By Steven “Sash” Scott
Previously: While putting their children, Jaak and Jaan, to bed, Jonah and Kari Papier were interrupted to study the strange phenomenon of lightning striking after the sound of thunder. They noted that the Lay-levies between dimensions were vibrating as if something had been crashing against them. To their dismay, their mansion’s warning system alerted them to a dimensional breach in their own home
Chapter Two: Distance Shore
This time when the thunder boomed, Jaak Papier thought the house shook like there was an earthquake. Not only that, but the flash that followed it was inside the room with he and Jaan. As the contents of their room shook and spilled, there was a tremendous gust of wind that rushed out from where the light flashed– like the pressure change when a subway car comes out of the tunnel. It was followed by a thick fog slowly rolling out of a gash in thin air. Just then, an alarm that Jaak had never heard before went off. Jaan squeaked in fear born out of surprise. Jaak’s immediate instinct was to protect his little sister. He rushed to her and gathered her in a bare hug, but when he turned to run from the room, from the creepy fog that was gathering around his feet, he felt a tug at his heels. It got stronger, like he was trying to walk against a receding surf. It got stronger still, and as he struggled to stay upright with his sister’s weight on the front of him, he lost his balance and toppled forward. Before he fell to the floor, he and his sister, still tightly wrapped around him, were snatched backward as if the hole in the air had taken a deep breath and the kids were swallowed whole. Behind him Jaak heard his parents call out to them from downstairs, but the sound of their voices and the loud alarm, quickly fell back as he and his sister slid and tumbled away from the light of their room into the darkness of whatever was ahead. His eyes widened and his heart quickened as he realized what was happening from the stories his parents told them. This was it– this was The Myst. He held his screaming sister tighter and whispered in her ear.
“I won’t let you go.”
Kari Papier strained against her husband’s muscled arm. He was immovable. She could see into their children’s room. It was in disarray, beyond the ability of an angry child’s tantrum. It looked like the aftermath of an earthquake, but the kids where nowhere to be seen above the thick fog roiling about the floor. The klaxon warning of a dimensional breach still blared around them. The proof of the situation bled Myst into the children’s room from an unseen split in the air that opened a way into another dimension. It was impossible to see through it to what was on the other side of the tear because of the Myst crawling out of it like water pouring from a hose in slow motion. Then it reversed itself in a rush as the two atmospheres fought for dominance in the room. Then, again, the Myst slowly belched back into the room out of thin air.
Jonah Papier moved his wife further back as the Myst filling the room crept toward them. With one arm still barring his wife, he reached for a hidden wall pad and hit the quarantine button. From within the recessed door frame a containment door slid into place with metallic finality.
“WHAT YOU ARE DOING?” Kari shoved at him to get to the panel. “Our children are in there! We have to get them out!”
Jonah held his wife firmly by the shoulders forcing her to focus on him, to look into his pain-filled eyes.
“Kari! Stop! STOP! That’s Myst in there! You know as well as I do that it’s unpredictable! If we rush it there, it could disturb the flow and send the kids– who knows where! I need you to calm down and help me think this through! I need you to help me work this out! The kids need you!
Staring at the pain in her husband’s eyes, her anger and panic began to subside enough that her logical brain began to work.
The atmosphere in the room needed to equalize for the undulating flow of Myst to stop. The room would have to fill up, otherwise the Myst would continue to escape and then suck back in as Earth’s atmosphere sought to fill the hole caused by the breach. Anything caught in the Myst would be pulled into the other dimension waiting on the reverse side of the opening. Disturbing the Myst as the equalization was happening, like dashing into the room, could change the endpoint over there by time dilation or extension. The children might not be at the opening on the other side by days, or weeks, or more. Jonah did the right thing. Once the exchange stopped, the geosynchronous link between the dimensions would stabilize. She realized how much effort it took for her husband to stop himself from diving in behind them and placed an understanding hand on his cheek. Then she took a deep breath and got to work on getting their children back.
