A Hand to Guide You: Part Three
The journey through that unearthly dimension was too strange
to be described, as few, perhaps none beside myself have experienced it, and therefore
there are no words to express the feelings experienced while racing through nothingness.
So, I will not try. It still befuddles me to try and make sense of it.
Just as I had been swept up from the earth by
a mysterious force, I was just as powerfully pulled back onto it. While traveling
through the purplish-blackness, I was again grabbed by the hands and whisked
away, this time through a small rip in the fabric of time. I landed with a thud
on a green, grassy hill, tumbling head over heels down the rolling slope. I
eased my now aching body into a sitting position, trying to regain my sense
of orientation. I looked around, trying to recognize my surroundings. I saw
in the distance a white and gold castle, turrets bearing the flag of Meridell
fluttering in the morning breeze. Trees in the last stages of autumn covered
the hillsides in the background. I was so dizzy from my world-record somersault
run that all this visual information took a while to register in brain. But
when it did, things did definitely not agree. Hold up, I thought. Morning?
Autumn? What happened to sunset in springtime? What is going on? By then
I should have been used to paranormal events, but this one threw me for a loop.
Was I now a time-traveler? Or had I just taken a really long side trip in the
fourth dimension? Then with a head-slap I realized all that I had forgotten
in Geography class, far away at Neoschool: Meridell and Mystery Island were
on opposite sides of the equator, and the world, so a spring evening in Mystery
Island would indeed be a fall morning in Meridell. Duh. Smart one, Anika.
The one normal thing so far, and I forget it. I guess it just shows how abnormal
I've become, I thought with a laugh. But what I had not forgotten was the
creature on the beach, which must have been the same as the one I had seen so
many years ago. Why does it have such an interest in me? But all I could do
was wonder if someone, or something, was really out to get me. This was getting
more and more insane.
There was nothing to do but to move forward,
so I did. I set off toward the castle, hoping I would find the reason I was
here along the way. I figured there must have been a reason for my teleportation
to Meridell, or why had I been dropped off here? Assuming my new role as protector
of the small, I eagerly searched for any little pet that looked especially weak
or lost. Surprisingly, the road leading into town was nearly deserted. I only
passed a dirty, greedy-looking Meerca, who smelled strongly of home-brewed ale,
and a Skeith soldier on the way, neither of which looked very much in need of
assistance… I continued to make my way to the central area of Meridell, and
stopped along the way to buy a pastry. Feeling a renewed sense of purpose, I
had confidence in my calling like I had not experienced in a long time. I was
no longer afraid to show my face, no longer wondering if I would ever be something
again. I was sure I would find someone in need, and I was certain I could help
whoever came along.
Boy, did I get more than I bargained for.
As I continued along into evening, the weather
began to take a turn for the worse. Pitch-colored clouds billowed above the
horizon, hanging low over the tops of the trees through which I was traveling.
They reflected the dark discouragement that was beginning to take root in me
again. It had been several hours since I had arrived here, and still I had found
no one to help. There has to be someone in this desolate place that needs
protecting! Where is everyone? I thought, frustrated. The gloom was seriously
putting a damper on my optimism. The clouds were growing ever ominous and forlorn
rumblings could be heard from the distant mountains. Nonetheless, I continued
to trudge along the weary, forsaken path, a glimmer of hope still lingering
in my heart. Perhaps just around the corner, I thought. Just a little further,
can't be far of now. But no one appeared. Apparently, I was the only one out
in this threatening weather. Still, I went on. Part of the reason was I had
nowhere to go; I was a stranger in the land. I hadn't met anyone. My mission
still had no purpose, although I had been sure it would soon acquire one. My
mind dwelled on these thoughts while my feet moved along on their own accord,
just one foot in front of the other, hardly knowing where they were treading.
