Anna tries to keep her friends from discovering her secret...that she's not as human as she appears, but that's difficult to do when there's someone who's deliberately trying to reveal that secret.
That might not have been such a good thing for while Jen and Garry were immersed in looking at the splendor of nature in front of them, their attention was taken from looking at the back and all around them as well.
Maybe if they looked back once, they might have foreseen that they were in danger, but as it happened they weren't. Ironic, isn't it? For something to be borne of beauty to be evil and demonic? The beauty that they had seen the first time they entered the sea with Jared was now receding, as though the dream had been fractured by a touch of reality and started collapsing upon itself. The beautiful rainbow sky and the magnificent black sea they had seen with their eyes was now disappearing into a blanket of darkness. Nothing was left in its wake and the further Jen and Garry traveled out to sea, the vaster the darkness was becoming.
It seemed as though the darkness was going to catch up with them and swallow them whole, but Jared suddenly swirled the boat to the left and they followed a blanket of seaweed to the shore of a small hill. A green pastured hill sitting out in the middle of the ocean with only one tiny white house occupying the space at its zenith.
Jen and Garry looked at each other. Things were getting weirder by the minute. They would've been lying if they said they weren't scared, but they were even more scared to question Jared. They had made a choice and left with him. They had told him that they trusted him even though their best friend, Anna, had told them it was going to be the biggest mistake of their lives.
Anna and Jared seemed to have been in on a secret together ever since Jared came to town three months ago. All Jen and Garry wanted to do was be in on the secret as well.
The boat stopped at the shore, and Jared hopped out from the side, his white corduroy pants instantly becoming a shade darker with the water splashing on them. Jen and Gary followed and they all started ascending the hill. The fractures of the sea that were happening a moment ago had seemed to still for the moment, and Jen and Garry were still clueless about the sudden breaking of their reality.
After a few moments of struggling up the hill, they came upon the three story house, fenced in by a white fence that surrounded the house and had two stone heads sitting on top of either side of the fence door.
Garry closed the fence door and followed his companions up the stone walkway to the wooden door with another head posing for a knocker. But Jared ignored the knocker, and opened the door slightly. He turned to his other two companions and gave them a strange smile.
"Well, if you want to turn back, this is your last chance. Once we enter this house, there's no going back until we see everything through to the end."
There was a moment of silence suspended in the dream-like atmosphere of the hill where Garry and Jen looked at each other. They both had similar looks of compliance and determination. They were going to see this through to the end...Whatever Jared had to show them, they'd listen. They both shook their heads, and Jared returned their sentiments with a toothy grin.
He ventured through the door first and they followed- to find themselves in a dimly lit corridor that seemed never-ending. There were a few antiquated candle lamps hanging from their hooks high above their heads that lit the room in a ghostly play of shadows and flickering light. The walls were bare and stone; the floor was stone as well, which Jen and Garry thought accounted for the cold that seemed to embrace them as as soon as they had entered.
Jared stood still in the center, while Garry and Jen moved slowly around the room, looking in fascination at the spiraling staircase that seemed bigger in proportion to other staircases and the high ceiling that seemed to go as far up as the sky.
All of a sudden though they both stopped in their mingling, and listened. Faint sounds of a violin could be heard. They looked toward Jared for an explanation, but he just looked extremely pleased and turned around, motioning for them to follow him.
They went up the marble staircase, and, in what seemed like an eternity, they finally got to the top and were veered right by their navigator. This hallway seemed elongated like the one downstairs. They stopped at the last door on the right, wooden like the front door and all the other doors in the hallway, all nondescript and with little figurine heads acting as knockers. Jared hung back and indicated with his head that they should open the door.
Garry's hand was just about to open the door when Jen put a hand on his arm. He looked up at her, but her gaze was directed toward Jared, who had his arms crossed and was leaning on the wall opposite the door.
"Aren't you coming in with us?" She asked something akin to fear in her voice.
He scrutinized her face and didn't answer her right away. Finally, he shook his head.
"Because this room that you're about to enter is going to show you what you need to know, but if I go in there with you, I'll interfere with its magic and you won't be properly shown what you came here seeking to find out."