Seeing that his wife had outwardly calmed down, Jonah let her go from his grip. She took a step toward the door, and for a heart-skipping moment, Jonah thought she might dash for the release button and run inside their kids’ room. He sighed inwardly when all she did was gaze inside through the porthole.
“At the rate the Myst is coming in,” Kari said flatly, “it might take an hour– maybe an hour and a half to fill it up enough to enter without causing a problem. Let’s take a look at the records and see if we can get a guess at what dimension might be rubbing this spot. It’s not dead on accurate but we might get lucky.”
Jaak landed on his back with his sister’s weight hitting him heavily. Luckily the ground was soft with a pile of leaves. He quickly checked his sister over for any sign of injury then looked around at their surroundings. Jaan sat up quietly, her head turning left and right, looking for the familiar interior of their room.
“Jaak, where are we?”
Jaak shook his head. “I don’t know. But stay put for right now. Look and listen– like Dad said to do if we got lost.”
Jaan did as her brother told her to. All around them was a slow moving fog, not like the Myst that had brought them to whatever place they were in, just regular fog. The sky was gray, with no hint as to were the sun was. So she didn’t know if it was morning or evening. The ground was spotted with patches of dead leaves of a shape she didn’t know. Not far off there was the charred remnants of a forest. In the other direction there looked like maybe the shapes of mountains in the fog.
“Can you see any branches or a stick near you?” Jaak asked.
Jaan looked more closely at the pile of dead leaves. There didn’t seem to be any branches lying on the leaves. Jaan realized that there were no trees directly around them. And if there were no trees, then where did the leaves come from?
“No trees, Jaak.”
“Yeah.” Jaak agreed in an after thought. Leave it to his sister to pick up on what he missed right out in the open. She was smart like that– like their mom, He was thinking about the rhyme his father made them memorize; ‘Stop, look, and listen. Then find yourself a sturdy weapon’. “Yeah. Which means we could be sitting in, or at the edge of a trap.”
“A pit trap…”
“Traps are made to catch animals for food.” He was thinking out loud to keep them both from panicking about no longer being in their room, in their house, most likely not even on their world. “But the forest is kind of far away…” Pirate chefs and hungry snitches popped into Jaak’s head. “Who will sell you out to Voodoo witches,” he said under his breath.
“What kind do you think?” Jaan asked quietly.
“What kind of what, Jaan?”
“What kind of animal do you think the trap is for?”
Jaak looked at the amount of leaves and the surface area that they covered.
“Hard to say. It would have to be heavy enough to fall through. But if we’re sitting on the trap, it would have to be heavier than both of us combined.” He carefully pushed his hand under the leaf-cover and tried to push it aside. It felt strange, like the leaves were attached to the ground.
Suddenly, the leaves beneath them began to shake, and the pile of leaves bucked like a bronco, sending the children into the air and onto their backsides as the pile of leaves fluttered and flapped away along the ground like a manta ray under water. It scared the kids, but it was away from them before they could react.
“WHAT WAS THAT?” Jaan cried.
“…A leafray, maybe?” Jaak shrugged reaching for his sister’s hand.
“But that’s just a fairy tale thing.”
“Maybe not, Jaan.” Jaak sighed, “I think we fell through The Myst.”
“But that’s just a fairy tale thing, Jaak.”
“Dad keeps telling us about Otherplaces. I guess they weren’t stories that he just made up– I think that was a leafray.”
“Don’t say it’s just a fairy tale thing again… WE’RE HERE.”
“I was going to say, that leafrays are yellow and orange, not brown and gray.”
She had a point, Jaak thought. Older ones are red and brown according to their father’s stories. But other than that, it fit the description. Where was that Otherplace that they came from? Honnahlee? Onahlee?
“Where the leafrays are,” Jaan continued, “it’s supposed to be Fall all the time.” She recalled the lines their father told them. “Yellow, orange, red, brown, were the colors moving ’round. Friendly leafrays racing ’bout, found in twos without a doubt.”