A sudden clash of thunder woke me from my dreamlike
daze. A curtain of icy rain enveloped me, obscuring my vision to a few feet
in front of me. Putting a hand above my eyes I scanned for quick shelter, and
spotted the nearby dense forest. It's not much, hardly any protection at
all, but it beats standing here, I thought. Slogging through the now quite
muddy road, I reached the woods, which offered meager protection against the
heavy torrent. However, some refuge was provided. I walked through the rain,
filtered to a light drizzle, trying to find the best spot to rest for the night,
as it was obvious I could not make it to town before total darkness. Finding
a sturdy looking oak tree, with large leafy branches above and soft, surprisingly
dry ground below, I leaned against its tough but soothing bark. Crouching, somewhat
painfully as I had walked for many miles that day, I surveyed my surroundings
and tried to prepare some sort of bed. I gathered leaves and supple twigs from
around the area, arranging them into a nest-like resting spot. Looking around
the ground, I spotted a tiny object. It did not belong in the forest, and was
something I had not seen in a long time. It was a little Hula Girl Usuki doll.
Picking it up gently, I turned it in all directions, examining it for clues
as to how it got in such a place as this. Looking at the bottom, I saw a word
scribbled in red marker, in childlike writing: "Kenzie."
The trees around me were suddenly illuminated
with an eerie light, and I realized the storm must have been closing in on the
forest, getting nearer and nearer every moment. My fears were confirmed when
not a second later, another thunderous explosion sounded, filling the space
around me like it was a concert hall with nearly deafening sound. I need
to get out of here, before the lightning strikes one of these trees and starts
a fire, I thought. Still clutching the forgotten Usuki doll, I weaved my
way through the brambly underbrush. The easiest path back was the direction
in which I had found the doll, curiously enough, so I headed off that way. The
wind was now quite fierce, and the rain was coming down harder than ever. It
was getting difficult to see, with the drops of water stinging my eyes, and
the forest was growing thicker and even more difficult to cut through. A great
clap of thunder roared overhead, and a bolt of lightning struck the ancient,
knotted pine tree in front of me. It quickly ignited, being half dead, and the
fire spread all throughout its branches. Many fell to the ground, lighting the
red, flammable needles that carpeted the floor. Just as I was about to run in
the other direction, I heard the helpless shriek of a child. Encircled by flames
stood a tiny little Aisha, paralyzed with fear and totally defenseless against
the raging fire that held her captive. She collapsed on the ground, and just
lay there, her doom certain if help did not come. Adrenaline seized my body,
and without a thought I rushed through the fiery brush to the little girl. Scooping
her up in one arm, I plowed through the rest of the fire, running non-stop till
we reached the edge of the burning forest. When I finally sat on the ground,
very winded, I thought how absolutely insane I was. Rushing into a fire!
What was I thinking? I thought. But I then realized that I had not been
hurt. The flames had been licking my fur, but I had felt nothing of the heat,
just an unreal sensation, much like the time I had teleported here. I somewhat
remembered looking at my arms, seeing the lines on my skin pulsating blue, and
passing a long, slender, winged silhouette during a lightning flash. None of
this had registered in my mind, for it was as I was not really there, like my
body was acting without me. I was totally focused on that little Aisha, so small
and helpless. My powers were getting stranger and stranger… But the creature,
surely it was the same one as I had seen on Mystery Island. Its visits were
becoming too frequent to just be brushed off anymore; there was something more
to this, and I needed to find out what. Nevertheless, I had more immediate worries.
I had set the little pet down on the ground,
hoping she would wake. She stirred, coughing and sputtering. I quickly sat by
her side, looking over the small pale face whose eyes were barely open and blinking.
When she registered her surroundings, her face took on a look of terror.
"Who are you? Where have you taken me? Where's
my mommy? Ahhh! Help! Help! Someone get me away from this monster!"
I was quite taken aback. This was not the kind
of response I had expected from someone whose life I had just saved. Clearly,
the black-out has obscured her memory, I thought, the only reason I could
imagine for such a behavior. I guess she had no recollection of the fire, or
surely she would have asked by now. Nonetheless, I decided I would not tolerate
this kind of insolence.