Jen gasped in a breath at the word 'magic,' and Garry looked puzzled.
But they seemed satisfied with his answer. Garry turned the knob and walked in, Jen at his heels.
Jared, left alone in the hallway- chuckling to himself- leaned against the opposite wall, and folded his hands against his head.
The violin, by this time, had stopped playing and only silence could be heard through the whole house. That only lasted a minute, unfortunately. The front door downstairs slammed hard enough to- had this been a normal house- break its foundation. And running footsteps could be heard coming toward the top. Even with this interruption, Jared's toothy grin was still playing on his face.
A girl, about the height of 5'5'', and with short, red hair, scrambled to the top- gasping for breath. She saw Jared leaning against the wall farther down the corridor, and started running in that direction. When she halted to the door through which Jen and Garry had entered, she banged on it with both hands folded into fists.
After several minutes of nothing happening, she punched a fist through the wall and cursed. Jared only tsk'd her, which proved a mistake for the young man, for once he let out the sound, she rounded on him and strangled him with her less-than-perfectly manicured hands.
"Oh, I swear to God, I'll kill you and send you to Timbuktu so fast you won't even know what hit you," she growled through gritted teeth.
"Awww, you know, you're so cute when you try to be threatening." He replied perfectly, her strangling him not even affecting his airways. She growled again and released him.
"You know, Anna, there was a faster way to get here." He went back to leaning against the wall with his hands behind his head.
"Yes, I am perfectly aware that there is a faster way." She enunciated each word slowly, as though she was afraid he wouldn't get it any other way.
She started pacing up and down the corridor, a distressed look now replacing her anger.
"Let me in-right now." She stopped and faced him, a pleading look on her face. A look of what might have been guilt settled on Jared's features.
He came closer to her and put his hands on her shoulders. He gazed into her dark green eyes, but didn't say anything.
"I know that you are under some illusion that what you're doing is right. But it's not. So, please, please stop this. I'm begging you. I'm here begging you to stop this right now." No matter how much she pleaded, it didn't look as though she was going to change his mind.
He looked thoughtful for a moment, but suddenly he turned away from her and said, "Nope, can't do. Besides I believe it's all ready too late. I'm sure, by now, that they've learned everything. Knowledge will become the death of them. How fitting...They wanted to learn about you, and their wish was granted. It's true, then, what the Elders say, knowledge is far more damning than death, for what you learn can never be reversed."
"I'll never forgive you for this." Anna said to him, softly, but with conviction.
"I think," he gazed at the door intently, "that I don't care anymore."
She raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"You gave up on me a long time ago. Nothing I do now will matter in your eyes." She rocked forward on her leg, unconsciously trying to move toward him, but a second later, when she realized what she was about to do, she backed further away.
He turned back to her then, and directed his intent gaze toward her. She stared back at him, feeling...Well, she didn't really know what she was feeling. Sorrow was definitely the dominating emotion, followed by anger, resentment, and pity.
"You're right," she started, gulping air back into her lungs, "I did give up on you. But...I- it's not that I wanted to. You have to understand." God, she felt like she would burst with all the pleading she was doing. But she needed to make him understand. "You were on a path that I couldn't follow."
"Hmmm, is that what it was?" He spat, sounding resentful.
"You were towering on tyrannical control! I couldn't follow you. I wouldn't! That's not who we are!" She yelled, sounding angry again. Well, if he wanted to blame her, let him. See if she cared...But she did care. Immensely, and that made everything harder.
"I loved you, and I did all that for you!"
"Well, I loved you too, and maybe you shouldn't have!"
The mansion had become quiet again. Anna and Jared stared at each other, neither of them relenting, just scowling toward one another.
Just then the wooden door, through which Jen and Garry had been lost sometime ago, opened and revealed Anna's two friends. Jared and Anna took their gaze off each other, and stared at the two standing near them, who looked as though they had been on a rollercoaster.
Their clothes were disheveled and their hair was sticking up in all directions. Anna grimaced, and bit her bottom lip worriedly. She was too late. That much was plain, but what in the world was she going to do about it now?
