Free Story Friday

3D V3.pngI wouldn’t be able to risk wearing my necklace to school for a while. Even if the nice stranger—Shaun, was it?—was suddenly a member of my high school. It wasn’t like I’d be around him much. No matter how nice he may be, we wouldn’t be moving in the same circles. Especially since I didn’t have any circles to move in.
        But I couldn’t just leave it somewhere obvious around our apartment either. It would probably be easy to break into. Nobody had before—we obviously didn’t have anything worth stealing. But now someone thought I did. And they were more right about that than they knew.
        I stood up from the desk and removed the necklace, wondering where I could put it for safekeeping. We didn’t have a safe or anything, and my room wasn’t cool enough to provide a loose floorboard with a hidden compartment. Valuables always seem to go in the sock or underwear drawer… maybe I should be more original and go for a drawer containing a different genre of clothing. So the shirts drawer it was! Such brilliance.
        Back to homework. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what that guy had said. Keep it safe. Why? Did he know something? If I ever saw him again, could I ask him? Or would it be risky to reveal that I know there is something to know about it? Or was I just making everything too complicated while he was just a nice guy advising me not to wear it around Jillian and Carlie for a while? Plus, I could have dreamed up everything about the ability it gave me—At least one of my relatives suffered from mental illness.
        I gave up on homework and just cradled my head in my arms on my desk, wishing I could get away from all of it. Wishing I could fly away from everything and live alone in the wild, with no one to ruin things for me and no homework to do and no responsibilities. If only there was a way to get through the icicles and enter some beautiful world on the other side. If only there was such a world on the other side of anything.
        The next thing I knew I was awakened from sleep by a bird tapping insistently on my window. They did that from time to time—perch on the bars and tap away. Super annoying. I lifted my head and read the alarm clock. Wow, I had been out for two hours! Kind of late for a bird to be out tapping on the window…
        And then a man’s face came into focus.
At first I thought it was Caleb, and I gripped my desk with knuckle-whitening terror. But then I saw the long hair and dark skin and recognized Shaun. I didn’t even have time to wonder how in the world he knew where I lived; his eyes were so wide and beads of sweat rolled down his face. What was wrong? Why was he here? How did he find me? Did he mean to find me?
        I was too curious about the stranger who’d slighted Jillian and Carlie to resist finding out what was up. So I went to the window. But it was stuck.
        Oh, that’s right. I’d totally caulked all the way around it for better insulation last winter…shoot.
We’d just have to talk through it.
        “Hey, sorry to barge in on you like this, but I need to talk to you. That necklace you had—you still have it right?” His voice was muffled through the thin glass.
        So it was about the necklace. There was no way he could know what it was…
        “Yeah, the necklace is still in my possession. What’s it to you?” I hoped Mom wouldn’t overhear and come investigating.
        He stopped panting and looked up at me suspiciously when I said the word possession.
        “…Very important. Can you prove that you have it?” he panted, breathless.
        Proving that I had it wouldn’t hurt anything. And his voice was so nice, I kinda wanted to keep him talking.
        I crossed the room to my dresser, opened my shirt drawer and took out the necklace. I went back to the window, fastening it around my neck as I went.
        “There. See?”
        “Can I hold it, please, just to authenticate it?”
        Not a chance. “Sorry, window won’t open. Plus, I have no way of knowing that you wouldn’t steal it. It used to belong to my dad, so I can’t give it up. This is personal…”
        “Yes actually, it is personal—for me too. There are a lot of things about that rock that you are not aware of. It is very important. It has been lost for a very long time. The Gwyth—” he checked himself and started over, “My, uh, friends need it.”
        “Sure they do.” Maybe he just wanted to steal it and pawn it off. Some runaway kid, maybe living in the woods, looking to make some fast cash. Well not with this he wasn’t. “What do you mean, ‘authenticate it?’” What did he think there was to authenticate? Surely not certain magical-ish abilities…
        “I mean examine it to see if it is the rock that I think it is. Look, it is really important—a matter of life and death for some of us, maybe even all of us.”
        I was still very suspicious of him, but the possibility did nag at me. What if that were true? I mean, his suspicions were right, this was a very special rock. What if it really was a matter of life and death for someone?
        My curiosity was piqued and I definitely didn’t want to be the reason that anyone died. That was some serious stuff—if it was true…
        “So if this were to be the right rock, how would it be a matter of life and death to someone? Does it have…like powers or something?”
        He narrowed his eyes. “What do you think?”
        I scrunched my lips together, debating what to do about this. It was too valuable a thing to me for me to lose, but if it was really a matter of life or death…but how likely was it that that whole story was true? What reason did I have to trust this guy at all?
        “If you can prove to me that the rock in this necklace is a matter of life and death, and give me some actually trustable form of assurance that I will get it back, then I will consider thinking about the possibility of potentially letting you borrow it.”
        “There is proof that I know you will except. But you have to come outside, or let me come in—”
        “Absolutely not! That’s not a fair chance. You would just take it from me and leave me knocked out or dead while you ran off with my dad’s only chance at recovery!”