"Well excuse me for just rescuing you from certain
death. Next time this "monster" will reconsider saving your life," I fired back
in an sarcastic tone.
Surprised, she shut her mouth for a moment, as
it appeared she was not used to being reprimanded. But not for long, and she
continued, with hands on hips, "You obviously don't know who I am, otherwise
you would think twice before talking to me like that, Miss Stupidpants."
I already was regretting having saved her from
that fire, her squeaky, squealing voice grating on my nerves. But Miss Stupidpants?
That had to be the lamest thing I had heard in all my life, and yet it still
made my blood boil. Her cheekiness was unbelievable.
"I, for your information, am Mackenzie Winifred
Georgina Tumerculonious, daughter of the famous inventor of the Shmooglewiper!"
she announced with clear arrogance, quickly adding, "But you can call me Kenzie."
So, this is who the Usuki doll belonged to. And
what the heck was a Shmooglewiper? I decided I wasn't going to ask… But, there
were some other things I wanted to know. "So, Kenzie, is it? I found your doll
in the woods." I took the Hula girl out of my pocket and handed it over to the
annoying Aisha, her face brimming with greedy delight. "How did you get in those
woods, anyway? Are you lost?"
"Well, my mommy and daddy were off looking for
Illusen, ya know, to ask for one of her quests, ya know how she gives 'em out
and stuff, so we were walking through the forest and I saw this really big pretty
amazing rock, and it had all these sparkly little crystals in it and stuff,
ya know, and so I went over to it and started looking at, and was soooo shiny
and pretty, and I just loved that big pretty rock, I could just look at it for
hours, I just love sparkly and shiny things, especially pretty ones, don't you
just love them too? I could just stare at them for hours and hours, looking
at all its pretty crystals, ya know, I have a rock collection at home, and I
have a bunch of pretty rocks just like that one, except that was really, really,
big and I only have little rocks at home. Rocks are so cool, did you know that
they are sooo cool? I just love rocks. Especially sparkly ones. With big, pretty
crystals and shiny pink layers, and I just think they're the coolest things.
I also like Usukis. I collect them you know, my daddy buys them all for me,
cause he's the inventor of Shmooglewipers, ya know, and he's really famous and
rich so he buys them for me, I get twenty a day, I just love collecting Usukis,
they're almost as cool as rocks, except I've never seen a Usuki as big as that
rock I saw in the woods, I just don't think they make them that big, do you?
I don't think they do, cause I've never seen one, and I've seen about every
Usuki there is, I collect them, you know. I have almost every one, I'm working
on getting the Queen Fyora Usuki, it's really rare and hard to find, not to
mention expensive. My daddy'll buy anything for me though, he loves me soooooo
much, and he has lots of money. I just love Usukis and rocks. They're the best,
don't you think?"
Here, surprisingly for her, she paused, almost
gasping for breath. I guess she expected me to answer, but it took me a second
to realize what she was asking for I was partially asleep by now. I sleepily
muttered a reply. "Uh, yeah, they're…really great…*yawn*…so, anyway Kenzie,
how did you get lost in the forest again?"
"Oh, right. So I was looking at this really pretty
rock, ya know, and did I tell you how much I love rocks? I collect them, you
"Yes, I know. Now what about your parents?"
"Oh yeah, well, they were in front of me and
didn't notice I went off to look at the big rock, and I guess they just kept
going…So, I got left behind. When I turned around, they were gone." Kenzie went
quiet, and looked quite scared. "I don't know where they are…I miss them." Her
bottom lip quivered, and she shouted, "I want my mommy!" She started to wail,
clinging to me and crying on my shoulder. I was startled by this sudden change
in attitude, and some of my irritation faded and was replaced by pity for the
little lost Aisha. I patted her back and whispered, "There, there, it'll be
ok," just like Bee used to do for me. "Don't worry, I'll help you find your
parents. I'll take good care of you."
And in an instant, I realized that I had found
the person I was supposed to help. I was, without a doubt, fulfilling my destiny
as the Guide.
To be continued...