Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my short story and I welcome you to share your opinion - what you did like and what you did not like - both are equally valuable to me!
Don't hold your breath!
“It’s actually the Milky Way,” said John. “Ugh! Dad this is so boring I am starting to miss sitting at my desk for five straight hours a day in school,” said Natalie.
“Freckles, a stepper needs to be able to navigate themself if they get lost. It does not matter if it is in a distant galaxy or a dimension. You can always find your way back home – to Earth, in the Milky Way. Home is what can keep you going. And the best thing about home is that it is always with you.”
* * *
Natalie was exhausted. Every muscle in her body ached as if it were being stretched more that it was intended in the design. The muscles that did not hurt were like stones and would not cooperate in performing the desired motion. Her feet, in what she considered “comfortable shoes” a few weeks ago, were now in bruises. Sleep, considered by some as rejuvenating, had lost its most important property days ago. As if she was sleepclimbing mountains in the few hours of sleep that she allowed herself. Or, as if she was not sleeping at all. A few days had passed but she was still having a hard time getting used to this place.
“I’m being foolishly stubborn. Borderline careless! Dad would be really crossed if he found out… WHEN he finds out what I am doing. I will find him,” thought Natalie. She was never careless.
She was incredibly perceptive and intelligent. Her eyes seemed infinitely deep. She looked at things with understanding and curiosity, and what she did not understand she peered into, analysing it to its core. Her gaze pierced through everything. People would never maintain eye-contact with her for more than 3 seconds. What they feel when she looks them in their eyes cannot be explained in plain words, or rationally to say the least. As if her gaze was pulling out everything that was deep down and buried, forgotten, banished to the corners of their sole being as she brought it back to life, or “…to consciousness” you could say. She was life itself.
Even now in her current condition, if anyone were to look at her they would never, in their right mind, suppose she was tired, or in pain. She walked with grace and chin up high. She wore determination and confidence just like a warrior would wear their armour and sword. She appeared fierce, a force to be reckoned with. Whatever this place was, wherever she was, her surrounding moved out of her way. Actually, she wasn’t moving at all.
* * *
John Dyere walked back and forth for a few minutes when suddenly he stopped frozen-still and spoke very loudly.
“ALRIGHT, CADET. YOUR TRAINING IS GOING ACCORDING TO PLAN. AND MUST I SAY YOU ARE DOING WELL. I EXPECTED NO LESS FROM A… GIRL.”
Natalie did not even flinch. She was bursting in laughter from inside but breaking character was not an option.
“…AND IN DOING SO WELL. YOU ARE ALLOWED. ONLY THIS TIME. TO EAT. DONUTS. WOULD YOU LIKE THAT. CADET?”His voice cracked. And that crack spread to Natalie’s character. She burst in laughter. Her dad followed – her laugh was so contagious. “Ha-ha-ha ! Freckles, you could not keep a straight face if your life depended on it!” “Ha-ha-ha! Oh, come on dad – a voice-crack – seriously?! Ha-ha-ha…” “Rules are rules. Alright, let’s go through the theory yet again – how many layers does a stepper have?” “That’s a trick-question! They are not layers – they are different bodies. There’s the physical body, the mind body, the soul body and the astral body. So four – four bodies. “ “Hmm… what can one do if trapped in a Type Y Dimension?” “Not much… especially if they rely on their five senses – our vision is distorted due to memory interference caused by the visual stimuli from the environment; auditory stimuli are unreliable as well due to the unique properties of space in the Type Y dimension; there is no data on how olfactory and gustatory stimuli affect us; tactile sense is dependable on how affected the other senses are. Keeping this particular sense intact is crucial to one’s escaping from a Type Y dimension since Steppers need to feel the strings that hold matter together to move in and out of dimensions. The trapped person must not stay too long there because the longer they stay the greater the muscle decay – physical bodies cannot move about in this dimension. The first symptoms are muscle pain and insomnia. It is crucial not to rely on their rationality, but to…”
* * *
“…feel. I need to focus on my feelings. OK, Natt, meditate on it. Or whatever. Eyes closed, let the feelings come to you. Perceive everything, judge nothing. What do I feel now? I feel pain and the need to sleep. No, beyond that. I miss Dad. I miss home... HOME!” She felt something and that something was the first real thing she felt since she had got here. She remembered the first time she managed to feel a string – it was the one that shaped the apple tree in her home’s backyard. It was a moment of huge success – her debut.