“Always in twos,” Jaak murmured to himself, still trying to get the name of the place right in his head. The riders would stand astride them, one foot on each, like water skies. He didn’t see another leafray close-by, but he did notice that the one they had landed on hadn’t gone far off. “Fall all the time…” He snapped his fingers with clarity. “The Autumn Myst! That’s what brought us here!”
Jaan looked around through the fog again. “This doesn’t look like how Dad described Honor Alley.”
“That’s it! Honor Alley!” Jaak thought. And Jaan was right, this looked nothing like the pretty place from his father’s stories. This place looked old, and burnt.
“Those piles of leaves scattered around are probably other leafrays,” Jaak said. “We can use those to get around, but…”
“If we leave, how will Mom and Dad find us?” Jaan remarked.
“Right.” Jaak tested the solidity of the ground with heel of his house shoe. “Well. We can’t stay here– our PJs may be fine now but we don’t know what kind of weather we’ll have later. We need to find shelter. I can dig an arrow pointing in the direction we head off in. The ground seems solid enough that it won’t get rubbed away easily.”
Jaan nodded that it was a good idea then looked at the leafray that had bucked them off its back.
“How do we catch one, Jaak? How do we control where it goes? It didn’t want us on its back.”
“I think it kicked us off because I dug my fingers under its scales.”
“Yeah, they look like leaves, but they’re scales. We can hold on to one– maybe even guide it with them.”
Jaan reluctantly agreed. Their legs weren’t long enough to straddle two leafrays. Their transportation would have to be on only one.
“You can hold on to me, Jaan. That way we are sure to be together.”
Jaan was visibly relieved at the prospect of Jaak being in control of their transportation after having been bucked off by the first leafray they encountered.
Jaak rubbed his hands together in thought. How do you catch a leafray? His father’s stories didn’t cover that instruction as far as he remembered. He could try luring one with food, but he didn’t know what they ate. It didn’t seem to mind the two of them being dumped on its back, just hands under its scales. The stories said there was a traveling tribe that rode leafrays. Maybe they were around. And could help them somehow.
“But how will Mom and Dad know where to look for us, Jaak? How will they know we’re on Honor Alley?”
“I– don’t know. If we could go back the way we came, we could just jump back through. But there’s no Myst on this side.”
Kari peered through the containment door’s porthole. Jonah was pacing with a hand-held PAD that displayed maps of the Myst tunnels as they appeared before the collapse of the Gateway-world’s access hub. It looked like an artist’s arm pallet. He was muttering to himself, trying to focus on where the children may have traveled, and not that they might be just tumbling through the Myst with no anchor on the other side.
That was just fear talking, and he scolded himself. There couldn’t be any synchronization if there was no anchor, and two atmospheres were definitely trying to equalize.
“Of the four Mysts that have been charted,” Jonah theorized, “Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter– there are a myriad of Otherplaces within them where the kids could have landed.”
“But which ones are the closest to us now?” Kari asked. “We should concentrate on narrowing down the search to those first.”
“I’m not sure that accurately applies any more since the hub’s collapse, K. Without that anchor-sync, there may be some form of dimensional drift that’s causing the disturbances along the Ley-leves. Without something from the other side we can’t do a pinpoint until we get an atmospheric sample-”
“Which we can’t do until the Myst stops ebbing and we can enter the room. We can’t even send in a drone-cam.” Kari stiffened with a new though. “Let me see those.”
Jonah handed his wife the map PAD. Kari started flipping through the data screens and correlating patterns of the lightning strikes. She mashed her lips together, a sign that she wasn’t happy about what she was seeing.
“I know that look, K. What’s wrong?”
“Something very troubling. There may indeed be a dimensional shifting taking place, Jo. And it looks like they are shifting toward us.”
“The other dimensions are trying to converge on Earth’s dimensional coordinates?”
“Not just Earth’s coordinates, but here at this very spot.”
“But– that could only happen with a Gateway-world. Earth isn’t a Gateway-world and we don’t have the science to create Gateways here.”
“Well, we better figure something out, or we’re probably looking at an extinction-level event.”
To be continued…