fifty feet away. “We’re absolutely screwed, aren’t we?”

A few of the campers rustled in their tents, one going to far as to light a flashlight in broad daylight. “Calum! Get up in the tree! Now!” Hayle hissed, shifting to a smoke form and hiding at the top of the closest pine tree.

“Fine.” Calum shifted as well, occupying the same space as Hayle and trying his best to ignore the itchy feeling from floating inside of another shifted person. “What do we do now?”

“It was your idea to come here, idiot. You call the shots now.”

“Fine…” He drifted above the tree, twirling about until a whitewashed building caught his eye in the near horizon. “We’ll go over there once it’s nightfall. Is that fine with you?”

“Sure, whatever.” Two campers dragged themselves out of their tents and stumbled towards the tree that the two smoky figures were hiding on top of. “Shut up until they go away for dinner or something. Only a fool would think starting a campfire in these dry of woods would be a good idea.”


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