Jen shrieked, "That was awesome." She punched Garry on the arm, and it seemed the action stumped him into reality.
All that could come out of his mouth was, "Huh."
"Guys, are you okay?" Anna came closer to inspect them.
Jen, seeming to just then realize that Anna was there, blinked at her friend. "Of course. Why wouldn't we be? More importantly, why did you keep this from us?"
"Uh, guys, I'm sorry. But you were never meant to see that. It's going to be too much for you to handle."
Jen scoffed and rolled her light hazel eyes. "Oh my god, Anna, why do you have to be such a fuddy-duddy! That was the coolest thing we've seen in our miserable, seventeen years of existence! Of course we can handle it. We're handling it very well right now. Aren't we, Garry?" But Garry was lost to the conversation going on around him.
Anna smacked her face into her hands, and groaned.
Jen looked toward Jared, but he only gave her a shrug.
Jared followed Anna outside of the mansion. "I still think you overreacted. I mean, did you have to hit them with the staff?"
"Well, I had to knock them out! I can't let them out into the real world like this. They've seen into the Void, now they have knowledge of everything and nothing. You know how dangerous that will be for them? They're only humans!"
"Huh. So you're saying that humans are simple-minded, Simian Netheranthals? I agree."
"I did not say that! I simply mean that their mind isn't designed to take in something like the Void! Stop twisting my words."
She kept levitating the two corpses in the air and pointed her short staff with the head figurines toward the multi-colored sky. A bluish-green light shot out toward the heavens and the sky literally tore itself apart and fell down, revealing darkness. She pointed the staff at the bodies and guided them up into the darkness, following them. A second later, with a pop, they all fell into her bedroom.
She raised herself up and went over to her bureau. Opening the top one, and rummaging in through the trinkets and junk that filled the drawer, she took out a small, clear bottle filled with a grey liquid.
"Wow. You're resorting to that?" Jared asked her, nodding at the bottle in her hand.
She angled her head toward the voice, and saw Jared lounging on the edge of her bed, but didn't respond. She kneeled beside the two bodies lying on the carpeted floor and capped off the bottle. Smearing a bit onto the tips of her fingers, she ran her fingers first across Jen's forehead then moved onto Gerry's.
"Okay," she said, standing up and returning the bottle back, "I think that should do it. They won't remember what happened the last few hours."
Anna walked toward her bed and sat down heavily beside Jared. "That was foolish."
"I knew you'd come for them."
"Hmmm. But why go through all that trouble when you all ready know I'll come to save them?"
"What is there to save them from?"
"Don't change the subject."
"I'm not; I geniunely want to know. It's not like they were in any real danger."
"That may be, but still...It's not for them to know. They're not like us."
"Which is exactly why I tried to do what I did today."
"I know you're lonely."
If there was one thing Jared was, it was blunt and right to the point.
"You live here in this realm, intergrated among humans, trying to live a normal life, but the fact is you're not normal. And I don't understand why you try to act like you do- especially when you can live in the other dream realm where you were born, where you were destined to live- destined to live with me."
She looked down at her hands, folded in her lap.
"I don't expect you to understand. But I envy them. Plus, I am half-human as well. I'm only trying to understand my mother's world. It's all I have left of her, you know- this vast, beautiful exotic land where nothing is as it seems and it's filled with some many good things, and so many bad things as well. It's a multitude of paradoxes and light and dark. It's nothing compared to the dream realm. I have love for the dream realm, I do. But I love this world even more. I love the simplicity of it, but also the complicatedness interwoven with the simplicity."
"I guess I understand." Although he didn't really, he didn't push it. Anna was stubborn and there was nothing he could do to change her mind.
"So, you can't really be angry at me."
"I never was."
"Well, that's good then."
"Goodbye for now then." And he vanished in a swirl of grey. He'd be back, she didn't doubt it. She lied down on the dark green bedspread and closed her eyes. There was darkness behind her closed eyelids, she couldn't dream because she was made from dreams. But, but if she could dream, she'd dream about a grey-eyed young man and two worlds, with their borders and rifts colliding together and mashing together. Maybe then, if that were to happen, she wouldn't have to make her heart choose.