        “Okay, okay,” he patted the air in front of him in a downwards motion with both hands.
        “I can prove it. But I cannot do that yelling through a window. I need to whisper it in your ear. The consequences of the wrong people overhearing would be dire.”
        Telling me that there was someone more dangerous than the guy creeping outside my window was hardly a huge selling point for me joining him outside with the rock. But dang, it had my adrenaline going. I wanted to know what this guy knew. Maybe he would know why my dad thought he saw dragons when he picked it up. Maybe he would know how to heal him!
        Going outside with him, necklace in hand, was a terrible risk. It would take no effort for him to incapacitate me and steal my most valuable possession. But the need to know as much as I could about it was too strong. I couldn’t resist.
        I left my room and stalked across the living room, glad to see a line of light under the bathroom door—I wouldn’t have to walk past Mom. Pausing by the front door, I stuffed my feet into my ratty old tennis shoes and threw the sweatshirt from earlier on over my head. I left through the creaking front door and walked around the apartment complex, necklace in hand.
        “So?” I whispered sharply behind him when I found him staring impatiently into my window.
        He jumped and spat a string of harsh-sounding syllables. I couldn’t quite translate into words, but I assumed they must be a cluster of cuss words.
        “What, surprised a little? Well not nearly as surprised as me! So you better get to inspecting the rock and explaining yourself before I do something worse than whisper in the dark.”
        What was I talking about? Of course I had absolutely no idea what I could possibly to this guy that was any worse than whispering unexpectedly, but I hoped he didn’t know that. Judging from his mildly smiling expression, he probably did.
        “Let me see it.” he held out one large, brown hand, open to receive the treasure.
        I handed him the stone, with the chain still twisted around my wrist so that he couldn’t snatch and run.
        He cradled it in one hand, caressing the surface of it with a large, brown thumb. “This is it.” he whispered, expelling the words from his mouth with that same, slight accent that I had noticed this morning.
        “What is it, exactly?” But he was so engrossed in his examination that he didn’t seem to hear me.
        “Come on, man, you promised to explain if I came outside, and here I am and you haven’t explained a thing! What’s going on?”
        “Yes, I told you I would explain if you came outside, and I will. But it would be best if you came with me to the place where the rock is from. I need help, and you are the only being in the world who can help me.”
        “Come with you? I don’t even know you! I’m not leaving with you to go anywhere! And you promised to explain!”
        “Alright, alright. Calm down. What if I told you about something that only you should know? And what if that something was a mystery to you, something difficult for you to believe and understand? What if I was able to explain that to you?”
        “I’d still want an explanation about the stone.”
        “That is exactly what this is.”
        “Alright. Go on. I’m listening.”
        “You were looking at something yesterday, some form of a water-covered surface. When you looked into the water at the same time that you touched the rock, you saw something in the water.”
        My eyes widened and I stopped the gasp from leaving my surprised lips. I was determined not to show my true feelings. Had I really seen something in the icicles too?
        “And when you let go of the stone in the necklace, the image disappeared. And then you touched it again, and the image was back. It was something dark, and it was moving differently than something that was just being reflected would move. Am I right?”
        The shape in the icicles! I stared at him. How could he have known that?
        “And that was not the only time it had happened, was it? I can explain all of that to you.”
        He stared at me intensely, seeming to search my eyes for something.
        Had I hallucinated all of that? Was I dreaming up all of this too? Maybe I hadn’t actually woken up from my desk nap yet…and if it had happened before and I didn’t know, how would he?!
        “Well go on and explain then.”
        “You were looking into another world.” He breathed, looking as if he was unsure I would believe him, but desperately hoping that I would.
        His revelation thrilled me. Another world! The bliss of the thought! Another world, a place to be explored, and place of escape, to start over with a fresh life and with no one from your past to taint your days with their false assumptions and accusations. I wanted desperately to go there. I had an iron-strong desire to be in that other world, wherever it was and whatever it would take for me to get there.
        But how could there really be another world? How could that be possible? If I dared to believe in it, I was asking to have my hopes crushed. I wanted more than anything for it to be true, but how?
        “Another world?” I squeaked.
        “Yes. But if you want me to explain further, you will have to come there with me. There are things I cannot talk about here, it is not safe. Please, you must come. This rock is desperately important, but it will only work if you are with it. I cannot fix anything without you.”
        What needed to be fixed? Did I dare go with him? Of course not! Believing in other worlds was crazy. It was illogical, impossible. A battle warred within me, the incredulous adult side fighting with my inner child—the part that still really wanted to believe in magic and possibilities. The adult was wining, a better debater with legitimate arguments. But in the end, the temptation was too great. I needed to know what was going on. And spending a little more time with this guy didn’t seem like the worst thing in the world. I couldn’t not look into this. Foolish though I knew it was, I desperately wanted to try. Another world. Another world. I had to go. I must go. I absolutely must.
        “I know it is a lot to ask, but will you come with me, and bring the rock? You have no idea what is at stake here.”
        I took in a deep breath. Did I dare?
        “Alright. I’ll come. How do we get there?”