And that was enough. Not to bring her home, of course – if it were so easy she would have done it years ago. No, she had enough strength left just to step outside of this dimension through the familiar feeling of that one first string. Thankfully, the damage on her muscle tissue was not sufficient to immobilise her. She was now in the “In-between” – the Darkness between dimensions. She knew she should not stay there too long but she needed some time to stretch and feel out her body. Staying for so long in a Type Y dimension could be fairly compared to an astronaut staying in space with zero gravity for a decade and then descending to Earth.
She stepped through.
If she was not an experienced stepper she would have supposed that she is in her home dimension – it had gravity, light, sound, and flora. It had... everything. And this is why Natalie was on guard. Piercing through everything she set her eyes on. Analysing. Something about this place was both wrong and right at the same time. Somehow, she felt connected to everything. She realised that the scale of this place was incomprehensible but at the same time she felt that everything was within her reach in here.
She ventured into the unknown. Everything was so beautiful and welcoming so she could not help herself. She stood in awe before the vastness of the landscape, the variety of shapes, colours and mixtures. But what attracted her attention the most were the Two Rivers - one white and one black. She was sure that what was flowing in the riverbank was nothing she had ever seen but it oddly resembled milk. The black one seemed infinitely deep – it felt like you could lose yourself in it if you looked for too long. Potentially dangerous but she was drawn to it. The two rivers flowed into what a human would describe as portals – black and white - one for each river.
“Alright, which path should I take – to the depths of the unknown or through that milky-looking sphere…”
And there she was again – at a crossroads. Her journey never followed one direction. She would always have to make choices. And this is why she was good at it. She would walk back and forth for a good few minutes and then she would stop frozen-still. This is how one could know that Natalie Dyere has made up her mind once and for all.
Usually, when going through portals such as the ones she had in front of her one would want to discard anything unnecessary that weighed them down too much. Natalie did not have unnecessary things on her. Well, except one but it had a sentimental value. It was a recorder. And on that recorder was a tape of her and her dad talking. She listened to it for the millionth time. And then she took her time. Because what was about to come required one’s few moments of… preparation.
Because Natalie Dyere would step through a portal. And that would be the first step in the life of archetype Natalien go Léir Deireadh – mother of dragons, breaker of chains, a child of the Old blood – half-elf, half-human; a fierce warrior; a traveller through mirrors and wardrobes and an explorer; a lover and a protector; an inspiration, a muse to too many people to count; a… but all those are stories, legends and myths of and for different times, different places and worlds… they are yet to be told, yet to be written, yet to be made up. First she would have to visit them- not in person, in the “real” world, but in a vision.
Something she had heard on the tape brought a smile on her face. She had heard it a million times but only now this sentence stood out. She smiled at how ironical this was. She loved irony and dramatic moments. This was definitely one of them. She had a mixed feeling of nostalgia, hopefulness and determination. She would always feel those exact feelings when she has made a hard choice. She threw the recorder as far as she could and stepped through the Black portal.
The batteries would last for a few hours and while they did - the recorder, after surviving the devastating throw, would play on loop that same sentence as if Chance or Destiny mourned over their ruined plans for Natalien go Léir Deireadh:
“It’s actually the Milky Way” said John... “It’s actually the Milky Way.... It’s actually the Milky Way.... It’s actually the Milky Way....”
Of course if anyone were there to look at Chance or Destiny in that exact moment they would probably see tears of joy...